Dani Hynes recreates life’s most important moments for new ABSA

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The ABSA My Moments short films tell human stories

As part of an extraordinary online brand film campaign, Egg Films’ director Dani Hynes wrote and directed nine short brand films for ABSA’s new My Moments website.

Conceptualised as a collaborative effort between Hynes and Johannesburg-based digital agency Base2, the new campaign is made up of nine interlinked stories, each focused on life’s most momentous events from getting married, to starting a family, retirement and even death. This was Hynes’ second time collaborating with Base2 and ABSA, “and the level of trust we’ve established has been amazing,” she says.

At the start of the creative process, Jacque Matthee, then Base2’s executive creative director, briefed Hynes on creating a five-minute film centred on how life’s biggest moments connect with ABSA’s collection of products. From there came the idea of nine short films which the client was surprisingly very open to. “Not many agencies or clients would allow me to expand a brief like that,” says Hynes.

The separate films each portray a day in the life of conventional South African citizens trying to deal with a significant turning point in their lives. Hynes says that the films are reminders that life’s big financial events are also life’s big emotional moments while also providing viewers with an intricate snapshot of the next stage of their lives that they need to prepare wisely for. “Divorce and death were two moments I felt passionately about, because in advertising we tend to only focus on the sweet moments in life, rather than acknowledging how lovely it is to have something so precious that it hurts to say goodbye. So credit to Base2 and ABSA for giving us permission to tell really human stories, where you get moments of both warmth and pain,” she expands. “A lot of people who’ve watched Moments have told me, ‘Oh my God, it feels so real,’ which is what we were aiming for.”

Each film tells a story about a different demographic, which Hynes says made the casting process quite challenging, especially since she endeavoured to find people who hadn’t previously been featured in other financial sector ads. “I think I saw every Afrikaans person in the greater Gauteng area,” she quips, “We cast people who are as close to their character as possible. Gaelene Lithgow from G-Stop does all my casting and they were just fantastic.”

Every short film in the ABSA My Moments campaign has its own look and feel dependent on the context of the story. “For example, I spent a lot of time chatting with DOP James Adey about how the world feels when you have a baby, how it’s warm and familiar inside, whereas the outside world almost feels like an intrusion,” she explains. “In the empty nest story, we tried to have Mrs Govender in the frame by herself regularly, as that was her biggest fear about her daughter leaving, but we kept a warm, amber tone to the story to create the sense of a loving home. Overall, we wanted them to look like short films, like life but prettier, and to take you into the moment.”

DOP James Adey shot the cinematically sentimental campaign using two Alexa Plus cameras for their ruggedness and ease of use, “especially the ability to change colour temperature on camera on the fly,” he says. “The Alexa has a good roll off in the highlights and fantastically smooth shadow detail quality. We used Master Primes, which are bullet proof and offer pretty much everything you need out of a lens.”

The profoundly emotive cinematic style impeccably combined with the nostalgic voice over leaves the viewer feeling moved in ways which a conventional ad would struggle to achieve. Hynes says that brand films are becoming increasingly popular because people are tired of short, snappy, stereotypical characters “and they want to make the kind of connections that aren’t usually possible in 30 seconds.” She expands: “With these films, the moments were prescribed and are all so common they have their own visual shorthand. So the key was finding new and honest ways of showing them. Luckily, the brand film format allowed us the luxury of extrapolation; for a change, we had more than three seconds to show people getting married, or a baby being born, which gave us time to find the nuances. That makes all the difference.”

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Chanelle Ellaya
Chanelle Ellaya is the editor of Screen Africa. She completed her BA Journalism degree at the University of Johannesburg in 2011. While writing is her passion, she has a keen interest in the media in various capacities. Chanelle is an avid social media networker and a firm believer in the power of social and online networking. Between writing and tweeting, she finds time to feed her love for live music.

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