It takes something special to get 2,300 advertising executives out of bed and into the Palais before 10am during Cannes week. The Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase has achieved that consistently over the past 26 years. Delegates from all over the world came out early this morning (Thursday) to scout out new talent and be inspired. This year’s selection includes a spoken-word artist talking about breasts, videos for trendy French and Dutch musicians and an operator handling a 999 call.
Continuing the trend of recent years, there are fewer signed directors than there used to be. Andy Gulliman, worldwide film and content director at Saatchi & Saatchi and curator of the showcase, says this is because "fewer new directors are given the opportunity to do commercials". Whereas once production companies would be vying to get their new signings on the showcase, now Gulliman is just as likely to happen across new talent on YouTube.
As well as a chance to commission the next Jonathan Glazer or Ringan Ledwidge before they blow up, the creatives in the audience also come for the show. Saatchi & Saatchi prides itself on delivering entertainment – whether that’s by bringing its celebrated creative director Paul Arden back to life in hologram form, flying drones around the conference hall or handing out bracelets that can read people’s mood. This year, Saatchi & Saatchi commissioned a film to accompany the new directors’ efforts. But it’s a different kind of film. Rather than being shot by an ex-actress (Caroline Bartleet) or former prisoner (James Burns), it was conceived, shot and edited by machines.
Today is Alan Turing’s birthday and, in a live Turing Test, the artificial-intelligence film sat alongside the other 18 human efforts with no signposting. The audience had to guess which one it was. Saatchi & Saatchi worked with Los Angeles-based sister agency Team One and visual effects company Zoic Labs on the film using a combination of IBM Watson, Microsoft’s Rinna, Affectiva’s facial-recognition software, EEG data and a program that creates art from neural activity.
Gulliman and the wider Saatchi & Saatchi team had no say in the final product. As with the most stubborn auteur directors, the team had to simply accept the machines’ work. "There are lots of people chatting about AI," Gulliman says. "But we have dived in and will be fully submerged. We want to be bold. We’re not going to keep the results in-house. We’re going to show it on the big screen, to a global audience, so we can work together to find out what the capabilities are."
Andy Gulliman’s Top Picks
Uri Lotan and Yoav Shtibelman (Israel)
Ma’agalim by Jane Bordeaux
The childlike simplicity of this animated promo for Jane Bordeaux’s gentle track Ma’agalim invites the viewer into a cartoon world inhabited by a wooden doll. This enchanting Hebrew-language music video was created by director/producer and compositor Uri Lotan and director/producer and storyboard artist Yoav Shtibelman, with effects produced at Phenomena Labs in Tel Aviv. Lotan has worked as an animator on some high-profile films including Hotel Transylvania 2, while Shtibelman has been involved in major Pixar movies including the first-ever full-length computer-animated film: Toy Story.
Jake Dypka (UK) • Indy8
Embarrassed by Hollie McNish
Jake Dypka is an award-winning, London-based commercials and content director. With humble beginnings editing martial-arts DVDs, Dypka’s natural film-making talent, coupled with his unique empathy and conveyance of the human experience, has defined him as a special new talent. Dypka’s principal concern in his work is to bring truth and humanity to his craft, which he does in Embarrassed – his collaboration with poet Hollie McNish, which visualises her words and exposes the hypocrisy of public reactions to breastfeeding in public. "In a country of billboards covered in tits", we’re paying for something that would usually be free.
Connor Hurley (US)
In The Woods by El Perro Del Mar
Connor Hurley’s cinematic music video follows an Amish man experiencing a coming of age in the big city. Hurley is a writer, producer and director based in Brooklyn, New York. His films have screened at festivals and exhibitions around the world, winning awards at the Brooklyn Film Festival and the New Orleans Film Festival. This beautifully crafted music video for El Perro del Mar’s In the Woods premièred on Pitchfork and became Hurley’s third Vimeo Staff Pick. He is currently gearing up to produce a feature film about the US prison system.
Caroline Bartleet (UK)
Caroline Bartleet’s seven-minute short film Operator was the deserving winner of the 2016 Bafta for British Short Film. The director serves up tension and drama in this short about an emergency-services operator battling to save a mother and her young son from the clutches of a fire before the fire brigade arrive on the scene. Bartleet was inspired by, and based the script on, a real-life 999 call, which revealed the incredible composure of emergency-services operators during crises.
James Burnes (US)
We Live This
We Live This, James Burns’ powerful short documentary, was the Special Jury Mention in the Best Documentary Short category at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival and follows the lives of four boys from the projects in New York. Burns, 29, didn’t go to film school. He spent time in solitary confinement at age six and was later incarcerated at an adult facility in Colorado while still a minor, spending years in the criminal justice system. The feature film Jamesy Boy (starring Mary-Louise Parker, James Woods and Ving Rhames) was based on his formative years.
Jason Kupfer (US) • 45 Year Old Productions, Treehouse Pictures
Jason Kupfer is a film-maker and musician who has directed everything from music videos to short horror films. His most recent movie, Invaders, was featured at Slamdance and Beyond Fest, and won at Fantastic Fest. In the dark comedy, an attempted burglary turns into a slasher fest. Kupfer is also a member of the band The Pauses, and is a composer and sound designer for Deeb Studios in Orlando, Florida.
Matt Lambert (US) • Prettybird
High School Never Ends by Mykki Blanco featuring Woodkid
Matt Lambert collaborated with musician Mykki Blanco and cinematographer Martin Ruhe on this epic Shakespearean music video, which examines the decline of Europe and the extremes of the far left and far right. The film, shot in rural Germany, features a dystopia where humanity’s attraction to conflict opposes love. Lambert revisits Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and transports the themes of forbidden love that crosses genders, religion, race and sexuality to an era of fear and suspicion.
Studio Smack (Netherlands) • Supergoober
Witch Doctor by De Staat
Studio Smack’s trippy promo for Dutch rock band De Staat’s track Witch Doctor has won multiple prizes including Best Concept at the 2016 Berlin Music Video Awards, Best Music Video at Edison Pop 2016 and Best Dutch Animation Grand Prix at the 2016 Holland Animation Film Festival. Studio Smack are Ton Meijdam, Thom Snels and Béla Zsigmond. In the music video, the lead singer of De Staat performs in the middle of a throng of men resembling colliery workers. The men follow the words of the singer’s performance, all seemingly under his spell.
Nicolas Davenel (France) • Iconoclast
Who Wants It by KCPK featuring STS
French director Nicolas Davenel started his career as an editor before moving behind the camera to shoot his first music video for The Parisians. His latest unsettling promo for French trio KCPK, produced by Iconoclast, depicts the evil underbelly of Russian gang life with an adrenaline-fuelled journey through different generations exposed to the mobster world. This fast-paced music video examines the dark side of the criminal underworld, from feral children on a council estate caught up in a drug cartel to more opulent surroundings with menacing undertones. Street casting mixed with professional actors lends the film authenticity.