Feature

Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase 2015

Time restrictions at Cannes dictated that there were only 14 new directors on show in this anniversary year. And while opportunities for young talent to work with brands remain scarce, the quality is as strong as ever, James Swift writes.

'Bugatti' by Helmi
'Bugatti' by Helmi

The 25th anniversary New Directors’ Showcase is anything but a lengthy reel.

Usually, Andy Gulliman, Saatchi & Saatchi’s executive broadcast director, and his board choose around 20 directors to be featured. But, this year, they selected only 14.

This isn’t a comment on the lack of new talent. But the agency only has so much time in the ampitheatre at Cannes for the show and it wanted to dedicate more time to the introduction. Saatchi & Saatchi has always made an effort, opening its show with holograms and quadcopter lightshows in previous years. But, for the 25th anniversary, the agency wanted something different: a series of vignettes shot by some of the most famous faces to grace the showcase.

"Usually, the introduction is an appetiser. But it is more of a celebration this year, so the showcase itself is a bit shorter," Gulliman says.

As for the list itself, although there was no shortage of directing talent to choose from, this is the least commercial reel in the history of the showcase. Only one film comes close to being an ad – and that’s Yvan Fabing’s Garage, which was created for the magazine of the same name.

Plenty of ads were submitted, it’s just that none were chosen. "We look at ads and we looked for ads, but we weren’t going to put commercials in there as a token," Gulliman adds.

So what can we infer from the lack of commercials on this year’s reel?

"It confirms my opinion that there are far fewer opportunities for new directors," Gulliman says. "The concern is that there is a lot less demand for quality productions – and when there is demand for a quality production, it is easier to choose someone who is established, rather than risk nurturing new talent.

"I used to make just two films a year. The market was there because the audience was there. You don’t get the same production budgets any more and the budget is not for one screen, it’s for multiple screens."

At least the quality of the films shows that, while commercial opportunities are thin on the ground, people with ideas are not. The technical wizardry on display – particularly Kyungmin Woo’s Johnny Express, which looks like it could have only been made by a major studio a decade ago – shows that cheaper, more powerful equipment is evening the score.

BUGATTI

Director: Helmi

Helmi shot a promo for Tiga’s electronica track Bugatti. The film is described as a mix between 80s surrealism and alpine sports and was nominated at D&AD for its editing.

Gulliman and his team chose the music video to kick off the 2015 showcase so you know it’s punchy.

"It owns the screen straight away," Gulliman says. "It’s got humour and it’s got style and I feel like he is taking the mickey. I can’t see why anyone wouldn’t like it. The video’s not groundbreaking but it’s gone off-piste at the right times, which makes it individual."

Helmi, who is represented by Division, was born in Paris and is also a photographer. Asked about his craft, Helmi says: "When people ask me what I’m doing, I generally answer that I’m just making images."

HOTEL 22

Director: Elizabeth Lo

Documentaries are rare in the New Directors’ Showcase. Typically, they’re too long. Also, they’re not the best format for a director to show off their skills. Elizabeth Lo’s Hotel 22, which tells the story of a Silicon Valley bus route that doubles as a homeless shelter at night, has managed it nonetheless.

"We, the creative board, respect it," Gulliman says. "We like the way the story educates us about this bus that transforms into a hotel at night to keep people warm."

 Lo is a non-fiction film-maker. She was born and raised in Hong Kong and studied film at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

GUILT TRIP

Directors: Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux

Gulliman describes Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux’s video for the band Pup as "phenomenal" and "a promo with a strong narrative". The film is a fictionalised tale of the band coming together as children.

"The directors have got great performances from the kids and we respect anyone who does that," Gulliman says. "You can sense the tension and the friendship."

Levack and Schaulin-Rioux are Canadian – like Pup, with whom they are friends – and are represented by OB Management in the UK, and Reprobates in the US.

AS.PHYX.I.A

Directors: Maria Takeuchi and Frederico Phillips

Each year, Gulliman and his team try to include a film that’s an art form, something where "someone has put their art on film". That’s what Gulliman sees in Maria Takeuchi and Frederico Phillips’ As.phyx.i.a, a digital piece with a dancing human form made up of thousands of white strands.

"It’s majestic and enjoyable," Gulliman enthuses, "and I think this film will influence other commercials. And that’s the point of the New Directors’ Showcase."

Takeuchi is a multi-instrumentalist and a music producer, and created the music for the film. Phillips is a designer and director. He studied at Hyper Island and uses 3D as the main tool for communicating ideas.

SHE'S BAD

Director: Dent De Cuir

She’s Bad, by DyE and the rapper Egyptian Love, is a funky electronic track that tells the story of an irresistible seductress with a terrible surprise for the men who lust after her. The video uses library nature footage in place of characters’ faces (and other body parts, on occasion), which Gulliman describes as "memorable, impactful and very clever".

Dent De Cuir is a Canadian and French duo who have risen due to their desire to experiment. The pair shot a video for DyE’s Fantasy in 2011, now pushing 55 million views online.

"We often ask ourselves: ‘Could any director do it?’" Gulliman says about picking films for the showcase. "If they could, then why should this director be showcased? With She’s Bad, you end up thinking no-one else could have done it."

FUNCTION/VOID

Director: Factory Fifteen

Factory Fifteen present the tale of a working stiff whose pristine dystopia crumbles around him when he stops taking his meds in the promo for The Bug’s Function/Void. "The quality of the production demands respect," Gulliman says. "The intensity of it; it just looks bigger than a new director could deliver."

Jonathan Gales, Paul Nicholls and Kibwe Tavares make up Factory Fifteen. The trio met studying architecture but have dedicated themselves to visual storytelling using film and visual effects.

JOHNNY EXPRESS

Director: Kyungmin Woo

Kyungmin Woo’s Johnny Express is a short film about an interstellar delivery man who brings a parcel to an infinitesimal society with disastrous effects. "It looks like it could have come from one of the huge studios," Gulliman says. "The characterisation, the comic timing, the way he’s set up a storyline, it just feels like it should have come out of Hollywood."

Woo is a motion-graphic designer and animator, and works at Alfred Imageworks in Seoul, South Korea. "It took us bloody ages to find him," Gulliman adds.

CORONUS, THE TERMINATOR

Director: Young Replicant

The Guardian described the video to Flying Lotus’ Coronus, The Terminator as "a stark and cinematic piece of work, full of deathly imagery and dislocation". The promo follows a man at death’s door, flitting between the real world and dreams. Gulliman says: "It’s got a strong narrative that supports the track brilliantly, but the cinematography is what we applauded, and the craft."

Young Replicant is a Canadian-born director who is signed to Pulse Films in the UK and has directed promos for artists including The XX, Bonobo and Lorde.

GARAGE

Director: Yvan Fabing

Yvan Fabing’s film for Garage magazine is the nearest thing to an ad in the showcase but it bears no resemblance to anything you would see on a break during Britain’s Got Talent. The fashion film for spring 2015 opens on a model strutting to Death By Diamonds And Pearls by Band Of Skulls, and features an array of visual effects.

"As far as what he delivers, it’s a lot of textures and visually arresting pictures," Gulliman says.

Fabing was an art director before becoming a photographer and director. He learned his craft under the Norwegian fashion photographer Sølve Sundsbø.

L$D

Director: Dexter Navy

"When you see it for the first time, you’re instantly impressed," Gulliman says about Dexter Navy’s promo video for the hip-hop track L$D by A$AP Rocky. The song is an ode to love, sex and psychedelic drugs, and shows A$AP Rocky on a date with a girl in the city – presumably while high as a kite, if the chaotic camera movement and treatment of colour are anything to go by.

"We were impressed by the composition, the tone and feel of the film and the transition between shots," Gulliman adds. "You can tell Navy wanted to do something different within a very classic sort of film."

Navy is a London-born film-maker and photographer.

UNCONDITIONAL REBEL

Director: Guillaume Panareillo

The promo video for Siska’s Unconditional Rebel is in with a shout of being the shortest shoot in history at just five seconds. Guillaume Panareillo drove past an assembly line of actors doing things such as lighting up a barbecue and sawing through a shopping trolley, with a camera shooting at 1,000 frames per second. The result is a slow-moving tapestry, which Gulliman describes as "a great idea executed well". He adds: "You can be a bit nerdy about it, because that’s what gets our attention and that’s what he’s done well."

Panareillo began directing music promos in 2010 after he finished touring with his band, 10 Rue D’la Madeleine, and moved into ads in 2013.

THE GUNFIGHTER

Director: Erik Kissack

Erik Kissack’s short film The Gunfighter is set up in the traditions of a classic western: a man enters a saloon announced to the audience by a narrator. Except this narrator (Parks And Recreation’s Nick Offerman) can be heard by all the characters in the film and, one by one, reveals the motives and foibles of each, resulting in much mischief and, eventually, slaughter.

"Again, it’s all about getting the delivery right," Gulliman says. "The casting and performances are great. Also, humour is the hardest thing to deliver and get right."

Kissack came to directing after a decade as a film editor in New York, cutting movies including Horrible Bosses 2 and The Dictator. The Gunfighter won the Audience Award for Best Short at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival.

NETZWERK (FALLS LIKE RAIN)

Director: Charlie Robins

The video for the Austrian dance duo Klangkarussell’s Netzwerk (Falls Like Rain) introduces the audience to Mustang Wanted, the pseudonym of a Ukrainian free climber who scales buildings and structures for kicks.

"The composition is just beautiful. Charlie Robins has taken something that has shock value to it, taken a guy who clearly has a death wish, but created a film that’s kind of majestic and graceful," Gulliman says.

Robins wanted to be a director from an early age. He started working at MTV2 before becoming a cinematographer on Rankin’s film team, while making videos for artists such as Tinie Tempah with his partner, Joe Alexander. Netzwerk (Feels Like Rain) was Robins’ first solo music video.

DENALI

Director: Ben Knight

Ben Knight’s Denali is a heartbreaking film about a man and his dying dog, told from the perspective of the dog. Knight, a US director and former press photographer, was asked to make the film by his friend and fellow photographer Ben Moon, who wanted to pay tribute to his dog, Denali.

"Beautifully shot, emotionally captivating and totally real," Gulliman says. "I had to include it in the 2015 showreel."  

"Knight has applied subtle touches that have made this poignant film beautiful and brilliant. Having it narrated by Denali is just one example."