Reunions are a wild animal

We are surrounded by screens, bombarded by content. Much of it is well-shot and well-produced- but predictable, which means viewers rarely watch to the end.  Strong characters aren’t enough. Compelling plot lines aren’t enough. Beautiful cinematography isn’t enough. To keep viewers engaged there needs to be something more. In an oversaturated world of content and screens, reunions are a wild animal. 

Here are a few types of reunions and reasons why they work:


This piece is beautiful. It was directed by Eliot Rausch, produced by Wunderman for the Ad Council as part of the Changing Minds campaign. Actors were used to preserve the identity of the teenage subjects. At 6 minutes, it goes well beyond the 2 minute clock prescribed for pieces like this and keeps viewers locked in until the end. Strong characters, a tight script, and leaving equipment and crew in the frame all add to the authenticity which ratchets up the emotion. 


We produced "Waiting for Mother's Day," after the International Rescue Committee told us Tha would be reuniting with her son, whom she hadn't seen in ten years. Unlike "Unique," we didn't have actors to work with, only the vague details that Vinson, her son, would fly into JFK and be taken by bus to Tha's home in Baltimore which would have been tough to film. Instead, we organized for the bus to drop Vinson off at BWI where we would hold the reunion. We brought Tha to BWI in the wee hours of the morning and held her at one end of the baggage terminal while the bus dropped her son at the opposite end. While the crew had a tough time staying awake waiting, Tha didn't, flowers in her hand, her gaze locked down the terminal. All of her emotions were running high as we walked with her down the terminal. 

In post, the challenge was giving it just enough backstory while keeping the time down. The IRC used the piece as part of an online Mother's Day campaign, and the piece logged the most views of any IRC content to date. 


While actors weren't used to preserve the identity of the real characters like in "Unique," this is a true story, based on Navy air traffic controller Robert Nilsson, his wife Denise, and their daughter.  

Duracell Brand Manager Ramon Velutini told Mashable

"Duracell has a wide range of creative freedom when it comes to advertising; pretty much any battery-powered object is fair game. But the company gravitates towards scenarios that highlight its products' long life, situations where people depend on them for meaningful life events and, above all else, compelling stories."

"We were basically in the house of this family and we asked the daughter to show off her favorite toy," Velutini said. "We were expecting regular toys — remote control cars and all this — and they came running with this battery-powered bear."

The bear was a gift from Nilsson to his daughter while he was away, and aided in the anticipation for their reunion. 

A fresh spin on a familiar storyline. It always works, and it's always emotional.