FEATURE: S&S New Directors Showcase

Saatchi & Saatchi's showcase of new directing talent is about to be unveiled. Rachel Nouchi took a peek, and picked the top 10.

A sneak preview of this year's New Director's Showcase confirms that new talent in the film industry continues to thrive, despite the global economy.

Over 500 reels from around the world flooded into Saatchi's HQ in New York and according to its chief global creative director, Bob Isherwood, the standard was as high as other years, and many of the offerings have perhaps been sharpened by adverse times.

Many of this year's contenders, particularly in the top 10, demonstrated a sharp eye for comedy, a quality highly valued by the Saatchi creative jury.

"There are lots of funny scripts written, but not many funny ads on air, so directors with an ability to capture the comic is precious," says Isherwood. Tim Bullock's short film, 'Playing Hard to Get' stands out for its sheer ingenuity of screenplay and ability to capture perfect comic timing. Bullock writes all his own material for his films and first attracted attention in the advertising world when he did a stint in the creative department at Saatchi's Sydney.

Carter and Blitz's ad for the Mill Valley Film Festival, a quirky send-up of all the archetypal characters that appear in Hollywood movies, has already a scooped a Gold for best direction at this year's The One Show.

Revealing his talent for combining previous editing skills with directing, Richard Anthony's spot for The Big Issue demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of his subject and the ability to use film techniques to create a powerful, contemporary message. Still new to the world of commercials direction, Anthony's film brings a touch of gravity to this mixed reel.

Noticeably, there are more promos - see David Slade's powerful 'Clubbed to Death', a lyrical, enticing fable that makes gripping viewing - and stronger animation-led work than in any other year. This ranges from Stylewar's visually stunning, yet sentimental animation for Moby's track 'In This World', where this talented collective actually make their audience feel sorry for a bunch of cartoon aliens, to Pleix's weird textbook world with an evil twist. Pleix, a French based collective, made up of directors from across Europe stood out from other reels this year for the group's ability to capture a strange imaginary world through their retro animation, pulling together graphics, video and sound design.

Animation work has also moved away from showing off slick computer graphic techniques. " Directors seem obsessed with distressed images, making the animation look more homespun - for example deliberately scratching images," noted Isherwood.

It's interesting to see that two Argentinian directors have made the top-10 shortlist for the first time. According to Isherwood, there was a lack of decent quality work from Europe as well as countries like Australia and South Africa -traditionally strong regions for new talent.

Paradoxically, Argentina's collapsed economy has attracted international production, seduced by cheap film facilities. This often gives local directorial talent a chance to shine because US and European production companies are no longer shipping over their own directors.

Other noticeable trends this year reveal more directorial collectives than previous years. While there are three collectives in the top ten selection alone, Isherwood puts this down to fashion, rather than directly relating to an industry fad.

"I read an article recently which describes how architects are also working in collectives now," he says.

Isherwood also noticed less grunge than previous years: "There was a trend in the past for dirty cinema verity, which is totally absent this year."

Directors are eligible for the Saatchi Showcase if they have been shooting commercials for up to two years. They can have experience of directing in other disciplines, but they must be available to direct commercials.

The complete list of new talent - over 25 this year - will be unveiled in a glittering event at this year's Cannes Lions Awards. Campaign Screen's exclusive round-up provides you with a glimpse of the ten best.

Paula Hernandez

Argentinian Hernandez, 33, was initially a scriptwriter and worked as an assistant director in films and television. Although she has worked as AD alongside cinema greats like Wim Wenders, she only started directing ads a year ago.

Selected for her ability to execute an idea in a restrained and elegant way, her tightly crafted spot for Tren de la Costa excels with its strong lighting and camerawork.

Tim Bullock

Australia-based Bullock stands out for his ability to construct a story through spot-on casting and sharp eye for detail. Already revealing the makings of a top director, Bullock scooped first prize in this year's Australian Tropfest Award for his bleak satirical short with hilarious consequences, and has recently been signed to Prodigy Films. Bullock writes, as well as directs, his short films.

Nicolas Kasacov

Displaying a keen sense of comic timing, Kasacov's spots for the theme park Parque La Corte were highly commended at this year's Clio Awards. Although the idea has been seen before, it was the hilarious execution that most impressed the panel. Argentina-based Kasacov started out as a creative for several local agencies before moving across to production. After leaving his career as a creative, Kasacov joined Productora U as an AD, and eventually started directing commercials last year.

Richard Anthony

UK-based Richard Anthony started out in post-pro-duction, but decided there must be more to life than producing 3D extruded text for toothpaste commercials. His video for Red Snapper through Warp Records got him three entrants into the 2000 D&AD book for direction, cinematography and editing, along with a silver nomination for his editing. Anthony's most recent ad for TBWA's 'The Big Issue' scooped silver at this year's BTAA and impressed the panel for sophisticated use of craft, whacky retro graphics, sound design and sharp editing to create a highly emotive spot. Anthony has since continued to direct ads for COI and Haagen Dazs. He has also directed and edited promos for The Cure, Nike, Elevator Suite and Martina Topley-Bird.

Carter & Blitz

This quirky, dynamic US-based team launched their career as a vaudeville tap dancing act under the stage name of the Polynesian Fire Eaters, before turning to film and leaving Texas for Hollywood. Recently signed to Anonymous Content, the duo's hilarious ad for the Mill Valley Film Festival reveals a true talent for capturing the burlesque on film - perhaps a throwback from their former vaudeville days.

David Slade

Slade caught the panel's eye for the sheer ingenuity of craft and the ability to sustain the viewers' attention from beginning to end - no mean feat for a pop promo. Slade started out as a writer and photographer and after art college was snapped up by the music-video industry, directing videos for Tori Amis and David Gray. He currently directs music videos and commercials through RSA/Black Dog.

Stylewar

Another Swedish collective, made up of a director, graphic designer team and production company. The team impressed this year's panel with their emotive pop promo 'In This World' for Moby, by its ability to imbue sensitivity in animated characters.

The collective are signed to Refused TV in the US, Les Telecreateurs in France and Jane Fuller Associates in the UK. Stylewar have worked together across some of the biggest global brands with clients such as MTV Networks, Dreamworks, Mute Records, H&M, Sony Music Entertainment and Ericsson. This year alone, Stylewar has already scooped awards at the MPVA for Electronic Music Video of the Year and Directorial Debut of the Year.

Rawson Marshall Thurber

Only 28, Thurber created a storm this year with his spots for the US Superbowl, 'Terry Tate'. "I initially wrote the script to score some chicks," he recalls. Thurber has directed his first feature, Underdogs, a comedy about misfits trying to save their local gym. Underdogs is being produced by Red Hour Films this autumn. The fledgling director is signed to FM Rocks for ads and - for features and TV work - by the William Morris Agency.

Brewster MacWilliams

New York-based, MacWilliams is an independent filmmaker and was in the Cannes Film Festival's New Directors showcase with a film called After the Game in 1997. Seduced by the world of commercials, MacWilliams decided to join a commercials production company to learn the ropes and adapt his technique to fit with ad direction. Shortly after striking out on his own in 1992, MacWilliams decided to sign up to Biscuit Films. MacWilliams' Nike spot, 'King of the Castle' and Fox Sports Net's 'Golf Wars' reveal the director's strong ability to interpret a creative brief, and turn it into powerful film vignettes.

Pleix

A community of seven France-based digital artists, graphics designers, 3d artists and musicians, who have come together to mix their skills to create "tension" rather than harmonious images.

The Pleix collective adopts a visual language that blurs relationship with reality and provokes a strange unease using retro textbook images as just one of their many visual props. This collective proves that animation can be powerful stuff.