Facebook partners with Kiran Rao for short films

Rao will make 10-second no-audio films in vertical shoot format for Facebook Thumbstoppers

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Facebook has collaborated with filmmaker Kiran Rao for creating short films for Facebook Thumbstoppers, an initiative that focuses on short-form mobile storytelling thereby helping advertisers retain audience attention. Rao will be making 10-second no-audio films in vertical shoot format for mobile phones.

In an interesting conversation with Sunita G R, Head of Marketing at Facebook India, Rao unveiled her idea of storytelling in the digital landscape. Sunita spoke about the idea behind the partnership and how the initiative helps content marketers, advertisers and content creators.

Talking about the idea behind the Facebook Thumbstoppers programme and partnership with Kiran Rao, Sunita said, “In this mobile-first world, the attention spans are declining as people consume content faster on mobile. So it has become important for the marketers and creative agencies to embrace this consumer attention in a short span of time and that’s why Facebook Thumbstoppers was launched to answer the questions that the creative agencies face today.”

“We made them believe in it, thereby providing them a medium of powerful storytelling that can stop thumbs from scrolling and retain audience attention before they go to the next piece of content. So it’s all about how can we stop consumers thumbs from rolling? Can we catch their attention? Can we evoke emotions? Can we bring positive changes in human behaviour? And to all these questions, we had a YES with Facebook Thumbstoppers short mobile storytelling format of 10 seconds,” she added.

Talking about how Facebook Thumbstoppers helps advertisers, Sunita said, “It can be used to sell products, sell brands, create an emotional connect with the audience to cherish moments of life, or to cherish everyday relationships.”

When asked about the idea behind the partnership between Kiran Rao and Facebook Thumbstoppers, Sunita said, “The volume of work Kiran has done ranges from storytelling, to creating memorable characters and also wanting to introduce change in the society through films such as Lagaan, Swades, and television show Satyamev Jayate. So, she was an obvious choice for us and it is an honour for us to co-partner with her as part of Facebook Thumbstoppers to bring her version of thumb-stopping films to the advertising market fraternity. It will bring in the required change in the thought process of the creative minds.”

Talking about the critical difference between cinematic storytelling in a horizontal frame to mobile storytelling in a vertical frame, Kiran Rao said, “It’s a reality that everyone today is on the mobile and is consuming all the content on this medium. So as content creators and storytellers, we have to take the complacency off and become skilled with the medium, since how the consumers consume the content obviously depends on how we say the story.”

“Storytelling was not hard for me once we cracked the stories, but the challenge was the format. On Instagram, I have shifted to the vertical format for shooting pictures, or videos. I realized that people are watching vertically, so orienting myself visually from a horizontal to a vertical format was a little bit of an effort for me. Also, in that 10 seconds, we have to communicate many things, from showing two people in the same frame to a transaction like exchanging milk. And so, the focus is very much on portraiture, because you need to be up and close. So it’s about two people in a very close frame, with not much action but only playing through the expressions,” Rao said.

Talking about the transition from creating content for a three-hour film to a 10-second film, Rao said, “Making a 10-second short video is something that I had not done ever before. I took it as an opportunity to tell a story in this time, and that was very exciting for me.”

Talking about short videos based on domestic violence and gender inequality that she has worked on, Rao shared, “So when Facebook came to us to create stories that are compelling enough to bring in change, I brainstormed with Shamath Majumdar, who works with Aamir Khan Productions on content development and marketing, on a couple of issues that we come across every day. And these two we thought will make an impact.”

Elaborating on the story ideas, Rao mentioned, “So the first story ‘Equality begins from home’ depicts a young boy and his sister being served milk at home. The boy, whose glass has more milk, pours some of it into his sister's glass, giving a questioning look to his mother. So this was where the reinforcement is coming from, the one who is actually over-privileged as a male child.”

“The second story ‘It’s time to break silence’ showcases domestic violence against women, unfortunately also faced in the higher strata of the society. It shows how a woman can help another woman. A maid walks up to a woman nursing a bruise with icepack to exchange the icepack with a cell phone dialling the number of police. So the ideas is reversed because it always seems that a privileged person can always help out somebody who’s always less fortunate, but that’s not the case,” added Rao.

Talking further about the partnerships for Facebook Thumstoppers, Sunita informed, “Facebook has partnered with 50-60 creative agencies and have got top CCOs on board who will be helping us in the journey. We are also helping creative agencies, thereby imparting key skills about mobile creativity to help creative agencies and marketers.”

“Facebook has launched a Thumbstopper challenge to encourage and invite creative minds to create short stories that touch emotions in a short span of time. A jury of CCOs will shortlist top 20 films and the winners will get to travel to Cannes next year,” concluded Sunita.

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