The filmmakers from creative production company Shilo recently collaborated with an extraordinary group of individuals and organizations to create a powerful animated :90 public service announcement (PSA).
The piece, entitled "Burma Viral," was initially produced to bring the world’s attention to the plight of Burma’s people under the political regime. Since the recent cyclone and the lack of assistance being metered out by the country’s leaders, the publicizing of this immense challenge has become even more urgent.
Shivo uses footage of warplanes bombing Burma with flowers as a dramatic call-to-action, inviting viewers to visit a new Burma Arts Board website, noneofusarefree.org, where they can send messages of support to the people of Burma, learn more about the devastating effects caused by the recent cyclone, and find ways to contribute to relief efforts.
Uniting the talents of Shilo with those of Carl Le Blond, Executive Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam, John Jackson, Director of Social Responsibility, MTV Networks, Suki Dusanj, Founder of The Burma Arts Board, activist Sam Roddick and others, the provocative film debuted today on participating MTV networks worldwide, via countless video-sharing websites around the globe, and in New York's Times Square, where it will be screened throughout the day on MTV's 25-by-40 foot HD Jumbotron near 44th Street.
"As Cyclone Nargis tore across Burma, the world witnessed one of the worst natural disasters in history," said Suki Dusanj. "Since then, the world has watched the military Junta block aid from reaching those who need it so desperately. It is our hope that this Burma Viral will circulate around the world and into Burma, and bring about the changes necessary to make the aid and rescue efforts effective – and to allow the Burmese people the freedom to enjoy the civil liberties they deserve."
"This spot somehow talks directly to the emotions we feel about the current humanitarian crisis in Burma," said John Jackson. "We know that people desperately need help and we also know it is not reaching them. The narrative conjures up a task force that brings a powerful message of support to the people of Burma, and an urgent appeal to donate to the international relief effort."
Continuing, Jackson explained, "As the hours and days pass, the need grows greater and so too will the aid that is required. A humanitarian disaster is slowly turning into a catastrophe. If at times like this we can use the particular skills we have to help, then the creative power of Shilo and Ogilvy have been brought together at full force to get funds to those that need it. MTV are proud to be part of this collaboration."
“Since long before this disaster occurred, the people of Burma have been oppressed: They have not been free to express themselves," began Shilo co-founder, creative director and director André Stringer. "Speaking on behalf of a group of individuals who make art everyday for our livelihoods, we place a tremendous value on personal expression.
So when Carl contacted us, shared his script and asked if we wanted to direct it, we jumped at the chance. We immediately realized that this project could help to make a difference for a nation of more than 55 million people being denied the rights we take for granted – and that it would be the most important piece of work we've ever created.
"After the cyclone hit," Stringer went on, "we realized we could make some slight changes to the film and the campaign site, and possibly have an even greater positive impact on the people of Burma at a time when their needs are even more desperate."
The project began as a dialogue between Le Blond and Jackson. Last year, Le Blond wrote a script, and since then, had been searching for the right production partner. "I had this script which, though I thought worked, would have been prohibitively expensive to execute, just because of the scale implications involved," said Le Blond. "Then as I started thinking of other ways to try to make it, I spotted a film by Shilo which just took my fancy. When I spoke with Shilo, there was an immediate understanding of what we were trying to do." According to Tracy Chandler, Executive Producer for Shilo, things clicked quickly from there. "There was no pretense, there was no negotiation," she said. "Everybody was in and everybody was excited, and we all knew that the film had to touch people so that they'd want to share it with others and get involved in the cause."
Since the film's imagery would have been impractical to obtain via live-action cinematography, Shilo chose a very multi-media approach. The visual content was created by Shilo's artists using Autodesk Maya for 3D, QUBE for managing renders, Mental Ray for rendering, Adobe Photoshop for texturing, Adobe After Effects for compositing, and Final Cut Pro for editing. Reflecting a great amount of audio research, concepting and exploration by Shilo's team, the PSA's soundtrack was ultimately performed and mastered by the artists at Amsterdam-based Good Sounds.
"The crux of the film's story is based in juxtaposition and surprise: An ominous set-up gives way to hope. The flowers are the perfect icon for that," Stringer said. "My favorite shot involves a really close-up shot of a flower fluttering in front of the camera, where the camera has a lot of shake on it. Seeing that scene made me realize that the flowers had already become characters for us, like they were paratroopers falling on D-Day. Some look really lyrical, beautiful and fluid, and some of them dive with intensity. To me, it's really cool to be able to take something like a flower and let it become a paratrooper – or a performer that can poetically deliver a powerful message, as these do."
Jose Gomez, who along with Stringer is co-founder, creative director and director for Shilo, shared his own perspective on this project. "An important goal for each of us, in every project we take on, is getting people to think," he said. "This project is the ultimate example of that. As directors, we generally regard ourselves as provocateurs, but in this case, we're actually activists, hoping that those who see this film will help us to make positive differences for the people of Burma."
"From the very beginning, everyone I met at Shilo was just automatically going above and beyond… and that to me is what filmmaking is all about," added Le Blond. "It's about complete collaboration, to actually make something better than just a script. As the details of the cyclone came to light, that same spirit allowed us to take the film a step further, to a point where it can potentially heighten relief efforts, while also raising awareness for the societal difficulties these people face every day, even under normal circumstances."
MTV Networks International and The Burma Arts Board
MTV Networks International: John Jackson, Director of Social Responsibility
The Burma Arts Board:
Suki Dusanj, Founder.
Sam Roddick, Activist.
Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Amsterdam
Executive Creative Director: Carl Le Blond
Agency Producer: Brenda Bentz van den Berg
Writer: Carl Le Blond
Production Company: Shilo (Bicoastal, USA)
Creative Director: Andre Stringer
Executive Producer: Tracy Chandler
Executive Producer (UK): Mark Hanrahan
Lead Artists: Andre Stringer, Tamir Sapir, David Hill
Matte Painting: Mathieu Reynault and Rodeo FX, Andre Stringer, Marco Giampaolo,
Cassidy Gearhart, Noah Conopask
3D Animators: Henning Koczy, Richard Cayton, Ohad Bracha, Bren Wilson, Eugen Sasu, Kiel Figgens
3D Artists: Christina Ku, Richard Kim, Warren Heimall, Craig Kohlemeyer, Scott Denton
Compositors: David Hill, Andre Stringer, Tamir Sapir, Marco Giampaolo,
Cassidy Gearhart, Noah Conopask, Stieg Retlin
Typography: Evan Dennis
Miniature Design: Willi Patton
Editor: Nathan Caswell
Sound Design: Dante Nou
Coordinator: Danielle Smith
Producer: Lindsay Bodanza
Music & Final Mix: Good Sounds (Amsterdam)