Merman’s Brad Turner helms IBM film ‘Outage’


Mobile technology’s impact on humanity comes to life in IBM Mobile’s thrilling interactive film, Outage created in partnership with Los Angeles-based Merman and directed by Brad Turner for Ogilvy New York.

The director of Homeland, 24, and Designated Survivor, Turner applied his talent for high intensity narratives and passion for innovation in this one of a kind.

Referred to as “a take-action film,” an engineer Jillian (played by Morgana Wyllie) faces a citywide blackout on her first day on the job. It’s a massive storm, with equally massive impact where mobile technology plays a critical role to saving lives and fixing the crisis. Viewers are able to explore different aspects of the dramatic story in an interactive “take action” format, which puts them in the driver’s seat to create their own film based on decisions made along the way. Turner wove together seven films to uncover the full story, allowing for multiple experiences. The apps and action may be simulated, but the capabilities are real.

Merman’s Kira Carstensen

“Working alongside Ogilvy, we helped concept and execute the script using an episodic television approach. We shot the interactive film over two days in Vancouver, employing an experienced TV crew and one of the world’s most accomplished and respected directors of action thrillers, Brad Turner,” said Kira Carstensen, Global Managing Partner of Merman, a studio working in all areas of entertainment, from award-winning TV and film to the next generation of branded entertainment. “Ogilvy was an incredible partner in developing a unique user experience that is a reflection of their visionary client, IBM Mobile, and the technology they create.”



The Reel had the opportunity to ask Brad Turner and Kira Carstensen some questions about the project.

REEL CHICAGO: Brad, what drew you to the project?

BRAD TURNER: Working in commercials and branded content is something I’ve always wanted to pursue but I’ve never been available. I happen to have booked time off, and when I was approached about doing this I thought the concept was so cool, I knew I was the right person for the job and that I wanted the challenge! With an impressive client like IBM, and partners in Merman and Ogilvy & Mather it was all around a dream team for creative. OUTAGE wasn’t just a linear film, it was an interactive puzzle from a production standpoint, so part of the draw was figuring out how to utilize the chapters and decision paths to tell a cohesive story with tension in each of the seven films we were making. I’ve never encountered that before in my career.

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RC: How involved were you with the story development?

BT: I was very involved in all stages of the process. I consulted on the storyline, gave notes on the script, and was in constant communication with the incredible creative team at Ogilvy every step of the way. The format required a longer prep period to account for all of the moving parts in production and non-linear storytelling, and because we had two days to shoot a lot of material, I manned the handheld camera so that I could work with the actors to get exactly what we needed to maximize our time and set-ups. Fortunately we had clients who were really supportive and on board with this plan!

Postproduction required a war room of creative to make sure we were on target with each piece. I brought in my editor, David Thompson, and Composer, Jamie Forsyth, both whom I collaborated with on ’24’ and I knew that would give OUTAGE that extra sizzle.

Outage director Turner

RC: What inspirations/ideas from your previous work did you bring to this project?

BT: The film is influenced by 24 and HOMELAND while using technology we could only ever dream would exist. Great creative, a strong lead female character, and inspired mobile technology were the perfect ingredients! Having directed over 300 hours of dramatic television, it feels like a culmination of my body of work with the twist of being interactive. IBM invited us to premiere the film at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month and that allowed me watch people experience (and enjoy!) the film which was also really informative and exciting. All around this was a great experience!

RC: Kira, Do you see/hope storytelling like this going further to engage an audience than the “traditional” campaign?

KIRA CARSTENSEN: I think engaging entertainment that has a brand message intertwined in the story arc is the way of the future. Modern audiences are sophisticated and can spot the sell a mile away. So if a brand’s message or values can be associated or weaved into a narrative piece of entertainment that people want to watch anyway, it’s a huge win.

This one of a kind interactive film which premiered at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and can be experienced here.

Agency: Ogilvy
   Executive Creative Directors: Keith Anderson, George Tanenbaum
   Associate Creative Director: Juliane Hadem
   Senior Copywriter: Gregory Kissler
   Senior Art Director: Simon Woodham
   Senior Producer: Joe Maire
   Account Director: Olivier Sentucq
   Management Supervisor: Erica Ortmann
   Account Supervisor: Halle Mizrahi
   Senior Strategist: Lynette Wong
   Executive Digital Producer: Sara Vargas
   Director of Music: Karl Westman
   Business Manager: Camille Crenshaw

Production Company: Merman
   Director: Brad Turner
   Global Managing Partner/EP: Kira Carstensen
   Head of Production: Amy Kaemon
   Head of Business Affairs: Kim Darwin
   Producer: Jessica Petelle

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