Unsigned: Chuong Vo

February 24, 2015 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

This young director knows hard graft is the path to mastery.

Chuong Vo is a filmmaker currently based in Australia. Born and raised in Vietnam in a strict Catholic household, he turned to art as a way of expressing himself.

He moved to Australia in 2003 at the age of 11, where he pursued the arts despite his family’s disapproval – they encouraged him to do law or accounting – and ended up studying art and design.

His film production career began at 17 and he soon started making his own short films and experimenting with different styles and visuals, teaching himself the disciplines of editing and VFX.

Having read somewhere that to be good at something you have to put 20,000 hours into it, Vo tries to learn something new about filmmaking everyday, whether it is out on the field filming or locking himself in a room to do the VFX.

At the moment he’s focusing on music videos, having always loved them as a little kid. He remembers dancing to Britney Spears' videos growing up. Being able to collaborate with the musicians is a passion of his. With no musical talents himself, he has a great admiration for them. The opportunity for experimentation in the medium is also a welcome aid in developing his talents.

Considering he didn’t even know how to use a camera five years ago, the reel he’s built up is quite remarkable.

Watch some of his work here:

Under the Influence: Chris Woods

February 12, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

From scuzzy skaters to philosophical admen.

B-Reel’s Chris Woods has shot some weird commercials. From sugar-crazed cat men to rabbits with a talent for intimidation, he’s built his career directing scripts that raise eyebrows. Also a photographer with a particular knack for portraits, some of this weirdness comes through in his portfolio of stills, but overall he’s a hard one to pigeonhole. That’s what got us excited to have a peer into his mind and work out what’s inspired him and his body of work over the years. In his words, here are five of his biggest inspirations.


“I was never that good at the actual skateboarding part, but the people, the culture, and the mindset were a draw that was impossible for me to stay away from. My friends, on the other hand, were amazing skateboarders and I stayed involved by photographing them. A few of them ended up getting sponsored, which meant that my photos were beginning to get published in some reputable skate mags (because of who they were and what they were doing).

They were being asked to submit portraits and because I was the only one around with a camera constantly hung around my neck, I became a portrait photographer (which ended up being a stronger facet for me rather then the ‘action’ shots I was trying to pull off.) This led to photo school, which led to a photo career, which led to shooting for Rolling Stone and Spin, which eventually led to directing for B-Reel London.

The skateboarding films were just as responsible… The Search for Animal Chin, Future Primitive, Public Domain and Ban This were on a constant rotation on the VHS player in the basement, mesmerizing us. They all had this amazing sense of rebellion and fun. This is what I wanted to do. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better - Spike came along with the Girl video and it changed everything for me, which leads me to…”

Spike Jonze

“The Girl video was my introduction to Spike, followed by Yeah Right and Fully Flared. Then I found out that this guy was responsible for brilliant Fat Boy Slim, Weezer and Beastie Boys videos - Jackass, Adaptation, Being John Malcovich, and so on and so on. Who the hell directs an amazing Hollywood movie like Adaptation and then goes and does a skate video that is, in my opinion, just as impressive?

Whatever he does has this amazing sense of humanity that makes you truly invest in caring for his characters (even the non-humans ones like the IKEA lamp). And then there’s this sort of softness to the imagery that’s so amazingly appealing to watch. Everything looked so effortless and simple to achieve (which I now know is quite different). Spike made me understand that you can be a chameleon with many different skill sets while others were telling me to ‘stick to one thing’.

I’m not doing him much justice in this piece, but he’s definitely impacted the way I see and approach things. And for me, working with the likes of Halls, Orbit and Skittles I’ve tried to adopt an adaptable approach to some of the ads I’ve worked on.”

Stand-Up Comedians

“I can’t remember where I heard it but someone once said that if we want to know the absolute truth in history, all we need to do is look to the comedians. This is, of course, because all the good ones tell the truth – there’s nothing funnier.

I used to watch a lot of comedians but more recently I’ve found myself almost studying them. The ‘bits’ are the obvious source of comedy but I’ve been obsessing over the transitions they make between bits. How to get from A to B is where the genius lies and I’ve become a bit obsessed with finding these moments in their acts and trying to pay more attention to how transitions can play a huge part in storytelling whether it be comedic or not. I’d be being lazy if I wasn’t to mention a few of the ones that do this so well it almost goes unnoticed – Louis CK, Rickey Gervais, Doug Stanhope (if you haven’t seen beer hall putsch you should), Jim Jefferies and Bill Burr are at the top for me. I’ve tried to take that humour and include it within certain ads, for example there was a Skittles spot a couple of years ago where we got people to hold their finger to a screen for it to later be licked by a guy dressed as cat!”

Saturday Night Live (Bill Murray)

“I remember watching SNL when I was a kid and I didn’t really understand the impression it was having on me at the time. I remember wanting to send in my skit ideas (because that’s how I thought it worked at the time) and thinking that they would KILL.

There was something about these ‘adults’ that just looked like they were having such an amazing time ‘goofing around’ and making people laugh. It was like they’d found this fountain of youth that the other adults simply watched. I never related to other adults the way I did with these people (and kind of still don’t).

Bill Murray stood out amongst these folks to me as he didn’t really seem to be acting that much. This, of course, is because he is so fucking brilliant and he taught me that there is a TON of comedy in subtleties and in the calm. He would go big from time to time when he needed to but I always loved the way his understated demeanor drew a ton of entertainment and comedy.

Even to this day, when I see him in an interview or something, I can never tell if he is messing with the interviewer or not. He is just so calm and calculated that I never know what’s going on, but I could watch that guy read the dictionary and be entertained for hours.”

Paul Arden – Whatever you think, think the opposite

“I wish I found this book earlier in life but whenever I pass by a bookstore I buy every copy they have and give them as gifts to the younger people I come across. You can get through this book in about 20 minutes and for about two years I would set my alarm a little early and read through this book every morning.
It’s essentially a different way of thinking in easily digestible haiku-type reading. It’s more directed to agency folk but, for me, it has a ton of life lessons in it as well. It makes you want to make creative better and to not pass the blame on a shit budget or bad client.

One of my favorites is a page explaining a professor bathing in a river with only a small towel, when a group of his students come floating by; he wraps the towel around his head. I remember the first time I read this it took me a minute to get the point, but when it clicked I thought it was one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read.

The book has helped me with treatments and the way I approach creative by at least considering what would happen if I listen to the seemingly ‘bad ideas’ and exploring what would come of something that is the complete opposite that I think might be correct. Its one of those books that made me feel dumb in its seeming simplicity.”

Have a look for these influences on Chris’ reel

High Five: February

February 9, 2015 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

It's out with the old, in with the new in this month’s best advertising.

Advertisers love talking about the future, but they’re often more bark than bite. They trot out the same old clichés and archetypes – the ones that are ‘tried and tested’ and the result is bland and, ultimately, ineffective for the client. Not so for our pick of the month’s best advertising. Our first High Five selections of 2015 demonstrate exactly how the ad industry should grasp tomorrow – by embracing change and taking ambitious approaches to clients’ problems.

Brand: Ikea
Title: The Joy of Storage
Production Company: Blink
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production Company Producer: Ewen Brown
Director of Photography: Lasse Frank
Ad Agency: Mother London
Creative Directors: Freddy Mandy, Tim McNaughton
Creatives: Pilar Santos, Rich Tahmesebi
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Design: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: MPC

Ikea – The Joy of Storage

It’s been evident for some years that Ikea really care about their advertising. Their partnership with Mother has delivered impressive work for and this epic is one of their most extraordinary yet. Considering they’re flogging wardrobes, you could argue their approach is over-the-top. But they were ambitious enough to go for it and with ingenious execution, including puppeteering and heaps of VFX magic, it’s ended up a beautiful piece of storytelling. Who thought more space for your T-shirt collection could be so invigorating?


Brand: Kia
Title: You Make Us Make Better Cars
Production Company: Bare Films
Director: Joanna Bailey
Production Company Producer: Sue Caldwell
Executive Producer: Helen Hadfield
Director of Photography: Ben Smithard
Ad Agency: Innocean Worldwide UK
Creative Directors: John Crozier, Dom Sweeney
Agency Producer: Emma Smalley, Alister Campbell
Editing Company: Speade
Editor: Melanie Ann Oliver

Kia – You Make Us Make Better Cars

The genius of this ad lies in the casting. Finding the perfect combination of likeable, charismatic people, Joanna Bailey has managed to create a car commercial about people rather than technology; warm and friendly rather than cold and aspirational. It fits Kia perfectly. They’re not advertising to petrolheads after a new toy to show off at their next track day, just to people who need a car to help them live their lives. The edit is intriguing, cutting off at sometimes unexpected times, but it adds welcome texture to an otherwise straightforward concept.


Brand: MoneySuperMarket
Title:  Dave’s Epic Strut
Production Company: Sonny
Director: Fredrik Bond
Production Company Producer: Shelley Urik
Director of Photography: Roman Vasyanov
Ad Agency: Mother London
Editing Company: Marshall Street Editors
Editor: Tim Thornton-Allen
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Design: Sam Robson
Post Production Company: MPC

MoneySuperMarket – Dave’s Epic Strut

Pure silliness is a tried and tested tactic in today’s advertising and Mother show they know exactly how to pull it off here, but in a way most of us weren’t prepared for. We just got through 2014, “The Year of the Booty” according to the more trivial corners of the media, and there’s something quite in key with the Zeitgeist about subverting that with Dave’s remarkable posterior. The Sharon Osbourne cameo seems a little unnecessary, but they make it work. This campaign continues to deliver the goods in surprising new ways.


Brand: Prince’s Trust
Title: Learn The Heard Way
Production Company: Academy Films
Director: Seb Edwards
Production Company Producer: Dominic Thomas
Director of Photography: Patrick Duroux
Ad Agency: CHI London
Creative Directors: Gavin Torrance, Danny Hunt
Art Director: William Cottam
Copywriter: James Crosby
Agency Producer: David Jones
Editing Company: The Assembly Rooms
Editor: Sam Rice-Edwards
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Post Production Company: MPC

Prince’s Trust – Learn The Hard Way

Our society is far from the meritocracy the establishment would have you believe it is. And this film powerfully reminds us of the hardships some face to make their way in the world. The link between what you see and what you hear is smart, clearly illustrating the strength of character and workplace skills that the least privileged possess, even if it’s hard for them to get the opportunities to demonstrate them. Hopefully this will help the Prince's Trust bridge the opportunity gap, as well as reminding the ad industry to make sure they’re offering opportunities to people from all backgrounds, not just those who grew up in the right households.


Brand: Sport England
Title: This Girl Can
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Kim Gehrig
Production Company Producer: Lee Groombridge
Director of Photography: David Procter
Ad Agency: FCB Inferno
Creative Director: Bryn Attewell
Art Director: Raymond Chan
Copywriter: Simon Cenamor
Agency Producer: Ally Mee
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Tom Lindsay
Post Production Company: Framestore

Sport England – This Girl Can

In answer to the problem that 2 million less women than men exercise in the UK, with fear and judgement cited as the main barrier, Sport England have rolled out this punchy campaign. Perfectly underscored by Missy Elliot’s Get Ur Freak On, women of all ages, stages and sizes get active and embrace exercise without worrying about what others think. It’s got to be good for body confidence in women as a whole, although has received various criticisms from feminists. It’s worth noting that it came from an all-male creative team (there should be more female creatives), but with Kim Gehrig helming the film it depicts a version of femininity that’s far healthier and more exciting than what we’re used to seeing on our screens.


The Anonymous Rep

February 5, 2015 / Features

By Anonymous

One production company's Directors' Rep gets honest about the rights and wrongs of the advertising industry.

When I was asked to spill the beans on the advertising industry from my perspective with a promise of anonymity, apart from the obvious cathartic effect bitching tends to achieve, I thought it could also be a good opportunity to try to set a few misconceptions straight about directors' reps and our role in the industry.

The Good

Let's get into it then. Respect. Most of the reps I know have nothing but admiration and respect for almost everyone in the industry. I'm honoured to have met some of the most creative, friendly and sociable people on the planet. If a rep doesn't love their job - even the cold calling bit - they should get a new job! I think I've got one of the best jobs in the industry.

The best reps love the industry, they love creativity and their passion lies somewhere on the commercial side of production. We gain satisfaction from helping to visualise often vague descriptions and developing 'hair-brained' ideas; pairing up boards with the perfect talent; seeing a job on delivery day with the satisfaction and knowledge that the end product is partly down to our initial creative thinking, our match making and our ability to respond to a brief.

We love to help agency producers. When I show my reels to a single producer or a room full of hungry creatives I take pride in my offering of knowledge and hope our work can help inspire or solve their next creative brief. Of course, there's the more glamorous social side too: events and lunches, Cannes and trips to Amsterdam. I could do without the trips to Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh, but even these trips can be eventful and a warm change from the sometimes abrupt and overly stressed London agencies.

The Bad

Sadly respect isn't always reciprocated. One doesn't expect respect for nothing but, not being given the chance to earn respect – indeed, to be lied to, or worse, strung along by a busy producer that has lost their basic skills of communication and common courtesy – is something that is all too common.

The classic is: “call back next week”, knowing full well they're on holiday or on a three-month shoot in Siberia. That’s nothing though, I’ve had three meetings cancelled by the same producer while I’ve been waiting in their reception after I’ve confirmed with them that morning that we’re still on! Perhaps they've had a bad experience with a rep in the past and think this is acceptable. Well it's not. In fact, whoever you are, it is just plain rude to waste people’s time like that and karma has a funny way of turning up and biting you in the arse.

Don't forget, reps know a lot of creative directors and heads of TV. We love to chinwag, we love hearing the dirt and we love dishing the dirt (like did ya hear about the Freelance Creative that pissed all over the wall at the [redacted] party?) Let's hope that dirt isn't you (Don’t worry we don’t make shit up. There’s way too much good shit to talk about).

Oh yeah, reps love to gossip. You can guarantee we hear about who's leaving where and who's sleeping with who before Campaign (or their wives) have a Scooby. Always makes me laugh when I have to sign an NDA for some 'top secret', usually not-that-great campaign – like who am I going to tell? I should be signing NDAs before lunches.

Here's how to avoid the 'dirt': Just tell us you're not looking for anything, you're up against it, or your boss is shit and has told you to stop seeing new work, even if it is award winning and may be the key to sending your next campaign stratospheric. Or “I'm sorry, I JUST DONT HAVE TIME!” The truth will definitely earn you respect and that rep will do whatever you ask. They will trust you. We're here to help you too, we're a fun lovin' creative resource that can take you out for lunch and gossip with you about the industry.

Give me the script please...

I know this isn't always possible but, getting a beyond vague description of what you're looking for is a monumental waste of everyone's time. Think about what you want, work out ways to describe it and maybe try and throw in a reference – if you don't have a script. 

Oh and if you ask for a reel please watch it. We spend time crafting the right work in the right order to try and help you find a match. Thanks to modern technology we know when you haven’t!

The Ugly

It's not the fucking Oscars! OK, I admit it, the ability to influence millions of people is a hell of a gift. I'll hand it to the best creative teams, sometimes the way you guys think is so on the money, so obviously brilliant, the rest of us kick ourselves for not being able to think like that. But let's remember something, for the most part we’re helping the rich get richer. We aim to manipulate behaviour and thought, often not for the greater good. Sometimes it is for the greater good and that's admirable (reps love to get those scripts in!).

We're not exactly an industry of saints though. One thing that disturbs me greatly in our industry is the extent to which excess is flaunted so crudely, at Cannes particularly, and often lots of the awards ceremonies and events across the year. I think it’s boring to pinpoint certain people’s behaviour around such events because often it is so utterly vulgar I am ashamed to write about it. For the record I try to stay sober, so I remember everything. The only thing I will say is just because you won a Cannes Lions Gold does not mean you are a god who everyone will sleep with.

On a very serious note. Vanity projects are destroying production companies. There are occasions where we’ve spent days or weeks crafting a pitch, sometimes spending thousands of pounds, only to find out the client hasn’t bought the idea. Should we start charging agencies or ego driven creatives for this costly inconvenience? It might not seem like a problem to some of you, but if you don’t tell us it’s a “crazy idea the client hasn’t signed off” that’s not exactly fair as it drains our resources for a real pitch we for a real job. We may not spend as much money on it too for a start. And it will help your credibility when you come to us with a real script for a real job. I’m not saying don’t come to us with creative ideas, I’m just saying be honest please.

The Showdown

I don’t really enjoy ‘dishing the dirt’. It’s making me depressed (not a good trait in a rep). So I will end on this: This IS a fabulous industry full of talented people. There are a few bad’uns but there are a few bad reps too. My name’s ‘The Anonymous Rep’. If you’re still reading this I apologise for any offence I may have caused and suggest you go to bed.

Goodnight, sweet dreams and RESPECT.