As a student, Billy Kent read philosophy and economics at Vassar College
in New York, although he says it wasn’t a completely free choice: ‘I
didn’t know what I wanted to do, but my mom kept saying ‘you better do
something that’ll get you a proper job’, so I studied economics, but to
keep myself happy, I teamed it with philosophy.’
Kent was wise to go to college because he first became involved in
filming by shooting a music video with a student band. He later shot his
first feature film, A Slice of Life, when he graduated in 1988, and he
was invited to the prestigious Sundance film festival. It was while
working at MTV that he landed his first job directing commercials.
Two years later, Kent entered the directors programme at the American
Film Institute, where he completed four half-hour films, one of which,
Five Shorts, was a winner at the Monte Carlo film festival. His current
showreel is an exhilarating array of fast, colourful and funny films,
along with ads for Tango, Red Mountain, Sun-Pat and the Cartoon Network.
Kent, aged 31, is represented by the Producers, and expects to spend
more time in the UK in the future. So far, his favourite work here has
been the two films he made for Tango, the first of which stars a mad,
kilted monster. The second, set on a football terrace, features the
hero’s head exploding.
‘With Tango, I was able to take it as far as I could and stay involved
all the way through,’ he explains. In his quest for involvement, Kent
has been known to toy with scripts and, of course, casts some of his
ads, including the US Milkboard’s ‘opposites attract’ spot.
Despite shooting so many commercials, Kent still finds time to direct
short films, and his latest, Egg Salad, won him another place at the
Sundance film festival. At the moment he is working on a full-length
movie. ‘It’s a comedy about a clown who is also a prostitute,’ he
explains. Kent says all his ideas come from his own life. ‘Everything I
see and watch influences me, and I am always working out stories and
looking at how I’m going to say what I mean.’