In keeping with the Sundance Film Festival theme, Ogilvy London's Creative Director documents his experience as a short screenplay.

By Johnny Watters, Creative Director at Ogilvy London

 

EXT. PARK CITY, UTAH - MORNING

DEEP SNOW covers the sidewalks. People mill around in winter gear as big American SUVs carefully pick their way along the icy streets. The 2018 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL is in full swing.

JOHNNY (V.O.)

Sometimes in this job, you can’t help but stop and think “f**k, I’m actually getting paid for this”.      

JOAQUIN PHOENIX walks down the street, casually greeting fans.

JOHNNY (V.O.)

Sundance. One of my all-time bucket list items. Tick.

EXT. YOUTUBE HOUSE - MORNING

A house adorned with a large YouTube logo looms over a queue of people dressed in winter gear.

At the front of the queue stands JOHNNY. A security guard checks his name against a guest list and lets him in.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

I’m here at the invitation of YouTube - in the place of an otherwise-in-disposed Emma de la Fosse. It’s all come about thanks to a music video made by The Pipe, with up-and-coming Trap artist Nadia Rose, about a modern-day emancipated Rapunzel, in answer to a brief from Google, for no money. The whole thing is slightly surreal.

INT. YOUTUBE HOUSE DINING ROOM – MORNING

Johnny and some other AGENCY REPS sit around a long table eating brunch.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

Representatives of ten other big-name agencies are here. I’m surrounded by CCOs, ECDs, CTOs and CEOs. I’m the most junior person by some way. Representing one of two UK agencies.

LATER

A small crowd mills around the YouTube bar, drinking free coffees. A few brave souls have opted for early cocktails. Unexpectedly, TED DANSON is sitting at the bar.

On one wall is a screen showcasing the work created by the agencies.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

Each agency was briefed to create a series of short films about a fairy tale, to work within the 6 second, 15 second, and long-form YouTube ad formats. Google are calling it ‘The Greatest Stories Ever (Re)Told’.

An ECD watches his agency’s work on the screen. Johnny reads the AdWeek article about it on his phone.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

Each film is very different. But most involve some element of female empowerment. Which marries well with the overarching zeitgeist of this year’s Sundance. But as only two of the 12 agency reps are women, I can’t help but feel guilty about attending in Emma’s place.

FADE OUT.

EXT. ECCLES HIGH SCHOOL – EVENING

A huge crowd of people shiver outside Eccles High School. Signs everywhere direct ticket holders to the entrance. Johnny vapes in the car park.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

It’s incredible to think that Park City’s population doubles during Sundance. The whole town is turned over to the running of the festival. And fortunately, the local High School has a huge auditorium – in the American style – which is perfect for premieres.

INT. QUEUING TENT – EVENING

People are queuing in a long snaking line. Huddling for warmth. Cradling coffees. Johnny is chatting to a Hollywood talent agent.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

In the hour-long queues, all the talk was of who’d seen what, and what was good.

INT. ECCLES AUDITORIUM – EVENING

Two thousand people take their seats in front of the huge screen.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

I was lucky enough to see three film premieres. Gus Van Sant’s ‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot’ – a biopic about quadriplegic cartoonist John Callahan. ‘We The Animals’ – a bleak coming-of-age drama from Jeremiah Zagar. And ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’ – a thoughtful post-apocalyptic drama starring Peter Dinklage and Elle Fanning.

The lights go down and the crowd falls SILENT.

FADE OUT.

INT. YOUTUBE HOUSE – NEXT DAY

The Agency Reps attend a presentation by YouTube. Rows of fold-away chairs are filled with people. All facing a huge screen. Johnny sits somewhere in the middle.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

Indy films aside, we’re also here for a sneak preview of YouTube’s latest bit of kit – Director Mix. Essentially it’s a way to automate the personalisation of YouTube ads.

A YOUTUBE REP shows some examples of DIRECTOR MIX in action.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

It allows you to change almost any element of an ad – text, footage, audio, even 3D mapping onto objects - making each ad more relevant to the audience. All managed by AI.

Hands shoot up in the audience.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

It’s a powerful bit of kit.

Through the window, we see snow begin to flurry again.

EXT. MOUNTAIN SKI LODGE – NIGHT

Two black minivans pull up outside the lodge. The Agency Reps pile out, half-drunk with the altitude. Johnny thanks the driver with an awkward two-thumbs-up.

JOHNNY (V.O.)

Our final treat from YouTube is a swanky dinner at an exclusive ski lodge. We’re told we’ll be hosted by an eccentric and reclusive screenwriter. The big money is on Charlie Kaufman.

INT. PRIVATE DINING ROOM – NIGHT

The Agency Reps sit around a large ornate dining table, lit only by some small blue up-lights and four huge screens in each corner displaying a live feed of nonsense poetry.

In the centre of the table sits an ominous-looking black sphere. This is BENJAMIN.

JOHNNY (V.O) (Cont.)

It’s not Charlie Kaufman. Instead we meet Benjamin. A self-improving LSTM RNN machine-intelligence, trained on human screenplays. We’re shown ‘Sunspring’, one of its award-winning short films.

INSERT – CLIP FROM ‘SUNSPRING’ - NIGHT

We see H pull a book from a shelf, flip through it while speaking to H2, and then put it back.

H

In a future with mass unemployment, young people are forced to sell blood. That's the first thing I can do.

H2

You should see the boys and shut up. I was the one who was going to be a hundred years old.

INT. PRIVATE DINING ROOM – NIGHT

The Agency Reps look confused. An animated discussion breaks out.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

The script is unintelligible nonsense, but the dialogue feels eerily sci-fi-like. Apparently, Benjamin was trained to write by feeding it with dozens of sci-fi screenplays from the 80s and 90s.

Johnny demands another cocktail.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

It’s an interesting experiment in automated creativity. But none of the writers sat around the table fear for their jobs just yet.

Benjamin crashes, and the TECH GUY fumbles with the code.

JOHNNY (V.O.) (Cont.)

The whole thing is just another one of those situations where you can’t help but stop and think “f**k, I’m actually getting paid for this”.

FADE OUT.