CAMPAIGN REPORT ON PRODUCTION AND POST PRODUCTION: Directors who’s hot, who’s not. From Hollywood Players through to Workhorses and Wannabes, Soho is bursting with directing talent. Caroline Marshall looks at who’s been wowing agen

This is the fourth time Campaign has divided Soho’s commercial directors into a number of species defined by talent, experience and reputation. Here you will find features directors whose first loyalty is to the film medium rather than to the client; directors with agency backgrounds for whom directing is a beloved vocation; busy directors who shoot a high volume of work and represent traditional, polished commercial-making values; young film-makers who personify the shock of the new and novices seeking something special to distinguish them from the crowd.

This is the fourth time Campaign has divided Soho’s commercial

directors into a number of species defined by talent, experience and

reputation. Here you will find features directors whose first loyalty is

to the film medium rather than to the client; directors with agency

backgrounds for whom directing is a beloved vocation; busy directors who

shoot a high volume of work and represent traditional, polished

commercial-making values; young film-makers who personify the shock of

the new and novices seeking something special to distinguish them from

the crowd.



Since we first published a similar feature in 1994, the commercials

market has seen more competition, more pressure on budgets, more

international campaigns and greater influence of the global information

economy.



In this climate, the fortunes of the production companies that find and

nurture the talent can be as exciting as those of the directors. There

have been closures - including Fat Fish, Produktion, Limelight and

Sloggetts - but new companies have opened their doors, among them

Concrete and Spectre, fronted by Daniel Kleinman in partnership with

Bertie Miller. Meanwhile, blue-chip outfits such as Paul Weiland (with

Andy Morahan) and James Garrett (with David Bailey) are reinvigorating

their rosters with fresh talent.



The Advertising Association calculates that in 1996 the UK ad industry

spent about pounds 506 million on producing commercials (or 15.2 per

cent of the total spend on airtime and production), a sum which Campaign

estimates represents more than 5,000 finished films. According to File

FX, there are 1,159 directors signed up to 262 production companies

(about a quarter of each group is dedicated solely to ads). Consider the

competition for scripts and the commercials medium soon emerges as one

of the most unpredictable and volatile of art forms.



The most exclusive group of the directing species is the Hollywood

Player: film-makers who traded in the highly paid world of 30-second TV

commercials three decades ago for the risk-laden world of feature film

production. In the early 60s, Ridley Scott and Alan Parker were among a

remarkable team working with Charles Saatchi at CDP. Pioneers of the

cross-fertilisation between commercials and features, they now shoot ads

only when they are on leave from Hollywood or other pet projects.



A second crew, Establishment, runs the Hollywood Players close. These

elder statesmen command a hefty price-tag reflecting the fact they have

been at the top of the commercials tree for a decade or more. Paul

Weiland is still there, as are Paul Arden and Jeff Stark. Mike

Stephenson - who directed Leagas Delaney’s new Nationwide ads, as well

as the acclaimed Teacher Training Agency spot through Delaney Fletcher

Bozell - joins Establishment from Workhorses.



In the Stars category, the talent is typically (though not always)

younger and cheaper, at between pounds 6,000 and pounds 8,000 a day. One

new name, Jonathan Glazer, joins this rank this year. Undeniably,

31-year-old Glazer is the name to drop when looking for a star director.

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO trusted him with the script for its first spot

for Guinness, ’swim black’, and he directed ’parklife’ for Nike and

’protection’ for VW - two of the biggest winners at this year’s D&AD

Awards. Accomplished in music videos and commercials, Glazer has

nonetheless defined features as his ultimate goal and is intent on

securing finance and a trusted producer for his second feature attempt,

Sexy Beast. ’I want the film to blow the roof off the world,’ he

says.



Hotshots is a category for those directors who have one or two acclaimed

spots on their reels, attracting much attention from agency producers.

In this category, Gregory Rood of BBC ’Perfect Day’ fame is joined by

Paul Gay of VW ’dentist’ and ’hiccups’ and Trevor Melvin of Whiskas

’lessons’.



Paul Street, who directed the ’Bullitt’ spot for the Ford Puma and is

now shooting a follow-up starring Dennis Hopper to promote the Ford

Cougar, is also in the Hotshots category this year. Street started his

career in motion control, eventually moving via corporate work into

commercials five years ago. His big break was the ’scales’ spot for BMW

which won him an award for best newcomer.



Nipping at the Hotshots’ ankles is a unique species: the pounds 4,000 to

pounds 5,000-a-day Crossovers who have switched from being agency

creatives. Their background equips them particularly well for directing

commercials, and not only because of an awareness of the importance of

reaching and moving an audience. They bring a discipline that the idea

of a commercial is as important as its deliberately attractive

images.



Crossovers include Antony Easton, Kevin Thomas, Mark Williams, Mark

Denton and Pat Holden. This year they are joined by Graham Fink, who

moves across from last year’s Bubbling Under category. Find has made his

mark in commercials and music videos but has yet to secure the kind of

scripts that bear testament to his proven talent in his previous

existence as an art director and creative director.



Next comes two new categories: Comebacks and Euro Talent. Comebacks

contains just two seasoned directors: Nick Lewin and Sid Roberson. A

couple of years after opening Sid Roberson & Partners, Roberson is

relishing what he calls his ’second chance’. He is referring, of course,

to the demise of his company, Sid Roberson Films, which went into

liquidation in 1992 after some 23 years of trading.



Lewin, whose own production company, Lewin & Watson, closed its doors in

January 1996, marked his return to the commercials big league with

several BMW spots he directed through Cowboy. This work recently brought

him to the attention of DDB New York, who commissioned him to direct the

relaunch spot for the new Beetle.



Euro Talent is the category for a new breed of directors who have

emerged over the past few years. As agencies look more globally for

inspiration, and as the demand for international campaigns grows, it is

increasingly desirable to sign up a director with a different cultural

perspective.



Workhorses are the prolific directors who often command more than the

Hotshots in daily fees, but whose highly polished work for household

names is seldom awarded by their peers. ’The litmus test for these

directors is the volume of work ... but then you wouldn’t really want

their work anyway,’ one producer says.



And so to Bubbling Under, the category for promising directors who will

inevitably rise through the ranks of our survey if they stay the course

and accept the right scripts.



Finally to the Wannabes, the easiest category to fill and the hardest to

spot with any accuracy. This year’s Wannabes include Chris Cunningham,

who recently made the transition from music videos to commercials, and

Dominic Savage, who shot two entertaining films for Channel 4’s Cutting

Edge series - the Complainers and Rogue Males. They are joined by two

producers-turned-directors: Ronnie West, who joined Godman from TTO, the

production company he co-founded in 1994, and Harry Rankin, who produced

the commercial of 1997, Blackcurrant Tango’s ’St George’.



Some readers will have spotted directors who are notable by their

absence this year. In a selective feature of this size we could not hope

to include all the candidates for each category. However, we should

point out that Tony Kaye does not appear because he is working in the Us

on features.



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