For anyone who doesn't understand what it's like to be bullied online, Theo's Story will deliver a gut punch. The short film—created by Ogilvy for the ANA's "Engage Responsibly" initiative and Pernod Ricard—seeks to inspire viewers to take an active role in stopping cyber abuse.
Directed by Noble600's Paul Dektor, the narrative follows a teenager, Theo, who comes out online as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. He hopes to find kinship and support. Instead, Theo absorbs a barrage of vile comments. Then, he enters into a cyber relationship that seems promising, only to have his hopes crushed in the cruelest way.
"For all its connectivity, the online world can make us feel awfully disconnected from each other," says Sakshi Choudhary, Ogilvy global group creative director. "We wanted to bring humanity back to the fore, to make virtual hate as visceral to the viewer as possible."
Griffin Senvisky brings authenticity and nuance to the role of Theo without uttering a word of dialogue. The story is told through moody visuals of the character's everyday life and snippets of social posts.
Dialogue was planned at one point, but the film's creators believe their quiet approach bridges the digital and IRL realms for maximum impact.
Theo's Story was shot primarily at a house in Pasadena, Calif., using natural light to impressive effect. "I wanted to have the actors just be in the space and have moments come out of that as opposed to having it feel too acted," Dektor explains.
The video clocks in at close to five minutes, which feels just right. "I was shooting a three-minute film," Dektor says. But after he and agency creatives looked at the first cut, they decided additional scenes were needed to flesh out the story.
"I live in Santa Barbara, and I ran around with three people grabbing those shots on the beach and at the record store and the restaurant," Dektor says. "I'm definitely at this point in my career where I'm not wanting to do just anything. This was something that I felt strongly about."
Making Theo's Story was a meaningful experience for Choudhary, too. "Having seen a close friend go through a similar experience, it felt like my personal responsibility to see this project to fruition in a truthful and compelling way," she says
Production company: Noble600
Director: Paul Dektor
Cinematographer: David Wilson
Executive producer: Mark Medernach
Producer: Brad English
Production Designer: David Stone
Deputy chief creative officer: Joe Sciarrotta
Executive creative director: Issac Pagan Munoz
Group creative director: Sakshi Choudhary
Associate creative director: Summers Ford
Art director: Charlotte Lantz
Copywriter: Hannah Lavaca
Account director: Rachel Passman
Executive group director: Joshua Goodman
Executive producer: Mike Diedrich
Director of business affairs: Heather Weissman
Production business manager: Georgia Zalk
Client: Pernod Ricard
Chief Executive Officer of Pernod Ricard North America: Ann Mukherjee
Senior Director, External Communications, Pernod Ricard: Krista Drew
Executive Vice President, Initiative Lead, Engage Responsibly: Anita McGorty
Vice President & Global CMO Growth Council, Engage Responsibly: Jeni Neiswonger
Post production: Optimus
Editor: Randy Palmer
Executive producer: Brian Hrastar
Color: Company 3
Colorist: Tyler Roth
Executive creative director: Erin Sarofsky
Executive producer: Steven Anderson
Music: JSM Music