Signed: Dropbear

January 15, 2016 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Agile's latest signing has a vibrant reel of graphical, stop-motion delights.

AKA Agile Films’ newest director Dropbear (whose real name is Jonathan Chong) remembers being enthralled by the stop-motion animations that Sesame Street used to feature between segments when he was a kid. He’d wake up unreasonably early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons and always being loved being taken to the cinema. 

He studied graphic design at university and his love for film and animation laid dormant until his final year, when he discovered Jan Švankmajer, Hayao Miyazaki, the Bolex Brothers and Henry Selick.

After graduating he worked as a stamp designer at Australia Post for a few years and at other design studios, before deciding that he wanted to work more with moving images. He taught himself by making simple animated loops and experimenting with different techniques such as rotoscoping, stop-motion and motion graphics and found a lot of the techiniques of graphic design were transferrable. Over time he began to get more animation work and less graphic design projects until he became a full time animation director.

His big break came in 2009 after completing his first stop-motion music video for Hudson and Troop's track Against the Grain. An animation using coloured pencils, it went viral within days and was featured on a number of influential sites and blogs. The global exposure launched his career as a stop-motion animator and ever since he’s been thrilling the internet with his meticulously crafted music videos.

Watch some of his work here:

High Five: January

January 14, 2016 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

This month’s best ads are designed to make you crack a smile.

When advertising makes you feel good, you associate those feelings with the advertised brand. That’s what they hope to do, anyway. Clients know this, and they’re desperately trying to drag you out of your January blues. These five are some of the most effective, in our opinion.

Brand: Center Parcs
Title: Bears
Production Company: Mustard
Director: Ben Liam Jones
Production Company Producer: Nick Papworth
Ad Agency: Brothers and Sisters
Executive Creative Director: Andy Fowler
Creatives: Ollie Wolf, Malcolm Duffy, Indy Selvarajah
Agency Producer: Jennifer Kennedy
Editor: Elena De Palma
Sound Company: GCRS
Sound Designer: Tom Pugh
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Center Parcs – Bears

This anthropomorphic triumph nails it on several fronts. The idea that, like bears, we feel more at home when immersed in nature fits perfectly with Center Parcs’ offering. The family are adorable and, thanks to the stellar CGI work of Electric Theatre Collective and the emotional awareness of director Ben Liam Jones, they’re a lovable bunch – quite an achievement considering they’d tear your throat out if you met them in real life. An undeniably warm and fuzzy film to get you booking an outdoorsy holiday.

 

Brand: Cillit Bang
Title: The Mechanic
Production Company: Partizan
Director: Michael Gracey
Production Company Producer: Khalid Tahhar
Director of Photography: Carl Nilsson
Ad Agency: BETC Paris
Creative Directors: Stephane Xiberras, Jaques Jolly
Creatives: Alexandre Saad, Marie Baillot, Guillaume Rebbot
Agency Producers: David Green, Emilie Cointot
Editing Company: Royalpost
Editor: Stuart Bowen
Sound Company: GUM

Cillit Bang – The Mechanic

Let’s be honest. We’re going to miss Barry Scott. His passion for this all-purpose cleaning product was an inspiration to us all for many years, the likes of which we may never again see on our televisions. But there’s something about this Flashdance homage that captures the satisfaction of having a really good cleaning session perfectly. It’s brilliantly choreographed, cleverly shot and fun to watch. It must have been quite a relief when they finally got all those moves in the can.

 

Brand: Nissan
Title: Hoybot
Production Company: Somesuch
Director: Bob Harlow
Production Company Producer: Dougal Meese
Director of Photography: Benoit Soler
Ad Agency: TBWA\
Creatives: Simon Morris, Dean Webb
Agency Producer: Fiona Campbell
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Thomas Carter
Music Company: Finger Music
Composer: Daniel Lenz
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designers: Phil Bolland, Anthony Moore
Post Production Company: The Mill

Nissan – Hoybot

Of all the car manufacturers, Nissan’s reputation is one of the most high tech, so creating themselves a mascot that’s more machine than man was a neat fit. The style of the film is smart. It looks like a teaser trailer for the sort of sci-fi superhero movie we’re inundated with these days. There’s even a digital graphic novel to go with it. It’s light-hearted, different and an original way of using Sir Chris as an ambassador.

 

Brand: THINK!
Title: Doghouse
Production Company: Smuggler
Director: Guy Shelmerdine
Production Company Producer: Jason Scanlon
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Directors: Martin Loraine, Steve Jones
Creatives: Adrian Rossi, Alex Grieve
Agency Producer: Mat Towell
Editing Company: Stitch
Editor: Tim Hardy
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: The Mill

THINK! – Doghouse

The road safety category has been repetitive for a long time, often relying on plain shock tactics. That only makes this clever approach even more refreshing. Bravely admitting that not drinking and driving can cause trouble, it pushes the point home that capitulating can potentially be much worse. It’s well cast, relatable and with a brilliantly British sense of humour it’s a film that does its life-saving role justice. It's a funny road safety infomercial. That's impressive.

 

Brand: Thomas Cook
Title: Pool Kid
Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Director: Mark Albiston
Production Company Producer: Kate Taylor
Director of Photography: Justin Brown
Ad Agency: Albion London
Creative Director: Debs Gerrard
Creative: Hugo Isaacs
Agency Producer: Petrina Kilby
Editing Company: Tenthree
Editor: Billy Mead
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: The Mill

Thomas Cook – Pool Kid

This idea comes from the same feel-good school of advertising as the Cadbury Gorilla. It’s a risky approach; it’s simplicity can often backfire, but when it’s done right it’s a powerful strategy. And this time they’ve got it spot on. From the choice of track to the casting of the kid to the moves themselves, it all comes together to bring the right positive vibes. It’s really quite hard to explain, but we’re sure it will make people smile (and potentially even book holidays).

APA Announces IDEAS

January 13, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

We discuss association’s new showcase for the best non-traditional advertising.

For many years, companies that used to make traditional advertising have been producing work that is more than just film, print or out-of-home advertising. Members of the Advertising Producers Association now make experiential, virtual reality, interactive posters and websites for product launches. This work isn’t eligible for the APA Collection, which is about film only (whether for TV, the internet or any screen), so the APA have created a new platform for their members to promote this work, which is exciting and in great demand by clients and agencies.

It’s called IDEAS – the Interactive Digital Experiential Advertising Showcase – and will first be seen at The Future of Advertising…In One Afternoon at BAFTA on 22nd February, before being featured in advertising events around the world, as with the APA Collection. The APA Show is big enough already, and frankly there are already enough expensive awards nights, so the entry fee is £50 and the format is simple – a showcase of the ten best interactive or experiential productions from APA members that year.

We asked some of the APA members who were involved in its creation why the ad industry needs such an event. One reason is that this sort of work is hard to define. “Inherently digital work can be diverse and broad,” says Luke Ritchie, Executive Producer at Nexus Interactive Arts, “so despite our best efforts it’s hard to pigeonhole.” It’s true. You’ve got film, print, out-of-home; and then you’ve got the other, more experiential, interactive, digital sort of stuff that makes little sense in any of the traditional categories.

“At the moment this work gets lost,” admits Luke’s colleague James Tomkinson, Managing Director of Nexus Productions, because it’s hard to PR – a case study or making-of film isn’t as compelling as the real thing. “Often these making-ofs do not look as eye catching as a commercial and they would invariably be sitting side by side one another.”

“The best work tells a story,” states Luke. “Whether linear or interactive, you’re transported visually and emotionally. Interaction is another layer that helps transport visitors inside the story – they’re no longer the viewer. I’m naturally biased, but when you get it right, traditional advertising has nothing on it.”

Neil Morris, Founder of Grand Visual agrees, saying great interactive campaigns “allow consumers to become part of the campaign in the course of their everyday lives, blurring the lines between the physical and digital world.” This can only be good for brands. As he puts it, “fostering deeper, more personalised relationships with your customers is not desirable, it is essential.”

Interactive, digital and experiential disciplines can also be functional rather than promotional or entertaining. Nexus Interactive Arts recently made a Kinect based game called Woodland Wiggle, designed with Royal London Hospital to help children with mobility problems exercise despite physical limitations. A film couldn’t do that.

“Obviously all the major award programmes now include interactive categories,” concedes Neil. “What’s appealing about the APA’s IDEAS is that it is cleaner, simpler and more accessible for the audience – championing just ten great projects.”

Its simplicity is typical of the APA’s approach, as Chief Executive Steve Davies notes. “It is a simple idea, to showcase interactive / experiential advertising work in the same way that the APA Collection showcases commercials,” he says. “It is important that this brilliant, groundbreaking work is seen, to help enable the companies making it to develop their businesses, thrive and innovate further.”

“Like all awards the first year is the hardest,” says James. “Once the audience recognize the quality of the work and how much it has piqued their interest it will be something to look forward to.”

Neil sees IDEAS becoming more and more relevant. “As creative technology becomes more and more important, so too, does the creative talent behind it,” he says. “This showcase for UK interactive practitioners is therefore very important.”

The showcase’s horizons are global, as Steve points out. “I saw from our event in Shanghai and the Chinese agencies that attended that there is a huge appetite for providing clients with creative ways of using new technology to reach consumers,” he says, “and that the UK is seen as being a world leader in interactive and experiential advertising. Our showcase will ensure agencies in China and around the world see the best new work, can see who has made it and can connect with those UK production companies for new projects.”

 

Entries for IDEAS are now open until Friday 15th January 2016. For more information check the APA website.

EDIT: Due to popular demand, the deadline for entries to the IDEAS showcase has been extended from Friday 15th January 2016 to Friday 29th January 2016.

Directions to Direction: Chino Moya

January 11, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

From teenage raver to philosophical world builder.

It’s often said that you must suffer for your art, which is unfortunate for aspiring artists growing up in stable, happy environments like RSA / Black Dog director Chino Moya. Raised in Madrid, his father was a professor in Sociology and he was brought up by his mother and her husband, who was a journalist and publicist. “They were sort of hippie-ish, intellectual types,” he says. He was surrounded by books, culture and politics and supported in whatever he wanted to do. Where’s a kid like that going to find the darkness in his soul he needs to become an artist?

Chino’s childhood obsessions already betrayed a search for darkness. “I was very into horror films and fantasy books,” he says, and he was particularly into English fiction. Along with Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz, he lost himself in reams of gothic horror like Edgar Alan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft and other 18th and early 19th Century writers.

Surrounded by the intelligentsia, there were a few filmmakers around while he was growing up and while he devoured horror films there was a vague idea that he could end up making films, but he never pursued it. “The Spanish system doesn’t really encourage you to do what you want to do,” he says. “I didn’t know that you could go to film school – that you could actually do that for real.”

Chino was a good kid, but when his teenage years hit they hit hard. Maybe in another attempt to escape his comfortable home life, he stopped bothering with school and dove into the decadent rave culture of the 90s, which he admits didn’t combine very well with school – or many other things. “I went completely off the rails,” he says. “I ended up getting kicked out of a few schools. I stopped reading. I stopped studying. I was just hanging out with friends and going out.”

The one passion that remained was film. In his late teens he discovered the more art-house areas of film, which he loved – the nouvelle vague directors, auteurs like Ingmar Bergman and Japanese directors like Akira Kurosawa and Yasujiro Ozu.

Eventually Chino got to university, where he studied history. But his passions remained simple – film and raving. One night he found himself in a techno club, involved in one of those earnest, late-night conversations with strangers, pouring his heart out about the films he loved. “I hardly even remember it, but apparently we had a very long chat about film,” he says. “The guy was at film school at the time. We exchanged numbers.”

Six months later he answered the phone to this stranger, who asked if he wanted to work on a film. “I’d never worked on anything,” says Chino. All he had to do was find a van. He arranged to borrow a friend’s van and eventually found himself picking up equipment for a low-budget short film. “I didn’t know what all this equipment was for,” he says. “Then I arrived on the set and I saw all these people working. Each person has a very specific job with names like producer, assistant director, director, camera operator, focus puller. Everyone was very specialised in what they were doing. The minute I got there I decided this is exactly what I want to do.”

He asked the line producer if he could help on shoots in the future and soon he was running regularly.

Chino’s life began anew in a moment. He stopped going out and never went to nightclubs again. He dropped out of university and dedicated his life to the low-budget films he was working on, reading about and watching films when he wasn’t working on them. His parents were as supportive as ever. “For years I was just hanging out with friends, going out, failing at school and not showing an interest,” he explains. “They saw me really focused on something positive so they were encouraged by that.”

Working for free, he soon got a lot of work as a runner and quickly got into TV commercials. “I was so happy,” he says. “I was doing the crappiest jobs, driving a van, picking up actors from airports or just loading and unloading equipment from vans. But I was so happy to be able to participate.”

Of course he soon burned out. The hours were insane and he wanted to make his own films, so he enrolled on a film course in Madrid. “It was a really crap evening course in this little apartment,” he remembers. Twice a week for a couple of hours in the evening he learnt the basics of film. Still, he was happy to be there.

Soon Chino’s passion for filmmaking made him restless. He needed to escape Spain. “I always felt I was far from where the good stuff was being made,” he says. “I was always looking up to the good stuff they were doing in London and other places. I felt I was missing out. I felt trapped in Spain.” So he went to New York, where he took up another film course. This one was perfect for him. They gave him a camera, some lights, some film and let him spend three months shooting.

He discovered a video rental place called Kim’s Video in the East Village of Manhattan. It was a revelation to him. He could suddenly watch any film he wanted, including lots he’d been reading about for years but couldn’t get in Spain. The energy of New York invigorated him. It was the perfect environment to make his first serious attempts at direction.

Inevitably, his visa ran out and he was ejected back to Madrid. But he had enough confidence in his direction now to keep shooting and cutting his own short films, honing his craft. Obviously he wanted to make a feature film, like everyone else. He shot 20 minutes to try and find funding and, predictably, it wasn’t easy. But someone he knew who worked at an ad agency saw it. She asked him if he wanted to make commercials. Within two weeks he was shooting his first ad.

For the first time Chino had a crew and a budget. He was plunged into the relentless process of pitching, losing jobs, winning jobs, shooting and repeating. It was great experience, but he eventually became disillusioned. “It’s less about making stuff yourself and more about competing against other directors,” he says. “I became just another director. I lost all the drive I had to put my own stamp on things.”

The call of the Anglophone world rose in him again, so he took a plunge and moved to London with a DVD full of Spanish commercials and music videos. He tried to get signed, but his reel wasn’t right.

It was a shock. “In Spain it’s very easy to get jobs,” he says, “especially music videos. Labels often ask, sometimes even beg you to do music videos. And they don’t get involved. You do the whole thing and they very rarely ask for changes. It’s not the fierce competition you have in the UK.”

He kept working on Spanish briefs while living in London and soon noticed his style was changing due to local influences. “I started realising what I really wanted,” he says. “I started to find my own voice.”

The voice he found was about creating worlds – free-standing alternative universes that his films transport the viewer to, with their own characters, their own architecture – a philosophy well expressed in his 2009 video for the Spanish band Supersubmarina. Piquing the interest of Promo News’ David Knight, it turned out to be the beginning of a new era for the young director. Soon after he signed with HSI and was plunged once more into the relentless pitching machine.

This process in the UK was more ruthless than he’d known it to be in Spain. “I found the competition exhausting and frustrating,” he says. “I’d pitch and pitch and pitch. Not even for bands I liked. I was just pitching for whatever came in.” He was very lucky. The first job he got ended up being for Ladytron – a band he did happen to like. “From not doing anything I started shooting videos back-to-back, non-stop,” he says.

After a year of this, he decided to focus on what he loved and only take jobs that gave him the chance to build worlds. It was a good strategy. Soon he won the pitch to shoot a bizarre Drambuie ad called Extraordinary Bar. It was an extraordinary job. “I was absolutely surprised that they let me do everything I did there. They gave me almost complete freedom.” They wanted surrealism and they wanted a bar. Everything else was fair game. Small man carrying a giant egg on his back? Great! Man standing above the clouds on a freestanding ladder? Fine. “They said yes. We presented. We shot it. They liked what they saw. We presented the first edit and they approved it. And it worked for them. I hope there will be more like that. It’s one of my favourites.”

Another favourite on his reel is his video for avant-garde guitar sorceress St Vincent for her 2014 single Digital Witness. Again, he was allowed free reign to create an alternate world. He admits that when he pitched the idea of a simplified, weird world he wasn’t sure how to do it, especially not for the budget and with only four days of pre-production.

Pulling in countless favours and flying St Vincent into Madrid by herself on the week before Christmas, they were somehow able to bring Chino’s dystopian vision to life and create an iconic music video. Chino admits he was inspired by the dystopian novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin, We. “As opposed to 1984 [a book it heavily influenced] that was very gloomy, the world of We was very colourful and there was this sense of brightness,” says Chino.

Dystopias have been an obsession of Chino in his search for the darkness in humanity. He blames his Spanish heritage – a nation with a fairly recent history of Fascism. As he puts it, “two worlds: a dictatorship and a democracy with supposed freedom, access to happiness, consumerism and promise. I guess the combination of both had a big effect on my world.” He’s gone further than most westerners in his exploration of models of society, having visited Iraq during the American invasion, Palestine on two occasions and even North Korea.

In Iraq he learnt what it felt like to be surrounded by violence. “I discovered what it was like to be in a country outside of this comfortable western life with suffering and violence – to see people being killed around you.”

North Korea was the most bizarre of his trips. On an individual tour he was accompanied by two guides, young women who were fascinated by his Western life and insatiably asked him questions about sex, society and culture in Europe. “It was sad but also interesting to see people living simpler lives,” he recalls. “There are no billboards, no neon lights, advertising, girls in bikinis or famous sports players. It was very peaceful in a way. You can drive for a hundred miles and only pass one car.”

Chino would love to bring this interest into his work more. “If there’s a chance of doing something dark, I’m very up for it,” he says. “In commercials it’s not so easy.”

It’s interesting to think that this thoughtful anthropologist evolved from a teenaged rebel-without-a-cause raver. Chino is glad about his off-the-rails phase though. “Looking back, it was a good thing because nothing bad happened,” he says. “If I hadn’t found film, my life would have been completely different. I pulled out on time. A lot of people didn’t and their lives are a complete disaster.”

“When you find somewhere you want to go, suddenly your life has a meaning. Whether you get to that place or not is something else, but at least you have a direction.” Thankfully, Chino knows where he’s heading, and we’ll watch his reel grow with interest as he continues to create his strange little worlds.