I was swapping war stories with an industry cohort the other day when, suddenly, he had me stumped. We’d been – somewhat treacherously – discussing those who give our noble profession a bad name. You know, the directors who have producers diligently covering for them. The ones who turn up unprepared or not at all. The mad, the bad and the borderline mentally ill.
It was then that my colleague told me an incredible story about a prominent US director. After landing a lucrative gig in Prague he informed the agency he wouldn’t be leaving his Parisian hotel room. His proposal: he would direct the whole film via Skype – wearing a fluffy white robe the whole time, no doubt. It’s nice work if you can get it. And I’d also like the address of that hotel because my WiFi has never been that good.
So what is this director? An eccentric genius? I don’t know how the commercial turned out. A trailblazer? Maybe it is time we finally ended all face-to-face interaction, it’s heading that way. A man with limited social skills? I’d imagine so. Maybe he’s all these things. And maybe he’s just a traditionalist. You see, there’s a rich history of directors acting outrageously.
This hotel-dwelling diva was simply tapping into our profession’s rich past….
Take Scorsese for example. This is a man who doesn’t deal with the number 11. Won’t travel on the 11th, won’t ring a number containing the dreaded digits and wouldn’t dream of taking a room on the eleventh floor. And that’s not all. When the maestro was directing Gangs of New York he had wing-mirrors tacked onto his monitor so he could monitor who was standing behind him. This was 2002. Can you imagine how paranoid he was in the seventies??
The little New Yorker isn’t alone in his eccentricities. By all accounts, Stanley
Kubrick was almost impossible to work with. While filming his Oscar winning masterpiece, The Shining, Kubrick made an elderly cast member redo a scene 148 times. It remains a record. Shelley Duvall found the whole process so stressful her hair began to fall out. It seems all work and no play makes Stanley, well, absolutely mental.
Then there’s Werner Herzog. His crazy credentials include a live volcano and the infamous handgun incident. John Ford made John Wayne cry. Yes, you read that right. And, as I type, James Cameron has just got back from the bottom of the ocean. We all know it takes a mentalist to voluntarily sink five miles under the sea in a little, metal box.
We all have a story to tell but is it all just part of the circus that needs to feed the lion’s den? Everyone loves hearing of the tortured genius whose unconventional methods garner as many gongs as it does breakdowns. But away from La la land, professionalism is surely more important. It may make for a less exciting Wikipedia page, but it certainly makes for a more enjoyable shoot.
Follow these tips and you’ll know if there’s an enfant terrible sitting in your Director’s chair:
• Joy. Is your director happy? Or are they often found tugging on their forelock and mumbling? When is that going to go out of fashion? Sure, directing is a hard job and the hours are long. But have you ever dug a ditch beside the road in the pouring rain?? Less forelock tugging, more smiling please.
• What about respect? Are you getting enough? Does your director respect you, the agency and client? Of course directors can make scripts better – but only if they act with respect and remember that in advertising they’re always the “third creative”.
• Awards. What does their mantelpiece look like? Can’t even see the carriage clock? The thing to remember about awards is that they were given by people who have awards to other people who have awards. It’s a self-perpetuating myth based on…awards. Not always true, but is chasing awards worth the pain of choosing a potentially difficult director?
• Do their clothes suit their age or are those trousers showing just too much under pant? I’ll leave you to consider the intelligence of belts, correctional facilities and gangster rap. Peace…out. Incidentally, beards, Rosemary beads and pony tails should also arouse suspicion.
• Awesome is not the same as cut. If your director uses the expletive after every shot it could well be code for “I have a very important dinner date so don’t ask me to do more than one take”.
Finally, just a quick thank you to everyone who has helped make the past few months so busy. Coming soon are new films from Gusto, Samsung and more. Also, as promised, check out last month's Fiat Punto ad with the agency's award winning music, and wet your apetite with a still from the latest Maggi shoot photographed by the awesome Bjorn Haneld, styled by Nicole Szabason and created, developed, and ushered into the world by my new friends at Publicis and Maggi. Good job team! Now where are my wing-mirrors?