PRODUCTION REPORT: The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase

Argentina's financial crisis has been good for its new directors, while some other countries need to raise the quality.

A sneak preview of this year's New Directors' Showcase from around the globe confirms that talent is alive and kicking, despite the continuing weakened economy.

More than 500 reels flooded into Saatchis' headquarters in New York and according to its worldwide creative director, Bob Isherwood, the standard was as high as other years and has even thrived in the face of adversity.

It's interesting to note that two Argentinian directors have made the top ten list for the first time. In fact, Isherwood noted a lack of decent quality work from Europe as well as from countries such as Australia and South Africa, which are traditionally strong regions for new talent.

"Due to a poor economy, US production companies are now looking for cheaper options, which is why Argentina has become so popular," Isherwood says.

"In the past, US and European agencies would bring along their own directors, but the trend is increasingly to use local talent."

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

"There are lots of funny scripts written, but not many funny ads on air, so we value directors with an eye for capturing the comic," Isherwood says.

Noticeably, there are more pop promos and animation films than in previous years, perhaps again a direct result of the economy, where commercial scripts available for unknown directors are severely limited.

Other trends include the emergence of directorial collectives. There are three on this year's top ten list and Isherwood attributes this to fashion, rather than directly relating to the industry. He also noticed less grunge than previous years. "There was a trend in the past for dirty cinema verite, which is totally absent," he says.

Directors are eligible for the Saatchis 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 - more than 25 - will be unveiled in a glittering event at this year's Cannes Lions Awards, but a glimpse of these ten new directors promises another blast of new talent.

TEN OF THE BEST NEW DIRECTORS

Carter and Blitz

This quirky, dynamic US-based team launched their career under the stage name The Polynesian Fire Eaters as a vaudeville tap-dancing act 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. Campaigns for the Film Festival have been used by many in the past as a calling card to the industry and it may well work for this new directing team too.

Nicolas Kasacov

Kasacov displayed a keen sense of comic timing in his spots for the theme park, Parque La Corte, which were highly commended at this year's Clio Awards. The Argentina-based Kasacov started out as a creative for several local agencies before moving into production. After leaving Agulla & Baccetti, Kasacov joined Productora U as an assistant director and started directing commercials last year.

Brewster MacWilliams

The New York-based MacWilliams is an independent filmmaker and was in the Cannes Film Festival's New Directors' Showcase in 1997. MacWilliams' Nike spot, "king of the castle" and Fox Sports Net's "golf wars" reveal a keen understanding of advertising and the creative brief.

Pleix

A community of seven France-based digital artists, graphics designers, 3D artists, musicians, willing to mix their skills to create "tension" rather than harmonious images.The Pleix collective uses visual props, such as retro text-book images, which aim to blur the relationship with reality and provoke a strange unease in the viewer. This collective proves that animation can be powerful stuff.

David Slade

Slade caught the panel's eye for the sheer ingenuity of craft and the ability to sustain the viewer's attention from beginning to end. Slade started 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 and is represented by the William Morris Agency for film projects.

Tim Bullock

The Australian-born Bullock stands out for his ability to construct a story through spot-on casting and a sharp eye for detail. Bullock, who scooped first prize in this year's Australian Tropfest Award, writes as well as directs his short films and has been signed to Prodigy Films.

Rawson Marshall Thurber

Only 28, Marshall Thurber has already created a storm this year with his spot for the US Superbowl, "Terry Tate". "When I first developed 'Terry Tate', I had no idea how far it would go. I initially wrote the script to score some chicks," he recalls. Thurber has directed his first feature, Underdogs, a comedy about a group of misfits trying to save their local gym.The film is being produced by Ben Stiller's Red Hour Films this autumn. Thurber is signed to FM Rocks for commercials and is represented for features and TV work by the William Morris Agency.

Stylewar

Another Swedish collective made up of a director, graphic design team and production company. The team impressed with their emotive pop promo for Moby's In This World. The collective are signed to Refused TV in the US, Les Telecreateurs in France and Jane Fuller Associates in the UK. Stylewar works on music videos, commercials, illustrations for children's books and print ads and has clients such as MTV Networks, Dreamworks, H&M and Sony Music Entertainment. This year alone, Stylewar has already scooped awards at the MPVA for Electronic Music Video of the Year and Directorial Debut of the Year.

Richard Anthony

The UK-based Richard Anthony started working in post-production, but decided there must be more to life. His video for Red Snapper through Warp Records got him three entries 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 for 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. Anthony has since continued to direct ads for COI Communications and Haagen Dazs. He has also directed and edited promos for The Cure, Nike and Elevator Suite and Martina Topley-Bird.

Paula Hernandez

Argentina-born Hernandez initially specialised in scriptwriting and worked as an assistant director for films and TV. The 33-year-old has worked with cinema greats such as Wim Wenders but only started directing commercials 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 for strong lighting and camerawork.