CAMPAIGN CRAFT SPONSORED BY SVC: THE CREATIVE ISSUE - Why commercials directors find pop promos stimulating. Mairi Clark on how music videos allow directors to flex their creative muscle

Many successful film directors who cut their teeth on pop promos continue to direct them long after they need the work. The reason? Music videos, though third in the hierarchy of feature films and commercials, allow the director to take creative control without the restraints of the client.

Many successful film directors who cut their teeth on pop promos

continue to direct them long after they need the work. The reason? Music

videos, though third in the hierarchy of feature films and commercials,

allow the director to take creative control without the restraints of

the client.



For proof of the buoyant pop promo industry, witness this year’s D&AD

music video awards going to directors who are established in commercials

direction. Prizes were won by Propaganda’s Spike Jonze for videos for

the Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk, Partizan Midi Minuit’s Michel

Gondry for his Bjork film and - the youngest of the winners -

26-year-old Chris Cunningham for an Aphex Twin video through Black

Dog.



Cunningham, who has been directing music videos for three years,

maintains that commercials are easier than music videos. ’Promos and

commercials are different disciplines. Promos are 50 times harder

because you start with a blank canvas. But you have the opportunity to

do a fantastic job,’ he says. ’The problems start when you begin to rely

on music videos to make a living.’



While promos can look glamorous on-screen, they often are produced with

relatively small budgets in a short period of time compared with

commercials, which pay well. Directors tend to top up their income with

commercials work, using promos as a medium through which they can

express their creativity.



Graham Fink, who moved from commercials into promos precisely for this

reason, is now in charge of setting up a promo arm at the Paul Weiland

Film Company. ’With promos, you don’t have to do storyboards, research

or run your choice of location past 15 people. You are forced to think

on your feet, which gives you the opportunity to do a lot more as a

director,’ Fink comments. ’Since I’ve been doing promos, I’ve learned

about lighting techniques. I now light all my own promos, which I

probably wouldn’t have done in commercials because it would be too

costly.’



Cunningham, who was signed by RSA to direct commercials two years ago

and has since directed ads for ITV and Xfm, moved in the opposite

direction.



’I wanted to do commercials to learn structure and dialogue, I’m

interested in agency culture and how they get into the minds of

consumers. I do music videos because I love the music. I couldn’t do

them if I didn’t.’



’A lot of directors do promos for the image, while some just do it for

creative relief,’ Fiona Gillam, who’s setting up BFCS’s promo arm, says.

’It’s all about listening to a piece of music and seeing what you can

come up with. Doing music videos can really launch a director if they

have the fortune of a really good track.’



Karen Cunningham, managing partner of Pink, which is opening a promo arm

called Baby, believes it’s important for commercials directors to be in

touch with trends. ’There was a time when if you were a music video

director, you couldn’t get the chance to do commercials,’ she says. ’Now

people are realising that music has a great social significance. There’s

a vogue in music in the same way as fashion.’



Georges Bermann, chairman of Partizan Midi Minuit, knows this

already.



’Making promos is a job that has to be done by young guys, there has to

be a creativity, a vibe about them,’ he says. ’A lot of directors have

made the mistake of thinking that if they move to commercials, it’s a

step up socially, which isn’t good. Music video directors can bring

modernity and fresh ideas to campaigns, which agencies are

realising.’



Cunningham also believes that a director with more than one string to

their bow is good for the industry. ’There are opportunities in music

videos that explore parts of a director’s personality that wouldn’t be

touched in commercials.’



Chris Cunningham believes that the desire to direct movies prompts many

directors to do promos. ’Some directors are too lazy. It takes so much

effort to create a feature film; directing a music video gives them the

chance to be creative and also the chance to run around with a camera,’

he says. ’I think many directors move into commercials because a person

can only have so many good ideas.’



Fink and Bermann hold the view that promos are becoming almost

indistinguishable from advertising campaigns. ’Most pop promos have

cropped up as ads because creatives enjoy watching MTV,’ Bermann says.

’Take the Adidas campaign, which looks like promos did a year ago.

Promos are very much part of our culture. An art of our time.’



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