Maker Moments: Humanity in Storytelling

Welcome to Maker Moments, our series where we feature guest contributions to our blog from QuickFrame makersThis month’s post is written by maker Graham Kelley of Naknek Films to discuss humanity in storytelling.

Ten years ago, I started Naknek Films with my creative business partner, Ryan Francis. So much has changed in those ten years, both personally and in the fields of filmmaking, marketing, and technology. One thing that hasn’t changed is my drive as a director to tell stories, both short and long, that emotionally resonate with people. Without connections, there are no stories to tell.

That idea — the marriage of people and stories — has never been more at risk. (I’m not here to dive deep into the pros and cons of AI and social media or whether they should be used in our daily lives. That’s a topic for another time and, quite frankly, for another person to tackle besides yours truly.) What I want to dive into is the importance of humanity in the process of storytelling.

Humanity in Storytelling

Whether it’s a drama, comedy, horror, or a 30-second commercial, we connect with these stories because there is humanity tied into them. A human being with a history, life experience, and emotions writes a story for another human to connect with; that is the essence of filmmaking and even marketing. You can spend about five minutes looking at an AI-generated image or video and be wowed by the technological advances it represents, but I have yet to hear anyone say, “Wow… that AI video really connected with me.”

As cool as AI tech is, there is simply no humanity behind it. The amazing tool that it is, it’s that — a tool. We need to keep humans involved in storytelling if we want to continue having films and commercials that are more than just quickly produced pixels. We need people to get behind the keyboard; this can, of course, be done with the help of AI tools, but it must keep people involved and in the driver’s seat of the act of storytelling.

Read more: Video Marketing in 2024: An H1 Recap

Maintaining Humanity in Recent Work

Recently, I directed two commercials in partnership with QuickFrame that I believe kept relatable humanity in the work while also advertising a brand’s product in the age of social media attention spans. Both of these projects were for the popular brand Ruggable. We made one comedic commercial and one evergreen commercial — all in one day. The two cover a wide range of emotions, from the comedy of daily situations to the emotional heartstrings of parenting.

The Goal of the Project

The goal was to promote Ruggable’s machine-washable rugs in a way that connected with parents, particularly those with young children who create messes on rugs. At the time, my daughter was around two years old, making me part of the target audience. Drawing from my own experiences as a parent, I crafted a humorous yet heartfelt narrative that reflected the chaos and joy of raising young children. The authenticity of the commercial was further enhanced by featuring my daughter, making the project deeply personal and memorable.


In addition, there was a massive effort of collaboration between our crew and the brand’s marketing team. This type of human interaction and creative wrestling is what helped make these two commercials what they are because we were pulling from several people’s human experiences in life as individuals, parents, uncles, and aunts. From the highs and lows of life, those raw moments found between the frames are what really make up a film, series, or commercial.

A perk of using AI is that it’s a writer’s room that works incredibly quickly and without getting its feelings hurt when you tell it its newest draft is wrong or straight-up sucks. Coming from a background where I spent a lot of time in real writer’s rooms, I can tell you how refreshing it is not to have to worry about peoples’ feelings — but wait! There lies the problem. Aren’t we storytelling to connect with people’s feelings? How, then, can we abandon those same feelings found on a writer’s room floor or the raw collaboration of a production company working side by side with a brand’s marketing team? We can’t.

The Ruggable commercials were so well received because they weren’t built by AI or for a quick social media response. They were made by the people for the people. …Did I really just use that line? Oh well. It works perfectly here and gets my point across. I’m keeping it as proof this was written by a real (cheesy) human. 

Looking Ahead

Fellow creatives and brands: previous generations wouldn’t hold it against you for using a power tool to cut some wood, but I bet they would mourn the loss if you allowed yourself to forget the worthy blood, sweat, and tears earned through knowing you crafted something of value.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned. Maybe I’ll be the one people laugh about, but my gut tells me to recall the value of finding the balance between using a tool and still getting your hands dirty with your fellow human to tell great stories, both big and small, for all screens.

Reflecting on the past decade, it’s clear that human connections have been the foundation of my work and even my life. Whether on the page or behind the scenes, it’s the people and their stories that drive my passion for filmmaking. Here’s to many more years of creating meaningful narratives that connect with audiences on a deeper level.

In 2014, Naknek Films was born, setting out on a journey that would ultimately lead them to become a full-service production company. Their portfolio is a sweeping canvas, encompassing everything from the artistry of branded original content to the brilliance of award-winning commercials and, now, streaming entertainment. At the heart of every Naknek production beats an unyielding commitment — a dedication to the trinity of creativity, human connections, and precise logistical execution. This commitment is not only the bedrock upon which Naknek was meticulously crafted but also the guiding light inspiring every script, scene, shot, and edit toward storytelling excellence.

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