Signed: Thibaut Grevet

April 29, 2015 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Graphic design, art direction and extreme sports – all good training grounds for directors.

With a background in graphic design and art direction, young French director Thibaut Grevet came into his directorial career from a promising angle. And the aesthetic considerations of this tradition are clear in the videos he’s worked on so far.

His first steps as a director were auspicious. As an official BMX and surf filmmaker for Vans he shot some of the most influential sportsmen in those fields, capturing these dynamic sports at their most dramatic.

Moving on to similar mini doc style content for Red Bull and Sosh, Thibaut proved his talent for honest, impactful filmmaking, which has allowed him to expand his reel to include commercials, online content, fashion films and longer documentaries.

Able&Baker saw the potential in him and have now welcomed him to their roster.

Watch some of his work here:

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

April 28, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Why do brands want people to love them so badly?

If you’re a normal human being, hearing marketers talking about people loving brands can be baffling. Love is deeply personal. Can we really feel that passionately about a company that makes trainers or mobile phones? If we’re to believe a lot of the ‘thought leadership’ in advertising, the answer is yes, but how realistic is it to expect such a deep relationship between brands and consumers?

Neil Davidson is Managing Partner of agency HeyHuman, who have recently done some behavioural research on this subject that uncovered that 75% of people define easyJet as a “friend with benefits”; 60% have a “secret fling” with McDonald’s and 70% still have a “special relationship” with the NHS. Having watched him questioning the notion of ‘brand love’ at Advertising Week Europe, we interviewed him to go a little deeper into the subject.


The Beak Street Bugle: What’s your problem with the phrase ‘brand love’?
Neil Davidson:
‘Brand love’ is one of those terms that people in marketing all use regularly. It just drops into conversation. But I wonder how often people just nod and say, ‘of course we want brand love,’ without really questioning what we mean by that. Its attractiveness is also its danger. You would never criticise brands for aspiring for people to love them – but for me, it’s quite often too simplistic and also doesn’t dissect what that definition really looks like.

So, way back when, we used to talk about ‘Lovemarks’ [a concept coined by Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts] – which is incredibly emotionally engaging and aspirational. It gets people up in the morning! Doing new things for the brand! Actually, though, how directional and helpful is it? To me, that’s the big challenge.

It’s being aware that there are other ways to go that may be easier to achieve, more effective for the brand and quicker. There’s been a lot of research into human relationships; less research on brand relationships. Think about how many types of relationships you have in your personal life – and then think about how many different types of love relationships you have in your personal life. ‘Love’ would never be the one descriptor for all of those: there’s paternal love; there’s broader family love, there’s ‘true’ love, there’s love of friends... etc. And yet, when it comes to brands, we just talk about ‘love’!

Love has got many forms for brands. Understand what type of love you want. Or, do you actually want brand love?

BSB: Is it even possible for people to feel emotions like love for a made- up entity such as a brand?
The challenge is that you’re talking about something that’s either not real, or else is ‘just’ a physical object. Can you feel love for something? This is one of the things we’ve researched. And we found some people would talk about it in those kinds of terms – but they wouldn’t make it as simplistic as: ‘I love that brand.’ They would talk about a certain type of relationship with a brand that is in the love space, but they would describe it differently.

A good example is how everybody always talks about Apple. Interestingly, a lot of marketing people talk about how people ‘love Apple’ as a brand. However, in our research people talked about Apple being their ‘best friend’ rather than a brand that they had a love relationship with. Obviously that overlaps – but my question would be: What would Apple do differently if they thought their opportunity was for a ‘best friends’ relationship rather than a ‘love’ relationship? Which one is more forgiving? Which one takes you in one direction and which one takes you in a different direction?

Another bit of research found that if you build up a trust relationship as a brand, people are less likely to forgive you if you do something wrong. Whereas, if you set up a more light-hearted relationship, you are more likely to be forgiven. It’s interesting if you looked at, say, a Lloyds or a Barclays versus the brand that is Virgin; they’re both in financial services. You could argue, on that piece of research, that people are more likely to forgive Virgin the next crash, the next indiscretion, the next overcharging. For financial services brands, it’s in the folklore: ‘We must build trust.’ Well, maybe you should – but once you build a serious relationship then you’ve delineated what that relationship is all about. Whereas, if you’re Virgin and it’s kind of ‘Live your life!’, ‘Embrace the world!’ – slightly cheeky, based on Richard Branson – then almost inadvertently they’re setting up a relationship that’s delineated differently. People could be more forgiving when a Virgin brand messes something up. I don’t think people talk about that.

The interesting thing, for me, is if we’re going to use useful and thoughtful parallels between brand relationships and human relationships. So, for example, how often do you have a friend who you probably see once a week, which for various reasons might be four times more than you see your family? You don’t necessarily have to build a deep relationship to have a regular relationship. This challenges some of the CRM [customer relationship management] thinking: What is CRM about? How does it work? Is it like your mate who’s always texting saying: ‘Do you want to go to the pub tonight?’, so you end up going to the pub? Or is it like your mum, who makes you feel you should go and see her once a month?

BSB: So, deep, loving relationships might not be as desirable as regular, friendly ones?
I know that personally I fly easyJet more than I might, just because I can book a flight on my mobile app. Now that I’ve discovered the British Airways app, things might go slightly differently there – it’s that ease point.
People talk about UX [user experience] and things like that being incredibly important. I think, in a lot of ways, this research elevates disciplines like UX to a different level. It’s not just about removing barriers; it’s about doing things that will create a much more emotionally engaging relationship. It does seem that the research that’s been done on this is saying it’s creating these emotionally positive responses in the brain, which previously we used to just talk about as ‘brand love’, or something like that. It muddles with that spectrum.

Maybe UX isn’t sexy, but when you think about brands such as Über and others that just deliver somebody else’s service, brands which are on the rise, then the ones that are going to win and create an emotional engagement are the ones that are using technology to make it easy. That isn’t necessarily sexy, but I wonder whether sometimes these brands that will come up will be because they’re created by people who don’t even know the old market models. For them it’s just: ‘How do I make somebody’s life better?’

There has got to be an emotionally engaging part to this as well, but if I always know that with, say, I’m always going to pay a pound more – because that is the charge – then me thinking it’s a cuddly brand is only going to be part of the equation. They’ve got to make life easier as well for me to make me think: ‘It’s only a pound.’

So the old rules still apply: appeal to people’s most basic motivations, connect with them and do it in a simple way. That doesn’t mean you can’t use whizzy technology, but it does mean you should think about the level of complexity that you might be tempted to create just because you can.
BSB: Do you think too many brands aspire to being loved when they might do better fostering a more pragmatic relationship with people? ND: There will always be brands that pull it off. They will be the ones that always get quoted whenever anyone does a workshop where people say: ‘My favourite brand is... ’ I suppose the challenge is, where human beings run a brand, then people want to get up in the morning and think they’re either working on a brand like that, or striving to create a brand like that.

Even going back to old brands, Waitrose giving away a free newspaper and free coffee at the weekend isn’t sexy, but on another level it’s genius! It shows they understand their audience and what matters to that audience in terms of making their life better. You don’t need technology to do that. The amount of people I hear waxing lyrical about their free coffee and newspaper from Waitrose! It’s not a big thing, but it’s sometimes going to be the little things that are disproportionately important.

I’d really want brands to ask what kind of relationship they want and why – before they go: ‘We want to be loved.’ Because we all know that in real life, people who walk about going ‘I want to be loved by everybody!’ aren’t necessarily the most balanced people!

I think we want it both ways as brands. We want to steal the human relationship analogies, but we also want to ignore the bits that ‘aren’t helpful’ – even though they are actually helpful. Is it realistic for every brand to be loved? Of course not. How many types of love are there? There isn’t just one type. How many other types of relationships are there? And why are we ignoring that?

‘Lovemarks’ is a brilliant sales pitch, but Lovemarks has been around for a long time now and the world has changed. It’s time to look a bit deeper at the brand relationship.

Ridley Scott. As good for you today as he’s always been.

April 21, 2015 / Features

By Jacqueline Holmes

It's quite hard to imagine Ridley Scott as an eager young director.

A map marked with possible sites for filming Hovis TV commercials demanding an atmosphere of nostalgia can be found tucked inside the Hovis Archive files held at the History of Advertising Trust (HAT). The map is a tiny but fascinating ‘documentary crumb’ reflecting how nostalgia became an evocative part of the brand’s advertising in the 1970s.

Think of the name Ridley Scott and sci-fi films like Alien, Blade Runner or Prometheus, maybe historic epics like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven or his latest offering Exodus: Gods and Kings… the list goes on, immediately come to mind.

Scott is renowned for storytelling and the atmospheric visual impact of his work regardless of the genre. He directed the celebrated series of much-loved Hovis commercials, including Bike Ride featuring a bakery delivery boy pushing his bicycle up a cobbled Gold Hill in Shaftsbury, Dorset, first screened in 1973. It had a 10-day re-run in 2006 to mark the 120th anniversary of Hovis, set up as flour millers and distributors in 1886 but only later diversifying into bread making.

Scripts, stills, photographs and notes associated with the 1970s Hovis series of commercials help to recreate their back-story. A cine film taken on set during the shooting of the Homecoming commercial – the one about a soldier returning to his community after World War I and his welcome home – shows behind-the -scenes activities, including Scott sawing wood to help dress the set. This rare film has now been converted into digital format by HAT so it can be easily viewed by researchers on screen.

The notes for the 1977 Runaway commercial – the story of the young boy running away from home but being persuaded to return by the postman – provide the breakdown of the production company’s quoted costs. The director’s fee was £2,250, while the producer’s fee was £450 and £6,310 for the crew for three days. Other costs included £200 for walkie-talkies and smoke machine, £900 for catering and £1,350 for editing.

Scott came to directing via the BBC, which he joined in 1962 as a trainee set designer. While there he attended a directors’ training course and his first job was for an episode of the popular police series Z Cars.

Attracted by more lucrative opportunities offered in advertising, Scott, with his younger brother Tony Scott, formed the advertising production company RSA Films (Ridley Scott Associates) in 1968 and spent the next 10 years making some of the best-known and best-loved TV commercials, many for the innovative Collett Dickenson Pearce advertising agency. He has claimed to have been involved in the production of “roughly 2,700 commercials”.

“Biographers of Ridley Scott will find HAT to be a mine of information, not only by viewing the Hovis Archive but also by accessing other collections containing complementary documents, such as the J Walter Thompson (London) advertising agency archive” says Alistair Moir, HAT’s Archive Collections Manager. Amongst its rich seams can be found an internal memo from Jeremy Bullmore dated 1965 and addressed to ‘All Producers’. Headed “Ridley Scott”. It begins: “I have recently met and talked to this young Director and would very much like to bring him to your attention...”

Why Story is Vital

April 20, 2015 / Features

By Andy Orrick

Rattling Stick’s Chief of Stuff talks stories, from Greek Myths to ripped trousers.

During the Advertising Week Europe Festival at the end of March in London, the APA hosted a successful session titled The Renaissance of Storytelling. The session was presented by Steve Davies and the speakers were Nikolaj Scherfig, writer of the Scandinavian TV drama The Bridge, Peter Souter, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer of TBWA and writer of Married, Single, Other for the BBC and Andy Orrick, Chief of Stuff at Rattling Stick. Andy wrote and presented the following talk, which we have published in full for you here.


For the last month or so, I've been reading the Greek Myths to my kids and they’ve been loving them. One day, a couple of weeks back however, I tried to read the story of The Wooden Horse with a stinking cold and it fell massively flat. There was no rhythm, the characters limped off the page, and it was like wading through molasses on a grey Sunday in January.

Even though the kids had since moved on to some other tale, I felt a sense of duty to give The Wooden Horse another go. I hadn't made them care about it at all. For 4,000-years the story has passed from generation to generation, then it reaches me and I royally bugger it up. So I summoned my best Dame Judy and read it again - this time I made it sing like GaGa at the Oscars.

When I got home from work the next day I found Darth Vader and Elsa from Frozen, wedging Beanie-Boos into a shoebox. They were waging a stealth war on an army of Barbie’s in the kitchen. The story had hit home. My work was done. The Ancient Greeks could stop spinning in their graves.

The reason I wanted to tell you this ridiculously middle-class tale is because it made me think that we owe it to story to tell it well. Story has a power. But it takes real skill to awaken that power and use it effectively. So on that note, I thought I would just talk around three key points:

1. Story is vital to us

2. We gravitate to the best storytellers

3. The best storytellers respect their audience


1. Story is vital to us

To explain why story is vital to us, it’s first good to remind ourselves just how it works.

So, I want you to imagine a character called Andy. He's a nice, marginally overweight dad on stage at AdWeek delivering a speech. And let's imagine this speech means an awful lot to Andy, maybe he feels he’s failed in some way? It's important he overcomes his fear and succeeds to prove his worth to both himself and his family. He’s plucked up the courage to give it a go and he’s brought Darth and Elsa along for moral support.

So the first thing the writer has to do is to make you feel empathy for Andy, and he’ll do this by making something horrible happen to him that he doesn’t deserve. So let's make Andy get terrible stage fright mid-flow - he’s totally paralyzed - and because you like him, you really feel for him now.

It’s crucial that the writer fosters this emotional connection between you and Andy. It means that from here on in, you will be feeling what Andy feels and therefore the writer has gained some control over you. Andy is basically the writer’s Voodoo doll, so when the writer messes with Andy’s feelings, he’s actually messing with yours.

So, back to the story - just when Andy doesn’t think it can get much worse, he feels a draft around his crotch. His fly is gaping open. He goes to zip it up, but in the process drops his speech. As he bends down to gather up the pages, he hears a huge rip. His trousers have split right up the backside. Andy stands quickly. He edges backwards and knocks the lectern over. And so on, and so on. The writer just piles anxiety on top of anxiety. And as we’re all story masochists, on the one hand you’ll be willing it to end, but on the other you’ll be compelled to watch.
Just when the writer’s got you feeling all is lost, and you’re in the depths of Andy’s despair, Andy looks out into the audience to see the faces of Darth and Elsa smiling back at him. They give him a little thumbs-up, willing him on. They love him whatever he does, he’s their dad. So Andy finds his courage and soldiers forth. He finishes his speech and it ends to rapturous applause and it’s this applause that releases Andy from his fear - and also you from yours. It’s a big fat cathartic air punch. Happy chemicals whiz through your body. The tension sails off into the sunset. Praise the Lord!

So how has the story worked?

Well, it should’ve taught you something about the human condition. It feels bad making a tit of yourself, but it’s how you deal with it that counts. It should’ve taught you something about the world around you. Martin Luther King must’ve had balls of steel to deliver the speeches he did. And finally, the story should’ve persuaded you of something. Making a speech at AdWeek leads to humiliation. You do not like to feel humiliation. You will never make a speech at AdWeek.

So stories do many things for us, but most important of all, they allow us to test and rehearse our emotions.


2. We gravitate to the best storytellers

It’s just a basic fact of life. Think about how you choose your mates, your partner, what you listen to, what you watch, and what you read. We all have different ideas of what makes a great storyteller, but none of us tolerate average for long.

We're all Paul Thomas Anderson in our own imaginations, very few of us are in reality. If we were all given a canvas and paints, I wonder how many Caravaggio’s we’d find? Likewise pens and paper, I wonder how many Harper Lees?

Technology offers democracy, which is great. Everyone can create, produce and distribute stuff themselves, but we still live in a meritocracy too. If a storyteller can’t make us feel, at best we’ll switch off grumpy that our time’s been wasted; at worst we won’t even notice them at all.

I learnt the other day that our attention span is now down to 8 seconds. I also learnt that 4% of advertising is looked on favourably, 7% unfavourably, and 89% is ignored or goes completely unnoticed.

If as an entire industry, we’re making stuff that’s in the 4% bit, stuff that competes with the best stories out there, then attention spans will be as long as we want - provided that we keep people entertained and emotionally hooked in. If we’re making stuff that’s in the 89% bit then of course attention spans are 8 seconds. It does seem strange that in this age of attention deficit, we’ll happily watch 12 hours of Game of Thrones in one sitting?

The Box-Set world appreciates the power of great writers - great storytellers - and it understands that writing takes time, which the ad industry, and the world it’s functioning within, no longer affords any of us. But all it means is that advertising is more often than not pushed quickly into the world where it limps straight to the 89% club. Everything competes for our attention on the Internet - great storytelling always wins out in the end.

If you take anything away from this speech, it should be this. You should always try to work with the best storytellers you can, whatever you call them, whatever they do, whatever price point you’re working at - their value will far out way their cost. They can make your audience feel something. And as Bill Bernbach said:

“You can say the right thing about a product and nobody will listen. You’ve got to say it in such a way that people will feel it in their gut. Because if they don’t feel it, nothing will happen."


3. The best storytellers respect their audience

I asked Peter Souter why he writes. He said:

“I write for the noise people make when they think something is funny and the noise they don’t make when they think something is sad. That and the money, obviously.”

Then I asked him who he writes for. He said:

“I write for anyone who's ever been loved or been in love. Because I hope that's everyone.”

What a massive softie. Inherent in Peter’s words is a genuine respect for audience - for people - and an understanding of the universal power of story. If we delve a bit deeper, the real reason that Peter, and all the other great storytellers respect their audience, is because first and foremost they are their own audience. They begin by making the work for themselves.

And they’re not just any old audience, they’re their own cynical as hell, picky as fuck audience - if it’s not good enough for them, then it’s not good enough for us. If they don’t feel it, neither will we. We reward them by trusting their judgment – they are our quality control.

I asked Ringan Ledwidge how he chooses the ads he makes, and he said:

“If it feels to me like a story worth telling, then it should be a story worth watching.”
I asked Nikolaj Scherfig whom the writing team wrote The Bridge for. He said:


In an interview recently, David Heyman, Producer of Gravity, Paddington and the Harry Potter series, said:

“I had no idea Gravity would connect with audiences the way it did. I just know what I like, and if I like it, someone else will too.”

We should respect the judgment of great storytellers more, rather than always deferring to focus groups and data. From the time we lived in caves we’ve gravitated to the best storytellers, we look to them as leaders. Yet instead of trusting their experience and opinion now, we defer to Doris from Dudley for the answers. Doris can tell us what she wants, sure, great storytellers can tell her what she needs.
Mark Rylance said recently that he began to have some success as an actor when he stopped trying to be liked and started being honest. People like honest.

Advertising pretends it’s not what it really is these days. It’s not advertising it’s content. It’s not advertising its entertainment. It’s not advertising it’s editorial. It thinks if it comes in disguise to your party, you won’t notice what’s behind its mask.

What you’d prefer is that it rocked up with a nice bottle, talked on your level, was honest, then told you a brilliant story that made you piss yourself laughing. Then you might give it some attention, you might even buy the thing it’s selling - because that’s still the point of it all, isn’t it?

We all love a bit of trash, but we all love stories that appeal to our intelligence too, stories that challenge us, that take us out of where we feel comfortable. Think about the Greek Myths, I thought they’d be too difficult for Darth and Elsa, but I’ve never seen them so wide-eyed - those stories didn’t speak down to them, they spoke up.
So to bring this to a close...

Story is vital to us because it helps us make sense of our outer and inner worlds, and it allows us to test and rehearse our emotions. We gravitate to the best storytellers - it’s a simple fact of life - they make story do its job properly, they make sure we feel something and they mess with our emotions in the most entertaining way possible. And the best storytellers respect their audience. First and foremost, they are their own audience, and they don’t let crap through their own net.

We’re living in a period of uncertainty. We’re all looking for something constant, something real, to believe in. We’re looking to things like common sense, like basic human values - we’re looking to things like story. With that in mind, I’d suggest that we’re not experiencing a renaissance of storytelling - rather just a reconnection to it.

I’ll leave you with one piece of advice from the bestselling storyteller of all time, Stephen King:

“Never use adverbs” 

Thanks for reading conscientiously.

The ADCAN Graduates

April 14, 2015 / Features

By Alex Reeves

The award ceremony has already launched careers in its first year.

Last year we spoke to ADCAN founders Brydon Gerus and Dan Heighes about the launch of the new industry award pairing new filmmaking talent with small charities. A free-to-enter film competition, in association with Vimeo, ADCAN encourages unsigned filmmakers and animators to submit a 30-second ad from a chosen charity brief. With support and judging from industry giants from Nexus to Framestore, it showed a lot of promise, but one big question loomed over ADCAN: would it actually work for the young filmmakers who entered?

That question has now been answered. Careers are being built on the back of ADCAN winning films. Emily Atterton, who produced the winning entry for Learning Through Landscapes, now works as a Production Manager at Rattling Stick; and Filmawi & Esrael – the directing duo behind the winning Open Cinema film – have since found representation at Partizan. We caught up with Emily and Esrael about the impact ADCAN has had on their lives.

Emily Atterton

The Beak Street Bugle: How did you hear about ADCAN?
Emily Atterton:
I worked at a corporate video company called VisualMedia for six years. I started with a photography background but I went to the production side. Because it’s a small company I’d kind of got to the top of the production side. It was a really nice company [but] I had always wanted to get into advertising since I was young. I thought this was my time to try and get in.

I saw a tweet about ADCAN. It was fortunate timing. I had no idea it was brand new. I was reading about it and it was all the production companies I wanted to try and get in front of – the big guys. I had a meeting with Madeleine Sanderson [Managing Director] at Partizan around the same time. She was going to give me some advice about how to get in front of these people so it was quite nice timing.

I read the charity briefs and I mentioned it to a really good friend of mine who was keen to help me. Abbie [Brandon], the director, worked with us as an editor before but I knew she wanted to get into directing. So they were both immediately on board.

Then I went on holiday to this desert island in Columbia. I was sunbathing and it was just ticking away in the back of my mind. I came up with the idea for the script.

I came back, put together our crew. It was really easy to get everyone on board, which was gratifying because it’s a charity thing and for crew they’re not really going to get anything out of it.

BSB: Did the fact that people were working for free guide how you wrote the script?
That was exactly it. And I chose what I think was maybe the harder brief, the Learning Through Landscapes one, because it had to be outdoors. Which, given the time and [the fact that] we live in this foul country was always going to be difficult. And it kind of needed to have a child in it, which has its own complications.

But I think once people commit to something they know what production’s like, so they know there might be challenges and issues and you’ve got to be a bit flexible. You’re always thinking ‘how can I persuade someone to give up their bank holiday weekend?’

The other difficulty was getting a location for free because we needed a park. And London’s official Parks of the Royal Boroughs charge a fortune. [One of the parks’] cheapest they could do as a student and charity combo offer was something like £500. But I managed to persuade someone to give us some land in Redbridge for £20. You have to have everything done as properly and legally as per advertising standards. So that was quite challenging from a production point of view. I don’t think ADCAN was necessarily directed at producers but I tried to make it that way.

The shoot largely went well. Then we had an illustrator for the animations and a separate VFX guy to do all the animating, so everyone’s working remotely in a narrow time so you can’t dictate when things happen. Everyone’s got to be available. It did take a while. They extended the deadline but I think we just made the original deadline.

BSB: How did things progress from there?
Then we had the workshops, which were amazing. It was generally really focused on directors. We went to Rattling Stick on the morning of the first day and met [First Lady] Katie Keith and [Chief of Stuff] Andy Orrick. I made it quite clear quickly that I was producing not directing, but everyone made sure that they spoke to me about that too. I was the only one.

Sara Dunlop came and spoke to us about an amazing campaign she’d just done and they showed us the treatment they gave to the agency. So it was interesting to be in that environment with those sorts of people.

We came to Partizan and spoke to loads of directors there as well as Nexus and The Mill. Meeting people who are in the industry and hearing what they’ve got to say on any topic was really interesting. But hearing about campaigns you’ve seen and what goes into them [was great] because it’s a hidden art, what goes into production.

For me it was useful to put faces to names, meeting people that you’ve heard about and to have conversations with them about what they’re doing. They were telling us about difficulties they were having or campaigns that have been unexpectedly successful. It was [good] getting airtime with those types of people.

BSB: What was the actual award ceremony like?
It was at Framestore’s screening room. We had drinks for an hour – really nice and informal. Everyone was keen to find the entrants so we didn’t really have to sell ourselves. They came up to us. Then we went into the screening room and Brydon gave a really good speech.

They screened all the ads by category and announced the winner of each. We won ours, which I was really surprised by and really happy about. It was kind of embarrassing.

BSB: How did ADCAN lead to you getting a new job after that?
Oddly, the next day I bumped into Andy Orrick in Shoreditch, just getting a coffee. We had a chat and he said I should email Katie and follow up. I think I had three interviews in total. And then they offered me a freelance trial as a production manager.

On the first day Andy McLeod was doing this Mulberry Christmas advert with the unicorn. The production manager was leaving so they asked me to sit with the producer and production manager and watch for two days and then see what I thought. I just started working on it rather than watching. The two days turned into two weeks and then I finished the whole production.

It was a baptism of fire. There was loads of stuff I didn’t fully understand, but everyone was really helpful. That was an amazing production to be in. I finished that and they asked if I’d come on full-time. I’ve been there six months now, I think.

BSB: What was the biggest role ADCAN played on getting you that job?
Meeting the guys. We made a nice ad which got us in front of them. The industry seems so much about relationships and personalities. It’s so important. Even agency to production – they pick the producers they want to work with. It’s not necessary to have qualifications. Once they’re in front of you and they like you and your work, I think that’s it.


Esrael Alem

BSB: What’s your background in filmmaking and how did you hear about ADCAN?
Esrael Alem:
Me and Fil [directing partner Filmawi Efrem] had been doing stuff every other week. Any time we had money we would shoot stuff. We were shooting music videos for labels when we were 16 or 17.

I did two years of uni and decided to leave. I was working on films in between everything. I was a night runner in a post house while I was at university. But university was pointless for me. I found that because I’d worked on feature films and stuff while I was in college and in secondary school I’d worked on a lot of shoots, when I went to university it was like going back to step one and having to relearn everything. It was too slow for me. I left and the first place I applied for was Partizan.

I was an in-house runner at Partizan for a good six months. I was on quite a lot of shoots. One of the producers saw one of our recent jobs for Warner and said ‘why don’t you apply?’ After that conversation we had a period of three months busy, just back-to-back on various different jobs, so we never had time.

The week before the deadline me and Fil sat in his room and said ‘oh shit. We have to actually write something.’ So we sat down for two days, wrote an idea for Open Cinema and then on the Friday we went and shot it. We stupidly shot it on film, which meant we had essentially no time to edit. If you shoot on a Friday it’ll take two days to develop and you get it on the Monday. So we got it on the Monday morning of the [deadline day], edited it that morning, had a guy do sound design on it that day and then upload it by midnight.

This was right before they extended the deadline. We were sweating. We got it done but the points that we needed to take time on we took time on, so when we shot it took us as long as it would take us. We took time finding the characters and stuff like that. That week was used very well.

BSB: Was it hard to get people together to help you for free?
I’ve got a lot of crew mates because I’ve worked as a runner since I was 14. So I knew a lot of people. The people we used were people that came up through film school with us. Then we pulled in a favour from Arri to get us some free kit. Location: the estate stuff was free. The only thing we had to pay for was this little community centre, which we gave them a donation for.

We shot all of it in a day.

BSB: So you found out you were shortlisted next and then went to the workshops. How did you find those?
It was great to meet people in production. We still keep in touch with Andy. He’s really nice. We like the idea of getting to know people in the industry. Crew-wise, I know everyone in commercials through work and everyone knows me because I’m the guy with the afro. And when we need help I can call people and they’re willing to give me free monitors, whatever we need. People always look out for the runners they’ve seen grow up in the industry, so it’s quite nice. But when you meet production it’s even nicer because you get to see a different side. We’re crew-led directors. We don’t really know producers.

It was nice also going to post houses. One of the things was we met Pat [Joseph, Co-founder] at The Mill and we still talk to him. He helped us grade the video we’d just finished when we were nominated and we’ve been doing all our projects ever since with them. You get good relationships going.

I think ADCAN is the coolest out of all the awards out there because it’s not made by an award company for industry people. It’s made by industry people for people who are not in the industry. So they know everything. It’s not like this company trying to push down new talent to agencies and stuff. People in the industry really want new talent and they’re willing to look far and wide to find that.

BSB: What happened after ADCAN?
So we won our category and the day after me and Fil were getting on with this music video. We’d just finished the edit. I’d taken a month off to pursue directing a bit more and then possibly leave. But I got this email from one of the producers saying they wanted to have a chat about my future at Partizan. I came in for a chat and they asked if I was interested in staying and working but as a junior director at Partizan [with Filmawi]. There are only a few companies that do that kind of thing. Rattling Stick do it and Partizan have a history of doing it. They keep and nurture all their directors. One of the reasons we stayed is because Madeleine takes pride in knowing who’s doing what and knowing how good they are. As soon as we got the email from the producer we got an email from Madeleine. We had a chat and we started directing here.

BSB: How much do you think that was influenced by your success in ADCAN?
Each group was judged by different production companies. And our group was judged by Rattling Stick and Daniel Kleinman, so it was another production company that gave us the kudos and the chance to win. Partizan must’ve seen that and thought there’s something in here. When Madeleine spoke to us she said she felt ‘there’s something there and I’d like to nurture it,’ which is nice, having someone say ‘I would like to see you guys grow.’

Three weeks later we got our first job here, which was branded content / a commercial for Fiat with the magician Dynamo. That was like being thrown in at the deep end. We had to figure things out.

BSB: Do you have any advice for ADCAN entrants this year?
We made a film that can well work for Open Cinema but also can just work for us. We went about making a film that told a story and sold what needed to be sold. People shouldn’t try to win the competition. People should just make the idea that they can show to people even if they don’t win. You’ve got to make it work for you.

BSB: What motivated you to enter?
We just enjoy it. We’re not even serious. It’s passion. I hope more passionate people can do it because what’s beautiful about charity adverts is there’s a lot of heart and soul put into each project. You have an emotional connection to it and it’s tangible and you can see it. Like the whole thing about getting freebies from people – the thing about charity adverts and any job that we’ve done, we’ve learnt that when the crew are into it and want to help out you see the result being ten times better than when people just do it as a job.

I think charity adverts [win awards] because a lot of heart has gone into each job. The passion that inspires people wins those awards.

ADCAN is now accepting entries for this year’s competition until 7th August 2015.

High Five: April

April 9, 2015 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Five films to restore your faith in advertising.

We were encouraged by the quantity of great advertising that came out over the past month. It made choosing the five best pieces of video advertising even harder than usual, but it’s a good sign. As always, our picks of the month are packed full of talent, wit and finesse. Inspiring stuff.

Brand: Channel 4
Title: The Outsider
Production Company: Nexus
Directors: Smith & Foulkes
Production Company Producer: Tracey Cooper
Ad Agency: 4Creative
Creative Directors: Chris Bovill, John Allison
Creatives: Jack Croft, Stacey Bird
Agency Producer: Shananne Lane
Music Company: SIREN
Composer: Alex Baranowski
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designers: Anthony Moore, Philip Bolland

Channel 4 – The Outsider

Advertising doesn’t always get animation right, but when animators bring a script to life with flair the results can be iconic. Smith & Foulkes can do iconic. We’ve seen that in their work for Honda over the years and more recently in their Stand Up To Cancer ad. Combined with a classic underdog narrative, the master craftsmanship here goes a long way to promoting The Grand National, one of Channel 4’s flagship sporting events. It should appeal to the My Little Pony crowd, especially if the festival can make it through their third year without a horse death.


Brand: Dulux
Title: Colourless Future
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Daniel Wolfe
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese
Director of Photography: Robbie Ryan
Ad Agency: BBH London
Creative Directors: Martha Riley, Nick Allsop
Creatives: Richard Hooley, Victoria Jagger
Agency Producer: Kirsty Dye
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Dominic Leung
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designers: Andy Shelley, Stephen Griffiths
Post Production Companies: Framestore (Grading), Glassworks (VFX)

Dulux – Colourless Future

For the past year or so Dulux ads have taken us to dark, dystopian alternate realities of colour prohibition. It’s a slightly ridiculous idea but it’s always been delivered in a tongue-in-cheek way with a beautiful filmic quality. This sci-fi romp could well be the best one yet. Daniel Wolfe’s artful direction combined with brilliant visual effects bring the idea alive. Respect to colourist Simon Bourne too for the striking grade. This must've been an interesting job for a man whose livelihood depends on an understanding of colour. Together they've created a visual feast fit for the big screen.


Brand: TENA
Title: Control
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Jeff Low
Production Company Producer: Toby Courlander
Director of Photography: Alex Melman
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Directors: Toby Allen, Jim Hilson
Art Director: Jeremy Tribe
Copywriter: Prabs Wignarajah
Agency Producer: Polly Lowles
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Saam Hodivala
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Post Production Company: The Mill

TENA – Control

Taking a page out of the Old Spice book of macho advertising, this montage of bizarre vignettes nails a very American brand of humour – an impressive feat considering the awkward nature of the product. Stirling Gravitas, our hero, is perfectly cast and delivers great comic timing under Jeff Low’s skilful direction. It’s funny, but whether it’s right for the audience is something only time will tell. The planners at AMV BBDO probably know what they’re doing, so we can only give them the benefit of the doubt for now.


Brand: Volvo
Title: Life Paint
Production Company: Caviar
Director: Andrew Telling
Production Company Producer: Adam Smith
Director of Photography: Jeremy Valender
Ad Agency: Grey London
Creative Director: Hollie Newton
Creatives: Jonas Roth, Rasmus Smith Bech
Agency Producer: Francesca Mair
Editing Company: GreyWorks
Editor: Matt Newman
Music Company: Wake The Town
Composer: Adam Halogen
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound Designer: Munzie Thind
Post Production Companies: Finish, Gramercy Park Studios

Volvo – Life Paint

We’ll be shocked if this doesn’t win awards. Completely in key with the current spirit of the ad industry, the Life Paint campaign actually makes the world a better place rather than just trotting out rhetoric. Safety and innovation are at the heart of what Volvo is respected for so it works perfectly for them. But more importantly, this new product will likely save lives. The film’s great too. Directed by Andrew Telling, who we featured back when he was still unsigned a couple of years ago, it gets the idea across clearly and with a visual panache that any Scandinavian brand would be proud of.


Brand: Weedol
Title: I’m Weeding Right Now
Production Companies: dummy., Outsider
Director: Harold Einstein
Executive Producers: Richard Packer, Eric Liney
Director of Photography: Jonathan Freeman
Ad Agency: McGarryBowen
Creative Directors: Remco Graham, Richard Holmes
Agency Producer: Abbi Tarrant
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Mark Edinoff
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Post Production Company: The Mill

Weedol – I’m Weeding Right Now

Talk about no frills. This ad is a single, simple joke making a persuasive point about a product. It’s sort of old school in that way, but that’s why it stands out. They’ve cut the fat and everyone involved has delivered to the best of their abilities for what was almost certianly a slim budget. You don’t often see good commercials for weed killer either, making it all the more impressive.