Directions to Direction: Phil Lind

July 20, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

How a commercials director was nourished by the fruits of a TV career.

Advertising likes directors to fit into neat boxes. Some specialise in food, others in animals, comedy performance, sports, or slick shots of cars cruising through picturesque valleys. A brief look at Phil Lind’s reel on the Mad Cow site makes it very clear that he’s avoided this fate. His work ranges from the profound and naturalistic to the jokey and scripted. And he attributes this diversity to the background that shaped him. Through sheer luck, he’s taken a route to directing ads that’s allowed him to reliably and steadily gain experience – a long meander through the machinery of a TV channel.

Growing up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne Phil had no idea what he wanted to do. After a foundation course and a degree he ended up qualifying as an interior designer, but soon realised the reality wasn’t for him. “I found myself sitting at a drawing board all day long, doing really mundane specification,” he says. “It was boring.”

His escape route from this tedium presented itself by chance, with a girl that he’d been at college with. “She was a bit untouchable,” he thought, one of those impossibly unattainable women. Phil bumped into her one day and took a punt on asking her out. To his delight she agreed. She told him she was working at Heaven (the Charing Cross superclub) on Saturday night so he could pick her up when she finishes. He assumed she must be a barmaid there.

He arrived, asked security to radio for her and was guided upstairs through the club. Loud Eurodance was blaring out (it was the early 90s). His date was no barmaid. She was working on a SNAP! music video as a production manager. He can’t remember if it was for The Power or Rhythm is a Dancer. Fair enough, they’re both huge dancefloor fillers. “They had five massive camera units live,” he says. “Everyone had headsets on and there were giant cameras and big lenses. It was like peeping behind the curtain. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. I was gobsmacked.”

Phil’s parents weren’t thrilled when he decided he instantly needed to jack his stable interior design job in to become a runner. Promoting nightclubs in the in the evening to support his new habit, he got himself on as many sets as he could in the day, running for free. The relationship with the production manager didn’t last, but Phil was firmly in love with film.

“It became very apparent very quickly that I could be a runner for the rest of my life,” says Phil. “While people were helpful and wanted you to move up, you had to be self-motivated.” He’d wanted to direct music videos since that moment in Heaven so he and his friend Justin found a track they liked and marched into a record company’s offices to ask if they could make a video for it. Astonishingly, they emerged with £2,000 without many questions asked.

The video did well for them. The track was Revival, by Martine Girault, which stayed in the dance charts for years. Phil and Justin got signed to Propaganda Films, sharing a roster with the likes of David Fincher and Mark Romanek. They were set, they thought. “It felt like it was going to be OK,” he says.

As it turns out, the first video was the easiest for a long time. “We were small fish in a pig pond,” says Phil. He was broke before long. But he had director friends, so he started producing music videos for them. He was surprisingly good at it. Having been in their position, he understood what directors needed. Soon, he started getting more work as a producer than as a director. “I felt like it was going a bit off course,” he says, “but I needed the money.”

Inevitably, this work led to ads. He started working on them as a production manager. “Suddenly this was commercials, with money sloshing around everywhere,” he grins, only half joking (this was the 90s, remember). Although he was working on the production side, Phil saw this as an opportunity to watch the best directors at work. With his sights still set on directing, it was like going back to school.

He soon came to learn the language of commercials, and having seen many of the best at work he had an idea of how to direct one. Channel 4 approached him asking if he’d produce some bumpers for Volkswagen. “In those days no one really understood what a sponsored programme was,” he says. “The broadcasters didn’t really know how to handle it.” Without as much agency involvement as an ad, there was a lot of freedom, too.

The Channel 4 environment was perfect. He realised they were shooting stuff two or three times a week, so when they offered him a job as Creative Services Manager he took it – anything for a chance to get stuck in on set and become a director again.

The job wasn’t directing though. Phil was managing all the directors and producers, similar to a head of production, but he soon found himself helping out with scripts for the TV promos they were churning out, gravitating back toward the creative and away from the managerial. Eventually his superiors sat him down. They’d noticed where his interests lay. Rather than chastise him, they made him a Creative Director for Channel 4 and found a new Creative Services Manager.

“That’s when it really started taking off again,” he says. “I was shooting more than most people. Once or twice a month sometimes.” Making promos sharpened his directing skills, working with the cast of Shameless, This is England and the celebrity chefs on a smorgasbord of snappy promotional films.

In many ways, it was the perfect training environment for someone who wanted to direct commercials. “The promo environment is about as close as you can get to a TV commercial,” says Phil. “They exist in the same airtime, so they’re bedfellows. And while everyone was aware that commercials, per second, had far more money spent on them, you still had to write a script and shoot it within a certain duration, you had voiceovers and you got to work with really good actors like David Threlfall [Frank Gallagher in Shameless].”

This is where Phil broadened his range. “One day it’s sport, the next day it’s drama and the next day is a documentary,” he says. “You end up being good at everything a little bit and then you have to focus. It gave me a chance to try out everything.”

After 11 years in the Channel 4 mill, a phone call came from elsewhere in TV land: “How’d you fancy rebranding the Nazi Party?” ITV knew they had an image problem and they wanted Phil to be Executive Creative Director for a complete rebrand. He couldn’t resist such a huge opportunity. He formed a pop-up team to oversee the project and took over a whole floor of the post house Envy to work it through.

“I was super excited,” he says. “When you looked at ITV’s properties it was such a mess. I honestly thought it doesn’t matter what I do; it’s going to be better than the crap they’ve got at the moment.”

He wrote a proposal for how each channel would change, worked with designer Matt Rudd to settle on the all-important logo and worked on making the transitions into commercials as smooth as possible. Then coming up with a style guide for idents. It was broad brush-stroke stuff, not the minutiae of directing a single promo or commercial.

Since then he’s had the chance to focus on specifics. After ITV he was asked to be Creative Director on the Unquiet series for The Times and The Sunday Times – a branded content project taking stories from the newspapers’ archives and making mini documentaries. Working with Dave Monk at Grey, they ended up making 14 perfectly-formed pieces of branded content after about 18 months.

Phil directed four of these, including one called Bearing Witness, stressing the importance of professional, objective war reporters. He interviewed Anthony Loyd and Jack Hill, who had just returned from being kidnapped in Syria. “They’d literally, just come back,” Phil says. “Anthony still had terrible knee problems from being shot and you could still see where Jack had been beaten. To be given access to them was amazing.” That’s about as far from recreating a scene from Gladiator with Gordon Ramsay as you can get. The other ten films gave Phil yet another chance to watch and learn from other directors such as Liz Unna and Will Clark.

Now he’s repped by Mad Cow and hanging his Creative Director hat in the corner, leaving that to the ad agencies. And having been on set for almost every kind of commercial shoot, his eclectic reel continues to expand. His work on the latest Dairylea ad was a triumphant return to the director’s chair, shooting near Cape Town for the sun, but blocking it out for most of the day for that grim Game-of-Thrones look. “It was refreshing to have a casting and actors,” he says. “For about two years every job was real people.” Whether it’s comedic performances, naturalistic documentaries or serious drama, becoming Mr TV has given Phil enough experience to draw on for a long and varied directing career. Advertising doesn’t have a big enough pigeonhole for him.

Under the Influence: Layzell Bros

July 12, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

One half of the Lion-winning duo reminisces about their cultural upbringing.

Narrowing your influences down to just five subjects is a difficult task for everyone we feature in this series, but it’s even harder when you throw a creative partner into the mix. Thankfully, Matt and Paul Layzell grew up together on the same cultural diet. Matt couldn’t meet me in London as he lives in Los Angeles. But Paul, his younger brother, assures me that he’s qualified to speak for the both of them on this occasion.

Following their recent Film Grand Prix win at Cannes Lions for Harvey Nichols it was interesting to discover the fuel that stoked the flames of the BlinkInk duo’s creative engine.

Skateboarding Culture

"I think everyone our age skateboarded in their early teens, around the late 90s and early 00s. But I think we stuck with it a bit longer than we should have. I’ve still got the shin splints. I never really got any good though.

There’s something about the culture and the creative side of it. It was a physical activity but different from other sports. There are no rules. You can do it however you want. It’s more than a sport.

What I think we took from that was the whole DIY ethic and more specifically skateboarding videos. Me and my brother would make videos with our friends. We’d incorporate animated or sketched bits. So we got practice infilmmaking, editing, working with music, timing, all in one. That played quite a big role in shaping us. Subconsciously it taught us a few rules of filmmaking, but in a completely un-academic setting.

That’s carried on. We do fun, fast stuff. Music plays a big part in what we do and editing’s really important. All of that applies to our Harvey Nichols film, which ended up with the music we originally suggested. And also the quality of it. It kinda looks shit but that’s the charm of it. Like skateboarding films, it doesn’t need to look glossy as long as all the parts come together.

For me, it was doing stuff with our friends and being able to make something in your bedroom. That resonates with what we still do, even if it’s in a studio with 14 people, not a bedroom. But that same love is still there."


Adult Swim

"Growing up I used to watch all the cartoons like Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The British equivalents on children’s TV, I never really had the same love for.

When I was in my early teens I remember seeing these cartoons that were really weird and really funny on late night Cartoon Network. One of my favourites was Space Ghost Coast to Coast, which was super weird. I remember watching it as a kid and really loving it. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. There used to be an old Hanna-Barbera cartoon called Space Ghost, which was a kind of lame 60s cartoon. But they took the characters and all the assets, even reused the animation and turned it into a late-night talk show that goes really wrong. He was really egotistical, like a kind of Ron Burgundy character. And they had actual celebrities come on as guests on a TV. It was kind of leftfield humour.

It taught me that you don’t have to do action-adventure superheroes – nice, friendly stuff – you could do whatever you wanted.

Animation is a laborious process and time consuming. I don’t think we’re necessarily top-skilled animators or anything, but I think you can use animation in a way that’s just enough to tell a story and communicate. It’s good if it looks nice, but that’s not what’s most important. Adult Swim wasn’t always the most beautiful, polished animation, but the humour came through."


Tim and Eric

"They were on a website called Super Deluxe and had a show called Nite Live. Humour-wise, when people look back on it there will be a pre- and post-Tim and Eric humour. You see what they do slowly leaking into advertising and films and loads of people are borrowing what they did, but to my knowledge they were the first to do it.

It’s about enjoying the sloppiness of stuff, celebrating QVC for example, finding the humour in it. Or using the language of news graphics in silly ways.

We used to watch a lot of that and they definitely influenced us. The low-fi quality, the delivery, things going wrong. I don’t think we try and emulate what they do because they do it better than anyone, but we respect what they’re doing.

It resonated with us. It was a sense of humour that we liked, felt fresh and we hadn’t seen before. It lends itself to being online and I think the format of online videos is another thing that they got right. They were big on the internet before they got on TV."



"We grew up with shows like Dragonball Z and Gundam Wing. We’re not anime buffs, but we definitely spent a lot of time drawing Dragonball Z characters. That played a part in our technical development. I had those books about how to draw anime and manga style characters.

As a kid, anime is accessible and fun. It’s more poppy and vibrant and hyper real, but it does still pay attention to anatomy and some details. It was really good in terms of the economy of animation, like focusing on a still frame and zooming in, or the character’s mouth doesn’t necessarily need to be perfectly lip synced, but you get the idea. It gets across the emotion but takes less time. We definitely learned from that.

But then it also uses big, fluid animation in bits where it’s important, like action sequences. It’s all about keeping a balance in order to tell the best stories."


Hayao Miyazaki

"For all I’ve just said, Hayao Miyazaki’s films are the complete opposite of that. He doesn’t value that kind of anime as an art form. He’s a traditionalist and would argue that in filmmaking it’s important to actually see human emotions and you should animate them. If someone’s sad, don’t just give them a sad face. Pan in, have someone quivering or something; have characters act it out in the same way as they would in live-action film.

For us, he’s more important for the kind of stories he’s telling. We saw some of his films when we were kids, which is cool. Our mum took us to the cinema to see Kiki’s Delivery Service. I don’t know how our mum knew about it. She’s not a film buff necessarily. We used to be into Dragonball Z and stuff so she thought we’d like a Japanese cartoon. We didn’t know anything about it, but it was so different from a Disney film or anything we’d seen.

They’re kids films but they don’t only relate to kids and they don’t talk down to their audience. Kid characters are celebrated for themselves. They don’t gloss over the difficulties of being a child, growing up or moving to a new place. You see it in a lot of Pixar films now. They tell stories the same way, with multiple layers.

We’d always try to work up to that kind of storytelling. Even though maybe we don’t see eye-to-eye on the animation style. We think you can still do that kind of storytelling in an economical way.

We would always try and add something deeper to even the silliest film, even if it’s all action and physical humour. Underneath there’s a message about something more serious. I think that resonates with people. Even in Harvey Nichols there’s a loose narrative of someone stealing something, getting caught and then being sad about it. A good example is the Future Travel short we did with ADHD. On the surface it’s a silly, brash, shouty thing, but it has a relevant story in it too about finding love in the modern age."

Signed: Cartwright Gantz

July 12, 2016 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Kindred spirits from opposite sides of the North Sea unite at Blinkink.

Simon Cartwright and Nina Gantz grew up in Leeds and the Netherlands, respectively, but both spent their childhoods drawing incessantly. They also both decided they wanted to animate when they discovered the dark humour of European animators like Jan Švankmajer, Yuriy Norshteyn and Michaela Pavlátová.

Nina’s graduation film from art school did well for her and gave her some work in the Netherlands. Next to her job as an assistant illustrator on a children’s book series she worked freelance and did 2D animation for a feature film called Devastated by Love by Ari Deelder. Meanwhile Simon was learning the craft of stop-motion animation on a Channel 4 commissioned film.

The pair met at the National Film and Television School, where they realised that apart from their differing tastes in music (Simon loves it loud and Nina plays mostly French Chansons), they were kindred artistic spirits. There they developed a bond of trust that continues to this day.

Both of their NFTS graduation films made waves. Nina’s Edmond and Simon’s MANOMAN picked up accolade after accolade, from Sundance to BAFTA, SXSW, BIFA and Cannes.

Their success turned the right heads and now they’re represented by Blinkink and already working for commercial clients like Maynards Bassetts.

Watch some of their work here:

Agony Jim: A Question of Quality

July 12, 2016 / Humour

By Jim Watkins

Veteran producer and sage cum digital native Jim Watkins solves your advertising conundra.
This edition: The transcendental joys to be found in quality management certification.

Dear Jim,

I was asked this question by a client as part of our engagement, and, though, answering the second part took several months, it took myself and my organisation on a journey deep inside ourselves. I thought I would share its thought provoking content with your readers.

“Does your organisation hold a recognised quality management certification for example BS/EN/ISO 9000 or equivalent?”

“If you do not have a quality certification or a quality management system, please explain why”

Hubert Von Achtsneunzehn


Dear Hubert,

There comes a time in all our lives where we must face the issue of whether we hold a recognised quality management certification for example BS/EN/ISO 9000 or equivalent.

I myself have held such a certification since 1928, when, as a young man, I was one of the first (alongside Bertrand Russell and JM Keynes) to attend a box ticking session organised by a faceless management organisation somewhere in the Midlands. It may have been Daventry, though at the time I was experimenting with early hallucinogenics.

What JM, Bertie and I understood, was that it is unfair to expect anyone - a client, a friend, a passer by - to engage with another individual or organisation on any level without being assured that someone else whom they have no detailed understanding of or particular reason to trust, has first given that individual or organisation a complicated sounding stamp of approval.

The certification itself, particularly the much revered BS 9000 (a lithe, sleek reimagining of the trusty old BS 8000), mitigates against unfortunate and eminently preventable instances of clients being held to account for their own decisions.

Should anything go wrong, the certificate activates a 'magic gas', which obliterates anything in its path, including the mistake, thus wiping history clean and restoring things to their rightful place. In the meantime, it guarantees peace of mind. Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM, as they used to say before IBM fell from grace, causing several people no doubt to be fired.

Personally, I have never regretted holding the certification, and keep it framed on the wall above my bed. I have found it invaluable, not least with lady friends, who, upon entering the bedroom to the dim twinkle of candlelight and the sound of late-era Marvin Gaye oozing from the Radiogram in the corner, are reassured to know that the standard of service they will be receiving has been internationally recognised as 'adequate'.

Yours in advertising,



If you have a production problem you think Jim Watkins can help with, please email, quoting Agony Jim.

Tim Page’s Grand Theory of Editing

July 11, 2016 / Features

By Tim Page

The Quarry’s MD on his love for cutting room magic.

In every walk of life people love stories. That’s universal to humanity. And editing, whether it's in ads or feature films, is pure storytelling. Being able to manage a narrative and make something clear, fascinating and engaging really is a craft. And I’ve been in awe of those that do it well for a long time.

I actually used to write lots when I was a kid. My folks were both in advertising, so it seemed a natural path to do something related. But rather than become a copywriter I trained as an assistant editor pretty much straight out of school. That’s where my fascination with editing began. Having done that for five years I was intrigued by why footage arrived in the edit suite the way it did, so I decided to move closer to the point of origination by joining agency production life. Many years in that environment gave me a greater understanding of the creative process and why certain marketing decisions are made, but my admiration for editing and post production endured.

Commercials that tell moving stories are invariably well edited. From Guinness Surfer, where it was all about building tension and then releasing it visually and audibly – such a memorable spot for many reasons. To Channel 4’s Superhumans that has such arresting power and poise. Or a personal favourite of mine, Vodafone Time Theft, that to me seamlessly knits what could have been a complicated piece into a fluid and engaging story. They’re great ideas, directed by brilliant talents, but without expert editors they would never have had the visceral impact they did.

A good story told badly is a missed opportunity, for everyone, from director to agency to brand. Clear communication is key to our industry and anyone who thinks editing is about sticking shots together in storyboard order is much mistaken. I know editors who try not to get too wrapped up in how something was shot – better that they have an impartial viewpoint so they can judge what's in front of them and not be influenced by others' opinions.

There are a number of traits that make a good editor. As I already mentioned, objectivity is one. Not worrying about the difficult moments in drawn-out PPMs or the most testing struggles on set allows the editor to focus only on what’s best for the film without any emotional bias. Having said that, it can be invaluable to have an editor’s brain plugged into the process during pre production.

Clarity of thinking is also vital, as are people management skills. Our industry is awash with opinions, so it's key for an editor to be able to navigate what can be a minefield of viewpoints while remaining true to the original aims of the piece, as well as alert to new possibilities. He or she must navigate a route through a tangle of creative directions towards the best film possible.

I think the craft of the edit is underestimated yet sometimes feared. It’s the culmination of everything that's been discussed before. The components are being glued together and this can be a bit of a process – going through the motions to polish it off. But that should be far from the reality. Editors are manipulators of time and space in order to create memorable pieces of work whatever the type of project.

And I think it's wrongly feared. People across the industry are often very good at knowing what's been shot but sometimes lack the understanding of what the overall piece will feel like. It's a pivotal and scary moment for some. Is what they've worked towards going to work or not? And with so much riding on things these days for agencies and production companies alike it's a tense moment as words on a page, and captured images are brought to life in the cutting room.

The position of the edit in the production process has shifted over the years. Editors used to be very involved in post-production, but over the years that has diminished. Now editing houses are bringing on board elements of post production, just as we are with our VFX venture Youngster London in our new building on Tottenham Court Road. It's partly because technology is more accessible and partly because it's right that the editor, who is a more independent voice within the production, can add guidance and assistance to the process to ensure that the narrative doesn't waiver, and that all the intentions of the edit are realised in the finished piece. Likewise, as post and visual effects develop, it’s possible to respond editorially, and the whole post process can seamlessly work back and forth for the good of the overall production.

Business models will change over time and the technology and software will alter the precise skills editors need, but great editors will always be defined by the same characteristics. They breathe life into a story – following on from the months of work that have gone before, discovering the most powerful narrative possible. It’s a kind of alchemy that I will never lose respect for.


Tim Page is Managing Director at The Quarry.

High Five: July

July 8, 2016 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

Proving that great advertising can come in all shapes and sizes.

It’s definitely the summer now and for advertising that means huge sporting events to capitalise on. This month’s best advertising made use of the big stars and extravagant productions that go with that, but that doesn’t diminish the power of the more unassuming commercials, relying on nothing more than a smart script and skilful filmmaking.

Brand: Lotto
Title: Please Not Them, James Blunt
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Jeff Low
Production Company Producer:  Kwok Yau
Ad Agency: AMV BBDO
Creative Directors: Alex Grieve, Adrian Rossi
Creatives: Charlotte Adorjan, Michael Jones, Tim Riley
Agency Producer: Miles Nathan
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Saam Hodivala
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: The Mill

Lotto – Please Not Them, James Blunt

This whole campaign has been a delight. AMV BBDO have done a great job finding celebrities who are widely disliked and then convincing them to take the piss out of themselves. James Blunt has a good track record in that regard, so it’s no surprise that he’s as amusing as ever in this. And with Jeff Low squeezing every ounce of comedy out of the script, it’s another Lotto win.

Brand: Nike
Title: The Switch
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Production Company Producer: Sally Humphries
Director of Photography: Matt Libatique
Ad Agency: Wieden + Kennedy Portland
Creative Directors: Chris Groom, Stuart Brown
Creatives: Dylan Lee, Pedro Izique
Agency Producers: Ross Plumber, Scott Kaplan
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Rich Orrick
Post Production Company: The Mill

Nike – The Switch

This is huge. A gigantic, expensive spectacle from some of the industry’s greatest talents, working with one of the most iconic sports stars in the world. It’s long, but completely justifies its runtime by telling a proper, engaging story. It’s probably the most story-driven ad Nike have ever done. And maybe it’s testament to Ringan Ledwidge’s performance directing skills, but Christiano seems to have developed some acting chops of late. And if 50 million views in under a month are anything to go by, it will do its job for the client.

Brand: The Prince’s Trust
Title: Parallel Lives
Production Company: Smuggler
Director: Miles Jay
Director of Photography: Ben Stockley
Ad Agency: CHI&Partners
Creative Directors: Danny Hunt, Gavin Torrance
Agency Producers: Jack Harris, Hannah Greene
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Ben Jordan
Music Company: Leland Music
Sound Company: Wave Studios
Sound Designer: Aaron Reynolds
Post Production Company: MPC

The Prince’s Trust – Parallel Lives

Technically, this is a difficult script to pull off. There’s a delicate balance to be struck. To demonstrate the point that the Prince’s Trust can drastically improve young people’s lives, the left side has to be sweet and encouraging while the right side is upsetting and dark. But the mirror image visual concept demands that the two versions aren’t too drastically different. Miles Jay has proved himself a remarkable directing talent in getting the perfect tone. It’s a poetic piece of advertising for a deserving cause.


Brand: Stella Artois
Title: Never Heard of It
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Andreas Nilsson
Production Company Producer: Kwok Yau
Director of Photography: Thomas Hardmeier
Ad Agency: Mother
Creative Directors: Jonathan Santana, Xander Smith
Creatives: Matt Leach, Jess Oudot
Editing Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Ben Campbell
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Robson
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Stella Artois – Never Heard of It

It’s an encouraging message at the heart of this campaign: even the biggest institutions have humble, discouraging starts. It’s advertising persistence itself, really. And the quality of the filmmaking here makes that very clear. Considering he’s a Swede, director Andreas Nilsson does a great job at a very British kind of humour. The visual gags are on point and the costume and production design is sumptuous. It still seems a weird pairing, but if Stella Artois carry on advertising like this, maybe one day people will associate Wimbledon with a cold pint of Belgian lager as much as strawberries and cream.


Brand: Subway
Title: Favourites
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Michael Downing
Production Company Producer: Fran Thomson
Directors of Photography: Nanu Segal, Richard Mott
Ad Agency: McCann London
Creative Directors: Alexei Berwitz, Rob Webster, Jean-Laurent Py
Creatives: Matt Searle, Anthony-Daniel Montagne, Laurence Thomson
Agency Producer: Lois Newcombe
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Jono Griffith
Music Company: Sizzer Amsterdam
Sound Company: Jungle
Post Production Company: The Mill

Subway – Favourites

Yet another lesson in comedy filmmaking from Biscuit Filmworks as Michael Downing helms this ludicrous film in which a fully-grown man is paralysed by indecision in the face of sandwiches. It’s a well-observed insight. We’ve all been there. The tortured inner-monologue is reminiscent of Peep Show, which can only be a good thing. The casting is brilliant, too. Our hero’s nasal, middle-management accent perfectly compliments the heroic voiceover and his facial expressions are something quite remarkable.

straight 8 industry shootout

July 7, 2016 / Arts and Culture

By Alex Reeves

Pure, unadulterated filmmaking at its most invigorating.

I often encounter people in the ad industry who claim they are “passionate” about advertising. This claim needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. I have an inkling that people overstate how much they love advertising because they think it’s what they’re expected to say. But when people say they are passionate about film, I trust them.

Everyone has some passion for film. Even if you only watch Mean Girls once a year, accompanied by several bottles of Blossom Hill White Zinfandel, at least you love that one film. If you’re reading this website then your passion for film is probably significantly more intense than that. You’ve probably ranted at 3am about Kurosawa’s style of framing, or something.

Sandwiched snugly between the conspicuous rosé consumption and self-congratulation of Cannes during Lions week, the straight 8 industry shootout (no caps allowed) offered a refuge for those in need of something pure and honest – a film competition like no other.

The task was to make a short film on one cartridge of Kodak Super 8 film, editing only in camera and with a maximum length of 3 minutes 20 seconds, dictated by the roll of film. With no re-takes, no post-production whatsoever, and with original soundtracks submitted ‘blind’. And what’s more no-one was to see their masterpiece until this premiere in Cannes.

Director Ed Sayers, of Seven Productions has been running the competition since 1999 and the best straight 8 films have been screening at Cannes Film Festival since 2003. This year it was brought to us in partnership with the APA and Creature of London.

The entrants for the industry shootout were from adland – 18 creative agencies, production companies and editing houses took part – but the passion on display was all about film.

Hosted on the Thursday morning in the very cosy Cinema Les Arcades, the audience was made up of anxious filmmakers, enthusiastic film fanatics and partied-out wrecks who really shouldn’t have been out of bed this early (there was significant overlap between these groups). We gratefully sipped Bloody Marys in the lobby beforehand.

Having not seen their films at all, the contestants in the room made the anxiety in the air palpable. Their hangovers from last night’s beach parties didn’t help. But when the films started to roll the screening room filled with a warmth that went beyond the lack of air conditioning.

I was curious to begin with, but to be honest the prospect of about an hour of back-to-back experimental short films wasn’t that attractive. I thought it would drag, but I was genuinely shocked when the lights came on.

Every film had done something delightful with the resources they’d been given. Of course there were disappointments caused by technical hitches – it’s a raw, unforgiving formay – but every entry had charm and style. I won’t spoil the delights contained within those three-minute wonders. Hopefully you’ll get to see the films soon. But in my fragile state, I laughed, smiled ear-to-ear, winced, and even shed a couple of tears in the dark (I had suncream in my eye that just wouldn’t budge). There’s no chance I was alone in that.

Winners were announced, cash prizes were awarded to the charities of their choice and everyone was deservingly congratulated. The audience left the cinema into the beating Provencal sun sharing a sense of wonder.

It’s weird. None of the entries were the best film I’d ever seen – the rules of the contest make that nigh on impossible. But I’ve never felt the power of filmmaking more strongly. It was energizing.

Now we’re back in muggy, post-Brexit London that sense of wonder is more welcome than ever. Thankfully you can experience for yourselves on Wednesday 13th July, 9:30am at Picturehouse Central for the London premiere. Tickets are only £10 and all profits go to the Fireflies Tour for charity Bloodwise. Click here to reserve a spot at the London Premiere.