This is a television advertisement. It’s only a minute long but it tells a story. Thankfully, under the direction of Anton Visser, it is told very well.
The scene is flipped almost immediately when the serious setup of an airforce patrol is interrupted by an adolescent dare. The emotional path of the scene crosses the dramedy line, lightening the mood and raising the viewer up the scale of emotions.
This is where the plot kicks in. Two courageous, playful and competitive fighter pilots are racing home to their airbase, laying waste to everything in their wake. There is no character arc because the story ends before we see the full consequences of their actions.
What helps to draw the viewer in is the range of character deepening and empathy techniques that are employed in the piece. We manage to empathise with the pilots because of their fun, playful attitudes even while we empathise with the people who are affected by their joyriding.
The hikers, the truck driver, the farmers and the people shopping at the market all face danger. On top of this, the misfortune and humiliation that they experience is completely undeserved. All of these situations evoke an emotional response in the viewer.
Towards the end, the we empathise further with the pilots as they battle to overcome serious physical limitations to achieve their goal. The eventual winner of the dare is elevated further in the viewer’s mind because he rebels against social pressures by sacrificing a multi-million rand aircraft in order to beat his colleague back to the base. This is the guy we admire for doing what we wish that we could do.
This final scene is deepened further when the losing character experiences an emotional pathway down the scale as he goes from the ecstasy of victory to the disappointment of defeat over the course of a few seconds. We can’t help but feel for the guy when we see him in close-up as he puts on a brave face for the winner.
The use of empathy, character- and scene deepening techniques in this piece help to make it memorable and fun. These techniques seem incredibly obvious when looking at successful works like this one. The truth is that these techniques are often employed intuitively. They are among the 200-odd techniques that were laid bare at David Freeman’s Beyond Structure workshop this past weekend in Joburg. If you’re in Cape Town this weekend, I highly recommend that you attend.