The HR unit presents itself


Presenting the Human Resources unit in a new light | Mandate Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA | Story & direction FDFA HR unit, Hynek Bures | Animation Ehud Graf | Voice Fernando Tiberini | Music Lionel Dentan | 2018

My favorite information-videos are not about the information, but about the tone and emotions.

Many FDFA employees rotate every four years. Ambassadors leaving Switzerland for a new assignment, or thematic advisers moving from one Embassy to another corner of the world. The Department’s HR unit is responsible for coordinating this yearly process: the unit matches the Department’s vision with the personal and professional aspirations of its staff. Moments of frustration are inevitable! In an effort to reform itself, the unit and I created a series of three videos showcasing a more transparent and service oriented HR unit.

Staffing information into your audience … vs. …

From the beginning my approach was to omit the usual information video format, that would explain the many HR services at offer. Official communiqués posted on the intranet are better suited for this. First, the staff appreciates the official character of such communiqués. Second, HR services may change over time, making our videos obsolete.

These videos are designated for the Department’s internal use only. The video here below is a show reel with the image and the sound, but not the voices.

Conveying emotions

In discussion with the HR unit, we quickly agreed that these videos need to promote a greater understanding between the HR personnel and their colleagues within the entire department. Our videos carry information for the viewer. But foremost the stories are about people - their fears, their hopes. In doing so, we place emphasis on conveying a message at deeper levels: “We are listening to you. We too are in a difficult position. Together we try to find the best solution for all.” This message is key for the HR unit in order to establish a new relationship with the Department’s staff.

In three acts we give voice to both sides: Act one portrays Tanja, a young aspiring diplomat aspiring for a higher position while balancing professional and family life. Act two follows Marc from the HR unit preparing the orientation talk with Tanja. What can he offer her? What are his concerns? Act three represents the synthesis: Tanja and Marc meet and discuss her potential and possible next career steps.

What creates emotions?

Ehud (graphics, animation) and I decided to work with silhouettes. We wanted to steer away from a comics and create a certain realism charged with emotions. But it is not simple to convey emotions through animation, especially if your characters have no faces. Here our approach to this challenge:

First the story is told through the the main characters. In Stories one and two we hear Tanja’s and Marc’s voices talking about their upcoming meeting. In story three Tanja and Marc actually meet and sit down to discuss. This approach helps the audience to create a bond with our characters and to understand the other side at an emotional level.

Second, the structure of the series is of thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. The first two videos (with different colour palettes) end with an open question or hope: “How will it go? Who will win?” This emotional anticipation is then resolved in the third story.  

Third, regarding the visuals, we imitated the “film look”. Blockbuster films are strong at triggering our emotions. We used a few of such visual elements: over the shoulder shots, foreground/background image compositions, slow camera movement, or juxtaposition of inside/outside, up/down. Though the technique of a very close-up shot of the face doesn’t work in our case, because there are no faces.

Finally, the music. Though it is key to creating emotions on screen, I am careful not to reproduce the most obvious tunes. Together with Lionel the musician, we look for new worlds of sound. Something that stays with you after watching the video. Just like the feeling we want you to carry with you for a while.