CRAFT: Profile; Douglas Brothers prepare to move their style on

Jane Austin speaks to the directing duo keen to get back to taking stills again

Jane Austin speaks to the directing duo keen to get back to taking

stills again



A journalist’s dream is an egotistical and rude interviewee who the

writer can rip apart with gay abandon and not feel guilty about doing

so. It makes great copy. The Douglas Brothers, according to this rule,

don’t.



The duo on their directing style: ‘A lot of people think our work is a

bit wet, you know, a bit wuss,’ Stuart says. On directing comedy: ‘I

think that comedy is the hardest thing to direct. We leave that to

people like John Lloyd, but we would like to shoot more dialogue,’

Andrew says. On their photographic style: ‘We used to see students’

photography portfolios with work that identically copied ours, only it

was better. We never knew how to take this,’ Stuart comments.



Oh please. How much self-deprecation can you take? ‘That’s typical of

them,’ says Peter Souter, deputy creative director of Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO, who worked with the duo on a charity film for the

Environmental Investigation Agency. ‘They could definitely do with being

more confident. They look at things in such an original and interesting

way and their sense of colour and tone is remarkable.’



The Douglas Brothers’ photographs first took the advertising and

editorial worlds by storm in the late 80s, when their atmospheric sepia

litho prints were everywhere. The duo were even the subject of a Gap ad

shot by Annie Leibovitz - ‘It looked great on the number 73 bus,’ Stuart

quips. They were the celebrity photographers of the moment. Asked to

recount their favourites, Stuart comments: ‘Liam Neeson was great, he

showed us the swing he shagged Julia Roberts on.’



Not bad for the boys from Southend, whose only previous claim to fame

was that their big brother, Graeme, was in Eddie and the Hot Rods.

Andrew studied fine art and shot record covers. After studying

photography and freelancing, Stuart joined his brother in 1986 to form

the partnership. After directing a couple of pop videos, the pair were

signed up by the then Delaney and Hart to direct commercials. When Hart

left the company two years ago, the duo became equal partners with Simon

Delaney in D-Films. Caspar Delaney joined them as their producer last

year.



The brothers were given their first break in advertising by Leagas

Delaney’s creative director, Tim Delaney, who commissioned them to

direct a series of ten-second MTV stings for Adidas. Since then, the

siblings have directed and photographed numerous award-winning

commercials and 2-D work for the brand which, in turn, has led many to

wonder whether the Douglas Brothers may have lost out on jobs with other

agencies because they are so closely associated with Adidas.



‘We have turned down work for Adidas, but Tim gives us a lot of

freedom,’ Andrew says. ‘I can’t understand why the Adidas work is so

often compared with Nike - Adidas has a totally different approach,’ he

adds.



Matthew Jones, the head of TV at Leagas Delaney, agrees that its

relationship with the brothers has been at the expense of other

agencies. ‘The Douglas Brothers are responsible for a look that is very

current and there is a danger in a long-standing relationship that

things won’t move on, but we are very aware of this,’ he says. ‘They

have excellent narrative abilities, but we haven’t given them many

opportunities to tackle commercials with dialogue.’



He adds: ‘They are very good at debunking a situation and tackling

things in a totally fresh way.



They both light and direct simultaneously and we always have two cameras

running. Consequently, on the same job we have two different visions.

Andrew is more lyrical and has the big picture inspiration, while Stuart

has the imagination but is more concerned with making sense in an

editorial context.’



Although the duo have also directed commercials and shot photos for

Timberland, Silk Cut, Hyundai, the Scottish Tourist Board and Carlsberg,

they are keen to take pictures again after a two-year sabbatical from

stills to concentrate on directing, although they are keen for their

style to move on. Elizabeth Smith, of the Photographer’s Gallery, says

that the duo are thought of as ‘the granddaddies of litho prints’ at art

colleges and are attempting to move their style on from portraits to

composition work.



As for the future, the brothers’ wish-list includes a monthly portrait

commission for the New Yorker, as well as for about six other quality

newspapers and magazines, plus more exhibitions. And Andrew, recalling

his recent British Television Advertising Awards experience, doesn’t

want to sit on any more judging panels: ‘I felt that a lot of good work

got ignored because of political reasons. I think the only reason we did

so well with Adidas was because I was on the jury,’ he reveals.



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