Failure is part of success and you can’t have one without the other. Failure is also the abbreviation for a new play produced by Victory Gardens Theater opening this fall.
Failure: A Love Story written by Philip Dawkins traces the lives, loves, and mysterious deaths of the Fail sisters, immigrants to Chicago in the early 20th century. It’s a dark comedy that I’m looking forward to seeing as directed by Seth Bockley. The script is so great.
I recently shot the advertising image for this play with some of the cast. It required historical research, vintage styling and magical illusions; all of which I love. This one successful project had me thinking other projects I do for profit vs those I do for passion. About when the process is amazing and fun, and contemplating how it could always be so.
A wonderful aspect of shooting imagery for theater is that the play itself often does not yet exist. As we’re often working months outside of rehearsals, the production design has yet to be established. All we have is a script. Some would find this infinitely frustrating to get an assignment without so much as a sketch, though it’s an opportunity I’m rarely given in consumer advertising shoots.
In theater I get the time to study, explore and parse a script, arriving at essential concepts that illuminate the heart of the story. To honor the story in theater is vital because a “story” is exactly what we’re selling. As an art director and photographer I can borrow from cues in the script to reflect and create metaphors. The story becomes my creative guide. I compress and rearrange the beginning and arc with the end, to make a new moment independent of the play’s timeline, yet all about the heart of the story.
I find that most advertising, especially print doesn’t honor its story because it often doesn’t have one. Maybe its story is borrowed from the broadcast version of the same campaign, or from a brief written for the client but both are only reflections of a story, not the story itself. The best creatives understand that a good brand story takes time to develop but once done well, there becomes infinite ways to visualize that story. It makes the director or photographer’s job more fruitful when engaged in the narrative being told. There’s often too little time or care in the advertising process for this to happen correctly, leading to rip-offs and duplication of existing ideas.
In the era of instant gratification and shorter attention spans, the best advertising creatives understand that now more than ever, knowing your story is the heart of good communication. Every ad competes with distractions like scrolling status updates in the palm of our hands providing us with LOTS of instant gratification, but precious little story and no context. What if we bothered to make things that are both instantly gratifying while long lasting enough to engage our intellect? Something that actually offers an idea we didn’t already know about the world, in context. To do this, you need more than a headline writer adept at witty tweets. We need conversation, thinking, and time for process by inspired artists and creatives.
Art direction and photography: Saverio Truglia
Victory Gardens marketing team: John Zinn, Tim Spiecher
Wardrobe: Aly Amedai
Hair: Katarina Jestrovic
Makeup: Laura Weathersby
Retouching: Tim Blokel