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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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