Thomas Beug’s new campaign for NBCUniversal’s inaugural ONE21 conference celebrates the connection between humanity and technology.

Thomas Beug’s campaign for NBCUniversal’s recent #One21 virtual conference portrays the media platform’s diverse global audience in a way that accentuates the bright side of humanity, connection and creative technology. The short films – “Anthem,” “Chef,” “Find Yourself” and “Brothers” – look at community, family and a deep well of programming which offers something for everyone. They use well-crafted cinematic visuals and doc-style stories to convey common truths and elicit feelings. Thomas shares some background about the collaboration with NBCUniversal on the campaign which debuted for industry and partners at their new annual gathering, #One21. 

Q>  Was casting a literal cross-section of humanity in this campaign a challenge?

TB>  Casting this project was a lot of fun. For “Find Yourself” and “Anthem,” we were looking for a genuine cross-section of humanity, aka NBCUniversal’s actual audience in all its diverse, global, weird and wonderful glory. I love working with real people and finding memorable faces and people who come alive on camera. With over 50 principals, this project really allowed us to bring diversity and range to the talent pool and feature people you might not typically see in a commercial.

When it came to the narrative films (“Brothers” and “Chef”), we needed some serious acting chops while ideally getting real family relationships and chemistry in the mix. I think we got pretty lucky here – I loved the little bros (real brothers) and I think the teens did great, too (not real brothers). I also thought the grandpa in “Chef” had a great face and I felt empathy for him as soon I saw his first casting tape.

Q>  Share some context on how you captured the trust between the brothers in the “Brothers” film. Were those scenes in the original script?

TB>  “Brothers” was probably my favorite film to make in this series and the brief was actually quite open. The NBCUniversal team wanted to make a film that conveyed the idea of “trust” and I came back to them with this idea of the bond of trust between two brothers and what that looks like over time. I have two sons and the vignettes were partly inspired by the way they interact with each other – and how my older son seems to have an instinct to look out for his younger brother. I’ve literally caught my 5-year-old son stealing candy out of a cupboard to share with his 2-year-old brother.

It felt like we had the freedom to make a really creative short film here and that the tagline at the end would be the only branded element. This film’s job at #One21 was to give the audience a feel for the kind of trust that a brand with the legacy of NBCUniversal can elicit by telling an archetypal story that a lot of people can relate to. The most important thing was we made the audience feel something and I think we achieved that.

Q>  How did you achieve the very natural “look” of these films?

TB>  I always start with naturalism and authenticity when it comes to the look and feel of my films. I think casting, locations, set dressing and of course camera and lighting all tie into this aesthetic.

My DP on this, Benn Martenson, did an amazing job in terms of making the film look natural here. That meant a free-flowing handheld camera and using a lot of practical lights as well as relying on the sun. 

We also worked hard to tie the aesthetic to each narrative in this series. That meant keeping things a little down and moody when we were working with grumpy Grandpa in the “Chef” film. Alternatively, we went with a warmer and more saturated look for the more nostalgic “Brothers” film.

Q>  Did it change your approach to this job knowing that these were upfronts vs. TV commercials speaking to industry rather than consumers?

TB>  Being for a remote conference rather than TV, these films gave me an opportunity to really push the creative. Length wasn’t a concern and branding often came secondary. For the NBCUni team, it was all about making these films as good as they could possibly be, pushing the audience engagement and really giving these stories emotional power. 

Whether I am speaking to consumers or industry folks, I like to think about shared humanity and relatability. That way, being entertaining and evocative is always the No. 1 goal.

Q>  How did the films go over?

TB>  We got a really warm response from NBCUniversal when all was said and done. By all accounts the event went well and the NBCUniversal team saw the campaign as real show-pieces that underlined the fact that the company is a big player in the content game and can put out films (in a very short time-frame) that powerfully showcase their offerings.

Q>  What did you enjoy most about the process?

TB>  This was yet another project for me where I got to be really involved in both the creative development and scripting of the work. This was a deep collaboration where we would have brain storms and creative calls on a daily basis in the lead-up to the shoot. I have to say, I really like this kind of teamwork where the creative is constantly being tested and improved upon and I get to put pen to paper and come up with ideas that end up on film. I think this process makes for the best kind of work. It’s one of the reasons I love doing what I do.

Watch the full campaign below.

NBCUniversal | ONE21

"Find Yourself"