#wombstories, AMV BBDO's latest creative work for Bodyform, is difficult to describe without seeing it.
Essentially, its reason for being is to talk about what some women feel they can't talk about; at least not without judgment or shame.
It is a part-animated, part-filmed collage of intimate stories from women about periods, wombs, sex, babies, miscarriage, endometriosis, menopause, pleasure, pain, love, and hate. It's all of these things. And more.
Essity, the health and hygiene brand behind Bodyform, conducted research on how women feel about these issues. Many felt it impacted their mental well being as they did not feel they could openly talk about their experiences.
The film gives a confident, impassioned and truthful voice to women who have experienced both trauma and joy as a result of their bodies, and to share those stories with others.
Nadja Lossgott & Nicholas Hulley, executive creative directors at AMV BBDO and the creative team behind #wombstories, talk to Lucy Smith, publishing director at Creative Moment, about where it all began, how they did it and importantly, why.
Lucy Smith: Tell us about the research that the campaign was based on; what surprised you the most from the findings?
Nadja Lossgott & Nicholas Hulley: The silence around women’s health is the manifestation of a taboo that doesn’t want women to talk about their experiences and their bodies.
It limits their narrative to a single, simplistic journey; get your periods in adolescence, have more periods, have some babies, more periods, and then you are meant to quietly retire.
If you don’t break this taboo, if you don’t encourage people to openly share their wombstories, you end up with the host of problems we see now.
It makes any person who deviates from this narrative - like someone who has no intention of having children - feel abnormal or weird.
A staggering 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage and yet people sit in shame on their own. Sadly, 1 in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, yet it takes, on average, 7.5 years for a diagnosis.
Telling their wombstories helps break this vicious cycle.
LS: How did you decide which stories to focus on in the film?
NL/NH: There were so many common experiences. From small things, amazing things, to completely life-changing, traumatising or debilitating things.
There were certain topics that had been clearly under-represented or never spoken about and we knew that they desperately needed to be heard.
Margaux Revol, our strategist, dug deeper into those topics with her research and found out more about the reasons women had been silenced and what the outcome was.
We tried to work the diverse strands into a story that would work off each other and be meaningful as a whole, as well as the individual.
For example, if you chose not to get pregnant the sight of your period might be a relief, whereas if you’re trying desperately to get pregnant, the sight of your period could mean gut-wrenching grief.
LS: Walk us through the key points in the creative process for this project.
NL/NH: Our North star was telling the emotional truth.
Sometimes periods and being a woman can actually be pretty shit, not just all positivity and celebration. We wanted to show different complex narratives of people’s experiences.
The thought of each person having a little womb-dweller, controlling the outside experience felt like such a wonderful space to play in.
We were excited by creating beautiful little organic worlds that told the outside story but on a deeper, more emotionally visceral level, rather than a logical one.
Nisha, director, helped us develop the narratives and brought such raw empathy and energy to it. Her treatment and story jumped off the page. It was funny and heartbreaking and beautifully told. Our story became her story. And the way that she directed was from lived experience.
After shooting, Elise Butt had the difficult job of wrestling the edit into shape, intertwining the complex narratives, with line drawings for where we imagined all the animation would be. At the same time, we worked with a whole army of animation artists, with Sharon Lock from Framestore at the helm, to craft, collaborate, and visualise the little worlds - the styles, characters, the cave-like environments and the wombs themselves.
The sound which Sam from 750mph lead, embellished each little world in detail, enriched the emotions, and stitched together the tapestry of visuals.
LS: The work combines film and animation. Why did you decide on these as the mediums through which to convey the stories?
NL/NH: We wanted to create a clear distinction between people and their anthropomorphic womb, so the viewer would be able to navigate through the story.
We felt that animation for the world of the wombs could be magical. And film for the people would bring authenticity.
Because we were using animation we could think of the womb as an emotional place full of story - not just biology.
Thinking of your womb being controlled by a lazy asshole of a being, or by a monster or a war of flame-throwers seemed way more fun, kooky and entertaining as animation. And an otherworldly contrast to the harsh real world.
It was important to give a voice to those who didn’t have the words.
There was a poignancy in mimicking a feeling in a little gardener trying so hard to tend to a beautiful garden and growing a stunning plant, only to have it destroyed by something that was completely out of her control, being left in deafening silence. Just like life.
LS: There is a necessary ‘brutality’ to the film. How did you judge where to draw the line?
NL/NH: Each story was treated with empathy and reality. Fragility and power, wrapped in the beauty of the outer and inner-worlds. It’s what we all go through.
It was so important for us all to be truthful, especially when it came to the heartbreak of an experience like baby loss, we wanted to tell the stories as tenderly as possible.
To visualise them in a visceral way and give a voice to a story without trying to find the words. It was an intuitive process for us all.
And in the end, it’s a love letter.