CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/DIRECTING - Senior creatives put security on hold to become directors. More and more advertising creatives want to reinvent their career

It seems as though these days almost every creative is a director

manque, itching to become a true auteur by taking ultimate control of

the commercials he or she has penned back at the office.



Rooney Carruthers, who has given up a big salary as the creative

director of FCB in San Francisco - and turned down three UK job offers -

to join Godman (Campaign, 10 August), is the latest top creative to

sacrifice the security of agency life for a chance to prove himself

behind the camera.



Tom Carty, Steve Hudson, Vince Squibb and Kevin Thomas - all respected

senior creatives - have likewise laid their reputations on the line

recently in the hope that they can emulate the crossover success of

Frank Budgen or Chris Palmer.



Carty has directed work for Sainsbury's and The Economist, and Squibb

has directed Lowe Lintas' latest Aero spot for Nestle, while holding

down his day job as the senior art director at the agency.



All of the above hope to follow in the footsteps of the legendary names

of a previous generation such as Alan Parker, Paul Weiland, Jeff Stark

and Tony Kaye.



The fact that so many have succeeded proves that the risk is worth

taking.



However, the question remains: does being a great creative automatically

make you a talented director?



Hudson, who joined Another Film Company this month, argues: "If you've

written an award-winning commercial, it has to be an advantage. It's a

head start."



Experience of the collaborative process of making a commercial and an

understanding of client needs must count for something, but the likes of

Jonathan Glazer and Daniel Kleinman don't seem to have been held back by

lack of agency experience.



Jo Godman, the founder and managing director of Godman, says: "An

advertising background is useful, but not all creatives have a natural

instinct for - or understanding of - film."



Another production company boss points out: "Directing is all about

realising and improving an idea. Some creatives don't see that - they

think it's all about making things look good."



One obvious advantage for the seasoned creative starting out on a

directing career is ready-made contacts. At the age of 40, Carruthers

has been a popular figure in the advertising industry for many years and

has given a lot of people their first break in the business. Carruthers

says: "People don't owe me anything. But I have a feeling that it will

be OK."



While some agencies will be reassured by the ad backgrounds of the

creative crossovers, others may worry that the directors will slip back

into their old roles and meddle too much with the script. One thing is

certain: the novices have to prove themselves to potential employers all

over again - notwithstanding the many lunches they may have enjoyed at

The Ivy together in the past.



Hudson is not expecting work to fall in his lap from his old pals at

Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and BMP DDB, but he will still be networking

furiously, keeping an ear out for scripts and concepts that are coming

up.



Simon Green, the former creative director of Partners BDDH, who has been

directing through Harry Nash for the past year, warns: "Some of your

mates revel in helping you out, but Rooney will be surprised to find

that all his friends don't want to work with him."



Compared with the feted life of the creative director, the director's

life is a lonely one. Instead of being courted by the production

industry, the unseasoned director must put in the legwork, touting for

business and preparing himself for regular rejection.



"It is a great leveller, and I do miss the sociability of agency life,"

Green confirms. "However, I found myself watching directors when I was

out on shoots and getting greener and greener with envy. Perhaps I'm a

control freak, but to me it's the appeal of taking ideas to another

level."



This increasing working proximity of the senior creative to the director

provides an insight into the current spate of crossovers. "It has become

easier for creatives to learn over the past decade or so because they

get so much more involved," Godman says. "There was a time when creative

directors didn't even go on shoots and they certainly didn't spend time

in post-production."



Hudson has another explanation for the craze. He says: "You get to a

certain point as a creative and there are a number of options: you can

become a creative director, you can start your own agency, you can leave

the business altogether or you can become a director. Can it be a

coincidence that the spate of crossovers comes at a time when being a

creative director is not the same job it once was?"



Whatever the superficial attractions of becoming a director (personal

glory, untold wealth and a possible move to feature films) it is

unlikely that even the most lauded, egocentric creative takes the

decision lightly.



Green had the cushion of his money from the sale of Partners BDDH to

Havas, and Hudson had the fillip of a surprise British Television

Advertising Award (which he won for an anti-smoking spot that he wrote

and directed while still at AMV).



Carruthers, meanwhile, needed six years of persuasion from friends and

colleagues to pluck up the courage to make the move, and he admits

freely that he is "absolutely terrified".



"If it doesn't work out, I can always go and freelance in Spain," he

laughs. But Carruthers is already sounding like a seasoned director when

he says, apropos of nothing: "I wouldn't mind shooting liquid at the

moment."



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