Baby Steps: MADAM

May 30, 2013 / Features

By Alex Reeves

In our new series on start-up production companies, we meet the triumvirate behind MADAM.

Starting is always the hardest part. That’s true whether you’re writing a book, sculpting a statue or building a brand new production company. In a market where dozens of companies compete fiercely for clients’ favour, getting the first steps right is vital.

In this series – Baby Steps – we’ll be taking the pulse of production companies at different junctures in their formative years, delving into what it means to start your own production company and how to do it well.

Our first featured company are MADAM – probably the newest production company in London. Founded by Pippa Bhatt, Michelle Stapleton and Carly Stone, who all met working at Crossroads Films, the company is about as fresh as they come. When we meet them they can hardly contain their excitement as they talk about their new venture.

The idea of a brand new company had been cropping up for a while between Pippa and Carly while working together, but when Michelle came into the picture, these dreams began to show real promise and the seeds for MADAM were sewn. “I think we’d realised that we’d reached a ceiling with where we could take Crossroads,” says Pippa. The three of them decided to create something of their own and in the early part of 2013 they made it happen.

One important decision early on will be familiar to everyone – what would they call it? The name would feed their whole identity, so it was a big decision.

As three women in partnership, they wanted to make the most of their feminine identity, while avoiding undermining their credibility with outdated stereotypes. “We wanted it to reflect that we are three strong businesswomen,” says Carly.

As a name, MADAM does this and more. Pippa explains how the concept relates to their new company’s personality. “At the time, I’d seen a couple of TV programmes with madams in,” she recounts. “I just thought, over history, really successful madams have been really savvy businesswomen who understand their clients as well as their products and create an environment – a trusted space – where that marriage can really work. It resonated with me!”

They aren’t literally pimping their directors out to clients (as far as we can tell), but it’s certainly a concept rich with raw materials that will help in building their brand. They are currently anxiously awaiting the visual side of this – their artwork and website – but with such a saucy name they shouldn’t have trouble standing out.

Creating an Identity

In an industry where companies too often rely solely on the names of directors, the madams are thinking a lot about their image. “If you want to attract creative people it’s important to have an identity that’s exciting, interesting and showcases the personality of the company,” says Pippa. If you create compelling video content, you’re missing a trick if you look like an accountancy firm.

Of course the idea behind MADAM’s name is a great metaphor for one quality they want play up - the level of care they give clients. Creating film can be an arduous process and the trio recognise the importance of making the relationships with clients and agencies as smooth as possible. “Your clients are going through a working experience with you,” says Carly. “And it’s how they come out feeling [that matters]. They may well love the film but if they had the most awful experience are they going to go back to you? Probably not.”

One way they plan to foster these good relationships is by not being too ruthless in business. Michelle isn’t averse to doing things that offer up rewards other than financial ones for the company. “I really hope clients will come to us even if there’s a project that’s not obviously suitable for us,” she says. “It’s a case of being able to work with them and make suggestions, building up this trust factor so it’s not sell sell sell all the time.”

Nurturing Relationships

Pat Holden, one of the directors on their new roster, knows the founders well and has seen first hand how well they care for their partners. “Their clients are going to be very well served,” he says. “They’ve had relationships in the industry for donkeys’ years and they’ve maintained them. There’s a reason for that. It can be quite a fickle, fast-moving business and to be able to keep clients and keep those relationships strong is a skill and a talent.”

Pat would say that of course. He’s a big fan of his bosses. “They’re charming, lovely to work with, very loyal,” he gushes. “I’m very fond of them all. It’s not just business. They’re a lot of fun – a laugh.” With such a shining reference it’s easy to see why people would want to work with them.

That’s half of the story, but directors are pretty important to production companies too. You can’t be a madam without whores (so to speak), so getting the right talent on board was crucial. It was also one of the most exciting parts for the trio.

“The beauty of having started our own company,” says Carly, “is that we can make the choices ourselves. Being the ultimate decision makers on a roster we can design for our market is a powerful place to be and one that we take great pride in.”

Approaching directors that they thought were right, MADAM quickly assembled a roster of six that they were happy with, plucked from the many people they’d worked with in the course of their careers. “We’ve got a good working relationship with them,” says Michelle of their directors. “We know how they work and vice versa, which obviously helps when you’re talking about your directors. It gives what you’re saying that much more gravitas.”

Conscious of not expanding too quickly, six felt like the right size roster to start with. As one member of the new roster, Pat is confident that they’ve picked the right strategy. When they approached him asking if he’d like to be a part of MADAM he had no reservations. “It took me about five seconds to say yes,” he says. “It was a bit of a no-brainer for me.” He’s also happy to be part of a focused roster of only six. “They’ve got a select bunch of people they’ve invited on board. Obviously you get that huge buzz from a new start-up. I think everyone’s going to get a great push.”

Having previously worked in business development, Pippa was excited to finally choose the directors she thought she could get work for. She knows what agencies are looking for, not just the kind of talent a production company likes to have. “To be able to have a hand in who I think is absolutely right for the market is really great,” she enthuses.

Understanding the Landscape

They’re well armed, but starting a production company today is never going to be an easy battle. MADAM are aware of the challenges they face – the ever-shrinking budgets, globalised projects and overly cautious clients that the whole industry is concerned about. “Advertising has changed,” asserts Carly. “It’s a very competitive industry and there’s a lot of work sometimes for not much reward. We just need to focus on keeping our overheads low.”

Being aware of these changes means MADAM can build something that fits the new landscape from day one. Scale of work is different now – the 30-second TVC is just one product amongst many that production companies need to provide. “We’re very aware of wanting to develop outside of the commercial industry,” says Pippa, “but our core is commercials. This is where we’ve all been for years and we love this industry. But we know we’d be crazy to consider that as our only lifeblood.”

MADAM are undaunted by this shifting landscape. “It can be seen as a concern,” says Michelle, “but it can also be seen as something interesting – an opportunity to be creative, imaginative, adaptable and flexible. We’re aware of it and we’re able to explore that avenue because we’re starting afresh and developing that company to fit in this marketplace as it is at this moment.”

Working from home, without an office or even a completed website, they’ve already managed to win and shoot their first two productions and have more lined up. Listening to the three of them confidently staking their claim, it’s easy to see how they’ve made such a strong start.

Michelle relishes the challenges they inevitably face. “This is about focusing and going forward,” she says. “Belief in ourselves; belief in our product; knowing that we can do it because we’ve been doing this for a very long time and there’s a good success rate between the three of us. To be doing this as a partnership for ourselves reconfirms all of that. It’s a good feeling.”

The trio are visibly thrilled to be embarking on this venture. Sitting in a bustling Soho café they can’t stop grinning as they interrupt one another about their ideas and ambitions. “I feel like I’m bursting inside,” says Pippa. “I’m so happy about it, just saying the name. And I love working with these girls. The partnership is fantastic and I think we’re going to be unstoppable.” She laughs at how carried away they’re all getting. “That’s the aim, anyway.”

Check out MADAM's directors on their temporary website.


If you were setting up a production company today, how would you do it? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Unsigned: Andrew Telling

May 28, 2013 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

A self-made expert in both sight and sound.

Andrew Telling is a man of his time. The London-based director has been making stunning films about the artists he admires for about five years now, but he doesn’t just direct them; he shoots them, produces their soundtracks and edits them into the tense, visual feasts you can see in his portfolio. In an age where we have easier access than ever to technologies and knowledge, he’s embracing the resources available to him and doing it himself.

Despite being mostly self-taught in both sound and visuals – his first forays into directing were made with a borrowed camera while he was unemployed – he has managed to create several much-admired artistic short films as well as beautiful video content for commercial clients.

Watch some of his work here and tell us what you think of it in the comments below.

Seven Reasons to be Animated

May 21, 2013 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Aardman Animations Executive Producer Heather Wright makes the case for animation in advertising.

When somebody wants to make a television commercial or a branded video, one of the first decisions is vital: live-action or animation? Looking at the quantity of content that gets made, it might be fair to say people make this choice pretty quickly – live action is the default, while animation serves as its slightly quirky lesser cousin. Why is that? Well, to vastly oversimplify things, the problem is that animating 30 seconds of video undoubtedly takes longer than pointing a camera at something for 30 seconds.

With budgets squeezed dry and agencies under more time pressures than ever (yes, the familiar moans), some people in animation are worried that their time-consuming and skill-intensive craft won’t be given the consideration it deserves.

Heather Wright doesn’t share this concern. As Executive Producer at Aardman Animations she oversees all of their commercial and branded content, and she sees no reason animation should be neglected by brands and agencies.

We asked her what she thinks the benefits of animation are to advertisers and, unsurprisingly, she had loads to say. Here's what came out of our conversation - a handy list extolling the virtues of animation: the Seven Wonders of the Animation World.


1. Political Correctness

You probably let out a groan when you read that sub header. But it’s worth thinking about. In a climate of global campaigns and supposedly enlightened audiences, casting for a live-action commercial can be like posting an opinionated comment on YouTube – somebody, somewhere, will take offence. You’ve got to strike the perfect balance between ethnic diversity, social ambiguity and trying and create something that’s still believable and effective.

“It’s political correctness gone mad!” shouts the racist old-timer producer from the back. Maybe not, but we can see his frustration. And one solution is animation, as Heather is quick to point out. “The thing about animation is that you’re not stuck with those stereotypes of demographics, social groups, race, creed or anything,” she says. Aardman are renowned for their mastery of anthropomorphisation – creating human-like animal characters – and it works wonders for avoiding inadvertant racism or social stereotyping. This way, people are just people (or tortoises, racoons and lizards).

You don’t have to anthropomorphise though. As Aardman have demonstrated in their Claymation campaign for COI Change 4 Life, which uses featureless figures as its protagonists. “Everything’s taken down to its most basic level,” explains Heather. “It’s a family sitting in their lounge. It doesn’t have to be a poor person’s lounge or a rich person’s lounge. So you’re not passing judgement.”


2. Simplicity

The stuff some brands make is easy to sell. If you’ve got a shiny new car then you can just shoot it looking all shiny and new and that makes the point pretty well. If you’ve got a shiny new variable-rate mortgage your ad runs the risk of being quite complicated. And boring.

Once again, animation comes to the rescue. “A complicated message can be very easily dealt with in a graphic way,” Heather suggests. There’s a reason there are more blogs about infographics than official statistics. Facts are better seen than explained.

Animation allows you to communicate other complicated things elegantly, too, like emotions. “If you’ve got a character that’s in love,” Heather says, “you can have a beating heart. You haven’t got to spend time having a conversation.”


3. Freedom from Censorship

Everybody likes a bit of sex and violence – that’s why Game of Thrones is so popular. Unfortunately censorship exists, because allowing children to watch endless orgies of destruction and smut is not conducive to raising well-balanced adults, apparently. But aside from entertainment value, it can also be a powerful tool in storytelling.

Thankfully, animation lets you get a little bit closer to the line than live action. “Because it’s not real humans being affected, you can talk about your subject matter in a more on-the-nose kind of way,” says Heather. “It’s much easier to do hyperbole with animation. There’s a history of ‘cartoon violence’, which seems to be more acceptable.”

The NSPCC demonstrated this perfectly with their Cartoon Boy campaign, which depicted violent child abuse but dodged censorship by using animation. Imagine how long it would take ClearCast to say no if that were a real boy, not to mention how tasteless it would be.


4. Fun

Many of us associate animation with comedy, probably because it’s been used on television to make funny stuff much more often than any other genre. This is a boon to those 'difficult' brands – a chance to make their cold, fact-based, and sometimes unpopular corporations seem all friendly and cuddly.

“Animation is warm and charming and funny,” enthuses Heather, “so it’s easier for those clients that have really hard products to sell, like insurance companies, banks or oil companies, just to give their brand some kind of identity.”

Aardman have experience in this. They’ve worked on the account of American oil corporation Chevron for 17 years, featuring talking car characters in their ads. “They’re not selling petrol stations,” says Heather, “because people are going to go to the nearest petrol station. What they are selling is an idea about Chevron being warm and it being OK to go to a Chevron station and that’s completely changed their brand.”

You can see big faceless corporations doing this all the time, from EDF’s unfortunately turd-like but surprisingly popular Zingy to Chipotle’s cutesy Grand-Prix-winning Back to the Start commercial, to Marc Craste’s excellent re-envisioning of Lloyds TSB. “That definitely changed the feeling of what it was like to bank at Lloyds,” says Heather.


5. Adaptability

What with the internet and all that, brands now have lots of different spaces where they have to assert their identity. TVCs, posters, print ads and their physical spaces are now joined by apps, websites, YouTube channels, social platforms and probably loads of other stuff we can’t remember.

If your branding revolves around a live-action campaign, that’s going to be a right pain to plaster over all these platforms. But if you get yourself an animated mascot, for example, you can use it to bring coherence to your brand.

“Once you’ve got an animated character that’s associated with your brand that’s instant recognition,” says Heather. “You can then start moving that character into other parts of the brand. You can have the character on your app, on your website, on your posters, on your TVC and on your cuddly toys.”

Not that there has to be a mascot as such – as the Lloyds example proves, a particular style of animation can provide an identifiable aesthetic for your brand, which can be a useful tool.


6. Reliability

Sure, you could build your advertising campaign around one figurehead celebrity. Gary Lineker has done a good job for Walkers. But there’s always the chance that he could be kidnapped by Somali pirates or get caught red-bottomed with a dominatrix. Who’s going to sell the crisps when that happens?

Well, neither of these things will ever happen to Aleksandr Orlov of Compare the Market fame because he’s an animated meerkat. Heather stresses this benefit of animated characters. “It lasts longer, potentially, than live action,” she says. “Your characters don’t misbehave because they’re kept in boxes.” That must look like an attractive prospect to some brands with celebrity endorsers, if only Tiger Woods could be kept in a box.


7. Imagination

The final point is sort of obvious: When you’re animating, the only limit is what you can dream up. “It frees you up hugely because you can go anywhere,” says Heather. “You can go to the moon or the centre of the Earth.”

She has an elegant example of how powerful this freedom can be. “The Opening titles for the Olympics were absolutely stunning. They linked together loads of different sports in a way you could never have done in live action, so the animation was something intrinsic to the idea.”


Animation can be very powerful, but Heather stresses that the Olympic example makes another vital point – of course, animation isn’t right for every brief, but when it fits it can be a formidable force. “I think that’s what’s important,” she says. “There has to be a reason for the animation. You can’t just stick a mascot in the corner of a kitchen.

Weird Ad of the Month

May 20, 2013 / Humour

By The Beak Street Bugle

Eat Like Snake.

Thank you, South Korea. The most technologically advanced nation in the world makes truly great ads. The strange thing about this one is that the idea makes perfect sense. We get what it's trying to say. We're not sure why it's so remarkable, but it might have something to do with the Marvin-Gaye-style baby-making music. Or the disengaging jaw. Or that thing he does with this tongue.

Signed: Factory Fifteen

May 13, 2013 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

The new breed multi-disciplinary directors that will dominate filmmaking's future.

Factory Fifteen is a film and animation studio, led by directors Jonathan Gales, Paul Nicholls and Kibwe Tavares. They’ve just joined the Nexus roster and you should watch out for them because between them they can turn their hand to pretty much any kind of filmmaking project.

They’re experts in all sorts of things, from architecture to 3D visualisation, engineering, animation and photography and their talents have been employed for brands like Samsung, Channel 4 and The British Film Institute.

They’ve already gathered a huge stash of awards and been exhibited at festivals and exhibitions all over the world, and now Nexus have their back they look like they’ll be unstoppable.

Watch some of their work here:

What’s in an N?

May 10, 2013 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Spot the difference: James Rosen and James R Rose, editors.

For years, two editors have received each other’s booking requests, sifted through mistaken credits online, and had what they call the “funny frustrating” task of defining their identities within the ad industry by the difference of one consonant. But now, Editors James R Rose and James Rosen will be working under the same roof – at post house Final Cut. Rose recently joined the Final Cut roster from Cut +Run, where he has been editing since 2007. While Rosen is a Final Cut veteran, starting with the company fourteen years ago, and working his way up the ladder to editor.

We caught up with Rose and Rosen (we promise it gets less confusing) to hear more.

Bugle: What were some of your early inspirations?

James Rosen: My dad ran a print and design production company from home. So from a young age I saw behind the scenes of a creative process and I found it fascinating. Growing up in the 80's I developed a romantic relationship with cinema. I mean, I lived life through the lens of a John Hughes movie. I remember when MTV started, I would sit in front of my friend’s satellite TV watching Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson videos. The 80’s was an exciting time for film and TV and I wanted in.

James R Rose: Incredibly my father was also a printer. The factory, where he worked in quality control, printed Vogue. Though Vogue never came home, I got The History of WWII in 100 Parts! I guess I started thinking about the filmmaking process when my then girlfriend started a film studies course at the LCP in London. Oh, I remember the evenings well, discussions of Brecht, Cassavetes, Truffaut, Goddard, Renoir and Kurosawa. That kind of chat weirdly engaged me and started my journey into understanding and enjoying films beyond Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and war films in general.


Editor: James R Rose

How did you first come across editing and how did you know editing was for you?

James R Rose: I remember the precise moment I wanted to be an editor, I had just become a runner with Nicholas Wayman Harris as he completed an Oasis video for Live Forever. The premise was from a scene in Performance (the Nick Roeg film starring Mick Jagger and James Fox) with cutaways and short animations of Jimi Hendrix, Bobby Moore, and Mick Jagger getting into a car when he was arrested (for possession). The way Nicholas had edited it together resonated for me emotionally. It still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up now. With this, and many other promos and commercials I watched Nicholas edit, I saw the amazing freedom editing gives you to communicate an idea on more than one level. Eventually, I began to assist Nicholas, and then started editing on my own, predominantly music videos, commercials, and also some documentaries.

James Rosen: When I was a teenager, my friend’s dad ran a TV/video equipment shop. We'd get together on a Saturday night, watch horror films, and then make our own short horror films using borrowed equipment from the shop. I saw that when we cut those films together, all the production labour instantly disappeared, and what was left was pure story. I immediately attributed that to editing and it stuck with me. Cut to many years later and I'm delivering offline tapes around Soho, keen to join one of the editing houses. I get the call from Final Cut. It was, and still is, an inspiring place to work. I felt privileged to be surrounded by such talented editors. Within a few weeks I was teaching myself how to use Avid by cutting Rocky 4 into a four minute Elton John promo. I loved it and knew I'd found my trade.

Editor: James Rosen

What are some of your creative highlights?

James R Rose: Creatively I consider myself blessed that much of my early work was with Anton Corbijn, he taught me so much, not just about framing and the meaning of an image, but allowed me freedom to develop my own style. More recently Adidas for the London Olympics felt like being part of something bigger. The resonance of pieces like Rehab [Amy Winehouse], Beauty Through Order [Slayer] and The Bay [Metronomy], though all very different, were rewarding in their own ways.

Editor: James R Rose

James Rosen: I thoroughly enjoyed cutting the Skins trailers for Neil Gorringe. Each one presented its own challenge, from gritty photo montage (series 1) to an entirely composited visual effect sequence (series 5). I'm most proud of a UNICEF short for Adrian Moat, which we cut from the commercial campaign footage. It's my most expressive piece of work to date that I find difficult to watch even now. And I’ll never forget my first LA experience, editing an Elton John stage video for David LaChapelle.

Editor: James Rosen

What are some of your creative inspirations?

James R Rose: Coming from Norfolk, which is flat land and big skies, I’ve always liked clouds. And in a job that involves looking at squares, albeit increasingly small ones, trees are for me an important antidote and the broader the field of view the better. I also have a son to gallery and museum hop with, to teach, and to help me learn about myself. Though I’ve yet to convince him of Turner’s worth!

James Rosen: I’ve always been interested in digging below the surface, why things are the way they are, what makes us human and how we express these ideas with art. Music is a huge part of my life. I was trained on the piano and played in bands. I get affected by music quite easily. My favourite films will always influence me, and there's so much great work being made now it's easy to remain inspired.

Editor: James R Rose

How does emotion play into your work?

James R Rose: Personally I try not to bring emotion into a piece of work, other than to resonate the emotion the piece brings. I feel objectivity is the key to realizing the idea most effectively and any preconceptions, positive or negative, can cloud that. That said I’ve done some of my best pieces of work whilst emotionally at rock bottom, so I do think there is some credence in the Dostoyevsky-ian idea of the suffering artist.

James Rosen: I think editing is a balancing act between function and emotion. I work hard on functionality to allow myself the space to be emotional, and express those emotions through the work. Emotion makes a film resonate with the viewer, so it's impossible to edit without it. But in the end, thinking and feeling are equally important.

Editor: James Rosen


James R Rose is a prominent new addition to the Final Cut editorial roster. He is a sought-after partner for fresh talent, exemplified by the fact that he edited three of the five nominated ads in the 2012 British Arrows “Best New Director” category. In 2011, he was awarded “Best Editor” at Antville for Metronomy “The Bay”, directed by David Wilson.

James Rosen is an accomplished editor at Final Cut, known for his versatile body of work. He received a nomination for “Best Edit” for The Enemy at the UKMVA’s, and was a First Boards Awards finalist many years back. Awarded work, under his belt, includes Skins 3 (Creative Circle), Virgin (LIAA, D&AD), Audi (D&AD).

George Bellows: Modern American Life

May 3, 2013 / Arts and Culture


A vital depiction of real American experience from George Bellows.

George Wesley Bellows (1882–1925).

Riverfront No.1, 1915.

Oil on canvas, 45 3/8 x 63 1/8 in. (115.3 x 160.3 cm).

Royal Academy - Sackler Gallery

Until 9 June 2013

Admission: £10


George Bellows was a product of the so-called Ashcan School run by Robert Henri who "wanted paint to be as real as mud, as the clods of horse-shit and snow, that froze on Broadway in the winter."

There are few American painters that have captured the feel of snow better than Bellows, other than Andrew Wyeth, seventy-five years later. Bellows’ Snow Dumpers is a masterful painting, full of drama and dynamism, with the helmeted workers backing horse-drawn wagons up to the East River’s edge to unload their shovelled snow, in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, with a steam tug chugging past. The same tug reappears in some of his other work, including The Bridge, Blackwell’s Island and Splinter Beach, and then again in Riverfront, No. 1, 1914, which was in the Washington and New York exhibitions, but, sadly, not in the London one.

This slice of urban realism is typical of Bellows’ work, as are his views of Penn Station being excavated, both at night and in the snow, and a bustling composite view of New York painted in 1911. His most celebrated painting is probably Forty-two Kids, painted four years earlier, and shows, well, 42 kids, mostly naked, standing, lying or diving off a dilapidated wooden pier in the Hudson East River. Twenty years before that, Thomas Eakins painted The Swimming Hole, which displays, in a more stilted way, his fellow students swimming and diving off a rock in an idyllic river setting.

Whereas Eakins used photography to capture the various poses, Bellows sketched mainly from life. Both the British artist Henry Tuke and the German Impressionist Max Liebermann, had earlier painted young boys cavorting about in the water, although the former’s motives may have been more prurient than artistic. Bellows’ energetic boxing scenes are full of punch, literally, as well as beautifully observed spectators around the ring, and the most famous of these is Stag of Sharkey’s, depicting a prize fight at Tom Sharkey’s Athletic Club, across the way from his studio in the Lower East Side. There is true homage to the old masters, Velazquez and Franz Hals, in his use of paint in his portraiture, as well as nods towards Manet and Whistler, and even Sickert. His seascapes have a great understanding of the way waves swirl, eddy and crash against rocks, as well as the calm and reflections off water. Although he was not in the Great War, he took it as the subject of five monumental paintings, four of which are included in the RA show, along with some truly horrific lithographs. These are stark, brutal images that drive home the futility and cruelty of war like a stake through the heart. He went to live  in a house in Woodstock, in upstate New York , with his wife and two daughters, a great success, both critically and financially, even more famous than his fellow student Edward Hopper.

He continued to paint until his untimely death from a ruptured appendix aged just forty-two, but his later portraits had acquired a stiffness, and his landscapes, like The Picnic and The White Horse, became very busy, with too many focal points, as though he was trying to cram everything onto the canvas at once. This is a balanced and well-curated exhibition which may come as a welcome diversion from the hordes flocking to the Manet downstairs.


Footnote: It is a puzzling thing that, exactly 20 years ago, the Royal Academy staged an exhibition entitled American Art in the 20th Century, featuring Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993. In the lead-up to the current show, the RA have been extolling the skills of this artist, stating that he was considered one of the greatest artists in America . . .  and he chronicled America’s pursuits and passions like no artist before or since.  Yet, neither in the 1993 exhibition, nor in its catalogue, does he feature at all, and only warrants one mention. ‘In terms of artistic rank, a Kenneth Hayes Miller, a Reginald Marsh, a George Bellows, were no more than visual journalists, reporters with the brush. They illustrated rather than shaped our times.’ Curious.


Originally published in Kensington and Chelsea Today.


High Five: May

May 1, 2013 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

The most impressive work from a month in video advertising.

A heck of a lot of work goes into making films for brands. Whether it’s a 30-second TV commercial or an hour-long branded documentary made for YouTube, you need dozens of people at the top of their particular game to bring it all together. We like to make sure these people are appreciated, so here’s a list of films – each with a crack team of experts behind it – that we think are top notch.

Product: Vodafone
Title: The Kiss
Production Company: Academy
Director: Frédéric Planchon
Ad Agency: Grey London
Creative Director: Jonathan Marlow
Editing Company: The Assembly Rooms
Editor: Sam Rice-Edwards
Post Production House: MPC

Vodafone, The Kiss
Directed by Frédéric Planchon, Academy

Ah, the old whole life compressed into a single minute thing. We’re familiar with this idea. It has been used to great effect, but it’s often used as a cheap way to make that emotional connection with the consumer that so many brands want these days. We’re not sure what it actually says about Vodafone’s product, but under the discerning eye of Frédéric Planchon it’s turned out to be a beautiful film that will ultimately reflect well on the brand, despite (or possibly because of) featuring old people snogging.

Product: IKEA
Title: Time For Change
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Mike Maguire
Production Company Producer: Gustav Geldenhuys
Director of Photography: Ulla Pontikos
Ad Agency: Mother
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Ed Cheesman
Sound Company: 750mph
Post Production House: The Mill

IKEA, Time For Change
Directed by Mike Maguire, Biscuit Filmworks

With Mother’s charming ideas behind them and carefully selected directors helming, IKEA ads are on a bit of a roll at the moment. This one continues that trend, depicting an epic pitched battle between humans and garden gnomes. And it really is epic. Standing up to human dominance was a mistake, as it turns out. Their more advanced weaponry turns it into a massacre reminiscent of colonial Africa. The music is a strange choice, but that oddness sort of works with the Swedish brand.

Product: Cif
Title: Burglary
Production Company: Nice Shirt Films
Director: Börkur
Production Company Producer: Judy Vermeulen
Director of Photography: August Jakobsson
Ad Agency: DLKW Lowe
Creative Director: Richard Denney, Dave Henderson
Creatives: Jack Patrick, Luke Bartley
Agency Producer: Sushi Samarawickrema
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Leila Sarraf

Cif, Burglary
Directed by Börkur, Nice Shirt Films

This is an amusing little film. Our cunning hero’s attempts to outsmart the police and his house insurers are inventive and will definitely provoke a few chuckles in the ad break. The concept has some thought behind it and Icelandic director Börkur has coaxed a fair bit of subtle comedy out of the script, which is absolutely mental when you consider that this ad is in the same category as “Hi, I’m Barry Scott!”

Product: Jaguar
Title: Desire
Production Company: RSA
Director: Adam Smith
Production Company Producer: Caspar Delaney
Director of Photography: Ben Davis
Ad Agency: The Brooklyn Brothers
Editing Companies: Hagon, Work Post
Editors: Jono Griffith, Art Jones
Sound Company: Boom
Post Production House: Electric Theatre Collective

Jaguar, Desire
Directed by Adam Smith, RSA

This is something new. Jaguar aren’t just churning out a bundle of shots of their new car on a picturesque road with a well dressed bloke smirking behind the wheel here. You do get that. But it’s also got a story with proper dialogue and everything. It’s a very stylish film and the smug bastard in question is Damian Lewis, so there are plenty of reasons to share it online, which is clearly where it belongs, because not many countries have 13-minute ad breaks.

Product: National Geographic
Title: The 80s: The Decade That Made Us
Production Company: Partizan
Director: Hoku & Adam
Production Company Producer: Henry Scholfield
Ad Agency: The Corner
Creative Director: Tom Ewart
Creatives: Tom Prendergast, Joe Stamp
Agency Producer: Spru Rowland
Sound Company: Adelphoi
Post Production House: Rushes

National Geographic, The 80s: The Decade That Made US
Directed by Hoku & Adam, Partizan

The visual concept behind this trailer is strikingly simple, but actually making the film must have taken some serious thinking. Especially when you consider that Hoku & Adam used a real Rubik’s Cube with stickers on it, with minimal post trickery. You’ve also got to applaud the skill of Simon Crawford – the speed cuber from Nottingham whose skilful fingers do the business in the film. The final result is pretty neat.