CRAFT: THE CREATIVE ISSUE; Directing duos can work but are they ever lifelong affairs?

No-one expected Vaughan and Anthea to split. What went wrong?

No-one expected Vaughan and Anthea to split. What went wrong?



When Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sang It Takes Two, clearly they weren’t

discussing commercials directors. Earlier this month, Federation’s star

(and only) team, Vaughan and Anthea, announced they were going their

separate directorial ways, the latest in a long line of severed

partnerships.



Although there are plenty of directing duos around, not many seem to

last the course. The Douglas Brothers and the Brothers Quay are notable

exceptions but, as they say, blood is thicker than water. And there are

younger teams such as Big TV, Rose Hackney Barber’s Pete Salmi and Carl

Prechezer, Blink’s Steve Reeves and Paul Gay, Pink Films’ New

Renaiscance and Red Herring’s Brendon Norman-Ross and Sue Worthy who,

for the moment at least, are happy to share credits. But Vaughan and

Anthea’s split was unexpected because they seemingly had the world - or

at least adland - at their feet.



They were persistently courted by star creatives, handed choice scripts

on a regular basis and were all-but buried in awards. Recently, they

made a return to pop promos - which is where they made their mark - with

a video for George Michael’s number one single, Fast Love. So what went

wrong? Was this just yet another case of directors realising they can

earn twice as much on their own than as one half of a partnership?



As Vaughan (Arnell) and Anthea (Breton) are known to be somewhat

Garboesque, Campaign asked other directing duos about doing it as a

twosome.



After leaving the then Simons Palmer Denton Clemmow Johnson, the former

creative directors, Mark Denton and Chris Palmer, directed under the

guise of Bert Sprote through the now-defunct Redwing Films. Their finest

hour together was probably an elaborate, split-screen cinema ad for Hugo

Boss through Bartle Bogle Hegarty.



‘Doing anything is easier if there are two of you,’ Denton points out.

‘You’re not alone, so it’s less scary. And you can concentrate on

different areas, which means standards stay high. If you get it right,

the sum becomes greater than the parts. But any partnership has a

limited lifespan.’



As did Bert Sprote. Denton left and is now ensconced at Brian Byfield

Films, while Palmer set up his own production company, Gorgeous

Enterprises. Palmer has spots for Budweiser, Volkswagen, Golden Wonder

and Carling Black Label to his name, while Denton has worked on Nik-Naks

and Dry Blackthorn. ‘I don’t think co-directing works,’ Palmer says. ‘If

you can do it on your own, why do it with someone else? There’s enough

collaboration going on down the line anyway.’ Even so, he admits he was

shocked by Vaughan and Anthea’s split. ‘They seemed to be the exception

that proved the rule,’ he says.



Trevor Robinson, now directing solo at Jane Fuller Associates, but

formerly one half of Trev ’n’ Al, firmly believes directing partnerships

are worthwhile. ‘It enables you to see things from a different

perspective,’ he argues. ‘You can bounce ideas off each other, you have

to justify everything you do.’



Robinson’s erstwhile partner, Al Young, has returned to Howell Henry

Chaldecott Lury, where he and Robinson made their names with campaigns

for Tango and Pot Noodle.



‘It wasn’t that we had creative differences,’ Robinson explains, ‘it’s

just that our motives for working had moved apart; he feels more

comfortable in an agency environment.’



On a practical level, too, it often helps to have an ally. ‘It means you

can be in two places at once,’ says Steve Reeves of Reeves and Gay, the

ex-BMP creative team who have recently completed ads for Electrolux and

Ford through Blink Productions. ‘You can leave the room knowing that

your interests are looked after and your point of view is put across. On

set, if your voice gets hoarse from trying to get a performance from an

actor, the other one can take over. And you can get twice as much work

done.’



In the end, a directing partnership stands or falls by compatibility.



‘Relationships are all different,’ Salmi, of Rose Hackney Barber, muses.

‘Some are whirlwind romances that don’t last, others chug along for

years, constantly finding new things about each other.’



‘Harvey [Betram-Brown] and I are friends and really get on well,’

Carolyn Corben, one half of New Renaiscance, adds. ‘Joyful things come

out of our work because we’re having a good time together. It’s a kind

of marriage of minds.’ Unfortunately, some marriages can turn sour,

which, it is assumed, is what happened to Vaughan and Anthea.



But Reeves prefers to see recent events in a more positive light. ‘They

were together for more than a decade and directed some of the best ads

around during that time. That’s successful isn’t it?’



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