CLOSE-UP: PERSPECTIVE; Our commercials industry must not rest on its laurels

The last director’s showreel pre-Cannes lands on my desk. It’s Howard Greenhalgh from Brave Films, a talented bloke, but he’s in fierce company among the 930 directors in Soho. Greenhalgh is already established as a pop promo director - in fact, one of the pop promo directors - with work for Sting, George Michael and the Pet Shop Boys among roughly 100 videos behind him. This helps. His technical ability is obvious, but the vogue is for agency crossovers: Frank Budgen, Paul Arden, Chris Palmer - all serious talents.

The last director’s showreel pre-Cannes lands on my desk. It’s Howard

Greenhalgh from Brave Films, a talented bloke, but he’s in fierce

company among the 930 directors in Soho. Greenhalgh is already

established as a pop promo director - in fact, one of the pop promo

directors - with work for Sting, George Michael and the Pet Shop Boys

among roughly 100 videos behind him. This helps. His technical ability

is obvious, but the vogue is for agency crossovers: Frank Budgen, Paul

Arden, Chris Palmer - all serious talents.



So, you’ve got Howard Greenhalgh on your books in London (this could

easily be about Rob Sanders at Helen Langridge or Anthony Easton at Jeff

Stark’s or others), you know he’s got the talent, which helps, what do

you do? The answer, unequivocally, from Emily Bliss and Michele

Stapleton at Brave is to be passionate, to have total belief in the

talent, to get the right first commercial under the belt and to let word

of mouth spread. I’m sure Helen Langridge and Martha Greene would say

the same. It helps, in Greenhalgh’s case, that he’s a nice guy and

people want to work with him. But that’s not a prerequisite. We can all

think of directors whose talent just shades their propensity to be

arseholes - or doesn’t, but people still feel the need to use them.



Greenhalgh got his break with a P&O cruises film, based on a look he

used in a Sting video (c.f. Michel Gondry). After that, however, it’s

the commercials that have to do the work. A fine Castrol ad allowed him

to show he could shoot a car. Cue car scripts. Suddenly, there’s his

remarkable Ford Probe ad (extraordinary if you think it’s for Ford).

Now, Brave must not allow him to be typecast and get him more ‘human’

work. He’s up against the likes of Daniel Barber, Vaughan and Anthea,

Mehdi Norowzian and Gerard de Thame for jobs. How do you choose? I

haven’t the foggiest.



So why am I indulging in these paean of praise to Soho? Has the

football-inspired jingoism of the past week got to me? Partly, it’s

seeing the quality of talent from around the world displayed in the

Saatchi and Saatchi Showcase and elsewhere in Cannes this week. Forget

that 930, these directors are now competing not just in the European,

but the global marketplace. And I have the words of one of Britain’s

most successful commercials directors ringing in my ears: ‘The

production industry is killing itself; it’s blind to foreign competition

and obsessed with the style that will win D&AD.’ I fear this is true.

Complacency happens because British agencies still hand out relatively

more interesting scripts and people like Langridge always find new

talent. As Terry Venables might say: ‘There’s no such thing as an easy

match at this level.’ We haven’t got worse - the competition’s got

better.



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