Creatives are Like Mom’s Apple Pie

May 21, 2014 / Features

By Susie Innes

Why do Creatives deserve to be treated with such reverence?

A long time a go, a new Creative Director came to a fairly established agency. He was joining a fierce management team and had some pretty big shoes to fill.

He was nervous and needed to make his mark. Consequently he made some radical pronouncements and mandates. Some great, some obvious and some downright silly and obstructive.

The Managing Director at the time was not of advertising stock. Some of these CD decisions were making his life difficult. The new guy was pesky. So in a fit of frustration he ranted, “Creatives are like mom’s apple pie. You can’t say a word against them. Ooooh, they are ‘Creatives’. They are sacred. They are Mom’s apple pie.”

This is both sacrilegious and insightful.

Creatives are fabulous. They are a talented bunch. Most of them are great company, clever, witty and fun. Some of my best friends are Creatives. They work hard and are often caught between, as the saying goes, a rock and a hard place.

Without Creatives, agencies could not exist. They are the heart and soul. The lifeblood. The USP. In the words of one of my first and favourite Copywriters “suits would not have jobs without us. Their role is to sell our work.”

And what would producers do without them?

What would it feel like to get on a plane and only worry about your own passport and immigration card? Why would you rememberwho is allergic to fish and who wants crème caramel as a starter if you are eating solo? Why watch reels? It’s just an advert.

There is a line in All that Jazz. Roy Schneider plays a character who is based on Bob Fosse at the height of his career when he was racing towards a heart attack.

One scene is set the cutting room, working on a further edit to a film about a Stand-Up. Schenider’s Producer walks in. (I paraphrase.) “What are you doing??? We are three months behind schedule. We are six million, SIX MILLION dollars over budget. Why are we still editing?”

Roy Schneider sits him down and says “Just watch.”

The Producer does so, and he is enraptured.

He then puts his head in his hands and says “Oh, my God, it is better. God help us all. It's better."

For me this is the ultimate scenario. A Creative pushes and pushes, you do everything you can to enable their vision, you go against all your practical reasoning, you make promises you are worried you can’t keep and manipulate your management, you risk the wrath of the Client and pray for sense prevailing. And you get a spectacular result. And you know that if you had pulled the plug at the sensible “it's fine as it is, it's good, it works (but)” point, you would have missed out on something special.

This has happened often enough to allow for the other side of the coin: The needless refining, the endless tweaking, the search for the ungettable celebrity, the negotiating for the track that can’t be bought. Because maybe it will be sharper, maybe it will get unheard-of kudos, maybe it is totally lifted.

Being a Creative is a proper job.  It comes with responsibility. Advertising is a business. We need to indulge because it is right, not because of a sulk. A great idea that works for the product is a wonderful thing, a great idea that is just a great idea can ultimately be weak if not worked on. If you can’t take a bit of constructive criticism, even it is clearly destructive; you are doing the wrong job. Get down to your novel and paint your mural and I will pop round with tea and cakes to cheer you on. But I won’t champion you if you are just being petulant.

An Editor friend, over a pint, once asked a fresh young, already arrogant, Art Director what it was like to be a Creative. He answered, “Well, it just is. You are either creative or you are not.” Creative is still a job title. It is not an instant description of your possible talent.

In this digital world there is a trend in saying anyone can be a Creative. They can’t. It takes training and diligence and courage. Sure anyone can come up with an idea, but can they craft it, will they defend it, hone it, adapt it, and expand it?

Will they be there to the bitter end, changing the shade of yellow and ensuring everything is in safe title? Are they prepared to direct a luminary in a sound session and get into fights over semantics? Are they ready to kill their darlings? Turns out I can string a decent sentence together, but could I be a copywriter? Could I hell without a proper apprenticeship and/or a few years at college. Which incidentally could make for a hilarious sketch.

Some apple pie is sublime; some just claims to be sublime but is made up from dried fruit and concentrate. It can be outstanding if care is put into it, and it is fresh and it is packed full of loveliness. It is often even better with complementary accompaniments like ice cream and custard. Or, for fear of stretching this analogy, creative work need support like project management and Producers and Directors and Editors and Flame Ops and Sound Techs and Musicians and account management and all.

Mom’s apple pie shouldn’t be revered  just because Mom made it. It has to be good as well. Then it is sacred.

The Years of La Dolce Vita

May 20, 2014 / Arts and Culture

By Don Grant

Don Grant luxuriates in the black and white world of celebrity culture in the 1950s and 1960s.

The Years of La Dolce Vita
Estorick Collection
39a Canonbury Square,
 N1 2AN

Until 29 June 2014
Admission £5 

Over at the V&A they have a somewhat unglamorous show called The Glamour
 of Italian Fashion, but if it’s real fascino you are after, then the Estorick has it in spades, and you can luxuriate in the black and white world of celebrity culture in the 1950s and 1960s.

Paparazzo was originally the name of a character in Fellini’s 1960 seminal film La Dolce Vita, played by Walter Santesso, who focused on the hedonists, partygoers 
and sybarites in Rome at that time.
The man who inspired the character
 was actually an amalgam of photo-journalists, including Marcello Geppetti.

In real life, as opposed to reel life, the film stars, attracted by the relative inexpensiveness of Cinecittà were seen
 to be out and about the Eternal City, frequenting the restaurants, bars and night clubs of the exclusive Via Veneto and Tre Scalini in the Piazza Navona. Rino Barillari and Felice Qinto were fellow snappers, and there exists an uncredited photo of Rino being thumped by an American actor Mickey Hargitay, Jayne Mansfield’s husband, while top-model Vatussa Vitta smacks him with her purse. So the paparazzi being ‘papped.’

Geppeti had better luck when he shot Franco Nero smacking poor, old Rino again at the Trevi Fountain, scene of the most famous scene in La Dolce Vita, in which Anita Ekberg cavorts in a black velvet dress with no visible means of support. The Swedish bombshell made her home in Rome after the success of the Fellini film, and became fodder for the Italian press,
 and there is a photo of her driving her Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster in Rome in 1962 taken by Geppeti. She also attacked a couple of paparazzi, including Geppeti, firstly with a bow and arrow and then unladylike fists.

During this period, European actors like Brigitte Bardot, Alain Delon and Sophia Lauren mixed with big Hollywood stars, like John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Audrey Hepburn, Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas and Liz Taylor and were all in Rome, in full public view, to be snapped at will
 in what became known as ‘an open-air film-set’. Taylor and Richard Burton were famously snapped by Gepetti having a snog on a boat in Ischia off 
the Amalfi Coast, where the scenes on Cleopatra’s barge were shot.

There were other candid photos of Elizabeth Taylor sunbathing and swimming, taken by a ‘proper’ celebrity portrait photographer, Bert Stern. Arturo Zavattini worked 
as a cameraman for many great Italian directors including Vittorio De Sica, 
and produced some fascinating behind-the-scenes photographs on the set of La Dolce Vita, with Fellini’s full co-operation and consent.

There is, of course, an unsavoury side to this fascination with fame, which, ironically, is central to the theme of La Dolce Vita, and spawned 
a whole industry of stalking, intrusion and invasion of celebs’ privacy. Not a 
lot has changed in the last 50 years, 
and some would argue that it has got a lot worse, culminating in the death of Princess Diana, after being hounded
 by the paps.

Some people court the attention, including Lady Di herself in her early years, and then cannot control the monster they have created, and 
there are rakes of magazines devoted 
to this unhealthy obsession. For all our ‘guilty pleasure’ we take in them, there is, however, a certain schadenfreude coursing through our veins when the biter gets bit. The name of Max Clifford springs
to mind, perhaps accompanied by the headline 'Gotcha!
'

 

Originally published in Kensington and Chelsea Today.

www.dongrant.co.uk

The Arcane Art of Game Trailers

May 19, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

We delve into a mysterious, specialist corner of advertising.

Video gaming is the biggest media industry in the world. Everyone’s heard that fact. It’s almost five years since we learned it had surpassed the film industry in terms of money taken and in 2013 the worldwide gaming marketplace was estimated to be worth $93 billion.

In many respects, gaming is part of mainstream culture now, but there’s one area in which it still hasn’t caught up with other markets. Advertising games is still a niche specialism – a dark art practiced by only a few Directors and barely any agencies.

Tomek Baginski is one such artisan of the cinematic game trailer. Represented by Stink, he’s made several visual feasts advertising games, creating some of the most admired and awarded works of the genre.

Having made his first cinematic game trailer in 2006 – the acclaimed promotional film for hack-and-slash game The Witcher – Tomek is a genuine veteran of this world. “Eight years is a very long time in the gaming industry,” he reflects. And getting in early has turned out well for him. “If you have done a few game commercials then it’s much easier to get high profile jobs from game Clients,” he says, “because they know you know how to work with them.”

And you have to know how to work with these Clients, because they’re different. Commercials for games are unique beasts. “It’s a very unusual product,” Tomek stresses. “Much closer to a film than other products.”

But despite the vast hoards of cash the game industry is sitting on, budgets have never come close to catching up with regular advertising and this has a massive impact on the way these commercials are made.

Agencies don’t often feature in this kind of project. “Usually you work directly with the Client,” says Tomek – something he finds refreshing as a Director who works on tons of commercials too. “Sometimes you even work with the main author of the game,” he says.

Creative people generally love a blank canvas, and Tomek is no different. He enjoys the initial stages of these projects, where he gets to sit down with the people who have created a game’s world and shoot ideas around until something sticks.

“The most difficult, but also the most interesting part for me is the creative part at the beginning of the process,” he says. “Sometimes there are 20 versions of the treatment of the story and it is still not right.” World-builders can be a tad picky about their creations, but bringing them to life is an exciting, if painstaking, process.

While budgets are lower, the breathing room such long lead times allows is a blessing. It means bigger, better, more stunning visual effects. As an animation geek, Tomek gets excited about these things. “Because of the longer timeframes you can really play with the toys that are usually too heavy and expensive to use on a commercial,” he says; “complicated simulations, explosions, things like that. It is possible in commercials as well, but it will cost ten times as much, so you don’t have many opportunities to do it.”

But while Directors like Tomek welcome the creative freedom of the direct-to-Client model, there are agencies who work in this specialist world. Neill Furmston is Executive Creative Director of Ichi London, a creative agency catering to this niche area.

Neill recognises that there are good reasons why most agencies avoid video game Clients. Firstly, the lack of budget is a clear issue. “They probably think there’s no money in it and that’s true to a certain extent,” he says. A direct-to-Client production probably cuts costs, but at an obvious detriment to the possibility of a creative idea.

The other deterrent to agencies is a lack of creative control because, unlike a washing up liquid brand or something, every game already has its own Creative Director. “Whilst they haven’t come from an advertising role,” says Neill, “they’ve got very strong views about how the game should be and sometimes how the marketing should be.”

Sometimes the creative vision of the developers is enough, as is evident in much of Tomek’s direct-to-Client work. Neill cites the example of Dead Island – a zombie game promoted by a trailer that’s had over 13 million views on YouTube to date. It sold over five million copies, nearly as many as a blockbuster title like FIFA.

“The developers would be the first to admit that the game was relatively basic in the scheme of things,” says Neill, “but if you look at the amount of units they shifted, based on the number of views that trailer got, it’s rare that you would get people to engage with and talk [that much] about a TV ad.” Gamers on the internet are much more highly engaged than your average consumer watching TV, so if you can get them talking you can make a big impact.

Despite developers occasionally getting it right, Neill clearly sees a role for the agency in the game advertising process, and Ichi have proven that they can make trailers work hard. He suggests most developers don’t understand marketing, and that is why their trailers often fail.

“We’ve seen trailers that cost an absolute fortune and only get a few hundred or thousand hits,” he says. “That’s not good enough. We’re in the market of making sure things really do get noticed and that’s the benefit of having a strong story to tell through advertising rather than just trying to replicate the game.”

Ichi’s mission is to help a trailer make the sort of impact Dead Island did, and they have a track record of doing this. Neill recounts the success of Metro: Last Light, for which Ichi created a campaign of trailers, launched with a lavish cinematic announcement film, directed by Bare Films’ Jim Weedon. The video created a huge buzz online – around four million hits in the first four days. The sequel to a previous game, Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light outsold its predecessor’s lifetime sales within the first week of its release. Another intriguing fact is that when the trailer came out, the original film re-entered the gaming charts – an unusual phenomenon for the medium.

Very few mainstream agencies get involved with this kind of work. Barring the huge titles like FIFA or Call of Duty, he maintains that games require a specialist advertising approach. “I’ve had a lot of creative teams in the past come in to work for me and they really struggle with the video games work,” he says. “It’s incredibly different to working on an FMCG product. You have to be very respectful of that intellectual property. It’s more about digging deeper into that than trying to come up with something new.”

Tomek is in no doubt that the game trailer will continue to evolve and grow. With game developers commissioning more film, like the Halo’s YouTube series Forward Unto Dawn, filmmaking and gaming are become ever more intertwined, and with more live action executions advertising games, more Directors will likely start seeing jobs like this come across their desks.

That could well mean more agencies like Ichi getting involved too, but Neill stresses that most games advertising will remain a specialist area. “There’ll be room for other mainstream agencies coming in” he says, “but because of the reasons of budget and how much creativity you can get out of those projects, [the jobs that work for them] are few and far between.”

Video game advertising is something of a Wild West now, with various models competing, each with their pros and cons, but Tomek doesn’t foresee this structure continuing. “The next five years will answer a lot of questions,” says Tomek. “Eventually the world of cinematics will be as ordered as the world of commercials.”

Lotfy Nathan: Gun for Hire

May 16, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Those first steps into commercial directing can be slow and shaky.

Lotfy Nathan (the T comes before the F, don’t make the same mistake I did the first time I met him) is a talent worth watching. He’s the Director of 12 O’Clock Boys, a documentary full of youthful energy and wonder that tells the story of a young boy growing up in Westside Baltimore who gets involved with a notorious dirt bike pack.

Shot over four years, Lotfy had never picked up a camera before making this feature-length film, so it served as a sort of unconventional education in filmmaking for him. Now it’s toured the festival circuit worldwide, received international critical acclaim and even won Lotfy representation by Stink.

Getting signed off the back of one film is impressive. It’s certainly a vote of confidence from the international production giants, but the next step is to get his first commissioned piece of film through. He’s keen to turn his hobby into a career now. And that means proving he can do something quite different from his debut.

This limbo is a place countless Directors end up in and it seems hard to navigate. With no single career path set out, success may well come down to sheer luck. But we were interested to find out how this aspiring filmmaker plans on making his own luck, in the hope that it will help other young talent to break into the industry.

Lotfy has a good calling card in 12 O’Clock Boys. It’s an excellent film – it packed out our screening with MPC for The Big Screen a few weeks ago. A vibrant, cool and unashamedly sensationalised depiction of a unique subculture, it's everything trendy brands with young audiences want to channel in their advertising. With the right logo on the front, it could have been a piece of branded content for a clothing brand or a bike manufacturer.

“I’ve started to see that agencies and companies seem to be charmed by this documentary aesthetic,” he notes. He’s confident that this is in his favour, but it’s not easy to translate even that into commercial work. “It’s not as simple as someone who’s made a documentary being able to do that.”

Making 12 O’Clock Boys was no walk in the park either. Surrounded by boisterous, disenfranchised teenagers and individuals who thought the film was their shot at reality TV stardom, Lotfy says there’s a personal weight to the responsibility a documentary creates. A documentary maker’s relationships with his subjects are far more personal. “It’s really exhausting,” he says. In this instance there were a lot of favours; a lot of help.” 

Working on a clear, contractual basis for a paying Client sounds like a dream in comparison to this murky, favour-based agreement. “I want to be a hired gun,” he says, part joking. “I don’t want to have to worry about anything except for making it.”

Despite proving himself as a talented filmmaker and insightful storyteller, Lotfy recognises that getting work off the back of a single film is a challenge. His response, like many others, is to this is to get out and shoot things with whatever money and favours he can muster. He’s keen to build his reel. “For me it’s very important to move on,” he says. “I think after the second project I’ll feel better. Right now I feel like it was an accident.” It wasn’t, of course, but there’s a certain truth to that. It’s important for him to build a track record, creating more examples of work that bridge the gap between a feature-length indie documentary and the 30-second TV commercial that’s still the epitome of video advertising.

The plan is to take small steps in the right direction, working on shorter form pieces in a similar style to his existing work. “I think I just need to embrace the documentary look in some more short-form stuff,” he muses. “I think it’s what would be expected and what I can most likely sell myself on. But obviously [I need to] make it more controlled and do it quickly.”

He’s already embarked on the next two projects to add to his reel. The first is a boxing documentary made for television – similar in style and technique to his feature, but about half the length. It’s also a much quicker project – more like four months than four years. Lotfy feels he can finish this project much quicker now he has a production company behind him. “Having the help is really huge,” he says.

Working with a bigger crew on that project has been both a blessing and a challenge. “I think that’s the hardest part,” he admits. He shot the vast majority of his first film himself, with only a few scenes shot using crew. Of course if he’s ever going to direct commercials he has to learn to work with quite large crews, so this kind of experience is invaluable.

“I like that,” he says. “It’s definitely something to learn – how to use the resources available. But it’s not a given that a bigger budget and more people helps. It can complicate things.”

The second project is a music video he shot recently for Blaqstarr, a Baltimore-based DJ and MC, which provided yet more lessons. Working with a crew of 14 this time, it was also Lotfy’s first experience working with actors and, just to make things even more difficult, they were children storming a mansion in a staged riot.

Plugging the gaps in his experience like this is important. He wants to make sure he learns the things his debut couldn’t teach him and his work over the coming year will keep this aim in mind.

“I imagine I’ll make a couple more music videos over the next few months,” he says. He’s also keeping his options open about a short film or maybe something for a charity brief (the dream is to work saving elephants) – projects not so reliant on agency approval, but those that will still turn heads in agencies. It’s going to be a struggle for any Director in this position, but there are plenty of options out there.

Signed: Rob Savage

May 16, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

If Rob Savage keeps up the momentum he's gained in his short career, he's going to be huge.

Self-taught Director Rob Savage has been described by some as a ‘wunderkind’, and if you look at his fledgling career to date, it’s easy to see why.

Aged just 18 he wrote, directed, shot, co-produced and edited a feature film. Strings, made for a micro-budget, did extraordinarily well for him, screening at a number of prestigious international festivals, including Raindance for its UK premiere and Rome Film Festival for its European. It’s picked up several awards, including a British Independent Film Award, and sold out cinemas – all in all a pretty good debut effort.

Since then he’s written and directed a variety of short films and music videos, which have also earned him awards and critical acclaim, and has begun developing a second feature film - a dark coming-of-age drama set in the south of France.

Now he’s turned enough heads to win him representation by Outsider, who have already shot one music video with him - a rare thing for the commercial production company. They must really like him.

Watch some of his work here:

High Five: May

May 9, 2014 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Evidence that a good campaign beats a good commercial.

Sometimes the best ads are a one-off moment of magic, but often the best advertising relies on a cumulative effect, building a strong feeling around a brand over time.

We’ve seen some great advertising recently, but when we finally settled on our choices of the five best ads of the month we noticed that none of them were for particularly surprising Clients. We’ve seen great work from all these brands before and their quality is, at least in part, down to the ground work those campaigns have already put in.

Brand: AXE
Title: Soulmates
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks UK
Director: Tim Godsall
Production Company Producer: Rick Jarjoura
Director of Photography: Tim Hudson
Ad Agency: BBH
Creative Directors: Gary McCreadie, Easley Hawes
Creatives: Matt Fitch, Mark Lewis
Agency Producer: Chris Watling
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Rick Russell
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound design & mix: Raja Sehgal
with additional sound design / tracklay: Miles Kempton
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

AXE – Soulmates

Combining AXE’s reputation for lavish advertising with a familiar dream-team of a credits list, the stars were always aligned for this to end up a great piece of advertising. Set over several millennia of human history, the script was ambitious, but with huge scope for a visual feast. It’s an amusing ad, but Director Tim Godsall, best known for his comedy chops, seems to have toned down the funny factor here in favour of sheer epic beauty. And there's nothing wrong with that.

 

Brand: Bombay Sapphire
Title: Exit Log (part of The Imagination Series)
Production Company: Independent Films
Director: The Glue Society (Gary Freedman)
Production Company Producers: Tom Johnson, Jason Kemp
Director of Photography: Ray Coates
Ad Agency: Gravity Road
Editing Company: The Play Room
Editor: Adam Spivey
Sound Company: String and Tins
Post Production Company: The Mill

Bombay Sapphire – Exit Log (part of The Imagination Series)

Building on the storming success of last year’s competition, Bombay Sapphire have announced the winners of Year 2 of The Imagination Series – their short film competition where the public interpret a script written by Oscar-winner Geoffrey Fletcher. Exit Log is one of the five winning films, a sci-fi adaptation of the script by Chris Cornwell. Tense, intriguing and brilliantly art directed, it’s a great short film, but it was hard to choose the one best film from the diverse series. This is a branded content project that stands out from the majority, not least because the production and craft on all five films is exceptional.

 

Brand: Booking.com
Title: Brianless
Production Company: Traktor
Director: Traktor (UK representation: Partizan)
Production Company Producer: Rani Melendez
Director of Photography: Bojan Bazelli
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam
Creative Directors: Genevieve Hoey, Zach Watkins
Art Director: Kia Heinnen
Copywriter: Zoe Hawkins
Agency Producer: Elissa Singstock
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Edward Line
Music Companies: Menlo Park Music, ABOMB Music
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound design & mix: Raja Sehgal
Post Production Company: MPC

Booking.com – Brianless

This campaign has consistently churned out solid observational comedy, but this latest execution is one of the most joyful. The lead lady is brilliantly cast and she puts on an excellent performance as an ordinary woman taking life into her own hands, seizing the holiday of her dreams with both hands. Traktor bring their usual level of oddball comedy to the spot, taking some scenes just a little further than you’d expect and the result is triumphant.

 

Brand: Jaguar
Title: The Art of Villainy
Production Company: Rogue Films
Director: Mark Jenkinson
Production Company Producer: Tom Farley
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Ad Agency: Spark 44
Creative Directors: Matt Page, Ryan Moore
Agency Producer: Nicole Southey
Editing Company: tenthree
Editor: Kevin Palmer
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Post Production Companies: Big Buoy, The Mill

Jaguar – The Art of Villainy

A sequel to the giant money-splurge of a Hollywood blockbuster that was their Super Bowl commercial, Jaguar are sticking with their mission of becoming the vehicle of choice for the classy British antihero. Director Mark Jenkinson does an admirable job following Tom Hooper’s film, drawing the perfect balance of refinement and malevolence from Tom Hiddleston. It’s a small but exciting slice of the big screen, and any car ad with idea more esoteric than a fast drive through some nice scenery is to be encouraged.

 

Brand: Lurpak
Title: Adventure Awaits
Production Company: Blink
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production Company Producers: Emma Wright, Chloe Roseman
Director of Photography: Stephen King Roach
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy London
Creative Directors: Sam Heath, Dan Norris, Ray Shaughnessy
Creatives: Freddie Powell, Hollie Walker
Agency Producer:
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Post Production Company: MPC

Lurpak – Adventure Awaits

Big respect to Lurpak. For a humble kitchen brand, they’ve been incredibly ambitious with their advertising. Thanks to Wieden + Kennedy and the filmmaking talent they’ve selected, every execution in this campaign has been an absolute knock out. They’ve brought a cinematic, epic quality to an otherwise mundane product, and this latest ad directed by Dougal Wilson is the best yet. The shots are innovative and striking, capably setting off the excellent copywriting. Paired with a ballsy choice of music, it’s a powerful film.

Decisions, Decisions

May 8, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Creatives talk us through their feelings on choosing Directors to bring their scripts to life.

The process of creating a television commercial is long and punctuated by crucial decisions, but some are more crucial than others. At some point, Creatives must choose a Director – a single person (usually) tasked with giving birth to the ideas they have grown and nourished for so long.

We were curious about this vital stage in an ad’s creation, so turned to some Creatives at the top of their game to try to understand their feelings on the weighty decision.

Given the level of trust Creatives need to have in their Director – the one person tasked with doing their script justice – we expected them to find the decision a stressful, slightly intimidating one, but we were surprised. As you can tell from their comments, fear barely factors into this part of the process.

They had a lot else to say on the subject though, and we managed to draw some broad observations from their musings.

1. Creatives love choosing a Director
Creatives’ eyes light up when you talk to them about choosing Directors. After months of toiling away at a script, going back and forth through various approval processes, both internally and externally, to finally be at the point where their idea is realised is a huge relief. “You work your bollocks off trying to write scripts for hours and hours, weeks and weeks,” says Jonathan Rands from Grey London. “It’s such an exciting process going into production. That’s where the magic happens.”

Max Batten from Wieden + Kennedy agrees. “By the time you’re looking at Directors you’re so sick of your own idea, having re-written the script probably a hundred times,” he says. “It’s exciting to think someone is going to come and put their own spin on it.”

After a long trudge towards this point, Creatives finally have the opportunity to be inspired again when they’re looking for someone to breathe life into their script. Finding another person with vision to collaborate with is all about doing what Creatives make their living doing. Sometimes they’ll have a bad run where they don’t get anything done for months on end, so the beginning of production is an invigorating time. “It’s just the best part of the job,” says Saatchi & Saatchi’s Danny Hunt. “You want to make something and get in there. Just get the beers out. Happy days – you’re making something.”

2. Creatives have different priorities each time
Every script calls for different things. Creatives’ choice of Director can be driven by budget, of course. There’s no point thinking about the biggest names if you’re shooting a cheap and cheerful online video for a start-up. “Usually you have an idea of Directors you’d like to work with,” says Ben Shaffery from Wieden + Kennedy. “So you start with their reels and then they’re not available, too expensive or not right.” It takes some searching to find the right match.

“Sometimes you know who you want to direct it while you’re writing the script,” says Danny. “And that’s a good judge of the idea because if you think it would be great for Ringan [Ledwidge] or Dougal [Wilson], you know you’re on that level.”

Sometimes a script needs a certain specialism, like animation or motion control, but often agencies are looking for sheer inspiration. When this is the case, trusting relationships with production companies are valuable, where the most creative suggestions are welcome. Ben and Max were the Creatives on Cravendale’s most recent commercial, where BlinkInk suggested a combination of two young Directors to pitch on it. The agency listened, and the pairing won the job.

3. Creatives love looking at reels
Discovering what the wealth of directing talent out there is doing is a fun, inspiring experience. Ultimately, it comes down to watching videos, trying to find that spark that will ignite their idea.

“We’ll spend hours and hours trawling through production websites looking for the right ones,” says Jonathan. Finding the right style is important and watching an extensive reel is really the only way to get a feel for a Director. Finding the right person for the budget is also vital. “Otherwise you’re wasting your time with the big boys,” he says.

When the budget is more generous, Max says he will usually look at the most prominent production companies and the Directors who do the majority of the top work, but lower budgets make the process more interesting. “You start going ‘where else are we going to find people?’ And that’s when you get to more unexpected people. It’s quite nice to work with them.”

4. Creatives want their ideas improved upon
Talented Directors can inject a script with new dimensions of creativity and imagination. And often Creatives love to see this in a treatment on their script. “I think the most exciting thing is how they add to it,” says Johan Leandersson from Grey London. “That is the most fascinating part. Often it’s where you see things you’ve never thought of yourself.”

He and Jonathan were the Creatives on the acclaimed recent commercial for The Sunday Times - Icons. Originally the script featured 12 scenes from famous moments in culture, but directorial duo Us submitted a somewhat rebellious treatment. They were adamant that they could only make six scenes work, brutally cutting half of the script. “We thought about the early hours when we were trying to craft those ideas and they just chucked them out,” says Jonathan. “It was hard to let go of some of our favourite scenes, but [Us] had really thought about it to the millisecond.”

After working on it for so long, Directors’ ideas can introduce a new lease of life to a script, renewing Creatives’ enthusiasm. “Sometimes you get wrapped up in your idea of what it’s communicating and how it works,” says Max, “and then somebody else can come in and put a completely different spin on it, which is very useful, I think.”

Danny stresses the importance of keeping hold of your original vision, as the treating process can be distracting, “but if anyone deviates from that, that’s cool as long as it’s better. You have to remember what your basis is.”

5. Creatives want a collaborator
When choosing a Director, Creatives look for an equal. While a Director/production company is technically the supplier in their relationship with an agency, this isn’t a helpful way to view things. “I don’t think it would be a good way to feel like there’s some sort of hierarchy,” says Max, “because in the end you’ve got to keep thinking what’s best for the work.”

Creatives want a Director in whose vision and expertise they can trust, and someone who will collaborate with them as a kind of third Creative. “You’re hiring an expert,” says Max. “If you respect their work, their idea and how they approach it then you’ve got to give them a bit of free reign.”

The script, as far as Danny is concerned, is just a starting point. “I know some Creatives are really adamant that they don’t like the Director meddling with scripts,” he says, “but I find that crazy because your name’s on it at the end of the day. As far as I’m concerned anyone can meddle as long as they make it better.”

6. Creatives are choosing a person as well as a treatment
If it’s a good treatment, the Director’s personality will be clear. In a time where many treatments aren’t written by Directors themselves, this makes meetings absolutely vital. “I think it’s important to meet them,” says Danny. “You’re going to be together for weeks and if they’re an arsehole, it doesn’t matter how good they are, it’s going to make your life Hell. Chemistry’s massive.”

Getting a sense that the Director will be fun to work with is important. It’s not just a bonus, but a vital ingredient to a good final piece of work, because when people don’t get along, there are far more opportunities for the project to go off track. Jonathan looks for certain things in a Director – “somebody you know is grounded, can work with you and is willing to make changes, but also has their strong opinion to work with.”

Thankfully, it’s not hard to get along with the best ones. Danny, who’s worked with most of the big-name helmsmen in the industry, claims “the best people I’ve worked with have been the nicest people. Really collaborative. Really open. Everyone’s pushing for the same thing, which is to make something really good.”

7. Creatives want passion
This one’s sort of obvious. Enthusiasm goes a long way and it’s vital to get across in a treatment. “You want them to be as passionate about making this as you are,” says Jonathan, “like they just can’t wait to get their hands on it.”

Treatments are in-depth these days, but the slicker, more polished a presentation is, the more a Director’s passion shines through, says Ben. “You want to get through the way it’s written, all the decisions they’ve made – you want to feel that they’ve got an enthusiasm for the project,” he says. “A lot of the time you pick quite big Directors and they’re just whacking them out for the money.” Agencies can tell, they say.

8. Creatives’ biggest worry is selling their choice to the Client
You might think that the decision of who Creative entrust their treasured scripts to would be a scary one, but they’re too excited to be scared of the choice itself. The only thing that really worries them is justifying their decision to the Client.

“That’s when I get nervous,” says Jonathan. “When I really want this guy and the Client might not because of the money or the tone.”

The problem is how to justify a decision that is often based on a gut feeling. “Ultimately, we have the sell the treatment to the Client,” says Max. “So if we say this is the best thing in the world but we don’t know why, it’s not any use in terms of getting signed off.” Ben suggests this is where Creative Directors can help – finding the rational justifications for an emotional decision.

“You need to win all the battles with the Client to make a decent spot,” says Danny. Choosing the Director is just one of the most important ones.

Unsigned: Mr. Kaplin

May 7, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

This animation duo who aren't afraid to use maths for their art.

Don’t be fooled by their gentlemanly moniker. Mr. Kaplin is actually a two-headed beast comprised of Robert Glassford and Daniel Zucco, who have been working together directing animation and motion design since 2011.

The duo, who have been based in London for around 18 months now, have got a pretty broad reel, ranging from the mathematically-generated geometrics of their Toob music video to the minimalist yet sympathetic character design in their short film Damp Spirits, which was made to raise money for the homelessness charity Shelter.

Combined they have won a number of awards including a Bafta for Technical Excellence, a 4 Talent Award for Best Fiction and a Melbourne Design award for Best Music Video.

Watch some of their work here: