Architects embrace power of film

16 March, 2021

Last week I wrote about ‘micro videos’. The question I posed is should practices be putting more time and effort into these teaser videos rather than longer, expensively produced ones.

As a way of marketing your practice or work, micro videos have a lot of advantages. The main one is they can be easily shared on social media. Videos that are an average of 26 seconds receive the most comments on Instagram.

Videos are getting shorter, but at the same time people are becoming more used to watching full-length videos online.

So the question you always need to ask is: what and who is the video for?

If you’re simply after more clickthroughs to your website, or the video has been created for your landing page or you want to try and increase your social media following, a short video of no more than 30 seconds is an ideal length.

But for many architects the main reason for commissioning a film is to inspire or explain an aspect of the design process that can’t easily be conveyed in words or still photographs. And this means it will need to be longer. How long will depend on your objective.

A good example is Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ film Making Models, shortlisted for an Archiboo Award in 2020,  which explores how and why the practice uses architectural models and the skill and craftsmanship that goes into their creation.

FCB Studios intended to release the film as part of its annual model exhibition but when the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, it brought its release forward from the summer, explains the practice’s modelmaker Cassidy Wingrove.

“Making Models was released a month into lockdown and at a time when architects and designers were navigating their way through a new way of working which at first seemed isolated and disjointed.

“The film was a poignant reminder of what can happen when we work creatively and collaboratively together. It transported the viewer back inside the design studios and the model making workshops and gave hope at a time of great uncertainty that we would get there again.”

Making Models, which is 12 minutes long, has chalked up an impressive numbers – over 1000 views –  helped by being screened as part of the Architecture Foundation 100 Day Studio.

Jim Stephenson, whose film Lionheart won an Archiboo Award in 2020 says that the scope for architectural films is broadening.

“Architecture has tended to promote itself to itself too much but the screening I did last month (about the architect Sarah Wigglesworth’s house) had an audience of 250 people…. that’s a full cinema turnout. There was nothing revolutionary about what we were doing but I think people are watching this and saying ‘we could do that’.

Although filming has been difficult during lockdown, Stephenson says it has given practices the time to think about how they want to be seen.

“Architects are trying to put their personalities out there and find ways to communicate their role a bit better which hopefully might improve the stereotypical view of an architect. I think lockdown has just provided the space to do this”.

 What makes an award winning film?

  • A strong story that’s relevant to a wider audience than simply other architects
  • A clear narrative that has a beginning middle and end
  • Engaging content – for example going behind-the-scenes which makes people feel they’re getting something exclusive
  • And finally – even if the film’s purpose is not marketing, make sure to add a website or social media links at the end of the film. Most architects’ films don’t do this


       The Archiboo Awards will be launching in June 2021