"As soon as someone tells me I can't do something, I immediately
want to do it," the Los Angeles-born young film-maker Carl Erik Rinsch
You'd be forgiven for thinking that Rinsch, who made his first film aged
14 with funding from his parents, was just another spoiled American rich
kid. Nothing could be further from the truth. He may be just 23 but
Rinsch's life already reads like a film script with the requisite fame,
fortune, determination and tragedy.
Rinsch, who has just been awarded Best New Director 2001 in the first
annual D&AD/Campaign Screen New Director's Competition, grew up in L.A.
on a diet of Lucas and Spielberg films. At 14 he took a summer short
film course at USC Film School and, with his best friend Tim Crane (who
later became his producer), made his first film.
Made with dollars 1,000 borrowed from "liberal" parents, The Quizz was a
commentary on Rinsch and Crane's lives. "Like most kids that age, we
felt a sense of isolation. It was us against the world," Rinsch says.
The film, in which a young boy's doodle characters come to life and
eventually kill each other, was an entry at film festivals around the
world, including the New York Film Festival, the Malta Film Festival and
the Telluride Film Festival.
Three years later, the pair were ready for more but their desire for
cranes and 35mm film meant they had to find their own funds. They went
to work for Crane's father and, in glamorous L.A., found themselves in
the unlikely profession of sewer cleaning.
"We needed the money and wanted to make movies so much that we agreed to
help out," Rinsch recalls. The pair mucked in but managed to keep their
hands clean by taking on a marketing role, selling a new camera that
could pinpoint the cause of blockages. Their sales technique was a hit
and the FlexiCAM became a multimillion-dollar product used by plumbers
After that, the question was whether to continue making independent
films or to attend university. "All I knew is that I wanted to do this
for the rest of my life - for as long as I'm strong enough to hold a
camera," Rinsch says.
In the end, he opted for a literature and art course, rather than a film
course at Brown's University, believing that filmmakers should be
rounded individuals drawing on influences from Rothko to Wagner. His
belief is borne more out of morality than pretention.
"Growing up in L.A., it's easy to embrace the trade. I knew about
T-stops, Panavision and the difference between 28mm and 150mm lenses by
the time I was 16. But the danger is that you live in a vacuum and don't
realise the impact of movies on the lives of real people. Because you
can have such influence as a film-maker, you have to be responsible,
which is why I wanted to become an educated individual."
During his studies, Rinsch also pursued his love of photography and
became a part-time photojournalist for Rolling Stone magazine - at 21 he
was one of its youngest ever photographers.
He completed his course with a thesis comprising three test films.
Again, he worked with his lifelong friend and producer, Crane.
The films for Pepsi, Calvin Klein and Tampax, which Rinsch entered into
the D&AD/Campaign Screen competition, demonstrate a strong visual
aesthetic combined with a gift for storytelling.
One of the judges, the director Jeff Stark, says: "There were a lot of
really good craftsmen in the competition and Carl was one. But he also
has a fresh eye; originality combined with laid-back, improvised-style
"His technique is incredible - in the Pepsi ad, for example, he uses
little editing quirks that keep the narrative bubbling along. He's an
incredibly capable director. He's not breaking new ground when it comes
to the look, but if you'd said Ridley (Scott) had made it, I would have
Key to Rinsch's character and work is a need for challenge and a desire
to achieve the impossible. He wanted to make a test commercial for
Calvin Klein perfume because he has no sense of smell.
"Smell is amazing to me, like a superpower, and I was excited by the
idea of conveying it. What does a smell look like? How do you depict
something so abstract?"
The look of the ad was also inspired by the desire to prove someone
wrong, on this occasion, Kodak.
The company introduced new film and claimed that, for the first time,
the grain would be invisible. "We took it upon ourselves to destroy this
notion," Rinsch says.
Combining old-fashioned optical printing with digital effects, the pair
managed to break the film down so the grain was visible. As well as
proving a point, the result is a visually-arresting film.
Rinsch chose to direct the Tampax ad for similar reasons. "It's treated
as a delicate subject and all we ever see are girls on the beach and
blue liquid. They don't tackle the issue," he says.
Rinsch's execution (the ad was written by a woman) is decidedly
It features a woman wearing only a pair of white knickers. She puts on a
pair of goggles as hoses spray her with blood. As her face and body
become drenched, the camera pans down to her still bright white pants,
and the Tampax logo.
Armed with a reel of three ads, Rinsch had an approach from a local
commercials production company - a career he had never really
The company subsequently turned him down, claiming that he would never
make an ad director.
That was like a red rag to a bull for Rinsch. He immediately asked who
was the best ad director and production company in the world and was
told Ridley Scott and RSA.
He packed his bags, saw a rep, a week later saw Jules Daly, the managing
director and, a week later, Ridley Scott. He was in.
However there was a tragic turn of events to come. Returning to L.A.
after completing his first ad for McDonald's (Rinsch had been told that
fast food was career suicide so had to prove otherwise), he learned that
Crane, his best friend and producer, had been hit by a drunk-driver and
was paralysed from the chest down.
"We've been working together ever since we were young kids, and just
when things are taking off, this accident happens," Rinsch says. He is
working with Matt Reeves, whose father, the actor Christopher Reeves, is
also quadraplegic, to find out about the latest research and treatment
for his friend's condition.
"When I found out that our work had won the award I immediately phoned
him at the hospital to tell him," he adds. "He loved it. I'm optimistic
and have told Tim that when he's ready, we'll work together again."
In the meantime, Rinsch is keen to work in the UK, due to its high
standard of creativity. He is reluctant however, to define his look: "I
hope to bring something different every time. I don't think I can pander
to a certain style. I provide me. I provide Carl Erik Rinsch."
It's a name to watch out for and you saw it here first.
The runners-up in the Campaign Screen competition proved to be equally
competent filmmakers. Animation was particularly impressive thanks to
the French duo, Loic and Aurelien. Also aged 23, the pair spent four
months on their Macs creating an extremely assured debut film, AP2000.
The film was selected for its level of detail and inventive effects,
including clever crane-imitating changes of camera angle. The directors
were recently signed to Partizan Midi Minuit, Paris.
Ed Gill's reel was among the strangest on the shortlist. The former
illustrator and photographer defies categorisation with surreal vigour,
and is likely to shake up the advertising industry as much as the
peculiar characters in the innovative Skeleton Artist, hilarious Crooked
Cop and eery Geisha.
Stunning cinematography came from the former DP Peter Thwaites, who is
now on Gorgeous's roster of directors. Thwaites also has a great sense
of timing, as indicated by his Lexus and Aristoc spots.
Assured comedy direction was displayed by the Australian duo Daddy,
which comprises the ex-creative and TV director Jeff Ford and the
ex-broadcast producer, Jake Knowles. Somewhat Traktoresque in style,
they specialise in absurdist humour, as revealed by their hilarious
"Chuck Norris" spot for Ford Ka.
The former HHCL creative Jim Hosking was another contender for the
His manic MTV spots demonstrate his versatility incorporating humour,
desperation and sheer lunacy.
Last but not least, Sam Cadman. As the man who brought Dom Joly's
madness to life in Trigger Happy TV, Cadman has already achieved
considerable success. But his reel shows that his humour, sense of comic
timing and originality could apply equally well to ads.
A selection of the winners' work can be viewed in the latest issue of
Campaign Screen and on the D&AD website gettyonegetoutthere.bt.com.