Under the Influence: Sam Pilling

August 31, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Find out what inspires one of music video’s most exciting directors.

Great directors are invariably voracious consumers of culture – music, art, film and literature all contain the raw materials that build brilliant filmmakers. And it’s always interesting to see what lies under the best directors’ foundations.

Pulse Films director Sam Pilling has been laying down some of the most impactful music videos out there since 2010, as well as some top-class commercials. Most recently he’s caused an online ruckus with his latest music video for DJ Shadow featuring Run The Jewels – the incredible scene of an online brawl between suited world leaders. 

We asked him to tell us a bit about the inspirations that go onto his creative mixtape.

Ascenseur pour L’echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows)

“Jeanne Moreau, a murder, Paris in the 50s and Miles Davis.
Need I say more?

Somewhere between Film Noir and the French New Wave this film paved the way for every crime-thriller to come: lovers gone bad, a crime of passion that inevitably goes wrong and a mistaken identity.

I think the way Louis Malle combined style and substance is far beyond his time. The opening scene is so bold and visually striking but also the perfect way of introducing the characters and setting up the story. The film opens on an intense, emotional close-up of Jeanne Moreau’s wet-from-crying eyes as she whispers “je t’aime” into a telephone receiver.

As the credits roll the camera slowly pulls back to reveal she is in a public telephone booth, hiding, making a call she shouldn’t make. It’s clear she is talking to a lover, not her husband.

We cut to see Maurice Ronet on the other end of the line. And our camera pulls back to see he is at work, in a grand office block. By the end of the phone call and the end of the opening credits we know our two lead characters, we know they are secret lovers and we know something terrible is going to happen. This style of visual but informative filmmaking is something I find incredibly powerful.

Moody, atmospheric and cloaked in darkness, Elevator to the Gallows has also been an inspiration because of its fatalist theme; that even the best-laid plans will always go wrong. Which brings me nicely onto…”


The Coen Brothers

“Things never go to plan in a Coen Brothers film and there is a strong fatalism theme in much of their work. In fact their storylines are almost always a messy knot of interweaving weirdos and oddball characters that have to weave their way through a series of events that are seemingly out of their hands and that always spiral out of control.

The confusion and misunderstanding that results in George Clooney’s ‘Harry’ hiding in the cupboard and accidentally shooting Brad Pitt’s ‘Chad’ in Burn After Reading has to be one of the most hilarious accidents in film! Not to mention the entire storyline of Fargo or The Big Lebowski. Both of which seem to be one fuck up followed by another, by another by another…

The Coens’ love for Film Noir can be seen in many of their films from Blood Simple, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Fargo and No Country For Old Men. And I love the way their films combine elements of humour and silliness alongside these unsavory events and actions. One minute their films make you laugh, the next they have you transfixed with tension and suspense.

I love the choices they make when it comes to their storytelling: the moments they choose to show us and the way in which they visualize these moments.

For example in No Country For Old Men when Javier Bardem’s ‘Anton’ is approaching the hotel room that Josh Brolin’s ‘Llewelyn’ is posted up in, the tension is immense but we only know how close Anton is getting to Llewelyn by a shifting shadow seen through the gap in the bottom of the doorway… then the light in the hallway goes out and we’re left with a moment of darkness and suspense - broken only when Anton tries to open the door and Llewelyn shoots him.

And in A Serious Man when Aaron Wolff’s ‘Danny’ has got stoned just before his Barmitzvah, the Coens use close-up macro shots, intense sound design and off-kilter camera angles to perfectly visualise the kid’s spaced out paranoia and heightened senses. The result is hilarious.

What do we learn from Coen films? We learn that people don’t learn! That life goes on and people will continue to make bad choices and mistakes.”


Storytelling in Hip-Hop

“As a teenager all I listened to was hip-hop. It was a culture and way of life for me that helped me grow up and find a place in the world. I started doing graffiti, I bought turntables and (don’t laugh) tried to break dance. I became captivated by the cut-and-paste sound of hip-hop, the cultural references and the re-appropriation of songs and samples. I was in awe of rappers’ tongue-twisting lyrics, ego and bravado, and I just had to nod my head to the big beats and jazz and funk samples that the DJs put together.

However, above all that, it was the stories in hip-hop that consumed me. Great rappers are really great storytellers, using rap as a device to address social inequalities and issues ranging from poverty, crime, drug-abuse and broken families. In their raps they would often describe key events that they experienced or the lives of the people and communities they have grown up with, in clever, brash and hard-hitting ways.

Gil Scott Heron is seen as the godfather of Hip-Hop. His tracks were always provocative, had a social or political edge and told us a story. I still love songs such as We Almost Lost Detroit. In the same regard, Gangstarr – Just To Get a Rep, Nas – New York State of Mind, Jurassic 5 – Contribution are all hip-hop tracks from my youth that I still love today for their storytelling qualities. More recently Kendrick Lamar - The Art of Peer Pressure (and in fact the whole Good Kid, Maad City album) blew my mind as Kendrick brought us, the listener into his mad world, growing up in Compton and everything that went along with that. This was hip-hop back to its storytelling best.

Many of the music videos I’ve made have been for urban or hip-hop artists, and because of my love for hip-hop storytelling, I have tried to give a narrative element to each of these videos, and where possible, I’ve tried to tell stories that are slightly unexpected or un-typical for the genre.”


Jurassic Park / Stan Winston

“Jurassic Park is one of those movies immortalized from my childhood. The film I loved before I knew anything about film, it is Spielberg at his nail-biting, entertaining best and there are many, many reasons why I could cite it as being influential, but I’ve included it for the way that Spielberg combined in-camera, practical effects alongside digital VFX.

As a result of this approach, I would argue that bar a few shots, the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park look far more realistic and believable than in Jurassic World.

For me, Stan Winston’s Human Velociraptor suit or the animatronics of say the T-Rex are examples of movie making at its best – creative problem solving to achieve as much as humanly possible IN-camera, rather than relying on post effects.

The scenes where these techniques were used have stood the test of time; they look just as awesome and believable today as they did in 1993. The close-up shot where the T-Rex comes up close to the car window and blinks, because Tim accidently flicked the torch on, is terrifyingly realistic.

To go back to the Velocirapter suit, what I love about this making-of video is two things: Firstly, in its early, crude stages the suit is just made of pieces of foam tied together and this D.I.Y approach to making things or problem solving is something that I’m very into. Whether it was constructing things out of cardboard, Cellotape and Blu-Tac as a small kid or wrapping band members up in cushions, to roll them down a bowling alley for one of my music videos!

The second thing that you can clearly see is a group of passionate people working together tirelessly to create something that they believe in – where there’s a will, there’s a way. And this drive and passion has stuck with me ever since. Whether at university where we all stayed up until the crazy hours of the night, turning my sitting room inside-out to build our set (a giant-sized T.V that our actors could sit in) or the countless occasions that people have given up their precious time and expertise, to make a low-budget music video come together.”


Darkness / the Night

“For me, the darkness of night is a scary place but also one of wonder and mystery. A place filled with uncertainty, where anything can happen and where the moonlight casts an ethereal blanket over the normal world. A place where reality meets fantasy.

Bad things happen under the cover of darkness: villains lurk in dimly lit corners, people commit violent, bloody crimes and the super-natural reveals itself to us but the night-time is also alluring and sexy. It holds an unknown, and a mystery.  An area that seemed so boring and insignificant by day suddenly has an air of suspense, silence and intrigue about it.

In the darkness our minds race, trying to make sense of what we can’t properly see, often coming to all sorts of ridiculous assumptions, and this over-active imagination is something that has been a great influence on me. “What IF…?”

The night is the time of choice for many Film Noir or crime-thriller films and directors that I admire such as David Fincher, Alfred Hitchock, Steven Spielberg, The Coen Brothers, Louis Malle etc etc… who have mastered the darkness as a tool for drawing viewers into their stories by heightening tension, creating suspense, and emphasizing loneliness.

Photographers such as Patrick Joust and Gregory Crewdson are also great influences. In Patrick’s work there is an emptiness, stillness and isolation that is compelling and makes you wonder what might be lurking behind closed doors or in the dark corners of an empty street. Whereas Gregory Crewdson’s work goes one step further, hinting at surreal, other-worldly happenings – revealing odd characters and staging scenes that feel like they are part of a bigger story. It is impossible to look at one of his photos without thinking, “what happened before this moment?” and “what will happen after?” 

My fascination with darkness has resulted in many of the stories or scenes in my music videos being set at night, often with an underlying sinister tone or a fantastical, other-worldly element.”

Barry Myers Obituary

August 30, 2016 / Features

By John Clive and Caspar Delaney

Barry Myers, one of the preeminent commercial directors of British advertising's golden age has died at the age of 79.

Spanning four decades from the seventies to the naughties he won every international award available in an industry that prized and rewarded artistry, craft and innovation. This was a period when British commercials were giving as much pleasure and had as much cultural influence as the programs that they paid for. Barry's contribution to this creative movement can't be overstated.

His British Airways ‘Boardroom’ was as much a powerful satire of 80s ruthless business culture as it was a powerful marketing tool for the company that commissioned it. Like the best craftsmen and artists in all ages his work fulfilled its patrons' needs and then transcended them.
He was one of a remarkable crop of British directing talent, which included Ridley Scott, Adrian Lyne, Alan Parker and Hugh Hudson. All of whom had very distinctive styles. Unlike them Barry was eclectic and his style was not distinctive - but his films invariably were. His unique talent was to combine his visual, performance and narrative skills so that each served the other. He was as gifted at making viewers laugh as he was at making them gasp.

Barry made hundreds of commercials so choosing which best represent his talents is a daunting task. Here's a few - with links to the films: 
1978 : Olympus (Snapshot)
1978 : Tefal (Tefal Superfryers - Gas Masks)
1979 : Cadbury's (A finger of fudge)
1981 : British Airways (look up Hong Kong)
1984 : Barclays (Mr Grey)
1984 : Radio Rentals (Love Scene)
1984 : Wrights Coal Tar Soap (Macau)
1985 : Public Information Film (Smoker of the Future)
1985 : Hovis (Watermill)
1985 : Cadbury's Flake (Sunflowers)
1988 : British Airways (Boardroom)
1989 : Volkswagen Golf (Le père et l'enfant)
1990 : Citroën ('Spike')
1993 : Renault Clio (Le Paradis communiste' et 'L'Héritier)
1995 : Smirnoff (People's Army)
1996 : Axe (Jalousie)
1996 : Mars (L'indien)
1998 : Schweppes (Fièvre de la jungle)
2004 : William Lawson's (Sharon Stone)

If you watch any one of these little movies you'll see why Barry was the greatest features director Britain never had. He had his chances but wouldn't play the game. On the set of the one feature he did eventually get he famously told the U.S. producer, "I don't do over the shoulder shots." He was fired the next day. His uncompromising attitude to agencies and clients was legendary - he used to say, "Just as you're about to throw the ball - they tug your sleeve." He learned how to stop the sleeve tugging. On one epic Coke shoot at a beach location he literally drew a line in the sand a few feet from the camera and told the senior client, "Over this you will not step." 

It was always about the work - never about the status. And as the countless gongs testify - in the end everyone benefitted from Barry's stubbornness.

Caspar Delaney of RSA writes:

"I remember one agency creative director telling me that, when presented with a script for a huge, important and lucrative client, him saying ‘damn, this has got to be good, damn, we’re going to have to use Barry Myers’. Despite this reputation he was hugely popular in the industry and even those who encountered his fearsome single mindedness on the film set or in the cutting room remained good friends, they respected the standards he set and his determination to protect them.

Barry set up his production company Spots in 1972 with his business partner and Producer Tim White, having already had a hugely successful career as an agency copywriter and creative director. The company flourished and opened offices in New York, Los Angeles and Paris. Those who worked for Spots formed a great loyalty to Barry and Tim, hardly any ever chose to leave.

I joined as a clueless 17 year old runner in 1986 and became Barry’s Producer a few years later. It was the best university/film school I could have wished for and Barry was my tutor. He taught me about the industry and about life and how to enjoy it, how to be decent and fair. I can only strive to live up to the standards he set but I owe him my career and a whole lot more. He will be sorely missed."

I also owe Barry my career and a lot more besides. He plucked me out of my ad agency career when I was 25 - he paid for my test films and then paid me a retainer for two and a half years before I got my first script to direct. I doubt if anyone has ever owed so much to another man's stubbornness.

Barry's middle name was Zenith - his parents must have been very wise.

John Clive

Barry Myers is survived by his wife Vicky, his three children Lesley, Max and Joe and his granddaughter Hannah.

Directions to Direction: Ben Scott

August 30, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

One man’s journey through minefields, spaceports and tundra to unexpectedly become a director.

Not many directors win a Gold Lion in Cannes for their first film. That fact alone makes RSA Films director Ben Scott something quite remarkable, not to mention the raft of other accolades his film for Red Bull has picked up this year. But not many directors have the background like his either. Having travelled to the most extreme parts of the planet as a production designer and worked on some pretty iconic, high-end film productions, he had a pretty solid foundation in filmmaking before he helmed his first shoot.

It’s not hard to see where Ben got his creative bent. His mother was a seamstress while his father ran the prop department at the Royal Opera House. His mum taught him to knit – a skill he still uses occasionally – and his childhood was generally filled with people around him making things for the purposes of entertainment, mainly designers bringing models of things they were going to build for the stage. Ben didn’t need much convincing to follow in his father’s footsteps. “The idea someone would pay me to make models sounded fun,” he says. “I was single-mindedly interested in production design from very early on.”

Ben took up his pencil as a youngster, working as a designer at the National Youth Theatre before taking the classic route of a foundation course at the Central School of Art and Design (now Central St Martins). But he soon turned his back on the stage.

He loved working in theatre, but film needed great production design more, he decided. “I thought that film wasn’t theatrical enough,” he remembers. “I was actively trying to design more theatrical productions. After the heyday of Fellini and all those theatrical films it became very realistic and true to life. It was just replicating and reproduction.” Ben made it his mission to create heightened cinematic environments.

The National Film School ran a post-graduate course that attracted him. The problem was he didn’t have an undergraduate degree. Not wanting to waste time, he pretended he did have one and just used his experience working in the West End for the National Youth Theatre as his “theatre design degree” portfolio. Amazingly they bought it and Ben ended up entering the film world with an MA but no BA.

Ben’s first job out of university was as an art director and assistant to renowned production designer John Beard – the perfect apprenticeship to teach him the nuts and bolts of doing the job properly.

“As a student you design on paper and can be wildly creative,” he says. “There’s no reality check of a budget.” Suddenly working to one was a big lesson. “A lot of people can design amazing things. It’s much more of a skill to design stuff to a budget and a specific brief that can actually be built in the time.” That’s what his time with John Beard taught him. And he got good at it.

It gave him the chance to play in the biggest league possible, too, working on commercials like the Paul Weiland-directed electricity flotation ads – a six-week shoot taking up most stages at Shepperton. “That was a big eye-opener to me as to what could be done,” he says.

But when Ben struck out on his own as a freelance art director was when he started to have his biggest adventure. He worked on a big TV series for the BBC about the life of controversial British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, shot in South Africa over nine months. “I thought it would be great fun to spend the extra three months driving home, to make it a round year,” he says, casually.

Cape Town to London is a fair old road rip, as it turns out. And it wasn’t quite the fun sightseeing tour he’d prepared for. Travelling up the east coast of Africa was the more direct route, but the more politically unstable in the mid 90s.

With the benefit of hindsight, driving through war-torn Sudan solo might not have been the most sensible choice. He got stuck in a minefield at one point. “That’s when I realised I probably wasn’t as adventurous as I thought I was,” he says. “The reality of picking your way through bits of metal, poking at the sand, was a very sobering experience.” He backtracked safely and ended up taking a different route.

Apart from nearly going blind as a side effect from anti-malarial drug Lariam, he got home basically unscathed. Everyone said he was crazy to spend three months not working – the greatest fear among freelancers – but his ill-advised trip ended up working for him. “There was a story going around of this crazy art director who’d just driven all the way across Africa on his own.” It wasn’t long before his phone rang. The production designer on the other end was Gavin Bocquet, who was working on Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. He wanted to send Ben back to the Sahara to build the sets for Tattooine – the legendary home planet of Luke and Anakin Skywalker.

We’ll let you imagine how many milliseconds it took him to decide to take this opportunity – building a spaceport for one of the most iconic franchises in film history. Well worth spending another three months in the desert for. “All the stuff in Tattooine was very well referenced, so it was like a dream going out there,” he remembers. “My first drawing was one of the water condensers – those big iconic things sticking out in the desert with arms coming out of it. Then you get there and you’re building all this stuff you’ve grown up with.”

Apart from the 58-degree burning heat, it was a joy. And it cemented Ben’s niche as a globetrotting art director. Soon he was shipped off to the Thai jungle to build a set for The Beach. He even ended up in the arctic soon, designing a film called Far North, directed by Asif Kapadia.

“I think the arctic is the most extreme place I’ve worked,” he says. “We were shooting in Svalbard, an island virtually at the top of the world.” On one of the recces he asked their fixer how many people were further north than them, expecting a number of villages. He counted people on his fingers and didn’t get to ten.

On the way out there, the captain of their boat needed sleep, so Ben was told to steer. Oh, and stay on the look out for icebergs. In -40-degree cold, the polar bears were particularly hungry, so the shoot needed armed guards at all times.

All the time Ben fell more in love with his job. “It’s pretty unique,” he says. “You get to travel around and do different things. You have to have a discipline to be very concentrated and quiet at a drawing board with a pencil – there’s that very technical side of it – then you’re out battling sandstorms and icebergs at the other end of the same job.”

Eventually he progressed to become a production designer in his own right, working on TV dramas and movies, trying his best to bring his theatrical ideals to them.

With the arrival of children, his lifestyle had to change. Spending months thousands of miles away from London didn’t seem an attractive option, so he shifted his efforts towards advertising. He fitted well into his new environment. “The average film is four or five months,” he says. “In that time in commercials you’ll build three or four times the number of sets. So it’s much more intense and creative. And the sets you’re building are often quite out there. You could be doing a spaceship one day and a bedsit the next. Then back to the jungle, and you haven’t actually left the studio.”

Ben got absorbed in these creative challenges. Building the world’s biggest zoetrope for Sony, Braviadrome was a highlight – a production design-led idea that he could really own. It was on that set that he had his first inkling about becoming a director, persuading the client to let him direct one of the internet-only ancillary films around the main TV spot. He found his intimate knowledge of the set allowed him to shoot things a director normally wouldn’t think of. He’d never considered directing, surprisingly. “When you’re younger everyone wants to be a director,” he says, “but I never did. I just wanted to design. But being given the camera on that Sony job was a real eye-opener.”

For several years he forgot about any ideas of directing, but eventually stumbled into it again, working on another design-heavy job for Red Bull – their phenomenal Kaleidoscope film showcasing the talents of BMX ace Kriss Kyle. Red Bull came to Ben with the idea of building a moving graphic environment to surround his riding. Ben, no extreme sports expert, was blown away by Kriss. “He’s a master. It’s almost balletic, the way he rides,” he says.

Ben came up with a concept around optical illusions and pitched the idea for a course to the client. It went so well that mid-pitch he thought “now is my chance.” He told them he wanted to direct it. They instantly agreed and moved onto some other detail about the course. “I left the meeting wondering if they really said yes,” he says.

With so many of the shots requiring complete understanding of the set, Ben directing was a natural move. Soon he was represented by RSA Films, who he’d worked with many times before with a different hat on and four months later he was standing on a massive set with a huge crane behind him thinking “what have I done?”

His directorial debut went remarkably smoothly. Having been on set since the age of 19 he was at home in that environment. And his knowledge of the design shines through in the film, which co-stars the intricate set design alongside Kriss and his bike.

As soon as they called “wrap”, Ben entered the unknown. “Editing, the offline and online process, the grading, the sound – all of that is a foreign land to me,” he says. “That’s where my learning process really started.”

He must have learnt pretty quickly though, because the film was a roaring success, winning at the Creative Circle, D&AD, the AICP Show and even picking up a Gold Lion in Cannes this year.

Ben has since gone on to direct another design-heavy film for CBBC, making use of every inch of the set – a key philosophy he’s taken from his background. “Building a set, everyone complains that it’s never seen,” he says. “You build this amazing stuff and it’s all shot in the corner. On the BBC film we shot everything that was there. It’s planning so you put the money where it counts most.”

He’s still designing, and feels his directing career is still in its early days. He wants to branch out in the near future. “So far my style is a very visual one,” he concedes, “so the next big hurdle for me is storytelling. Something I’ve got to do now is get some people talking in front of the camera.” He’s bullish, though. “There’s a rich history of designers that have become directors [his boss Ridley Scott, for a start]. There’s obviously a sensibility there that lends itself to looking at things slightly differently.”

High Five: August

August 8, 2016 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

The fruits of those juicy Olympic budgets in this month's best ads.

It’s an Olympic summer – an event that brings out all the sports brands and broadcasters looking to make the most out of the huge audiences it draws. It's not about branding and andvertising. The reason those audiences are there is because of the inspirational quality of the Games - the only truly global eventof its kind. But the poetry of sport is a great raw material for creativity, not to mention the budgets that clients are willing to part with.

Brand: Adidas
Title: Creating New Speed
Production Company: Biscuit Filmworks
Director: Christopher Riggert
Production Company Producer: Kathy Rhodes
Director of Photography: Simon Duggan
Ad Agency: 72andSunny
Creative Directors: Josh Fell, Chris Hutchinson
Creatives: Gerardo Ortiz, Roy Smiling, Kwaku Beke, Tyree Harris
Agency Producer: Liliana Vega
Editing Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Sam Ostrove
Post Production Company: Method Studios

Adidas – Creating New Speed

This was a ready-made cinematic idea, just waiting for someone like Christopher Riggert to turn into a stunning film for a brand like Adidas. Muck City is a unique phenomenon – a small area of south Florida that churns out a disproportionate number of fast American football players. Facing poverty and high unemployment, young men there chase rabbits through burning sugar cane fields to survive. The skills they learn are surprisingly transferrable, as it turns out. And make for some incredible visuals in the hands of a good director.


Brand: Channel 4
Title: We’re The Superhumans
Production Company: Blink Productions
Director: Dougal Wilson
Production Company Producer: Ewen Brown
Director of Photography: Daniel Landin
Ad Agency: 4Creative
Creative Director: Alice Tonge
Creatives: Richard Biggs, Jolyon White, Dougal Wilson
Agency Producer: Louise Oliver
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Joe Guest
Music Company: Leland Music
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore
Post Production Company: MPC

Channel 4 – We’re The Superhumans

The London 2012 Paralympic Games felt like the first time excitement came close to that of its able-bodied counterpart and that is in no small part due to the commitment Channel 4 ploughed into the event, including Tom Tagholm’s inspirational trailer for the games. The bar was set high for Dougal Wilson to follow, but he’s risen to the task (of course), directing a piece of film that’s invigorating for the whole three minutes, reminding us of how much talent humans contain when they’re determined to release it.


Brand: Palace Skateboards
Title: Palace Skateboards X Reebok Classics
Production Company: MPC Creative
Directors: Lev Tanju, Stuart Bentley
Production Company Producers: Richard Skinner, Johnny Blick
Editing Company: MPC
Editor: Ben Crook
Sound Company: MPC
Sound Designer: Ben Crook
Post Production Company: MPC

Palace Skateboards – Palace Skateboards X Reebok Classics

For a company used to doing VFX on the slickest, high-budget commercials and movies in the world, MPC must have found it a real challenge to make something purposefully crap. But working with only Hollywood star Jonah Hill’s phoned-in ‘performance’ and some locked off shots of Palace’s Soho shop they’ve managed to strike just the right balance of rubbishness to make it funny. There are also a few visual gags dropped in so it bears rewatching. It must have been a lot of fun to make.


Brand: Samsung
Title: School of Rio - Cycling
Production Company:  Rattling Stick
Director: Gabe Turner
Production Company Producer: Stuart Bentham
Director of Photography: Fede Alfonzo
Ad Agency: BBH
Creative Director: Ewan Paterson
Creative: Jack Smedley
Agency Producer: Rachel Hough
Editing Company: Work
Editor: Mark Edinoff
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Phil Bolland
Post Production Company: The Mill

Samsung – School of Rio – Cycling

Sometimes comedy advertising is sort of funny, but not as funny as proper comedy. But when you get a comedian like Jack Whitehall on board and fully invested in a commercial, great things can happen. This is a fantastic script, allowing Jack to say all those things normal people think about Olympians. The whole series has been really funny, and it says a lot about British athletes that they’ve all been so willing to laugh at themselves.


Brand: Virgin Media
Title: 9.58
Production Company: Academy
Animation Company: The Line
Director: Seb Edwards
Animation Director: Wesley Louis
Production Company Producer: Dominic Thomas
Director of Photography: Alwin Kuchler
Ad Agency: BBH
Creative Director: Nick Gill
Agency Producers: Alen Grebovic, Victoria Keenan
Editing Company: Trim
Editor: Tom Lindsay
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Virgin Media – 9.58

Usain Bolt will go down in history as one of sport’s greatest figures. Partially because he’s the fastest man who’s ever lived, but also because he’s a complete human being. This ad captures both of these things perfectly. In an age where top athletes grew up training too hard to develop personalities, he’s remarkably relatable. He’s a true icon, and this commercial reminds us all of why so many people love him.


A Pint With… James Rose

August 2, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Friendly chat from the grumpiest face in editing.

As we’re both consummate professionals, James Rose and I met within spitting distance of both of our Soho offices, at The Blue Posts on Berwick Street – ready to dart back should we have urgent business to attend to (we didn’t). The golden afternoon sun demanded lager as we got to know each other. It was Becks Vier for me, keeping it session as I knew we’d have more than one, and a classy(ish?) Kronenbourg 1664 for him. The conversation meandered from work to culture to history for quite a while. I think he was just pleased to be out in the daylight.


“… When I was a kid my stepdad was a builder. I would have been one too if I was any good at it. To this day I refuse to put shelves up. But I loved the sense of achievement. At the end of the day you’d look at what you’d done ( in my case digging holes or mixing cement for a wall ) with pride. I often get that same satisfaction when I finish a day’s editing.”

“… I was into fighter jets when I was growing up. Norfolk was the airforce base of the Free West - Lightnings, Harriers, F-15s, F-16s, MIG-29s, SU-35s… There’s something reassuring about knowing all the specific details – wingspan, max speed, range… It was like Top Trumps flying past daily.”

“… It’s strange how little boys were obsessed with war. I don’t think it’s so much the case now. We had grandparents who’d been around in the Second World War, so we still had that connection. My Great Uncle was a pilot and my Grandfather used to say he wouldn’t buy anything Japanese, as the Norfolk regiment were stationed in Singapore. Now it would be hard not to buy Japanese.”

“… Being unemployed used to be fashionable. I was made redundant from a job in insurance in my early 20s, and it was a positive thing. I spent quite a while on the dole, reading far more voraciously than I’d ever done – proper, mind-expanding classic literature. Amazingly, I could survive. I used to be able to spend a tenner a week on food and managed to still smoke as well.”

“… We in the ad industry can inflate the importance of what we do. It sometimes reminds me of the end of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, where the new Earth is populated entirely by hairdressers and telephone sanitizers. I don’t know if editors would be all be that useful on a newly colonised planet either.”

“… I like when it goes quiet in the edit. At first it freaked me out, but it often means I have people’s trust. Part of editing is getting someone to trust you as quickly as possible so you can understand each other. It’s an interesting mind game.”

“… I’ve got quite an undiplomatic face. It looks like I have a problem even it’s fine. But it kind of works in the edit suite. If I have a problem, I’ll tell you. I’ve had trouble convincing people that I’m a warm, generous person because of my grumpy face. I really am, though!”

“… One part of editing is about rhythm and keeping time. I used to play the drums. I learnt to edit from an ex-bassist in a punk band – another member of the rhythm section. He used to say being a drummer was good, but the bass is the soul of the music.”

“… The idea that post production needs to offer a five-star-hotel experience is bollocks. You need to make clients comfortable enough to work, but not so comfortable they just want to come and hang out. You don’t want people to be distracted by luxury. Everyone needs to be thinking about getting the best edit possible.”

“… I’ve seen a few hotels around the world, but that’s not real travelling. Lots of the travel I do is professional, so I often never see places in the daylight. You arrive at night, leave before it gets light, come back after it gets dark and do that for days. I edited for 21 days straight in January, which is my record – a week in Prague and then two weeks in Amsterdam. It was a long time to be away from home.”

“… I’ve got a son who’s going through his ‘teenage discovery’ moments. Some of which I tolerate. Some of which I’m relieved that at least he’s talking to me about. He’s happy to talk to me about weed and he can allegedly source other products from the dark web that are allegedly 83% pure. Part of me wants to guffaw and say that’s bollocks. That would be the strongest this side of the Atlantic if that’s the case! But I can’t say that. So I just go ‘Oh really? Goodness me. That’s not a good route to go down. Especially not with your (my) pocket money.’”

“… I don’t want to be a shouty Malcolm-Tucker-type boss. I’m enjoying the challenges of being a Partner. It’s fun editing, but this is a project to see what I can do with people - balancing personalities and trying to move forward as a group. We’ve got a panoply of characters. It’s about finding an interesting balance and getting the best out of everyone, helping them to enjoy this game and to have as much fun as I do.”

James Rose is an Editor and Partner at Cut+Run.