FEATURE: New Directors Competition

The D&AD/Campaign Screen New Directors Competition drew some outstanding entries but also highlighted the need for dedicated training schemes.

If you're a new director looking for your first break into commercials you have to ask yourself, is it worth the bother? Or perhaps you're dreaming of buying into a lifestyle, a world that revolves around sipping martinis in some flower-clad Hollywood villa while your PA gives you a pedicure.

If that's the case, dream on. It's a tough old market out there with hundreds of new directors desperate to devour some sexy agency brief. But few get the chance, especially at a time when clients are jittery about spending money on TV advertising full stop.

That's where we came in with our New Directors Competition. In association with the D&AD, Campaign Screen aimed to pull out the best of this year's new talent from all over the world.

The response to our call for entries a few months earlier was overwhelming, with over 100 films submitted for the competition, which is sponsored by Lycos in association with Framestore CFC.

The awards night, which took place at London's Warner Village cinema in Leicester Square, wowed the 200-strong audience. And as soon as the lights came up, vulture-like producers circled the unsigned talent.

The winners may have been outstanding, but the judges claim to be disappointed with the overall standard of work.

According to our tough jury, too many directors are concerned with the idea of being a director rather than coming up with the goods. "It looked like people were making the work that they think people want to see rather than doing what they believed in," noted one member of the jury.

According to Jani Guest, joint managing director of Independent Films and our jury president, many of the entrants showed little understanding of the language of camera or storytelling. Other directors layered their films with clever graphics and techniques that lacked a strong idea behind them.

"It's easy to make things look pretty, but telling a story, interesting casting, and getting good performances is more tricky," comments director Ringan Ledwidge, another judge.

However, the eight that made the final shortlist were applauded by the jury for their emotive power. These pieces were made for themselves, not because they thought it would be what the judges wanted to see, observes John Hassay, independent music video commissioner. In fact, the winning film in the professional category, Suzie Templeton's brilliant animation, Dog, reduced some of the panel to tears.

The jury was a well-balanced mix from across the industry and included Jani Guest; James Studholme, managing director of Blink; Andrew Ruhemann, managing director of Passion Pictures; Graham Fink, founder of the Fink Tank; Ringan Ledwidge, director signed to Harry Nash; Adam Dunlop, commissioner at Sony Music; Dominic Delaney, managing director at @radical.media; John Hassay, and Will Byles, head of 3D at Soho 601.

Yet even with their different backgrounds and experience, the judges struggled to find a winner in the non-professional category. Fortunately, they succeeded, and at the time of going to press, Eric Lynne is being hounded by production companies.

One of the problems was that each director was asked to submit a reel of work, rather than one piece alone. Often, a film that stood out on a reel was let down by lower standard of work on that same reel. This was unfair when a production company, not the director, had sent in the work. Guest believes it's unfair to blame the directors themselves when nobody is trying to help them.

"In the US we have dedicated schools to train commercials directors, but there's nothing like that over here," she says.

So as a result of this year's competition, Guest is promoting alongside Campaign Screen the idea of training sessions for directors. The forums will aim to let new directors sit with experienced directors and talk through their ideas, visit agency producers and creative teams, and participate on shoots.

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