TOP PERFORMERS OF 1996: PRODUCTION COMPANY OF THE YEAR: BLINK - By fostering the diverse talents of seven live-action directors, Blink has shed its quirky image and matured to produce some fresh and highly original work

Blink Productions is Campaign’s Production Company of the Year. After considerable debate, Campaign felt 1996 was the year that Blink finally shed its reputation of being a quirky, small animation shop and proved it was capable of nurturing the careers of seven diverse live-action directors.

Blink Productions is Campaign’s Production Company of the Year.

After considerable debate, Campaign felt 1996 was the year that Blink

finally shed its reputation of being a quirky, small animation shop and

proved it was capable of nurturing the careers of seven diverse

live-action directors.

Although, once again, the Paul Weiland Film Company’s showreel offering

for 1996 was the most powerful overall, Blink’s skill in spotting and

breaking new talent, and consolidating the careers of more experienced

directors, made 1996 an exceptional year for the company and a sound

choice for this year’s accolade. It could be argued that Paul Weiland

has been penalised for consistent excellence but this was the

closest-run of all Campaign awards this year.

Blink was founded nearly a decade ago by the producer, James Studholme,

and the director, Bob Lawrie, and, until three years ago, operated as a

small animation shop. Then Studholme and Lawrie decided to reinvent the

company as a live-action commercials operation as they believed there

was not enough significant work or creative scope for animators. The

first director signed under this new regime was the former special

effects expert, Doug Foster. Within a year of signing with Blink, Foster

had directed the acclaimed ’chain’ campaign for Guinness.

In 1996, Foster confirmed his position as one of the leading special

effects directors by producing the ’ships out of water’ ad for Stena


Blink has also been quick to capitalise on the trend for creatives to

opt out of agency life to take up directing careers by signing Trevor

Melvin, the ex-Young and Rubicam art director, Pat Holden, the former

Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe art director, and Steve Reeves and Paul

Gay, the former BMP DDB creative team. Melvin, in particular, had a

prolific year. His anti-drink-drive ad for DMB & B, ’Dave’, won a gold

at the British Television Advertising Awards and a Creative Circle

silver. His ads for Capital Gold won awards at BTAA and a BTA craft

award. Directing credits for 1996 included Michelob, Canon, Panasonic,

McDonald’s, Ford, Halifax and the first Irish Guinness work from Howell

Henry Chaldecott Lury.

Reeves and Gay, who have now split and moved on to different production

companies, celebrated their breakthrough year with Blink by directing

commercials for Ford, Electrolux and a series of sponsorship credit

sequences for Levi’s and Kiss 100 FM. Their hard-hitting charity film

for the Environmental Investigation Agency won a silver and a bronze at

Creative Circle.

But the high point of the year for Blink was hiring the 24-year-old

Czech director, Ivan Zacharias, and securing him one of the choice jobs

of the year - the Whiskas campaign through M&C Saatchi. Within a year,

Zacharias’s life has changed from being a film student at Famu in Prague

to being touted as one of Europe’s hottest young stars. He was named as

a directorial talent in the Cannes showcase of young directors and has

also directed fresh and original spots for Johnnie Walker and


Since Pat Holden quit Rainey Kelly for Blink in September he has

directed ads for Halifax, plus a powerful spot for the British Medical

Association to discourage boxing. To support the influx of new talent,

the former WCRS producer, Vanessa Pickford, joined the company early in

the year, to be joined later in the year by Stephen Gash from

Lambie-Nairn Directors.

Although a couple of new signings are expected in the new year to

replace Reeves and Gay, Blink doesn’t intend to get much larger than it

is at present. The intention is to stay small and consistent, and for

Blink’s name to be synonymous with sound, solvent production skills. As

Studholme said in a recent interview with Campaign: ’We would rather do

less work well than take anything that is offered. We place a high value

on being friendly and approachable. We have a horizontal structure and

hope that no-one pumps out a big atmosphere - this, I hope, shows in the

work. It is possible to do the best work and have fun.’

The other contenders, in addition to Paul Weiland, included, Tony Kaye Films, Rose Hackney Barber and Gorgeous


During a heated discussion it was agreed that, if there had been a prize

for director of the year, it would have gone to the prolific Chris

Palmer at Gorgeous. Palmer’s reel illustrated an incredible breadth of

directing skills, conveyed a respect and fascination for the medium and

showed a dedication to push the creative team and client to try original


Gorgeous lost out on Production Company of the Year because 1996 was

mainly spent supporting Palmer and it has yet to prove itself as a

company that can promote other directors’ careers. With the recent

additions of Samuel Bayer, Chris Stevenson, Murray Partridge and Enda

McCallion to the Gorgeous roster, it remains to be seen if it can

transform itself from a one-director shop to a full-service company.

Tony Kaye Films was also a contender. The year began with the

appointment of Robert Campbell as managing director of the chaotic but

cutting-edge organisation which seemed to be primarily a vehicle for

Kaye. By year-end, a smaller but more structured company has emerged,

showing signs it is dedicated to developing new talent and building on

the strengths of those already there, such as Rupert Sanders and Mark

Williams. With the recent signings of Paul Gaye and Jhoan Carmitz, of

Diesel Jeans fame, 1997 should be an interesting year for the


Recent winners: The Paul Weiland Film Company (1995); Arden

Sutherland-Dodd (1994).


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