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How craft makes the ordinary, extraordinary

Parasite is a damn good movie. I know this because it just won Best Picture in the 92nd Academy Awards. Don’t worry, this isn’t another self-indulgent creative post about the importance of awards in defining excellence. It’s a self-indulgent creative post about the importance of craft in creating it.

The first Oscar was awarded in 1929. Back then, there were just twelve different categories including the “Best Engineering Effects”. But even those very first Academy Awards acknowledged, respected and rewarded the importance of outstanding craft in creating amazing movies.

These days, there are 24 categories. We all know the big ones. But to win an Oscar in Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing or Best Sound Editing is to also be recognised as best in the world at something very special. And it’s passion for amazing craft that adds up to brilliant movies.

BEST PICTURE FINALISTS ALWAYS HAVE MULTIPLE NOMINATIONS.

This year’s Oscars saw eight amazing films nominated as Best Picture. All of them had multiple nominations in other categories. Joker and Once upon a time in Hollywood were nominated in ten other craft categories. So just about every element of the craft in those movies was considered best in the world. Great creative product is born of great craft.

CRAFT MAKES THE ORDINARY, EXTRAORDINARY.

Google tells us there were 786 movies released in America and Canada last year. Just twelve made the cut for Best Picture at the Oscars. That’s a 1.5% strike rate. And it doesn’t account for the thousands of movies from other areas – and the stream of straight-to-small screen stuff via Netflix and the like.

Even there – in a world of infinite choice straight down the pipe, we cut through clutter and only tell our friends about content that’s crafted. Stranger Things, GOT, The Bodyguard, The Crown, House of Cards – you name it, you loved it because of great writing, great acting, great effects, great lighting, great costumes – great craft.

CRAFT IS BORN OF TALENT, PASSION, TENACITY AND RESPECT.

So what is craft, exactly? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a verb, to make something using special skills. And those specialists don’t become specialist by accident. Great craft is born of passion and a talent that’s earned through tenacity. People who know their craft, love their craft. The writers, the artists, the actors and the directors. Nobody ever made a feature film worth talking about without a hundred earlier attempts littering their experience.

But the biggest thing about craft is that true craftspeople don’t do what they don’t do. In an era defined by cheap tools and simple tech, anyone can shoot a movie on their mobile. But the best of the best (the stuff we all talk about) is a showcase of craftspeople playing in position. Writers write. Directors direct. Actors create empathy through humanity. If you’ve ever been to a decent shoot and wondered what all the different people do, the answer is simple. They all do what they’re best at – with full respect for everyone else’s craft.

WE NEED TO DO LESS STUFF, BETTER.

Going back to the 786 movies released in the US last year, advertising is next level. There were 31,000 ads entered into Cannes – just under 30 awarded a Grand Prix. That’s about a 0.01% strike rate. We make a lot of stuff that means very little.

But what if we focused on craft? What if we re-directed our always-on passion for ‘content’ and just made one thing, brilliantly? What if we spent time, tenacity and passion crafting something so amazing that people that find it hard to forget?

Because that’s the point, right? It’s not all about the three second splash between wedding photos and restaurant rants on Facebook. It’s about communicating stories that people actually remember. And the beating heart of all of those is craft.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

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