The directing duo behind Borderland Studios, Simon Frost and Ben Hanson, are launching a new production company, Witness.

In an age of AI and ever-more automated, cookie-cutter content, Witness will form a new home for purpose-led branded film production and editing, featuring Frost and Hanson's trademark talent for capturing authentic stories delivered by actors and non-actors.

Frost and Hanson have become known in adland for their signature storytelling style, exceptional film craft, cinematography and an obsession with authentic performances.

Their portfolio includes multi-award-winning campaigns such as I Will Always Be Me, banking the voices of people living with motor neurone disease for Dell and Intel, which scooped the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions in 2022; and Lexus’s 2015 Hoverboard campaign Slide, which won the Gold Cyber Lion at Cannes and the Eurobest Grand Prix. 

Plastic: A Second Life showcased the recycling ingenuity of Kenyan boat builders and was featured in The National Geographic in 2019. Another film they released the same year, The Last of the Korean Mermaids, was featured in Nowness Asia, tracking a perilous deep-sea-diving tradition kept alive by one of the last remaining elderly female freedivers who harvest seafood from the ocean floor.

Another campaign, Mermaids for Dell Technologies, follows a South African freediver harnessing technology to improve access to the ocean for children from underprivileged backgrounds. Other standout campaigns the duo have worked on include suicide prevention campaign Stay for Campaign Against Living Miserably and recycling campaign Turning the Tide for Sky Ocean Rescue. 

Witness launches with major campaigns upcoming for Microsoft and Dell, setting out not only to create a destination for brands looking to champion their CSR initiatives and ESG credentials, but also for young directing talent to learn the craft of raw, real, emotive storytelling that connects on a human level, in an age of automated, instantaneous content and cookie-cutter creative work. 

“We're seeing with AI video generation like Sora that much of what we do as an industry will soon be available with a few well-crafted text prompts,” said Frost. “Once this takes over, the value and appetite for genuine human experiences, authentic expression and real-time moments captured on film will only increase.” 

Hanson said: “In an industry of ever-more-automated, increasingly glossy content, Witness’s trademark authentic, emotive human storytelling will stand apart. Brands coming to Witness will get work that is instantly identifiable as Witness, that cuts through and connects on a deeper level. Talent coming to Witness will have all the infrastructure for authentic, documentary-style filmmaking at their disposal; from specialised casting agents to story researchers and editors who excel in our unique, timeless brand of storytelling.”

Hanson brings a background in psychology to Witness, as well as a period working with young offenders. Witness’ interest in human behaviour, emotion and psychology is a key driving force behind its filmmaking style. 

Frost and Hanson met at CHI&Partners, where they worked together on campaigns including Lexus’ hoverboard campaign Slide and iD Mobile’s Do Your Own Thing campaign, which told the stories of extraordinary people spanning all corners of the world, including blind Mixed Martial Arts fighter Lee Hoy in South Shields.

In an industry of ever-more-automated, increasingly glossy content, Witness’s trademark authentic, emotive human storytelling will stand apart

In 2019, the duo left CHI&Partners and set up Borderland Studios alongside co-founder Zoe Barlow. Their journey since then has been marked by a string of accolades at the industry’s biggest festivals, all while developing their unique production approach and an ecosystem of talent which makes their signature brand of storytelling possible. The launch of Witness marks the start of the next chapter for Frost and Hanson, and the creation of a new home for authenticity in advertising. 

“After ten years honing our craft, developing our own signature style and understanding what resonates most deeply with audiences, we’re excited to build the production and post-production offering we feel the industry needs most,” said Hanson.

Frost and Hanson have worked for brands including Lexus, Xbox, Gillette, Peroni, the BBC, Amnesty International, Reuters, The Guardian, Wimbledon, Oppo, Axa, Dell, Intel, iD Mobile, The Prince’s Trust and many more.

Witness’s first campaign, for Microsoft’s Xbox, will launch later this month, marking the start of an exciting new era for branded storytelling in London and beyond.