High Five: September

September 11, 2014 / High Five

By Alex Reeves

The month’s best advertising in all its beautiful diversity.

Our favourite ads of this month are a proper pick ‘n’ mix. Some are from brands that hit the ball out the park every time; others are refreshing ideas from brands this industry doesn’t often celebrate. We’ve got mixed media techniques, celebrity endorsements and charitable initiatives. Advertising is a diverse and multi-headed beast.

Brand: Axe
Title: Monday; Wednesday
Production Company: Riff Raff
Director: Jonas & François
Production Company Producer: Jane Tredgett
Director of Photography: Alex Barber
Ad Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty
Creative Directors: Wesley Hawes, Gary McCreadie
Creatives: Charlene Chandrasekaran, Carl Broadhurst, Peter Reid, Dan Morris
Agency Producer: Chris Watling
Editing Company: Marshall Street Editors
Editors: Patric Ryan
Music Company: Big Sync Music
Sound Company: String and Tins
Sound Designer: Will Cohen
Post Production Company: Electric Theatre Collective

Axe – Monday; Wednesday

BBH have been consistently turning out commercials for Axe for a while now and it looks like their streak is set to continue. Rather than focusing on the usual claims of sexual fortune, Axe is promising something altogether more general here. It’s about loving yourself before you can love others and seizing the day. Riff Raff’s music video wizards Jonas & François are a great choice to direct such a vibrant and energetic brace of commercials. They bring just the right amount of flair and just the right tone for the brand.

 

Brand: Coors Light
Title: Ice Bar
Production Company: Rattling Stick
Director: Danny Kleinman
Production Company Producer: Johnnie Frankel
Ad Agency: VCCP
Creative Director: Jim Capp
Copywriter: Jermaine Hillman
Art Director: Paul Kocur
Agency Producer: Andy Leahy
Editing Company: Cut+Run
Editor: Julian Tranquille
Music Company: Wake the Town
Sound Company: 750mph
Sound Designer: Sam Ashwell
Post Production Company: Framestore

Coors Light – Ice Bar

Jean-Claude Van Damme has been the face of Coors Light since 2011 and it’s been a brilliant partnership for both him and the brand. There’s something genuinely funny about the campaign’s self-aware training-montage style, particularly when one suspects JCVD himself doesn’t quite get the joke. Now with Danny Kleinman bringing his talents to the helm, this partnership has reached its kitsch extreme, and it feels like a climax to the campaign. It’s hard to imagine The Muscles from Brussels coming back to the light beer ads, but if they can outdo this then we’ll be very impressed.

 

Brand: Direct Line
Title: Write Off
Production Company: Gorgeous
Director: Chris Palmer
Production Company Producer: Rupert Smythe & Alicia Richards
Ad Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Creative Director: Paul Silburn
Creatives: Paul Silburn, Gemma Phillips, Mark Slack
Agency Producers: Zoe Bell, Darapen Vonga-sa, Sam Rendle-Short
Editing Company: The Quarry
Editor: Scott Crane
Sound Company: Factory
Sound Designer: Anthony Moore
Post Production Companies: The Mill, Nineteen Twenty

Direct Line – Write Off

Insurance ads are usually complete bastards. They get in your head with their annoying jingles, silly voices and smug voiceovers from moonlighting comic actors. Thanks the marketing gods then that the new Direct Line campaign features none of these (admittedly effective) gimmicks. Sure, it does borrow its idea from Pulp Fiction – one of the most beloved films of all time – but Hervey Keitel does such a good job reprising his role as Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe that we can’t be angry with this flagrant commandeering of movie culture. It’s too good to hate.

 

Brand: Kenco
Title: Coffee Vs Gangs
Production Company: RSA
Director: Johnny Hardstaff
Production Company Producer:  Annabel Ridley
Ad Agency: JWT London
Creative Director: Jaspar Shelbourne
Copywriter: Matt Leach
Art Director: Jess Oudot
Agency Producer: Carley Reynolds
Editing Company: The Whitehouse
Editor: John Smith
Music Company: Eclectic
Composers: Colin Smith, Simon Elms
Sound Company: Greeek Street Sudions
Sound Designer: Dan Weinberg
Post Production Company: Absolute

Kenco – Coffee Vs Gangs

This film is to promote Kenco’s latest initiative, transforming the lives of Honduran youths likely to get involved in a life of gang violence by teaching them to farm coffee. And whether it’s a cynical move to seem like a responsible company or not (it probably is), it’s helping people, so that’s cool. Johnny Hardstaff’s film is more naturalistic than his usual highly-stylised approach, but he brings the slums to life here in a very immersive way. And with minimal voiceover and pushing of the brand, it makes the brand look quite classy.

 

Brand: Uncle Ben’s
Title: The Family Home of the Future
Production Company: Fat Lemon
Director: Chris Faith
Production Company Producer: Cabell Hopkins
Ad Agency: Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO
Creative Director: Mike Hannett
Copywriter: Liam Donnelly
Art Director: Phil Holbrook
Agency Producer: Richard Grisman

Uncle Ben’s – The Family Home of the Future

As if we didn’t all despise estate agents enough already, this one puts his clients through the infuriating process of showing them a house without a kitchen. The idea is to drum up interest for Ben’s Beginners – a new YouTube cooking channel created for Uncle Ben’s. It’s impressive to see brands as prosaic as the rice specialists providing genuinely useful content online and this is a clever way to promote it, although in today’s housing market a house without a kitchen is probably still unaffordable for most first-time buyers.

Masterpiece 2014 London at the Chelsea Royal Hospital

September 10, 2014 / Arts and Culture

By Don Grant

Sadly art is now all about money, as this event proved conclusively.

This is the fifth year of Masterpiece, otherwise known as the ‘Unaffordable Art Fair.’ The opening night saw a large sparkle of guests, dealers, jeunesse dorée, hangers-on, collectors, art lovers and euro-trash milling about.

They hung around the curtains from whence poor, harassed girls emerged carrying salvers of canapés. They only made it a few yards before the gannets pounced and devoured the lot.

Could the popularity of this event be down to the fact that it trumpets the fact that it has become the premier antiques and art fair in the UK, or could it be the enormous amount of Ruinart Champagne on tap? A bit of both, one suspects. Certainly, they invite la crème de la crème from around the world, selling clocks and watches, jewellery, porcelain, furniture, antiquarian books, sculpture, paintings, prints, photographs, maps and folk art.

Amongst all these recherché objects is a perfectly ordinary Maserati, which one can see in their showroom in the Old Brompton Road, so why has it been elevated to the status of ‘art’? It’s a car! Now a Bugatti Type 57 SC Atlantic could be labeled ‘art’, but not a Quattroporte, which is simply Italian for four-door saloon.

If you want to buy a Lowry for £200,000 or a scaled-down cast of Rodin’s The Kiss, for quite a few hundred thousand, this is the place for you. Last November, a 3-foot-high ‘lifetime’ cast of The Kiss sold at Christie’s New York for more than $6m, more than four times its lower estimate; although the current record paid for a Rodin bronze is $19m, for a 6-foot Eve.

This fair is all about money. And class, although, there was a stack of very expensive bling on view, as well. The main sponsor was, after all, RBS Wealth Management, which underlines the notion that art is now all about money. In true fat-cattery fashion, there is even an obnoxious, high-gloss supplement called How to Spend It, published by the FT, telling their readership what to invest in, and nothing about the quality or integrity of the ‘art’. Once it was claret, then classic cars, now paintings and sculpture.

Rob and Nick Carter are young masters of creating digital images from Old Masters. Previously, they took Ambrosius Bosschaert the Elder’s Vase With Flowers in a Window and somehow three-dimensionalised it. For Masterpiece they produced a version of Giorgione’s Sleeping Venus, using a digitalised background, with day turning imperceptibly into night, into which they have placed a breathing, twitching model; unfortunately, this enhanced being has lost the innocent charm of the original, and resembles more an airbrushed Playmate, or a Vargas painting.

More successful is Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s own masterpiece. Created from the remains of mummified animals, which have been cast in solid sterling silver, it creates a silhouette portrait of the artists on the blank wall behind when illuminated from the front.

If one wanted something a little older, then a visit to Ariadne Galleries from New York would have revealed a Head of a Cycladic Idol, a beautifully simple Greek stone carving dated c.2500 BC from the Cycladic Islands in the Aegean, selling for many millions.

Both Henry Moore and Constantin Brâncuși were strongly influenced by Cycladic sculpture, and although not seen at Masterpiece, a Brâncuși head will still attract some of the highest prices of any sculptor, too rich even for this fair.

Rolls Royce car-dealers used to respond to the question, ‘How much is it, then?’ with a snotty ‘If you have to ask, you can’t afford it, sir’, which is why presumably many pieces were labelled POA, or maybe because many stall-holders were prepared to do a deal.

Robert Young was very much in evidence, with his stylish stand selling folk art, which ranged from painted peasant furniture, trade signs and treen to George Smart fabric collages and old, Welsh oak Windsor chairs. As one of the world experts on this difficult-to-categorise genre, he recently advised Tate Britain on their widely-acclaimed British Folk Art exhibition, reviewed in the June edition of this paper.

Sladmore had not one, but two, stands this year, one focussing on Nic Fiddian Green and his ubiquitous horse’s heads, bending down to drink, and the other devoted to such modern sculptors as Rembrandt Bugatti, who had a delightful Flamingo on view.

If Masterpiece regards itself as part of the ‘Season’, it has to stand alongside the RA Summer Show and Henley Royal Regatta. Adrian Sassoon had for sale an astonishing work of madness by Giovanni Corvaja, a hat, hand-crafted entirely from 160km of gold wire. The headpiece, priced at £350,000, took over 2,500 hours to make, with each of the 5 million hand-hammered gold wires being drawn through a diamond. That would certainly have turned heads at Royal Ascot.

 

Originally published in Kensington and Chelsea Today.

www.dongrant.co.uk

About the Beak Street Bugle

September 10, 2014 /

By alex

The Beak Street Bugle is an online newspaper for the advertising world. Here you will find articles on advertising and commercials production, in particular, containing insight, opinion, reviews, blind conjecture, humour and work.

Signed: Nicolas Davenel

September 10, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

Able&Baker sign a French image-maker with a savage, motorized aesthetic.

Breton director Nicolas Davenel is the latest young spark to join the burgeoning ranks of Able&Baker.

Having started his career in film as an editor, Nicolas first moved behind the camera to direct a stop-motion video for French garage rock outfit The Parisians – a process he looks back on the long and painstaking process of assembling it in post-production.

From there on Nicolas worked on various projects, some more commercial than others, with varying degrees of creative freedom and room for experimentation, from music videos to fashion films, online content and TVCs.

His fascination with all things motorized – particularly those on two wheels – is apparent in his video for Birdy Nam Nam’s Defiant Order, which stages an adolescent romance narrative within a real suburban bike gang. He’s also in production on Live Fast // Ride Slow, a feature documentary about US moped gangs.

Watch some of his work here:

Unsigned: Człowiek Kamera

September 10, 2014 / Signed/Unsigned

By The Beak Street Bugle

More than just a man with a movie camera.

Człowiek Kamera isn’t a proper name – it’s just Polish for camera man. The director decided to adopt the moniker while he was studying film at the University of Lodz. His inspiration was Soviet director and operator Dziga Vertov and his avant-garde film Man With a Movie Camera.

While the Camera Man’s initial experimentations with cinematography started off documenting live music, his filmmaking soon diversified into more created music videos.

Almost ten years since he first picked up a camera, Człowiek Kamera has worked with some interesting artists from around the world, has had his work featured at several festivals around Europe and was nominated for a UKMVA in 2013.

Watch some of his work here:

 

Backing the Underdog

September 4, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Why the Ibiza Music Video Festival is supporting the browbeaten music video industry.

For two days in October just after the tourist season finishes, as Balearic revellers slink off the island to nurse their party wounds, the Ibiza Music Video Festival appears, bringing with it an altogether more diverse crowd – anyone and everyone with an interest in music videos, from record label commissioners to aspiring young filmmakers. With day tickets only €30 and €50 for the full festival, with offers on accommodation too, it’s a few notches more inclusive than other festivals in the industry.

Now in its second year, it promises to pack as much content as possible into those two days, including workshops on practically every aspect of music video production and promotion from industry leaders, an award ceremony to celebrate the best work in the medium internationally and plenty of room for rubbing shoulders too.

Rupert Bryan, a director who also runs the production company Motion Picture House, and his collaborative partner Elizabeth Fear, launched the festival last year. “It’s not that complicated,” he says. “It’s just getting good, interesting people together and telling them ‘share your knowledge, share your skills, let some other people know about it, give them your time and maybe get a job out of it.’”

But simple doesn’t always mean easy. Rupert’s willing to admit that building a unique global event from the ground up is no easy task. So many different variables have to line up for it to work, he explains, with panels, workshops, submissions, flights and accommodation to organise. “It’s like trying to piece this massive puzzle together,” he says. “You kind of know what the end is going to look like, but all the bits are absolutely everywhere and it’s taking far too long.”

Meanwhile, he’s also trying to run a production company, making the festival organising an uphill struggle, trying to grab moments for it whenever he can. “When something good happens, that motivates you,” he says. “Then you suddenly realise you’ve got all the other 980 things you’ve got to be doing.”

The biggest challenge for the event is funding. As great as the idea is, it won’t get far without some capital behind it. That’s no great surprise though because music videos are hardly the most lucrative medium these days. Decades on from the heyday of MTV, the promo is downtrodden and somewhat sidelined by the production industry.

But that’s sort of the point for Rupert. He relishes the challenge to build something despite this adversity. “Let’s choose a business where there’s no money,” he suggests. “Let’s choose a business where people don’t want to support it because they think there’s no value in it. Brilliant idea.” Despite his sarcasm, he’s genuinely defiant. He’s done crazy things like this before, once organising a concert in the middle of the Costa Rican rainforest for no good reason.

It’s not normal for someone to want to do this kind of thing, but the idea of creating something unique that people enjoy exhilarates Rupert. “Every time I catch a glimpse I stop for a second and go ‘we’re actually doing this.’”

In a time when music videos are at a low ebb, both financially and in terms of industry support, Rupert’s attempts to build this festival are simply his expression of love for a medium he’s always had a passion for. His first ventures into filmmaking were putting music to moving image and he still directs videos when he can find the time. “Oddly I think the first music video I did was when I was about 14 or 15 to a John Barry score,” he remembers. “I still enjoy it but it takes so much time and effort that I couldn’t make a living from it.”

People in production have generally still got big love for music videos. If they didn’t none would get made, considering the piles of favours that budgets demand are pulled in for each one, the long hours working in unglamorous locations without the luxuries of a commercial shoot. The contrast is quite stark to Rupert. “Doing a music video it’s 18 hours and you’re on the coast and it’s wet and you’ve just got some biscuits,” he laughs. “And you’ve got to carry on.”

People do though. An animator might dedicate two weeks of his life to a track because they love it so much. “That’s something they’re really proud of,” says Rupert. “In a commercial sense that would have been their wages for three years.” That’s what music videos do to people.

The sheer man-hours put into these projects are remarkable. For a three-minute video it could be 20 or 30 people dedicating a day or two of their life, often for little or no pay, to make something creative and exciting. “How much creative time gets spent that doesn’t get recognised,” he wonders. “If we can recognise a little bit of that, that can only be a good thing.”

It’s incredible that anyone would bother until you remember how fun, creative and cool the medium is. “It’s actually great fun,” Rupert insists. “Ask the costume designer at three o’clock in the morning when she’s been standing in the cold in the woods. But cut to that three-minute version two weeks later and you forget all the pain.” That’s why music video still attracts so much talent.

The music video has been on a tumultuous ride since the age when the Gondrys and Romaneks of the world first ran riot, but despite the decline in budgets, many changes have helped the medium. With the relentless march of technology, access to entry has been made easier. The tools you need to make a music video can be cheap, allowing bedroom auteurs to emerge. “Someone with a 5D, a good set of lenses, understands light, with a little playback system,” suggests Rupert. “Suddenly you can get something good. They can have a go at it.”

And that’s another reason the music video genre is so vibrant these days. With video sharing an integral part of online behaviour, three-minute videos about music are ideally poised to spread. Remember, Gangnam Style – the most popular thing on the internet ever – was a music video.

From this perspective, music video has never been riper for an event like the Ibiza Music Video Festival. The passion is there, along with the talent. The festival has no fee to enter work, so even the smallest-time of directors can get their work considered. But, in part due to that, all that’s missing is the money.

This is mirrored in Rupert’s experience. He and his team have been inundated with entries this year from around the world – almost triple last year’s number. And the quality has blown Rupert away. “This is incredible stuff,” he says.

“When I’m looking our budget and our deficit sometimes I think ‘why the hell are we doing this?’” admits Rupert “It’s a challenge but I’m determined to make it work. We’ve come so far. It’s a good idea. But sometimes good ideas don’t pay the bills.”

Rupert’s hope isn’t just to put on a good festival for his own satisfaction. With the right people involved he hopes the Ibiza Music Video Festival can drive the medium forward in all sorts of ways. With awards to support people in their careers, the newest talent will be allowed to flow into the industry with greater ease.

And maybe it’s a vain hope, but Rupert suggests it might even bring more interest and thus more cash into the music video. “Ultimately the music video is undervalued,” he believes. “There are lots out there, but the ones that grab your attention and make you want to watch it again – planning and normally a lot of experience goes into those.”

 

Find out more and buy tickets on the Ibiza Music Video Festival website.

The War on the Mundane

August 27, 2014 / Features

By Alex Reeves

Johnny Hardstaff’s honourable struggle against unmemorable advertising.

It’s not hard to work out why Johnny Hardstaff got into advertising. Growing up in the midlands, he was banned from watching commercial television as a child, so there was always a mystique around it for him. “I’d find my dad late at night watching ITV and loving it,” he remembers.

Now one of RSA Films’ top class directors, he admits the company’s namesake was also a big contributor to his early fascination with commercial filmmaking. He remembers seeing Chanel’s Share the Fantasy commercials, directed by Ridley Scott. “They came on and you were just sat there looking at these amazing fantasy worlds,” he says. “You don’t know who makes it. I think you think gods make it, or some strange mythical creatures like unicorns.”

Johnny’s sense of wonder for fantasy worlds has its influence on his latest work. His recent ads for Honda, Kenco and the Royal Marines all have an air of the supernatural about them. They’re also all remarkably memorable commercials. For him, saving advertising from the mundane is a war. He’s on the front lines, but he’s been picking his battles carefully, working only on the scripts he can push in the right direction.

“For my part, my plan is always to make advertising that the viewer could not have expected but actively wants to watch,” he explains. “It’s an ad, so it has to more than pay them back for their time invested in watching it. I think it helps that I actively like the advertising forum as much as I do.”

His latest work for Honda, Hot & Cold, is a bizarre jumble of visual ideas, nothing like a stereotypical car ad. “Right now car advertising is mostly generic and sanitised,” he says, pulling no punches. But just to make sure it stands out, this one has skeletons, music played backwards and what Johnny describes as the “stupid and painstaking process” of deep freezing automobiles and burning out cameras trying to constantly record the thawing very, very, slowly.

But that’s not what makes it stands out, according to the director. “I think Hot & Cold has a tone, a feeling that is very different to everything around it. It was born out of fun and play, and a great collaboration between very strong creative directors and creatives at Wieden+Kennedy, a strong client and myself, and that comes through I hope. We all took the pursuit of lightness incredibly seriously.”

It relies heavily on a wider language that the agency have crafted for Honda over the years. “They’ve taught us to read it and speak it,” he says. “It’s playful and assured, hand made and agreeably individual. It’s very human advertising and people like that. And it renders more conventional ‘safe’ advertising wholly impotent.”

The ad he shot for Kenco’s Coffee Vs Gangs campaign is a dreamlike vision of poverty and violence in Central America, overlaid with evocative animated tattoos designed by Rebecca Strickson to add a sense of magic. It’s exactly Johnny thinks advertising should be – captivating, risky and original, and shooting it was a unique experience too.

The film’s purpose is to promote the Coffee Vs Gangs programme, which has taken young Hondurans at risk of getting involved in a life of crime and taught them how to become coffee farmers, along with some basic maths and English.

It’s a welcome initiative. Life in Honduras, where Kenco grow their coffee, can be brutal. “The mortality rate is through the roof,” says Johnny. “Everybody joins [one of] two gangs. It’s ferocious. Google ‘Honduras gangs’ or something and it’s just pictures of heads on bonnets.”

It turns out the commercial had to be shot in Costa Rica rather than Honduras. “It’s impossible to get insured to go to that country,” Johnny says. The guys at RSA tried to call the British consulate there but couldn’t get hold of them, apparently because it had closed down. “It’s a warzone,” he says. It’s too dangerous to have a British consulate or embassy there.

The slums in San Jose, where they shot, weren’t much safer though. Their location manager was robbed at gunpoint and Johnny says they were forbidden to walk down certain streets for fear of straying into dangerous gang territory.

Despite that, he was shocked by how accommodating the locals were. “The people were lovely,” he says. “Even though they’ve got corrugated iron for walls and tea towels for curtains, I swear they’re happier than we are.”

The cast were all local slum-dwellers, which no doubt adds the to the realism of the film. The main kid lives with his mother. His house burnt down around a year ago. “What’s great is the money he gets from doing this ad will probably pay his mum’s rent for like the next three years,” says Johnny.

From an advertising perspective, Kenco are pushing things forward exactly how Johnny thinks brands should be. “It’s great that Kenco are having the balls to do this,” he says. “For a coffee brand. It’s not an edgy category by any stretch of the imagination.” This is heavily tattooed gang members, guns and rap music. No pack shot. No squeaky-clean ideal family or well-heeled celebrity reclining in his plush condo sipping coffee. There’s barely even any copy to explain the concept.

“In a landscape where everything is unmemorable, they’ve created something people do remember,” says Johnny. He sees this sort of thing as an antidote to the vast majority of advertising. “The client has become overly conscious and therefore conservative about how they’re perceived, whereas they should be trusting the agencies and directors and listening more and they’ll be in a wholly more thrilling environment.” On top of all that, it’s actually helping people. “If the idea is a benevolent initiative then even better,” he says.

As part of RSA’s newly launched design roster, Johnny hopes that the jobs coming his way will get even more diverse. He originally studied graphic design at St Martins and is all for the melding of styles and mediums.  “It’s really interesting when things become a hybrid or you get sensibilities coming through,” he says.

As someone with a very strong aesthetic style, it was interesting to see Johnny’s recent film for the Royal Marines was fairly light on the animation. While not exactly naturalistic, it was an overall sense of foreboding that made it stand out from the bizarrely friendly tone the military usually takes for recruitment. “There was an even darker cut,” he reveals. We’d love to see that.

In a jaded industry of bitter veterans, Johnny has hope that advertising can still inspire the wonder he felt as a kid in the midlands, watching Ridley Scott’s creations. “People may bemoan this mundane advertising landscape,” he says, “but there are still very smart clients who will actively want to differentiate themselves from all the dross. They come with a very different set of expectations, and that’s exclusively where I like to play. Kenco, I hope, in some way attests to this. In a smaller way, hopefully Honda does too. The Royal Marines film is more traditional on paper, and military recruitment is a tricky forum within which to be progressive, but still we managed to push things a little and speak to its target audience in a language they actually understand and appreciate.”

But no director can rely on daring scripts to land on his lap. The stuff that truly stands out has to be fought for.  “Mostly you have to actively help engender these opportunities by changing the process,” he explains. “Most people and organisations are averse to changing the process, but when you do really interesting things happen. Anything to disrupt the mundanity. So you get involved early. You help develop the creative. Quite often now you help sell the idea to the client. Whatever it takes.”

Jumping the Fence: Nyall Cook

August 20, 2014 / Features

By Nyall Cook

In our new series on poachers-turned-gamekeepers, Nyall Cook reflects on his transition from agency creative to director.

Nyall Cook
Was: Creative at Glue Isobar
Now: Director at Habana Creative

 

I recently completed my first commercial job as a director. It was for Tefal. The film is nice. It’s sweet, charming and even a little funny. Well, I hope so. See that’s what I’ve found the most challenging aspect of directing… actually pulling off your vision. My name is Nyall Cook, ex-agency creative, wannabe director.

I’m by no means the first creative to leave behind the brainstorms, internal politics, and leftover meeting food of agency life to chase a dream. Far from it. But I am the only one I know, out of the ‘recession generation’ of pre-30 year old creatives. So for now I have no one to directly relate to about making the jump from Keynote King to a behind-the-camera maestro.

To be honest, I’ve always been slightly in awe of the directors I’ve worked with. I owe my entire ‘creative reel’ to them. They took my scripts and scamps, and turned them into something magical. You see, being a creative is an awesome job, but also a tough one. You need to be relentless yet diplomatic. Fighting for ideas; yet taking criticism on the chin. The amount of work that goes in before directors are called in is staggering. I’ve always wanted to make ads. I got into advertising to make ads. But little did I know all those years ago, on the placement round, that I’d be assigned to a back row seat.

So, in September last year, I left big agency life to pursue a new path. It’s been hard, and slow to start, but an incredibly rewarding journey. I consider myself very lucky to bag this first commercial job. Any ‘young’ director would.

Interestingly, I’m now actually a partner at a production company, Habana Creative, but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee commercial work. First off, I had to build a reel, and that isn’t fast or cheap. Secondly, I’ve never studied filmmaking, and had underestimated the immense technical understanding you need – I’d always had professionals to look after this for me - I had to learn a lot on the spot - thank you, personal projects.

So when the script came in, and the budget was pretty low, I took the opportunity. As helping directors with their treatments is part of my current role, I felt at home writing my own. I love writing treatments – I built a career writing creative presentations, and they’re not too dissimilar.

The tight budget actually became a bit of bonus for me, as it gave me lots of creative freedom to tell the story I wanted to tell. I feel setting the tone of your spot, and seeing it through to execution, is one of the most crucial aspects of a director’s responsibilities. And getting agencies and clients to agree to it, and share your vision, can be even harder.  

My first experience of this came when I had to present my treatment to Tefal. As a creative I took pleasure in presenting director’s treatments – as the good ones improve and build upon your idea – so naturally I wanted to present my own to the clients. Luckily the agency agreed. I think my years of presenting concepts were a real benefit here as the whole thing went smoothly.

Onto production… One of the aspects of my new job that I love the most is how collaborative it is. As an agency creative it’s easy to sometimes feel like the world is against you. But with directing it seems people always want to help you out - your producer, your casting director, your DoP, all the way through to your talent on the day. Brilliant. I also love the attention to detail as a director; I’m really keen on art direction and styling (I actually styled the spot) and loved creating my own little world. I found it all incredibly creatively fulfilling. 

Looking back on it now, I never fully appreciated the diverse skill sets a director needs. You have to be a good writer, a visual storyteller, direct acting, spot talent, lead a crew, collaborate with agencies and clients, and then there’s all your post-production responsibilities. It’s like piecing together a complicated puzzle, and if one piece doesn’t fit – you’re screwed. Directing is one of the most hands-on yet visionary jobs I can think of. Any good creative is a visionary, but making the jump to director involves technical understanding and craftsmanship. This can be tricky to grasp at first, but having the right people around you helps massively.

I loved the pace of my first commercial job, compared to slogging it out for 5 months on one campaign as a creative. But with pace comes an end. And now it’s all over. Although I help run Habana Creative, I don’t know exactly where my next commercial gig might come from. Opportunities don’t land on my desk daily anymore. It’s all about fighting for each and everyone one now. But if they’re anywhere near as rewarding as my first ad, I’m happy to fight for them all.

Essentially I think are pros and cons to working as a creative before directing. I fully understand the process of advertising; which agencies love. I get new trends, technologies and of course concepts, which I hope to add to. I grew up in this industry, but this could also be seen as a negative. Creatives love directors that will add an unexpected brilliance to their work, perhaps learnt from other industries; shooting promos, films, documentaries, and art installations – you name it. But then again I’ve got time to try my hand at all of these. And look forward to doing so.