Anyone who has seen the film Seven will probably remember the title
sequences even more vividly than the horror of the severed head in the
box in the dramatic finale. The vacillating credits twitched on to the
screen with precarious movements that mirrored the unstable atmosphere
of the film itself.
Findlay Bunting, the man behind those D&AD-winning titles, has just
finished his first ad for the UK market - a Vodafone spot through BMP
DDB that is loosely based on the titles for the James Bond film, The Man
with the Golden Gun. I meet up with him and people from BRA films, his
UK production company, just as he emerges from his final post-production
session in the suites at Rushes.
The tall, good-natured American reaches down to hug everyone goodbye
before we finally make our way through Soho to the Groucho Club for
drinks and dinner. Bunting has enjoyed spending a month in the UK and is
particularly satisfied with the collaborative relationship he struck up
with the BMP creative team, Stuart Buckley (art director) and Ross
'The three of us took every idea and pushed it as far as we could,' he
says. 'We were all there right to the end to make it the best it can
be.' In fact, Bunting thrives on pushing things to the limit - the team
went out for a curry a couple of times while working on the commercial
and each time he braved the hottest item on the menu.
But then he was born in Mexico City where they serve chillis as harsh as
the desert sun. His family moved back to the US when he was young and
Bunting grew up in New Mexico. Although he chose to study philosophy at
university in Washington DC, he has spent his entire career in and
around the film business, living and working in Los Angeles, where he
now resides with a family of his own.
It hasn't been easy, but Bunting seems to have approached every phase of
his life with the same easy enthusiasm that he applied to the Vodafone
spot. He started off as a runner and a production assistant before
turning his hand to scriptwriting. He managed to sell a couple of
scripts to film producers but none made it on to celluloid. Eventually,
he admits without rancour, he went broke.
So Bunting went back to work, this time helping a cameraman friend who
needed a loader. This was the phase of his life when he worked on a
series of 'bad features' which he is happy to name but should probably
not be put into print for risk of offending some Hollywood stars.
Still, looking on the bright side, Bunting decided that he was indeed in
the right career. 'Film is a mixture of high-minded ideas and practical
production problems,' he says. 'I thought I was built for it.'
Through working on commercials, Bunting got to know David Fincher, the
director of Seven, and acted as his camera assistant on a number of
It became a long-running association which eventually led to Fincher
assigning Bunting the task of shooting the title credits for Seven,
which he devised alongside the designer, Kyle Cooper. Bunting says: 'The
date of completion for the film was pushed up by two months so everyone
was too busy working on that to bother looking at the titles - if they
had it might have scared them.'
Consequently Bunting and Cooper had a free rein. 'Kyle put his career at
risk,' Bunting says, implying that he himself had nothing to lose by
'letting it rip'.
Although he made his name with the Seven title sequence, Bunting hasn't
cashed in on his success, preferring to take time out to work on a
script for his own movie (it's about a Hong Kong gangster who flees to
New York) in-between working in graphics and commercial shoots.
Bunting aspires to be a 'generalist' and there is certainly more to his
reel than just graphics and groovy effects. He recently shot a 'heavily
dramatic' ad through an agency based in Atlanta for a charity called
United Way. And Bunting's US commercials work also includes an
award-winning 'use your vote' campaign for the 1996 presidential
elections, which is uncannily similar in theme to BMP's own work for the
Ministry of Sound that ran before the 1997 UK elections.
'They show voting as self-preservation,' he explains. 'If you don't
vote, someone else will speak for you.
'I never expected to be shooting with this frequency. It's a
revelation,' he says modestly. His latest job is his first full set of
title sequences since Seven, for a feature called Nightwatch which has
been, by all accounts, a bit of a flop. But the titles are good, he
thinks, and brought him to the attention of BMP's Buckley and Jameson
because they are based on images reflected in moving water - the effect
the creative team was after.
Before he had even been confirmed for the Vodafone job, Bunting was
bounding around the streets of London shooting potential characters for
inclusion in the ad. Once Buckley and Jameson had weeded out some of the
seedier shots (people loitering in public toilets and the like) the
footage and the stills photographs were filmed reflected in water before
the team went into post-production where they laboured over every detail
of the final film.
Bunting maintained his enthusiasm throughout the ordeal. 'It's
fascinating. It's like meditating; you get fixated and a little bit
insane. There was plenty of experimentation and a lot of elements to lay
down - it took a long time but when it was right we knew it.' He was
also delighted by the agency-client relationship: 'In the US there is a
climate of fear, but there was a huge capital of goodwill and faith
built up between BMP and Vodafone.'
Buckley compliments Bunting's style: 'He was impressive and brilliant to
work with - he's hard-working and he has a sense of irony and humour. We
would have found ourselves stuck without him.'