Tom Connolly, the director behind the Carlsberg Pub Cup vignettes,
Midland Bank and AA films, thanks Kentish Town Department of Social
Security for his break into big-time commercials. Prior to Richard
Sloggett - of Holsten Pils fame - taking Connolly under his wing at
Sloggett Films a year ago, he spent 12 months on the dole honing his art
as a film-maker.
The 29-year-old Connolly started life in advertising in 1990 as a
freelance runner, to support himself in ILEA evening classes in film and
animation. He went on to promote himself to second assistant directing.
His first film, called End of the Road, a 20-minute epic, came out in
1992, courtesy of NatWest, from whom he borrowed pounds 3,000 under the
pretence of expanding his painting and decorating business.
‘The film was visually quite strong, but lacked a script, and I wrote
it,’ Connolly confesses. ‘A lot of first films fall into that category.’
In 1993 he won a commission to make a ten-minute landscape documentary,
about Romney Marshes, for BBC Bristol’s 10x10 series, his first film, he
says, that ‘went down well’.
That was followed by a call from the now defunct Swan Films, where he
made six ads for British Gas through BMP DDB and a BMP Countrywide film
for Warwick Castle.
When Swan closed in 1994, Connolly went through ‘what was the most
constructive year of my life’. He directed an 11-minute Channel 4
commission, ‘Beachy Head’, a ‘comedy’ about a suicide, plus a menacing
10-minute documentary-style film, called Dog-fight. He also wrote,
produced and directed a 30-minute drama, The Bride, currently doing the
film festival round.
‘As far as directing goes,’ Connolly says, ‘I learned through experience
and I’m glad I didn’t go to film school.’
Sloggett says he signed up Connolly not only because he gels with young
agency creative teams - a prerequisite these days - but because he
really knows how to make films.
‘He understands the minutiae of film-making and too many young
directors don’t,’ is his verdict.