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