The intro film to last week's D&AD/Campaign Screen New Directors Competition led us to believe that all you needed to become a director was the Director Max 9000 Kit. Complete with beard, baseball cap and specs, your name will soon be on the back of a folding chair.
Of course, the film's auteurs, the directing duo Daddy, created an ironic twist on the truth - a market which is tougher than ever for new directors to break into. There are already hundreds of directors chasing the few sexy agency briefs, which are about as rare as a client with a decent budget. Such competition results in the well-established directors snaring all of the choice projects.
This is why, last year, Campaign Screen initiated its New Directors Competition with D&AD. By supporting, exposing and promoting new talent, the idea is to kickstart the careers of promising individuals. It worked for last year's winner, Carl Erik Rinsch, who found himself propelled into the big league. Just one week after winning, eight scripts from leading agencies landed on his lap and he has gone on to direct spots for Lexus, McDonald's, Nestle and Sony.
The work from this year's winners and nominees proved equally impressive, with the jury noting that the animation was particularly strong. The winning work by Suzie Templeton was praised for its powerful, emotive content, which moved some of the jury to tears. Meanwhile, Eric Lynne, the winner of the non-professional category, is being sweet-talked by top production companies.
The overall standard of entries, however, was deemed disappointing, with one jury member observing that "it looked like people were making the work they think people want to see, rather than doing what they believed in".
Other directors layered their films with clever graphics and techniques that lacked a strong idea. "It's easy to make things look pretty, but telling a story, interesting casting and getting good performances is more tricky," the jury member, Ringan Ledwidge, says.
The jury president and the joint managing director of Independent Films, Jani Guest, argues that the industry is to blame to some extent: "In the US we have dedicated schools to train commercials directors, but there's nothing like that over here."
Some of the errors were simple to correct, she adds, with directors including work of a lower standard on their reel which detracted from the stronger pieces.
However, the jury agreed that the finalists were, indeed, worthy of note.
All of the work can be seen on the "New Talent" issue of Campaign Screen, out on 22 October. For subscriptions, e-mail kelly.
SUZIE TEMPLETON - Winner
Winner of the professional category,Templeton left the panel breathless with her painstakingly crafted film, "dog", an animation about a young boy who struggles with the death of his mother and dog, possibly murdered by his father. A recent MA graduate from the Royal College of Art, Templeton became increasingly frustrated with the lack of direction offered on the course and ended up experimenting with materials to create her models for the animation. The powerful faces of the father and boy were created from wire, then covered by latex and moulded to form the expressive details.
Templeton then discovered that glycerine could be used to make the models look like they were crying.
"It wasn't supposed to be quite as bleak," she admits. "If I had more time, I would have added two more seconds to the frame, but I was desperate to finish the film." She also explains that the boy's skin, which looks jaundiced, was totally accidental, even though it only adds to the viewer's sympathy of his plight. Signed to Passion Pictures, Templeton is keen to break into commercials direction.
TOBY MACDONALD - Shortlisted
Macdonald has a background in film, having worked as production assistant, script reader and first assistant director on independent features. Nominated for a Bafta, "je t'aime John Wayne" is a stunningly shot, black-and-white homage to Jean-Luc Goddard. It has recently been adapted by TBWA/London for its latest French Connection television advertising campaign.
He has just completed another short film, "Mexicano", which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Macdonald is signed to The Paul Weiland Film Company.
DANIEL LEVI - Shortlisted
South African-born Levi, director of "I am beat", started out making motion graphics and 3D for films and is now signed to Independent Films.
He has already created a stir this year, when he got himself noticed for his visceral dark films and ads and was included in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors' Showcase. Levi is obsessed with comic books and spent a year putting together a graphic project for his friend's comic book series.
His greatest influences in cinema are science fiction films and the early work of Ridley Scott. "His work is so dramatic, yet comic book-like at the same time," Levi says. His goal is to work in features, but for now he's busy pitching for commercials through the London agencies and has recently finished shooting the latest Xbox interactive DVD.
TIM HOPE - Shortlisted
Tim Hope has an unconventional background for a filmmaker. After completing a degree in theology, he worked for four years as a stand-up comedian in London, creating a multimedia comedy called The Pod, which was broadcast on Radio 1. At the same time, he was experimenting with computer graphics and editing packages and the world of animation soon opened up to him.
He began by making short animated personalised greetings cards for friends before creating the award-winning film "the wolfman". The film was later adapted by TBWA/London for a PlayStation commercial. Hope joined Passion Pictures in 2000 and has since directed mesmerising promos for Coldplay.
ERIC LYNNE - Winner
After completing his studies at Chicago University, Eric Lynne obtained a short working visa for the UK. After a few days in London, he boarded a train to Edinburgh on nothing more than a whim and a vague suspicion that a smaller city would prove more amenable. He was right. He walked into The Leith and into a job as a copywriter. After several months working on accounts such as Irn Bru, Lynne went to Los Angeles to try to make it as a filmmaker. Demonstrating a keen entrepreneurial spirit, he has spent the past two years in diverse jobs to raise the necessary finance. This has included naming toys for Mattel and writing web content.
Like many budding directors, he pulled in many favours to produce his Centrum spec spots, which developed from a spec print campaign from the former Leith team Charles Harris and Alex Flint. The same is true of "neighbour", which, although it looks big budget, was produced on a shoestring. The 25-year-old is now being courted by production companies and has found the attention overwhelming. However, he says: "People have reacted really well. No-one has said, 'Hey, give up now kid.' Until they do, I guess I'll just carry on."
MIKE SHARPE - Shortlisted
A runner at The Paul Weiland Film Company, Sharpe created "homesick", an endearing animation of a robot looking for a home, on his Apple Mac after hours. He teamed up with classmate Joe Fellows, who co-wrote the short while they were still at college and shot the film on digital video.
It sat on the shelf gathering dust for years until Sharpe told the story of his robot to a colleague who then convinced him to re-shoot the film using Flash, and enter it into the Cartoon Network Animation Award. He won. Sharpe wants to pursue a career in motion graphics. "Who would have thought our little robot would have got us anywhere?" he says.
YANNAKIS JONES - Shortlisted
"Stagediving" caught the panel's eye for its strong casting and performance, reminiscent of the Swedish collective Traktor's early work. The promo features a tongue-in-cheek manual of how to behave at gigs, and was shot for less than £500 in an Amsterdam gym. While working for the start-up agency BLRS, Jones stumbled across a Russian DJ who was willing to appear in his film. For now, Jones is using promos as an experimental training ground. "You don't want to jump out in front of the agencies as a commercials director too soon," he says. "Promos allow you more flexibility and creative licence to develop your own style." As for the future, Jones says: "It's cheaper to make humour, but I would like to make something visually richer if I get the chance."
ALEXANDER KOK HWEE NG - Shortlisted
The Central St Martins graphic design graduate teamed up with classmates Sunghoon Kang and Damien Borowik to create a three-minute animated film, "Angela's Ashes", inspired by Frank McCourt's novel. The trio, who hail from Singapore, Korea and France respectively, created a beautiful, original and moving typographic film which uses water as a visual metaphor to express the emotions of the author. The soft piano soundtrack emphasises the mood of sadness. The directors are also interested in web design. Kok Hwee Ng is doing his masters in multimedia at the London College of Printing while Kang is doing an MA in screen design at Kingston University.