7 Video Production Lessons from Greta Gerwig’s Barbie

Barbie has over 200 careers, and we can bet videographer is one of them. This post will extract seven video production lessons from Greta Gerwig’s somewhat polarizing 2023 summer blockbuster, Barbie.

The movie features Margot Robbie as the titular Barbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken.  Barbie’s success made headlines as it blew past expectations and cemented itself as the first studio comedy to gross more than $100 million in its first weekend.

Now, let’s jump into the candy-colored madness that is Barbie and see the production genius behind the movie to inform your next business video project.


1. Storytelling mastery

People love and hate Barbie as a toy and a phenomenon, but then some don’t care so much about her at all. Regardless of whether you liked her or not, Barbie was omnipresent for most of our childhoods.

To appeal to this varied audience, Barbie tells a surprisingly nuanced tale. Even the villain has layers of complexity.

The movie is both a celebration and a subversion of the popular toy and her legacy. Barbie has heart and comes across as clever, funny, even a little uncomfortable—which sparks culturally relevant conversations.

Even Robbie admitted that creating the film “comes with a lot of baggage”. “But with that come[s] a lot of exciting ways to attack it”.

The storytelling in Barbie is a testament to how nuanced and serious subjects can be dealt with in fun ways. And we think that is the key takeaway for videographers.

Read more: How to Tell a Story That Makes People Want to Buy Your Stuff


2. Poignant writing

Many lines from the movie have seared themselves into movie-goers’ brains.

“We mothers stand still so our daughters can look back to see how far they’ve come” was a definite tear-jerker.

And then there’s Gloria’s entire monologue that takes place shortly after Barbie returns home dejected from experiencing what reality is like and how children don’t see her as the feminist icon she thought she was.

Just goes to show how important good writing is. Regardless of the scale of your video project, whether it’s a short explainer or a big-budget corporate film, you’ve got to nail the script because that is the soul of your entire project.

Also read: How to Write an Effective Explainer Video Script


3. Barbie in technicolor

Barbie’s director, Greta Gerwig, is a big fan of classics, such as The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain, and others from the golden age of Hollywood. These movies had eye-popping hues and Gerwig wanted to give Barbie that same effect.

Originally, the technicolor glory of old was captured with a “three-strip” camera, but that technique hasn’t been used since the ‘50s.

To get that same jewel-toned pizzazz, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto got creative. And to properly capture all the pink in the movie, Prieto had to play with lighting and gradations.

The result speaks for itself.


4. Set design brilliance

barbie land - video production

Gerwig wanted to convey a sense of “authentic artificiality” for the movie, and the Barbie Land shots do exactly that by giving a boxed-in, on-stage kind of feeling.

The movie was primarily shot at a studio in London and relied on physical sets as opposed to CGI. Everything in Barbie Land was designed to look “toyetic”.

The production design team led by Sarah Greenwood and Katie Spencer first created a miniature model of what the set would look like and then created the full-size version.

It’s worth noting that the “full-size” set was not “life-like” by any means. For example, even the car that Robbie drives as Barbie is not life-size. It gets that toy-like feeling across. As for Barbie Land’s aesthetic, it’s all an ode to the doll’s 1950s origins.

The travel sequences in the film are also physical and add a sense of whimsy that CGI wouldn’t quite capture. From hand-painted backgrounds to the careful selection of pinks for the film, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a masterclass in environment building and set design brilliance.

Fun fact: Pantone 219 is Barbie’s iconic shade of pink. The movie set used so much of it that it caused a worldwide shortage.


5. Costumes and “Barbiecore”

The Barbie movie is a celebration of the doll’s eye-catching fashion through the ages. For example, the 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired teaser featured Barbie in her iconic 1959 bathing suit.

Moreover, amongst the several noteworthy looks, the retro rollerblading outfits Barbie and Ken sport at Venice Beach were the most memorable, as the pair visually stood out from the much plainer-looking crowd.

The film and its fashion became a moment and launched the “Barbiecore” trend. Jacqueline Durran, the Oscar-winning costume designer behind Barbie understood the assignment and delivered! All of Barbie’s outfits were hand-crafted and one of a kind. Durran also set out to capture the “toyetic” feeling with Barbie’s attire, and she hit the nail on the head.

Robbie even served us Barbie glam during the movie’s press tour.

Just goes to show that costumes are a vehicle for storytelling. It is something to note whether your production is animated or live-action!


6. Sound design and music

Barbie’s sound design, like the rest of the movie, is an ode to 1950s musicals. Ai-Ling Lee and Dan Kenyon set out to engineer these sounds.

Alternatives were added to give Barbie Land a commercial-like sensation. When Barbie opens her refrigerator, for example, we hear a calming exhale that conveys a sense of freshness.

Vocal sounds were also added to objects to give a sense of the way children play with toys.

Then we have the movie score produced by Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt. Some standout songs like Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night”, Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” and Billie Eilish’s poignant “What Was I Made For” were excellent narrative devices as well. Just goes to show how important an immersive audio experience is for any kind of production.


7. Pop culture references

Adding pop culture references is a great way to add a layer of fun. It also allows you to give a nod to moments that inspire you as a creator. It is also a great conversation starter for viewers who will look at your references like visual Easter Eggs to spot and discover upon re-watching!

This is exactly the sort of thing that makes people want to share videos!

The Barbie movie had loads of such moments. Viewers found references to The Wizard of Oz, Clueless, Saturday Night Fever, The Matrix, and more!

Even the travel sequences in the Barbie movie are a reference. Greta used early Old Spice commercials as her inspiration and went with that vibe to direct the fantastical travel montages in the film.

So be sure to add pop culture references to your next production. It’ll add an element of fun to your video project.

Similar post: 13 Lessons Video Marketers Can Learn from Taylor Swift


That’s a wrap

We hope you enjoyed exploring the lessons that Barbie has to offer. Whether you love or hate the movie, you’ve got to admit it certainly did something right considering the ridiculous numbers it pulled at the box office.

The MotionCue team is enamored by Gerwig’s whimsical and nuanced take on Barbie. We’ll be re-watching it to extract even more lessons.

How many of these video production lessons will you implement in your next video project? If you’d like to work with a pro video animation company like ours to bring your business video to life, get in touch, we’d be happy to help.

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Posted by Maria Saif

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