The Pride of Britain

June 26, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

What makes the UK so good at winning the Cannes Lions Film Grand Prix?

In the past ten years, seven British-produced films have won the Film Grand Prix at Cannes Lions.

Just give that fact a second to sink in. Cannes is a worldwide festival. It is the advertising industry’s biggest global event, but in arguably its most celebrated category, work from the UK accounts for well over half the winners in recent years.

Since 2005, when Wieden + Kennedy London and Nexus picked up the most prestigious Lion for Honda, Grrr, we haven’t gone more than two years without a British-produced winner.

With Harvey Nichols’ Sorry, I Spent it on Myself picking up the most coveted prize in film advertising this year, it seems clear that British film advertising is still as dominant as ever. A commercial for a quintessentially English brand, created by adam&eveDDB and directed with subtle wit by Outsider’s James Rouse, advertising doesn’t get more British than that.

So why does work made on these rainy little isles do so well on the worldwide stage, at the rosé-drenched industry powwow that is Cannes Lions? How does British work stand up to over 37,000 entries from 97 countries? We asked the heads of some of the production companies behind this pride of British Lions to see if they could explain.

 

The Beak Street Bugle: How has UK production managed to win seven Film Grands Prix over the past ten years?

Robert Campbell, Founder, Outsider (2014 Film Grand Prix for Harvey Nichols, Sorry, I Spent it on Myself): “We are the centre of talent. If you look at [production companies like] Blink and Outsider we’ve historically found young talent and brought them through. We treat our directors with reverence. A lot of people treat them as a commodity. And we’ve always produced people who make ads who go on to make good films: Ridley Scott, Tony Kaye. It boils down to one thing: we have incredible talent in this country – agencies writing brilliant ideas and, on their doorstep, directors to execute them.

We’re very lucky. Take a step back and look at this country and what we’ve done. Don’t look at a week or a month; judge it on a century. The consistency with which we have produced great filmmakers, incredible artists, musicians, architects, writers. That just trickles down to almost everything we touch creatively. It’s incredible. It’s not just a couple of production companies knocked out some ads. We keep our national tradition of producing outstanding creative products.

And the UK makes good ads with UK agencies because we trust each other. The secret to making a great commercial is trust. They just let them get on with it.”

Chris O’Reilly, Co-Founder, Nexus Productions (2012 Film Grand Prix for Chipotle, Back to the Start and 2005 Film Grand Prix for Honda, Grrr): “We have a great pool of directing talent here, and London is one of the strongest global production centres. As an industry we’re collectively pretty good at nurturing and developing talent in the UK. Spotting directors and then guiding them through innovative ways of production is really key. This talent has delivered for us – Smith & Foulkes for Honda and then Johnny Kelly for Chipotle. This year Kibwe Tavares swept up a raft of new director gongs at Cannes and I think has the qualities to make work in the future of the highest calibre.

London production companies are hugely supported by the strength of broader creative industries in the city. It’s not the production companies alone, but the incredibly high standard of VFX, model-making, casting, creative technology, design, art music and fashion. There are not many cities in the world with such cultural breadth and depth.

It’s this special blend of creative talent with innovation that keeps Britain at the forefront of commercial production. The talent base here isn't just British either. It attracts directors from across the world. So naturally great scripts find their way to London!”

Jani Guest, Managing Director, Independent Films (2011 Film Grand Prix for Nike, Write the Future): “The UK market has always had a deep-seated commitment to delivering outstanding creative work. There is an unspoken drive to create brilliant idea-driven campaigns, beautifully executed. The amount of time and energy that creative directors and directors consistently commit to crafting films far exceeds the time and effort in other markets. There can be collaboration for months on a project before it is awarded to production and equally months of effort put in during the post process. It’s that commitment to the craft that I think has helped the UK set itself apart; as well as a wit and intelligence in the work that has a different tone to work generated elsewhere.

There is a real commitment to quality, not quantity. Many directors would prefer to do three great films a year rather than one or two productions every month, which is often acceptable in other markets. This market calls for total dedication.  You can't be half-hearted about it.”

Mark Pytlik, Managing Director, Stinkdigital (2009 Film Grand Prix for Philips, Carousel): “Even though we're seeing more and more great work emanate from increasingly far-flung places, the UK is still clearly one of the world's best markets for advertising. A lot of that has to do with concentration of budgets and habits of global attention, but there's also a lineage of great filmmaking and storytelling that has probably become a self-fulfilling and perpetuating thing at many agencies. The idea that they have to do work that was at least as good as the previous generation's is one that probably informs a lot of agency creative departments.

This might be a bit controversial, but I think the EU has been a factor as well. The UK has become an increasingly transient place over the last decade. More than anywhere else in Europe, it's still the place where lots of creative hopefuls will most likely move in order to further their career. No other country on the level of England has anything remotely like Soho. That makes the concentration of talent – and with it, the work – even stronger.”

James Studholme, Managing Director, Blink (2008 Film Grand Prix for Cadbury, Gorilla): “Wow! Really? I guess when the jury has to watch so much work the boldness and the freshness of the idea has to shine through to get noticed. I’ve sat through the long list before now and that’s meant to be the top 5 per cent of world worldwide and it’s a pretty soporific, bum-numbing experience.

Historically that focus on ideas has always been strong in the UK. I think we have a very playful mindset and a constant desire to do something new. We still give the appearance of being motivated more by art than commerce. A philosophy that’s becoming as rare as rocking horse shit these days. And we do like an award. Or is it just dumb luck?”


We are constantly told how creativity around the world is catching up with us, but by changing itself and becoming a huge magnet for worldwide talent, London is still at the top of the pile.

Signed: Oh Yeah Wow

June 24, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Caviar's new directing collective are a vibrant gang of pyromaniac polymaths.

There’s something about collectives. Maybe it’s the mystique that they get from hiding behind a shared name. It’s unclear how many people are in Australian collective Oh Yeah Wow. Led by Darcy Prendergast and Seamus Spilsbury, they’ve got directors, animators, pyro technicians (always useful, because what film isn’t improved by fire?), designers and artists all under one roof.

While known for their music video work for bands like Gotye, Slash and Aloe Blacc, they’ve also brought their diverse skillset to a bunch of brands, including Woolworths and Porter Davis. And now they’re represented by Caviar in the US and EU for both, it’ll be worth watching what they do next. Hopefully they’ll be setting fire to something.

Watch some of their work here:

Don’t Be Stupid

June 12, 2014 / Features

By John Hackney, Steve Davies and Max Barron

The Big Bravery Debate continued.

Recently in the pages of the BSB, Dave Trott and Steve Henry debated what it means and what it takes to be brave in advertising. They agreed that bravery was extremely important. What was missing from the discussion is why it should be so hard to be brave in the first place?

One perspective is that bravery is a casualty of the now thermo-nuclear agency war for billings. Competition for a client’s business brings them a lot of benefits, chief among them lower prices and a higher quality service, but when clients abuse the power that comes with it to treat their agency like a puppet on a string, these relatively narrow benefits are outweighed by the heaviest loss of all - doing good, effective work.

Within this is an argument nobody wants to have about how clients see and treat their agencies, and whose fault that is.

When it does come up, we’re told this is an issue of ‘trust’. Allowing an agency to be creative apparently means trusting them. Yet if I employ a cabinet maker to build me a cabinet (one I’ve chosen carefully on the basis of his other cabinets, and who has even pitched against two other cabinet makers for the work), it doesn’t take trust for me not to lean over his shoulder telling how to fix every joint. All it takes is an absence of stupidity.

Advertising is not alone here. Looking around, the combination of an imported US style ‘customer is always right’ service culture and a society ever more in thrall to the power of money seems to be corrupting the relationship between experts and the people who pay them (from teacher/parent to doctor/patient) by reducing it to the status of client/supplier. There’s an expectation that if you have the money, everyone else does what they’re told.

As unpleasant as it is, this might at least make sense when negotiating who supplies your cardboard boxes. Trying to apply it to a craft process is evidently stupid. You are paying a huge premium to then disregard the very thing you are paying the huge premium for (an agency’s expertise and craft skills).

Put simply, if all an ad agency is there to do is what they’re told by the guy with the money, you end up with cabinets that look pissed and fall apart. And the problem for advertising is that our audience can whizz through all these crap cabinets on Sky Plus at 32x normal speed in order to get to one that’s been built the sensible way. All we’re doing by making lame or tepid work is inculcating this habit in ever more viewers, and reducing our future chances of success even further.

So where does it end?


Maybe best to ask first where it starts. Standard industry practice is becoming ever more stupid, and we seem to have nothing to say about it. Here are just a few examples:

One is very frequent pitching, even when the incumbent agency is delivering brilliantly. AMV BBDO having to repitch for Sainsbury’s is perhaps the best recent example.

Another is forgetting that we work in a business - like any creative business - where failure is not only the price of success, but the norm. Telling an agency you want them to do brave, groundbreaking work but that it also has to be guaranteed to succeed is stupid. It would be helpful if agencies called it that, rather than nodding and smiling and privately going away to bang their head slowly against the wall.

The high priest of stupidity in any creative industry from film to ads to literature is market research. Like many stupid things, this is borne from a sensible idea, and in its early days was used by men like BMP’s Stanley Pollitt to justify outlandish and even terrifying creative ideas to their clients.

There’s nothing wrong with wondering how an audience might react to your ad. Where it becomes stupid is where you don’t bother to interrogate what that reaction actually involves in the real world.

Instead we have a pseudo-scientific experiment in which almost every single variable is irrelevant or opposed to the real world conditions it’s trying to replicate, from the room participants sit in to the biscuits they eat to weird therapy atmosphere of the debriefs.

In fact this starts with the idea of obliging people to offer an opinion even when they don’t have one, and thus bringing all kinds of biases into play that distort the results. It includes the type of people attracted by the rewards of participating, and the fact that the experiment, perhaps uniquely, is conducted by people with largely no understanding of the area they’re investigating. The icing on the stupid cake is to then apply these almost heroically unreliable results verbatim to something that is not a science at all but an art form, almost impossibly nuanced and fragile.

The idea that ‘listening to the consumer’ in this literal sense is the job of an advertiser is a rank simplification to put alongside people who think democracy means doing what the majority of people want in every individual situation rather than electing a small group to become knowledgeable enough to do what’s best for the people on their behalf, on the basis that individuals don’t have time to become knowledgeable enough themselves.

This is not a new thought. From Steve Jobs (‘it’s not my customer’s job to know what they want’) to Henry Ford (‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted they’d have said ‘a faster horse’) there are enough poster boys for the idea that understanding your audience or customer is emphatically not the same as listening to what they say and then doing it.

The list of great ideas that failed in research only to triumph in the chaos that is life is needless to say long and storied, yet clients rely on it ever more. Is it really
because they think it makes the best ads? More likely it’s that they can’t get fired for approving an ad that a piece of paper has said everyone already likes, in which case at the heart of the problem is the corporate culture of fear that individual clients now operate in, which in turn is as stupid and self-defeating as the behaviour it engenders.


All this is before we even introduce the fact that advertising is a meeting of commerce and art.

This is NOT the same as saying adverts themselves are worthy of being labeled art. Just that people respond to them in a way that is part commercial and part artistic.

We might love a painting for emotional reasons we can’t categorise. We might love a novel because it transports us to another place, or makes us laugh. On the other hand we choose our kitchen roll because of its place on rational axes of price and quality vs other kitchen rolls.

When we’re watching a film that advertises kitchen roll, both of these responses are interacting. The degrees vary with the product and the ad, but any attempt to judge the film that ignores the emotional / artistic part of the response is doomed to fail.

The bad news is that art is notoriously unpredictable. Who knows which graduate of the RCA this year will go on to be popular? Who knows which movie will make all the money this summer? Nobody, yet, and it’s telling that those industries put all their financial faith in the craft experts – the artist, the producer, the writer. They recognise that as the limit of their rationality.

Anyone who thinks advertising is not similarly unpredictable is invited to write in with an explanation of how a gorilla playing drums with a packshot on the end could have been predicted to flog millions more chocolate bars. Or a guy in his pants walking down a beach more whisky.

It’s time we stopped presenting creativity as a risky option, requiring bravery to execute. Any rational, sensible analysis of how audiences actually really respond to ads (at home in their real lives, not under interrogation in a strip lit room in Noho), or how any process involving a craft skill from cabinet making to Cadbury’s Gorilla works, can only conclude that the truly risky strategy - so risky that it is in fact stupid - is to not trust the experts you employ, and in the case of advertising to not attempt to be different, creative or exciting in everything you do.

This behaviour, drifting over from the world of business like a plague of locusts into an ad industry that was doing just fine as it was, defies all logic - and that is the conversation we need to have.

Which is not to say it’s not understandable. People have kids in private school. They just bought a new Audi. They’re having the kitchen extended to create an indoor/outdoor space with those folding patio doors that look great when fully open and obtrusive when closed for the other 364 days of the British year. Now is not the time to make a decision that casts them into a viciously competitive game of job Russian Roulette where some of the bullets are marked Swindon and Hull. Could any of us say we’d behave differently?

No, the onus is on us, the industry, as the experts, to show some tough love and some integrity. To stop indulging the infantile instinct to cuddle up in the foetal position of mediocrity and market research where the real world can’t get you, and to force clients to stand up and address the world they operate in as it really is: difficult, unpredictable, fun.

Yes, fun. Making fun ads that are aimed at entertaining people first and foremost is a fun thing to do. What kind of nonsense puritanism is it that we’ve all backed ourselves into the corner of making our jobs less interesting in order to also make them less effective?

Rather than throwing our hands up at the culture that gives rise to all this as if it were a force of nature, we need to fight it. Not with passive aggression and edit room tantrums, but with its own cold logic. We need to stop asking clients to be brave and to make clear that what we’ve been calling bravery is just common sense.

Google’s motto is Don’t Be Evil. The fact that they seem to be failing so badly shows how a comically simple intention can belie the difficulty of fulfilling it in the world we’ve made for ourselves.

The thing every client needs to hear, including from themselves every morning while the kids are jumping in the Audi, is Don’t Be Stupid. As with evil, this can be harder than it looks when you are who you are, but it’s the only thing between us all and creative oblivion - a future where their millions and all our time and love and energy are poured into a stuttering, blurry void skipping around and around at 32x normal speed, loved by no-one, seen by no-one.

Phil Rumbol, the Marketing Director who bought the Gorilla ad for Cadbury’s, says that he allowed for 3 out of 10 ads he made to fail, on the basis that the others would be a bigger success.

7 out of 10 may be a laughably high figure, but was no doubt all Phil could get past the bunch of accountants he had to report to. The point is, he managed to squeeze 3 guaranteed failures out of them, and that’s the kind of small victory we should be cherishing in the early stages of the long and probably bloody trench war we’re engaged in against the plain stupidity that has blighted our lives unchallenged for too long.

The World Cup Ad Championship: Adidas Vs. Nike

June 12, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Which of the sportswear brand titans will triumph in Brazil?

This evening battle will be joined in Sao Paulo as the first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup – Brazil Vs. Croatia – kicks off. Over the next month 32 national teams will compete to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy and go home as world champions.

But off the pitch there’s another tournament on. The World Cup is a huge arena for brands to compete in too. With hundred of millions of eyes watching this little kick-about, brands are keen to make sure they get some of that attention as well. It doesn’t come cheap, but if you do it right boosts in sales can be phenomenal.

Two brands define this high-stakes fight more than any other. On one side, Adidas – the German giants who have had football at the heart from day one – and on the other, Nike – based in Oregon, USA, the largest sportswear company in the world, who only entered the football market in 1994.

As we saw two years ago at the London Olympic Games, the competition between these two is fierce. Both brands have a distinctive tone and each time one of these huge events comes around we see them and their agencies going head-to-head, putting every resource they have into their advertising

Erik Verheijen, who until recently was the long-standing Head of Production at Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, produced the Nike’s Write the Future campaign for the last World Cup. He knows first-hand what it’s like to work with on these massive campaigns. “For the agencies that made them, it’s a display of all their craft, all their talent, everything they want to be,” he says. “It’s a display of their greatest work every few years. For Nike it’s a chance to put their biggest athletes in. It’s basically their shop window for the world.

“We’re always very proud of it that we’re asked to make it and then if we make it and turn it out it’s a real moment of pride. And you’re able to work with these top talented directors as well. All the big guys want to do a global Nike ad – it goes on air in 100 plus countries – so it’s an opportunity to work with the best talent in the world.”

In 2012, Nike earned a lot of praise for their rebellious ambush marketing approach in the face of official sponsors Adidas’ more traditional style. Many in the marketing industry claimed the Oregon-based company had won the branding battle

Those navy-versus-pirate roles have broadly continued for some time, and if the people behind the campaigns don’t feel it, it’s compelling from an outsider’s perspective. While Adidas has had a sponsorship deal with FIFA and the World Cup since 1970 that will continue until at least 2030, Nike has only been in the football market since 1994. “When I grew up it was always Adidas, Adidas, Adidas in football,” remembers Erik. “I think it’s amazing how they’ve positioned themselves in the football market. They’re a bit of a fish swimming against the stream, although they’re a pretty big fish.”

Nike are not a World Cup sponsor and very rarely sponsors any sporting event. In terms of advertising, that means they can’t use the name of the event in any of their commercials, but that didn’t bother them during the Olympics and of course it hasn’t stopped them this time either. They do things their own way.

That said, it’s not as simple as Adidas throwing their sponsorship chequebook around while Nike spend their money on smart communication. Ten national teams will be wearing Nike kits in Brazil this summer – more than ever previously. Adidas have nine. They’ve also each got their pet footballers, which we see, naturally, at the forefront of their ad campaigns.

On the dawn of the tournament, let’s take a look at some of the advertising offerings we’ve seen from each camp over the build up. To keep things fair we’ve limited our analysis to three of the biggest spots from each brand.

Adidas

Brand: Adidas
Title: Samba Collection
Production Company: Cake Film & Photography
Director: Paul Geusebroek (represented by Sonny London)
Production Company Producer: Annemien Lijfering
Director of Photography: Menno Mans
Ad Agency: United State of Fans\TBWA
Art Director: Enric Soldevila
Copywriter: Kari Shaw
Agency Producer: Pirke Bergsma
Editor: Brian Ent
Post Production Company: Captcha!

This aired way back in November 2013, launching Adidas’ build up to the World Cup. And the TBWA\ creatives and director Paul Guesebroek didn’t pull any punches when it came to capturing that Brazilian vibe. With a modern samba track, portraits of lively Brazilian characters and vibrant neon flashes sloshed all over world-class footballers, there’s plenty to grab your attention. It feels oddly naïve for such a huge brand, but it’s lots of fun.

Brand: Adidas
Title: The Dream
Production Company: O2 Filmes
Directors: Fernando Meirelles, Cassiano Prado
Production Company Producer: Luiz Braga
Director of Photography: Andrea Faccioli
Ad Agency: TBWA\
Creative Directors: Linda Knight, John Figone
Agency Producer: Guia Iacomin
Editing Company: The Whitehouse
Editor: Brandon Porter
Sound Company: Stimmung
Post Production Company: MPC

Sport advertising inevitably relies on those recognisable faces a brand has on their payroll and the most powerful warhead in Adidas’ celebrity armoury is Argentina’s star striker Lionel Messi. Here he’s used quite potently, in a commercial that relies on more than just showing him doing some fancy footwork. Helmed by City of God director Fernando Meirelles, there’s a deep, psychological narrative here as Messi’s peaceful sleep is disturbed by thoughts of the formidable players he’ll be facing in Brazil. It looks like the premium piece of advertising it is and with an exclusive track from Kanye West to build tension it makes a powerful impression.

Brand: Adidas
Title: House Match
Production Companies: O2 Films, Saville
Directors: Fernando Meirelles, Cassiano Prada
Production Company Producer: Luiz Braga
Ad Agency: TBWA\Chiat\Day
Creative Directors: Linda Knight, John Figone
Agency Producer: Guia Iacomin
Editing Company: The Whitehouse
Editor: Heidi Black
Post Production Company: MPC

Relying less on poeticism and more on the simple joy of playing football, Adidas’ most recent commercial strangely features four players not playing in the World Cup this year. David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane interrupt a game of FIFA to take on Gareth Bale and Lucas Moura in a friendly kick about, allegedly in the hallowed halls of Beckingham Palace. It’s a bit of a laugh, and gives the old-timers a chance to prove they haven’t lost their flair.

 

Nike

Brand: Nike
Title: Risk Everything
Production Companies: Academy Films, RESET
Director: Jonathan Glazer
Production Company Producer: Simon Cooper
Directors of Photography: Barry Ackroyd, Alex Barber
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O’Rourke
Art Directors: Stuart Brown, Johan Arlig
Copywriters: Rick Herrera, Jeff Salomonsson
Agency Producer: Andy Murillo
Editing Companies: The Quarry, Rock Paper Scissors
Post Production Company: The Mission

This was Nike’s first World Cup ad to break this year, and it cleverly dances around the sponsorship issue – something their agencies must be pretty used to by now. Not too far from from Adidas’ messages, it focuses on the pressures heaped on the players in these tournaments, focusing on three of Nike’s biggest footballing faces – Christiano Ronaldo, Neymar Jr. and Wayne Rooney. With three huge names and Jonathan Glazer bringing his trademark tension and poise, it certainly got fans hyped up for the coming tournament.

Brand: Nike
Title: Winner Stays
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Production Company Producer: Sally Humphries
Director of Photography: Ben Seresin
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O'Rourke
Art Director: Sezay Altinok
Copywriter: Jeff Salomonsson
Agency Producer: Endy Hedman
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Rich Orrick
Sound Company: Formosa Group
Post Production Companies: The Mill, Luma Pictures

This fantastical epic makes maximum use of the footballers Nike has at their disposal, adding even more big names and faces to the three we encountered in their first spot. Directed by the eminent Ringan Ledwidge, and put together with some clever post work and editing, it’s quite a technical feat. And with 73 million views on YouTube to date – far more than any other World Cup spot this year – there’s no debate that it’s had an impact.

Brand: Nike
Title: The Last Game
Production Company: Passion
Director: Jon Saunders
Production Company Producer: Ryan Goodwin-Smith
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Alberto Ponte, Ryan O’Rourke
Agency Producer: Erika Madison
Editing Company: The Whitehouse
Editor: Paul La Calandra
Music Company: Walker
Sound Company: 750mph

Combining great imagination, beautiful craft and a touch of humour, this could be the coup de grace that seals Nike’s victory in the ad battle of the 2014 World Cup. While the majority of football commercials elevate their pet players to godlike perfection, this does something much cleverer. Here, Nike’s choice footballers are cast as imperfect humans set against a team of humourless clones and, thanks to the charming characterisation of Jon Saunders’ animation, they’re quite lovable. The overall result is piece of branded content that people are willingly sharing all over the web. Whether that sells more Nike football boots remains to be seen, of course.

As usual, these brands and everyone who worked on their advertising have made a serious push to secure the World Cup ad prize. There’s greatness on both sides, but we think Nike might just have the edge, thanks in no small part to the skilled directors behind their commercials.

Adidas and Nike are only two major contenders in a sprawling melee of brands though, and it’s not just the sportswear brands that bring the big guns. An honourable mention should be given to Beats for their exhilarating World Cup spot, proving that with the right budget and an engaging idea, the World Cup audience is any brand’s to capture.

Under the Influence: Tom Kingsley

June 9, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Blink director explains his weird and mischievous inspirations.

Tom Kingsley made his first feature-length film aged only 12. It was a 70-minute James Bond spoof called Black Eye. So he’s been interested in filmmaking for a while. Nowadays he’s a bona fide director. He’s represented by Blink for commercials and music videos and co-directed, with Will Sharpe, the feature film Black Pond, which has picked up an impressive set of nominations and awards.

So what made him the director he is today? We asked him to tell us about the five biggest influences on his work.

Jan Svankmajer

"Svankmajer's mad, hilarious and fundamentally disturbing short films were the first properly interesting animations I watched. I'd seen a fair bit of experimental animation, but vague exploration of form just isn't as interesting as Svankmajer's violent stop-motion narratives. These powerfully tactile videos are about the Big Things. Life and death and politics and breakfast.

I love all his short films in different ways, but the most important one for me is probably Darkness Light Darkness, which I extremely heavily homaged in my first short film: Rip. Svankmajer's story is about the horror of creation, and mine is about some scissors that cut out a paper man and then stab him to death.

I made Rip in the evenings on the kitchen table while working as a journalist. Journalism wasn't the right thing for me, and I wanted to move into directing - which is what I'd wanted to do all along, but never dared to pursue it properly. Animation is a great way for a beginner to learn filmmaking - it takes ages, but it's very cheap, you have total control, and you can resume filming whenever you have a bit of spare time.

I sent the film to several production companies, and Bart Yates at BlinkInk watched it and got me in for work experience. After running in-house for a year and a half, I got signed to Blink."

 

The Taste of Tea

"The Taste of Tea is a 2004 Japanese film by Katsuhito Ishii. It's mainly a simple, calm and well-observed portrait of a modern family living in rural Japan, dealing quietly with work and school and heartbreak and mad grandparents. But every so often an extraordinarily beautiful and unhinged event will happen without warning. There are trains in people's heads, a poo on a skull, a schoolgirl with a giant doppelganger, and a planet-sized sunflower. They're actually all spoiled in the trailer, but they're really brilliant in context.

I love it when stories are either very realistic or extremely outlandish, and it was really exciting to watch The Taste of Tea and see that you could actually do both things at the same time.

I was shown the film by my friend Will Sharpe, who I direct feature films with. So far, we've made one and a half. The Taste of Tea is a big influence on the sort of films we make, and in particular our first short film, Cockroach. It's a 30-minute story set in Japan that we made during my summer holiday when I was running at Blink.

When we finished it, we realised we'd made a third of a feature film, so in theory, it wouldn't be that difficult to have a go at making a whole one. We were wrong."

 

District 9

"Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 is brimming with guts and invention. It's messy, in the best way - it does so much counter-intuitive stuff you're not meant to do in a film. It shifts point of view without warning, mixes found footage with mockumentary and straightforward narrative, and also radically changes genre three times. It's extremely exciting to watch.

I think it was only possible because it was put together very quickly, very roughly, with not enough money. That dangerous freedom is exhilarating - it's what's so hard and so rewarding about making low budget feature films. There's no one stopping you thinking of an imaginative way to overcome your lack of resources. I think it's really interesting that Elysium, Neill Blomkamp's second film, re-trod the same ground as District 9, but with all the time and money he was denied the first time. The result was predictable and lifeless.

District 9 was a big influence on my first ultra-low-budget feature film Black Pond. We'd shot what we thought was the whole film, only to discover on editing it that we thought a third of it just wasn't good enough. So we scrapped half an hour of the edit. Leaving us with a decent but pointless hour-long short film.

We spent ages trying to think of extra stuff we could film to fill the gaps. None of our convoluted ideas were feasible. And then we watched Neill Blomkamp's film, and realised that we could mix it up much more than we'd initially imagined. So we shot a largely improvised mockumentary, with the characters looking back on the events of the film, and explaining why they did what they did. It sounds like a bad idea, but we think the end result was richer and more satisfying than what we'd been trying to do in the first place. And eventually, out of this shambles, we finally finished the film and it got nominated for a BAFTA."

 

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

"The story's meant to be an autobiography about a fictional character, but Tristram Shandy gets so wound up setting the scene for his moment of birth, that he keeps going back further and further into the past and never really gets round to telling us much about his life story. It's a gleeful and silly shaggy dog story that ultimately ends up as a moving accidental autobiography of an ordinary man. Though to be fair it does go on a bit.

Tristram Shandy was written in 1759, when people had only just started writing things you could call novels. And even then, Laurence Sterne was already taking the piss out of the emerging form - not just the style of writing, but also the nature of printing itself. So there are pointless digressions, punctuation jokes, black pages, blank pages (which the reader is invited to fill in for themselves), and an irreproducible hand-marbled page that would inevitably be different in each edition.

It's amazing when you look at the work of a long-dead artist, and feel a certain kinship with them. It's great to imagine yourself in the shoes of that artist, and feel like you understand their intentions. That works with painting and sculpture and music - but it's even more exciting to read a book by someone who died three hundred years ago, and find that their sense of humour is pretty similar to yours.

I don't mean that I'm like an 18th century writer. But I think a big thing that I enjoy exploring is the way you can subvert the form of something with some lateral thinking, and find new ways of telling stories."

 

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

"Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are much imitated - sometimes by me - and never bettered. At film school, they were already doing internet humour on VHS, before the internet was a thing. They delight in exuberant and formally inventive pisstaking mash-ups of modern culture. They often satirise adverts, and I do love that they are now paid to direct real adverts in the exact same style they used to make fun of them. Their work is sort of meta-comedy, and also, to an extent, meta-editing.

Heidecker and Wareheim edit their sketches like DJs remixing a track. And in fact, their main editor, Doug Lussenhop, actually is a DJ. I met Tim Heidecker once in a bowling alley in Texas, and it was probably the most starstruck I've ever been. I like how they're now doing more serious stuff with more nuanced characters and stories. I think their short film Father and Son is great, and even though their Billion Dollar Movie was a bit hit and miss, it was still more interesting and inventive than most films that get released. Tim and Eric just do what they want to do, and don't appear to care if anyone likes it. I really admire the way they maintain total creative independence.

It's inspiring to see a directing team that does equally great solo projects. Tim Heidecker is a brilliant actor and musician, and Eric Wareheim makes increasingly insane music videos.

Half of what I do is direct adverts on my own, and the other half is co-directing films with Will Sharpe. And I love the mix of the two. I learn stuff from both disciplines. It's really refreshing to work on an advert that will be finished in a few weeks, and where you aren't limited by money. And it's also extremely rewarding to spend half a year with a friend working on the edit of a feature film, where you're just using your brain to get round the massive practical constraints.

Collaborating with someone else means that it's impossible to be self-indulgent: you can only do what's right for the story you're trying to tell, and not just what you think would be cool. It's great training for the collaborative process of making an advert: you have to take your ego out of the picture, and focus on the making the work what it needs to be."

 

Have a look for these influences on Tom’s reel

High Five: June

June 4, 2014 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

This month, the best advertising had a good sense of humour.

If you can make people laugh in a commercial, you’ve got some sort of chance of people talking about it out down the pub or around the office water cooler. That’s why some of the all-time classic ads – the ones normal, non-advertising folk actually like – have been funny ones. Unfortunately, this has led to a culture of people without the right comedy chops trying their best to make their ads funny and cocking it up.

None of our pick of the best ads this month try too hard to be funny, or announce their jokes to the world, but they all have a genuine sense of humour, so don’t have to shout about it.

Brand: Carlsberg
Title: Unbeatable
Production Company: Moxie Pictures
Director: Big Red Button
Production Company Producer: Claire Jones
Director of Photography: Denzil Armour-Brown
Ad Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Creative Director: Surrey Garland
Art Director: Stuart Farquhar
Copywriter: Rob Janowski
Agency Producer: Lyndsay Myerscough
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Ed Cheeseman
Sound Company: 750mph
Post Production Company: The Mill

Carlsberg – Unbeatable

World Cup commercials for beer brands don’t have a great pedigree. They tend to do little more than wheel out whatever celebrities are on payroll and crack some generic lad gags. To be fair, this does almost exactly that, but it’s written and executed with such flair that it transcends any clichés. All three celebrity faces are used thoughtfully and with well-timed visual gags littering the fantasy pub, it’s a good laugh for everyone.

 

Brand: Fentimans
Title: The Original Adult Soft Drink
Production Company: Short Films
Director: Fern Berresford
Production Company Producers: Holly Hartley, Sara Cummings
Director of Photography: Chris Sabogal
Ad Agency: Sell! Sell!
Agency Producer: Fiona Plumstead
Editing Company: Speade
Editor: James Rosen
Music Company: Pure Soho
Post Production Company: Rushes

Fentimans – The Original Adult Soft Drink

The most powerful thing about this ad is its unfamiliarity. From Mark Denton’s deft touch on the Edwardian production design to the stark lighting and jerky imagery, it doesn’t look like an ad at all. And in an industry where standing out is the primary objective, that’s not a bad thing at all. Director Fern Berresford does a great job camping it all up to the max and it all looks like jolly good (if not entirely clean) fun for all involved.

 

Brand: Halifax
Title: Photographer Vicky Harris
Production Company: Sonny London
Director: Guy Manwaring
Production Company Producer: Amy Appleton
Ad Agency: adam&eveDDB
Creatives: Matt Woolner, Steve Wioland
Agency Producer: Lucinda Ker
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Mark Edinoff
Sound Company: 750mph
Post Production Company: Finish

Halifax – Photographer Vicky Harris

This whole series of ads has been pitched nicely, exuding the sort of human warmth that dry financial service brands like Halifax desperately need. This is possibly the best execution yet though. Vicky is instantly likeable and with Guy Manwaring directing, each scene adds to the picture of someone who really cares about her work, or, to be really on message, someone who ‘gives extra.’ It’s not wildly ambitious, but it’s a solid piece that helps us warm to the bank that once brought us the unforgettable Howard Brown

 

Brand: Heineken
Title: The City
Production Company: Traktor
Director: Traktor
Production Company Producer: Rani Melendez
Director of Photography: Christopher Doyle
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam
Creative Directors: Thierry Albert, Faustin Claverie
Art Director: Mike Bond
Copywriter: Bern Hunter
Agency Producers: Tony Stearns, Ross Plummer
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Richard Orrick
Music Company: Sony Music Entertainment
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: MPC

Heineken – The City

This kind of ad gets made for beer brands all the time. Some smug, uncommonly handsome chap has the time of his life in a place we’ll never afford to visit and we’re supposed to think it’s charming and identify with him. Heineken have played their part in this terrible trend more than most, but their latest big sporting event commercial has a genuine charm to it, no doubt owing to the dream-team combination of Wieden + Kennedy and Traktor. It’s a big spectacular and with enough skill to do the ambitious script justice, it’s easy to enjoy.

 

Brand: Royal London
Title: Goode Times and Bad
Production Company: Park Pictures
Director: Nathan Price
Production Company Producer: Tim Kerrison
Executive Producer: Stephen Brierley
Director of Photography: Jan Velicky
Service Company: Stillking
Service Company Producer: Michal Skop
Ad Agency: VCCP
Creative Director: Marcus Woolcott
Art Director: Jonny Parker
Copywriter: Chris Birch
Agency Producer: Ed Mueller
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Paul Hardcastle
Music Company: Soundtree
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound Designer: Ben Leeves
Post Production Company: MPC

Royal London – Goode Times and Bad

At its heart, this ad for Royal London is expressing some pretty conservative values, but the copywriting, art direction and is anything but staid and old-fashioned. Lead actor Gethin Alderman is a relative unknown, but he puts in an impressive performance, delivering the witty script with skill that could earn him a bright future. The visual comedy is pulled off nicely too, making the whole thing surprisingly entertaining for a pensions ad.

What is the Gentrified Web?

June 3, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Plaything founder Paul Cackett explains our future in consuming top-quality content.

In the beginning the internet was the Wild West. Amoral, weird and populated by outcasts, it was the geeky badlands where nobody from mainstream society dared venture. A few people in business saw potential, but for the most part it was dismissed as peripheral and irrelevant.

The content that originally filled the web matched this attitude. When brands first ventured online, their sites were filled with scrappy, amateurish content that proved these businesses’ dismissive stance on this new medium. They employed early-adopting bloggers, rather than trained writers or journalists to write their content. Paul Cackett remembers these times that now seem like ancient history. “We, as users, grew up expecting it to be a bit crap,” he says “and a bit edgy, a bit bloggy.”

Paul knows as well as we all do: the internet’s come a long way. The best content in any medium now finds a place to live online. And as the founder and CEO of digital product and design studio Plaything, he’s putting his faith in the fact that all the best stuff will live online from now on. And it will triumph over the amateurish, unverified stuff it competes with. He calls this prophecy The Gentrified Web.

It’s all about quality over quantity for Paul. Plaything, the newest arm of the Th1ng Group, want to help brands market themselves online and they know that providing the best content is the only way to do that.

He remembers the early years, where just being on the internet, doing some sort of ‘viral video’ stunt got a brand kudos and he’s keen to banish that to the annals of digital history. “There’s data to prove ‘virality’ has no recall on a brand,” he says. “No matter how many million shares you get, it adds no value.”

He’s convinced the web is deviating from this quick and disposable culture and has already seen the gentrification start in online journalism. “Quality journalism is getting better and better,” he enthuses. “The New York Times are getting really serious about journalism online and so is The Times over here. Things like The Atlantic and Slate and a handful of amazing ones. Even The Huffington Post has started writing better stuff again after it ventured into the Buzzfeed wilderness.”

Publishers have realised the direction the wind’s blowing in. Paul wants to see more brands do the same. Online audiences demand high-value content. “Isn’t that because our parent have got iPads now,” he considers.

It’s agreed in the saner parts of the industry (or at least in Bob Hoffman’s head) that, for the most part, the public don’t want to have conversations about brands. They use the internet to have conversations about practically everything but brands. That said, Paul stresses that we can’t ignore the power of quality branded content to get people genuinely excited. The Volvos and Red Bulls of this world indisputably get people talking. And they do it with well-conceived, expertly made video content.

Bridging the gaps

Plaything want to help the industry along the path these brands are laying. Having worked in television, advertising and the vaguely defined ‘digital’ industry for over 20 years, Paul has thought about this quite a lot. “I had this idea of creating a business that can create lots of service products for our industry,” he says.

“The bit that’s missing,” he thinks, is “the link between creatives, technology businesses and media buyers. We’re all doing the same job, trying to talk to the same person, but we all come at it in different ways.”

Paul’s met a lot of marketing directors for big brands and hears the same thing all the time: they make heaps of content, put it on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and no one sees it. On top of that, the content people do see is the low-resolution, ripped off version someone’s re-uploaded. He’s encountered huge clients spending five-figure sums on branded content that gets uploaded and promptly forgotten.

“We’re hearing from brands that YouTube’s just a big repository,” he says. “Throw it in there and see what happens.” Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

“I had this massive grandiose plan that one day there’s going to be a verified and official web,” he says. “What struck me was that all these agencies or brands are spending a ridiculous amount making content online. But if no one’s really seeing it and harnessing it in some way, how much wastage is there?"

Better brand hubs

Plaything’s first step towards cleaning up the web for brands is Clear.as – a platform for content owners and brands that embodies Paul’s utopian future where quality, official content gets the attention it deserves.

A brand can create an account on the site and can fill its modular grid with whatever content they want, including video, photography, links to articles, or even ecommerce. They can enter hashtags or usernames from almost any social platform to automatically populate the list with live content.

Paul chooses Volvo as an example client. “If someone takes and Instagram of a Volvo car and hashtags it #Volvo, it appears in ten seconds. And this whole experience, we’re trying to get it so it can be built in two minutes. So you have a live, branded website in two minutes.”

Of course, hashtags can go horrendously wrong, as we were recently reminded by the New York Police Department, but Paul says there will be a system for moderation to make sure clients have the control they need.

Plaything’s vision is that it will allow brands to bring all their official stuff together in one place. “One of the things I think it’s solving is that Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple – they all hate each other,” says Paul. “They don’t talk to each other. This integration’s never going to happen.”

This sounds great for brands, who desperately need their expensive content seen by consumers, but will consumers care? Paul thinks it’s exactly what we want – filtering out the crap and leading us straight to the premium stuff.

“As a user, if I search for Volvo, I probably want to find several things,” he says. “One is official Volvo content; content [about Volvo] that my followers have recommended; content I’ve made about it and then all the crap, probably in around about that order. The experience for me as a user was I kind of wanted the official, cool stuff. Not the ripped off stuff.”

Plaything plan to add a search consumer function to Clear.as at the end of the year, by which point they hope to have around 10,000 channels. That’s when we’ll start to see Paul’s dream realised.

For now, Clear.as has more limited ambitions. But without search integration, it’s still making the web a classier place. “Brands who will get the most out of this are the ones who have fans, who are loved,” says Paul. “I wouldn’t expect to see a toothpaste brand on here. I would expect to see those who are making content like car brands, fashion, sports and music.”

It’s also great for events. Plaything have already tested Clear.as at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit and Walk the Walk, pulling everything going on around these events into one place.

The potential

Paul has ambitions to take it to sporting events. You could follow a football match on your team’s Clear.as page if you weren’t able to watch it and get a live feed from the team’s official accounts as well as trusted journalists and pundits.

He thinks event sponsors should get excited about this too. “If you’re Chevrolet or Aon – the Man Utd sponsors – or a betting company, you’ll build your own Man Utd channels for a different experience,” he says. “All these brands have a massive ecosystem around them that they’re paying a shit load of money for and they’re not maximising it.”

Clear.as could benefit the ad industry as a tool for planners, he suggests. If they have a new client they can go into a client briefing armed with a channel they’ve made for that brand. The channel will pull every bit of content or opinion from around the internet on that brand. “Then they can say to the client ‘this is what your consumers think of you,’” suggests Paul. “It gives you a reflection of what you’re doing – a snapshot of what’s going on at that brand.”

Naturally, Clear.as helps the Th1ng Group, and all producers of quality content, as well. If brands want to use the platform, they’re going to need some decent material to fill it with and some social media around their brand. “Thing can produce all that stuff,” Paul is quick to point out. “We can manage the social media and utilise the platform, so we create a funnel.”

If the web gets gentrified, what will happen to the common folk, the user-generated, democratic internet that was born in the spirit of truth for all? Paul’s not an idiot. He knows that will carry on. “They can have that if they want,” he says – you can still find videos of Volvos running people over or breaking down – but his concern is that that model is failing brands. “Brands can’t have a real version of the world,” he says, “as we see with #MyNYPD.” But once the consumer version opens up, everyone will be able to apply their own tastes and opinions to the web and run it through their own filters of quality.

This isn’t a slum clearance in favour of new luxury condominiums. Paul is building his brand-friendly neighbourhood on virgin territory. And if we want easy access to the good stuff, consumers could be flocking there soon.

What Did the Promo Do for You?

June 2, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Commercial directors have cut their teeth in promos for decades, but is it still a good way into advertising?

Independent agents OB Management have been a big name in music video talent for years now, representing many of the sharpest directors that genre has seen. A decade since Otis Bell founded the company, now they’re taking on the world of advertising with a select roster of directors for representation in commercials.

Music videos can be instrumental in the development of both new and established directors. But when it comes to transitioning from promos to advertising the question remains: what did the promo do for directors?

We asked Otis what he thought.

The Beak Street Bugle: How important are promos to the development of a director’s reel?
Otis Bell:
Promos can be instrumental in the development of both new and established directors but probably more crucial to emerging talent. How else can you create a showreel that will allow you to carve the right directorial path?

The new director’s apprenticeship in the promo world is the opportunity to not only experiment but to be selective in your output, control and present your identity. The only other way is to make films, which are considerably more difficult to get off the ground and probably harder to present in short form to agencies and clients (if that’s where you are aiming!)

BSB: You’ve basically seen all the music videos. How do you feel about them now?
OB:
It’s funny; I do now watch music videos in a different light. You become acutely aware of how indulgent and laboured some videos can be, especially compared to the precision and skills required to present a message in 60 seconds or less.

There have been a slew of abstract narratives that indulge themselves in a vague story that hangs on beautiful slow-motion shots to hold your interest. That’s not enough these days.

Certainly my patience for music video has been tested. If I’m not hooked in the first 30 seconds, I turn off. However, I always feel incredibly rewarded when screening a breakthrough new video to a room of agency producers and creatives. The response is always one of gratitude and can often spawn inspiration for their next campaign. Agencies generally seem far more interested in watching other disciplines from new talent than seeing another bunch of telly ads.

BSB: Are agencies really looking for promo directors, or are they too scared to take the risk?
OB:
I think this would’ve been the case 10 years ago when we were still making music videos for TV. Back then they were more generic as they had to appeal to broadcasters, they had to sit along side big glossy videos from the US so they were generally more performance based. Of course there were still some outstanding creative videos but how many were seen by the masses outside of the industry when you could only view them on MTV2 or late night screenings?

However, these days they’re far more diverse with high-concept ideas, experimental post techniques, trends/fashions and more and more classic storytelling, all of which are relevant to a wide spectrum of brands.

And of course now we can actually measure the success of a video, the connection it has had with an audience, so it’s perhaps more reassuring to use a promo director that has had a visible reaction to his/her work on a global scale.

BSB: Is music videos still a good training ground for directors?
OB:
Of course, and then some. Music videos can be brutal. Usually massively underfunded and often with very little prep time, so you have to be incredibly resourceful and creative in your approach.

In theory, once you’ve progressed to commercials you at least have the adequate resources to do the job properly. Really the only area of inexperience will be the client and agency process but any directors crossing over should be mentored by their production company and producer as it’s way more structured than working with record labels. What I mean by that is that every frame is discussed and approved in detail with commercials, whereas you’re given more freedom in music videos most of the time.

BSB: What do promos allow the director to create that commercials still can’t?
OB:
Well, we’re back to the creative freedom basically. For a start there is no strict format that has to be adhered to since they’re mostly made for online platforms rather than TV, although TV edits are still made. A music video is a much longer format than traditional TV ads, giving the director greater opportunity to tell more detailed narrative or explore concepts further.

Also, with the right track the director has the opportunity to get his work seen by millions of people around the world. Look at Josh Cole. His commercials career kicked off massively off the back of his first music video with Rudimental. Aside accumulating over 18 million YouTube views and winning Josh a Young Director Award at Cannes; the video spread rapidly round most agencies and was heavily used by many of them in pitches to clients, animatics and scripts. It’s very satisfying that we were instrumental in that transition.

BSB: Are promo directors often a better option for branded films?
OB:
Well, it would be hard to say that in general a music video director would be better suited. It depends on the message and discipline required. However, it certainly is an area that seems to provide a good crossover for a number of reasons.

Firstly, content films are often lower budget, which makes it difficult for the more established ad directors to tackle. So it’s a good foot in the door with an agency for a young video director. This goes hand in hand with being resourceful on these budgets, working with smaller, more agile crews. Promo directors are also often way more in touch with new trends and markets, being particularly aware of the fast changing viewing habits of new generations.

BSB: Is it a leap of faith representing promo directors for commercials?
OB:
Firstly, I must stress that most of the directors we represent for commercials at Somesuch [& Co.] are already very established in this area, most of which cut their teeth on music videos. Using any new director takes a certain amount of faith but it’s a calculated risk isn’t it?

To continue to create award-winning, ground-breaking work we all have to take chances but personally I think a music video director who has shot endless under-resourced films with stunning results is minimal risk, providing they’re surrounded by an experienced team in that given market. And quite often these directors have had the chance to experiment, make mistakes and be confident in their decisions – more so than a director who’s been restricted by the rigidity of shooting commercials for however long.

BSB: Is OB Management an institution for turning promo directors into commercial directors or something more interesting?
OB:
Ha, an institution. I like that, apart from it makes us sound like old farts! I think more than anything we’re a trusted resource for talent. That’s where we get our buzz, whether it’s a debut director shooting a 2k music video for an awesome new artist or pointing an agency to a director they hadn’t considered before, that’s really where we’ve positioned ourselves. But we do love using the world of music to find the next generation of directors, photographers and designers. It’s a good formula.

It’s hard for anyone to make a business out of music videos but our position in that world has great value if harnessed properly. Hmm, maybe an institution is a good description. We do get to see our directors grow through promos, then commercials and sometimes then fly the nest on to features. Maybe we need to be film agents too? Then we really would be an institution for directors.

BSB: Who are some good examples of directors bridging markets and genres?
OB:
You have to look at Somesuch as a company that has done this very successfully with 90 per cent of their directors coming from a background in music videos, many of them still dipping their toes in to creatively stimulate themselves and push the boundaries.

Classic examples that have transcended these worlds are the likes of Romain Gavras and Daniel Wolfe, both of which have brought their individual styles from promos to provide a bold, refreshing antidote to traditional commercials and beyond. In fact, Daniel’s first feature film, Catch me Daddy, comes out later this year and is set to establish him as one of the UK’s brightest talents. If you want to check out some great new talent emerging into commercials from promos, check out Bob Harlow, Abteen Beghari, Ben Strebel, Aoife Mcardle and George Belfield.

BSB: Has working in promos affected the way you spot talent for commercials?
OB:
We certainly know what we’re looking for in directors. It’s not just about their reel but the whole package, their mindset, ideas and clarity of vision when we meet them. I guess the main difference when looking for talent is that music video directors HAVE to have ideas, they need to be able to offer up clever creatives from quite open briefs. You can be the most accomplished, well-crafted filmmaker with impeccable execution but if you can’t come up with an original concept then you’ll never actually book a video. The labels rely heavily on directors to come up with a creative for their artists; the director is essentially doing the agency creative role, it’s 50 per cent of the job in music videos. That’s why I think promo directors make amazing ad directors, because they generally bring more ideas to the table and delve deeper into the concept looking at every possible twist and turn. Dougal Wilson is probably one of the best examples of this.

BSB: Do you ever get the other way round? Commercial directors who want to go into promos?
OB:
Oh yes, many commercial directors crave a bit more freedom, an opportunity to make something for themselves and show the world what they can really do. It’s a great way of showcasing a different skillset if you’re a commercials director that is stuck in a particular style of work.