The Eyes Tell All in Design Army's Latest Gorgeously Quirky Film for Georgetown Optician

Pum Lefebure breaks down her latest visual marvel

Design Army and Dean Alexander turned heads back in 2015 with their beautifully made—and entertainingly odd—short film for Georgetown Optician called "Our Family Knows Glasses."

Now, agency and director team up again with another superbly stylized, deftly designed film. And this time, they're giving viewers the silent treatment. 

Shot in Baltimore's magnificent (and vaguely imposing) George Peabody Library, the spot introduces us to a "Quiet Guard" who brooks no nonsense, shushing patrons who dare make the slightest sound. Perched high atop a lifeguard's chair, with his collar buttoned all the way up and a closely shaved head, he's a study in dystopian dynamics and barely repressed rage, shushing readers left and right.

Actually, the place is nearly noiseless, but this geek won't be satisfied. Sneezing isn't tolerated. Pencil drumming's right out. Heels clacking across the floor send him into a hushed tizzy. Shhhheesh, dude, maybe it's time to return 1984 and read How to Win Friends and Influence People! 

Ultimately, the bookworms hatch a plot to free themselves from the guard's tyranny.

How can they scheme and coordinate their efforts without speaking? To quote the narrator: "Thoughts are communicated with blinks, winks and eye-catching frames." Hence the title, "Eyes Say More Than Words." (This is a commercial for a place that sells glasses and contacts, after all—and it is a clever way to focus viewers on the characters' eyes.) 

When bespectacled Big Brother gets his comeuppance, he seems stunned. But everyone was, at one point, reading the same book, titled, in big block letters, "REVOLUTION." That should have given him a clue.

After enduring such insolence, he'll need a vacation. How about Flight Centre Canada's austere authoritarian paradise? Nah, too upbeat for this guy.

Alexander builds an unnerving satirical vibe throughout the two-and-half-minute film, with shot compositions and a color palette recalling classic Wes Anderson. These visuals command our attention, even though the tale mostly takes place in one room—albeit a large and imperiously appointed one—before moving to a clock tower for the big finish. Twilight Zone, Hitchcock and Dr. Seuss also spring to mind for comparison, their influence filtered through a sketch-comedy lens reminding us not to take things too seriously.

Click/tap the images to enlarge:

As for that ginormous eyeball, well, you just can't un-see it! The campaign is set to run across owned and paid media, including web, social and in-store channels.

Below, Design Army creative chief Pum Lefebure addresses "Eyes Say More Than Words" in detail. 

The initial inspiration:

The idea germinated from my frequent trips on the Amtrak train between D.C. and NYC. I usually only sit in the "Quiet Car," as I'm not much of a morning person. However, when you are in that car you can't make any noise. No cell phone. No talking. No nothing. And if you do make noise, the people sitting near you will flash you nasty looks and tell you to please be quiet. It's fascinating to ride the train for two and a half hours in the silence. You will hear every single thing—a cough, snoring, newspapers flipping, the music whispering out of headphones.

The "dystopian" setting: 

As our team was concepting a "quiet world," we immediately thought of a library. And if people can't talk, they have to find a way to communicate. So, what if we set the film in the quietest library in the world, and have a "Quiet Guard" patrolling for the slightest sounds or disruption? Luckily, Dean Alexander had scouted the George Peabody Library for a prior shoot, and we knew it was the perfect location.

Communicating without saying a word:

I remember sitting with the team in our conference room, trying to communicate with each other without talking. It's crazy fun finding ways to annoy each other without speaking, and many of those non-verbals are in the film.

The visual look of the piece: 

We specifically sought an awkward beauty. We started by pulling different inspirations from a variety of eras, including the great French filmmaker Jacques Tati, known for his knack of composition and expertise at choreographing deadpan slapstick. The Thai Ghost movie also inspired us, because the ghost always shows up out of nowhere to scare the shit out of the audience, which is funny at the same time. The result is a simple–exaggerated–cheeky approach mixed with super-chic-vintage-styling—something slightly awkward, but beautiful at the same time.

For the color, we drew inspiration both from the 1970s and from Eugène Delacroix's painting "Liberty Leading the People." For the music, we very inspired by Les Misérables. 

Music and sound design were critical to illustrate the story of the quietest library. Design Army, Dean Alexander, editor David Grosbach and music director Simon Lister at Squeak E Clean—we all had different opinions on the music. We all agreed we wanted a big piece of music, but how do you do quiet in a big way?

Filming presented some challenges:

The shoot took place over two very long, full days. Since this is a historic library, there was a long list of restrictions—including no drones allowed indoors. It was quite a large production, and with so many creatives involved, it could have spun into chaos really fast. But everyone on the team knew where the bar was set for final results, and gave it their all. 

In the library we could not touch or move anything without permission. So, looking back now, the library location was very much like the film—they had a library guard watching us. 

The Quiet Guard was super afraid of heights, and the balcony he had to run across was very narrow with super-low hand railings. The original plan was to have him start at the top level and run down each level to the ground floor. [But] we could only get him to the third floor before he said, "No way—not going to do it!"

As for that clock tower:

This is another historic spot in Baltimore that Dean Alexander was dying to shoot [the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower, a few blocks away from the library]. It's also super dangerous to be up in the tower. All of the elevator mechanisms are in a fairly small space, so if you take a step backwards you might get electrocuted. 

How this freaky vision works for the brand:

Georgetown Optician stocks super-fashionable brands of the highest quality. But when you think of the word "optician," it's quite boring. So, the greatest challenge was making the name Georgetown Optician known in the eyewear and fashion world. We had to push the edge of creativity to make an impact. We've found that if you make great creative, then it will be seen and shared. 

Below, click/swipe through the poster portion of the campaign.

Finally, here are some BTS photos from the shoot:

CREDITS

Creative Agency: Design Army
Director: Dean Alexander 
Client: Georgetown Optician

Creative Team
Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer - Pum Lefebure
Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer - Jake Lefebure
Creative Director - Sucha Becky
Sr Art Director - Heloise Condroyer
Art Director - Gaby Hernandez
Copy/Script - Mark Welsh
Content Designer - Rachel Newman
Production Team - Mariela Hsu, Tiffany Palacios, Chazlyn O'Bannon, MJ Minutoli, Matt Francisco

Video Team
Director: Dean Alexander
1st Assistant Director - Erin Winebrenner
Director of Photography - Kyle Deitz
Editor - David Grossbach
Gaffer - Mark Hutchings
Best Boy Electric - Jason Shinsato
Generator Operator - Ben Vaeth-Levin
Electric - Chris Henry
Electric - Russel Wicks
Key Grip - Scott Perryman
Best Boy Grip - Matt Brennan
Dolly Grip - Joe Kurtz
Grip - Ryan Gallo
1st AC - Aidan Gray
2nd AC/DIT - Masha Pavlova
PA - Layla Robinson

Music/Sound Design - Simon Lister, Squeak E. Clean Studios
Composer - Scott Langley
Voice Over - Lee Perry
Colorgrading - Parker Jarvie, Company 3
Visual Effects - STUDIO Local

Wardrobe Stylist - Michele Onofrio
Wardrobe Assit - Darcy Stockton
Wardrobe Assist/Seamstress - Brandee Mathies
Lead Hair/Make-Up - Dale Johnson
Hair/Make-Up Team - Sarah Fiorelle, Cedric Aissa, Holly Burnham, Teena Smith, Shannon Warman, Brandon Russel

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David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.

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