Monday, 16 May 2011

The Trouble with Love and Sex

What a great programme - on so many levels (Wonderland - The Trouble with Love and Sex, 9.00pm Wednesday 11th May, BBC2).

Firstly our admiration to the participants for their bravery and Zac Beattie, the producer and director, for getting it together. And to the BBC for making such an important programme, earning themselves much praise in the 'worth my licence fee' department. It's an inspired idea. Access into the private, elusive world of other people's real relationships is rarely permissible. But having it is so intriguing, enlightening and reassuring.

Secondly, hats off to Relate, an organisation we have the greatest respect for having worked with them closely. Not only did they have the courage to take part, they also exhibited their immense skill through the counsellors. The piece of genius that I will most remember is the letter to the single man's 'dark side.' The real brilliance was the idea of acknowledging this dark character's help so far, thanking 'him' for what he he had done, and now telling him he was no longer required. So clever. So right. So effective.

Thirdly on an artistic film-making level. The combination of real voices and animated characters enables both the authenticity of the piece to come through and the addition of an expression of emotion through the clever and naturalistic drawing. The use of animation in adult productions is rare and can lead to false pre-conceptions around the material. Its use in a documentary is very interesting. I was reminded of the excellent feature film, 'Waltz with Bashir', Ari Folman's animated documentary into the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war. The animation there was strangely naturalistic, with dramatic lighting and the portrayal of remembered scenes, unfilmed at the time and too difficult to reconstruct.

It also brought home the importance of our role with brands and their people. Whatever business we are working with, we believe that it is people who make the difference. Our practice is based around listening, probing, guiding and yes, sometimes, upsetting. Now, I wish I was half as good as those Relate counsellors, but I do think we allow people to unearth their worries, understand the benefits of open and honest communication, and begin to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Maybe it's no coincidence that the client for one of our favourite jobs of late, Swanswell, CEO Debbie Banagan, is ex-Relate.

One of the counsellors summed up the similarity we feel with what we do, when he said he would like to ask a 'simple sounding, but maybe difficult to answer question.'