Film craft is possibly the most under-rated categories at Cannes.
Creatives seem to think the Film Craft category is an award tailored to production companies. That it favors style over substance. And perhaps at times that’s true. Even at the 2023 Cannes Film Craft lions.
But that doesn’t mean the work inside isn’t a worthwhile resource to learn about the craft of creative advertising. In fact, it’s one of the most valuable places for a copywriter or an art director that is working on improving their skills. Because it throws up some unexpected results. Pieces of work that are exceptional in their own way. Not in the way that Award Juries expect.
If I have any criticisms of this year’s winners, it’s that Social Impact – type pieces of work are over represented this year. I’ve said it a lot, but Social Impact / Social Justice focused campaigns are a lower creative bar, and should be judged in advertising festivals with a more critical eye.
I think this year’s jury could have celebrated pieces of work with a more difficult task to achieve than what they did.
For example – the Gold Lion for Sotetsu has an enormously difficult task: to announce a new rail line for a train network. But the charm, craftsmanship and creative flair that are brought to achieve this are next level. But on the other hand, the Gold Lion for Apple starts from an emotive place automatically because of it’s subject matter. At its heart, it’s simply a series of inspiring vignettes that are absolutely beautifully measured and professionally put together. But was this film-making challenge as tough as that for Sotetsu? In my humble opinion, no. I would argue the other major Gold winner with a Social Justice angle for Telefonica is a similar case.
Still, there is so much to learn from the work in this category this year. So take a look at the highlights of the 2023 Cannes Film Craft Lions below.
The Grand Prix winner is a music video for Kendrick Lamar ‘We Cry Together’. Being associated with the music industry, the videos are very difficult to embed, so if the video below isn’t available – search for the music video on YouTube. You will not regret it. It is a masterful piece of film-making.
If this piece of work for Sotetsu in Japan managed to win the Grand Prix, no one would complain. The seamless craftsmanship is top tier. And it’s a beautiful, compelling piece of communication as well. Impossible to look away from.
Beneath the film, we’ve included a ‘making of’ from the agency that produced ad that is an excellent watch too.
This next piece of work for Telefonica is next level in terms of craftsmanship as well. It’s long for a piece of communications, but wow. Watch it through.
Apple win the next Gold Lion for this piece of work ‘The Greatest’. Honestly, this one is a bit disappointing for Gold. It’s excellent and deserves it’s place in the festival – but it’s a solid Bronze or Silver in my opinion.
Finally, there is another music video that was given gold – for Pharrell, 21 Savage and Tyler the Creator. Next level craft. Unbelievable. This is so incredibly good. Again, though, videos with a connection to the music industry are always difficult to embed. If you are having difficulty below – search for the above artists on YouTube and you’ll find it.
There was another piece of work for Apple that I personally did a better job than the Gold Lion winner for the same brand. This one is absolutely seamlessly done. It’s great.
The following ad for Panasonic out of Japan is one of those pieces of work that epitomise the wonders of the Film Craft category. The concept itself is honestly a bit difficult to figure out. The production values and the emotive power of the visuals make up for it though. Impossible to look away or remain unaffected. Charming, strange and wonderful.
The Royal Ontario Museum piece of work below is EPIC and amazing. Should have been Gold, no question about it. Pay particular attention to the sound design in this piece of work. It builds and grows and explodes in power. Fantastic. This piece of work wasn’t celebrated in any other category at the 2023 Cannes Festival, which simply emphasises why the Film Craft category is such an important place for creatives to learn and improve.
From Thailand, this is an ad for a yoghurt, yes, a yoghurt. It’s out there. Wildly strange and beautiful. The pacing, casting and editing are superb.
Next is this beautifully realised piece of work. It’s another in the Social Impact realm of communication. The skills of the director and everyone else involved in the production are undeniable. It’s very, very well shot. Again, even though the subject matter is incredibly worthy of attention, it’s a low bar to clear creatively.
Libresse continue to build on their recent heritage of great work with this latest piece. Really nicely done.
Here is another beautiful piece of story-telling. Again, a heart-wrenching story and another piece of social impact work. The directing skill is undeniable. Wonderful editing and perfectly designed sound. Some really interesting composing as well. Definitely worth a look
Dove has been a regular in Award festivals for 20 years or so since they decided to take a stance about body image / body positivity. They’ve done a remarkable job over the years, and this continues it. Really, look at the way this piece of comms is constructed. It’s mind-blowingly good. It’s true to their heritage, but sets a path for how they can move forward too.
A pitch perfect recreation of Rocky. This piece of work is awesome. It’s great to see something positive and energetic being awarded in this category which, to be honest, has been a bit of a downer up until this point.
Don’t ignore the Bronze Lions! So many creatives just want to know what won the Grand Prix and Gold, and skip over the rest. There’s always some gems in the Bronze Lions, no matter what the category. Not all of them will resonate with you, but there will always be something charming and unexpected.
This first piece of work for CashApp for example. I love this one. Would have liked to have seen it given more love throughout the festival. It looks simple, but doing simple well can be enormously difficult. This one nails that aesthetic perfectly.
Sure, it’s nicely made, but it’s a pretty much just a product demonstration ad. Beautiful casting and editing. Nice work.
This next Squarespace piece of work managed to pick up several Silvers and Bronzes in different categories across the 2023 Cannes Advertising Festival. If there was any category where it was going to make the jump to Gold, Film Craft would have been the one. Deserved Gold, got Bronze. But that’s Cannes and the random chance of who is going to be on the jury (and directing the jury as Jury President) on the day. Doesn’t stop it being great.
This next Coca-Cola ad is a funny one. The ad itself is ok. But the craft is awesome. A beautiful integration between live action and animation. We’ve seen the same concept done before. But a giant, multi-national budget lifts it to the next level.
This brand Penny won the Grand Prix in Film Craft in 2022. They’ve continued the same style of work with this one. Honestly though, the Grand Prix from 2022 is just that little bit better.
The core of this beautiful ad is the simply great original song that was written for it. Sometimes, just singing your proposition in a charming way is all you have to do. For reference see Dumb Ways to Die. Musically gifted creatives are always a wonderful thing to have in a creative department.
And here is yet another piece of work with a Social Impact theme. This one is better than most in this category. It’s a compelling concept, beautifully directed and produced.
Below is something simply brilliant from Thailand. Something fun and light-hearted. Love it.
And here’s another brilliantly twisted concept that is amazingly put together. Joyous.
This is a super nice piece of restrained direction out of New Zealand. I hope the director bought their editor a nice beer for their efforts here.
The final Bronze Lion this year is for yet again another social impact campaign. The camera work and the film grading is very nice. But again, I fear that the (absolutely very worthy) subject matter has helped this piece of film get a bit more attention in the 2023 Cannes Film Craft category than if it were for something more mundane like toothpaste. Disagree? I’m always up for a respectful discussion in the comments.
Honestly, there is so much beautiful work in this category. But I urge you to ignore what color of award each was given. Many Bronzes were worthy of Gold, but as in every year – juries are always different, and they will always put their own stamp on the type of work that is awarded.
Hopefully next years jury will award a wider range of film styles than they did this year. Still – there is much to appreciate. I hope you get some benefit from your time spent with the 2023 Cannes Film Craft category.
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