Is it me... or are these the 5 things a commercial director doesn't want to hear.

Cartoon 5 Sept 2011 Water Tank.jpg

‘Of course I love the water…’

Back in the Blue Juice days, I was young, eager and perhaps just a little stupid. I used to believe every word an actor said. So when a certain cast member said he loved water I never suspected he meant the water that filled his bath. I think it was somewhere off the sea outside Gywthian, as the cameras rolled, that he started to make a noise straight out of Deliverance.

This should have been a lesson. It wasn’t. Recently I was working in downtown Berlin. Me, a number of eager models and a diving tank. ‘Can you all hold your breath?’ I enquire. ‘Of course’, they nod.

I should have known a slightly petrified nod is not the same as a verbal ‘yes’. And it never will be. One thing you can’t cover up is wide-eyed underwater fear. Trust me.

As a director your job is to roll with the punches, avert the blame for the mishap and then take full credit when it turns out ‘swimmingly’. We recast in London and the models were stars.

‘It’s still in research’

Apologies to any clients reading this, but I’m not going to sugarcoat it: what has happened to research?! It’s always been a necessary evil but how does anything ever get made anymore? Scripts, concepts, even the varieties of cappuccino in the foyer’s coffee machine have been researched to death and back. Who was it that said research is the death of creativity? Whoever it was, tell them I finally get it.

Nowadays we have scripts going out to be pitched, conference-called and treated on whilst they’re still in research. I don’t think we’re too far off duplicitous reality of the Hollywood director: you lunch with a top producer, you both enjoy a nice Caesar salad, they show you a script, you love it, give notes and finally they hand it back to the director they were going to hire all along. But of course – they love your work.

‘There’s no money but it’ll be good for the reel’

This one’s infamous. A classic. I remember having an interesting conversation with a very wealthy man on a flight to Cincinnati. He’d made his dough in the auto trade and got even richer by getting into the digital boom before his competitors had even realised what the internet was.

He asked me what the average profit was on most commercials. 60/70% he hesitantly guessed. When I informed him that 20% would be considered lucky, he spat out his G&T and uttered the immortal line, “Are you a tit?”

Eager to claw back my position I explained that like all enigmatic, creative talents, I did it for love not money. He retorted: ‘I too do it for the love, but remember, the price of love should always be rewarded in cash’.

The issue is, most “reel” jobs are the ones that the client wouldn’t, or will never, buy. If the creativity was actually that good, and there have been some, other forms of compensation would be offered. Hell, I’m Italian, I’ll work for fine wines and great meals every once in a while.

I’m waiting for our beloved industry to kick in a little and produce some scripts that, without question of coin, you would happily do for the reel.

‘The client likes the casting but thinks it’s too “characterful”’

I love casting. It’s my passion, but sometimes I think we’d be better off staging a version of the script live for clients to watch face-to-face. I don’t know what, but something seems to happen between recall and PPM that causes actors faces to distort and their teeth to blacken.

Maybe it’s the nature of video versus film but I’ve lost many a great actor to the ‘God of the Over Head Projector’. All of a sudden the client thinks their face is too big or their hair too blonde. I recall one particular client had a bad history with noses. Yep, noses had cost him a lot of sales. One needed to be very careful with noses. An hour and a half debating noses with said client, and the actor with the “characterful nose” was history. This left us with the guy with the small nose - who incidentally couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. Excellent.

‘I love your glasses’

I am, as many of you will know, a committed advocate of eye-catching spectacles. As a full time wearer of facial furniture, I feel the need to remain steadfastly on trend. It’s my way of compensating my nose for its constant metal companion.

Yet during my advertising career, “I love your glasses” seems to have developed into an unfortunate code for: ‘I’m actually thinking something far more derogatory but you just focus on the compliement’. Sometimes it means: You’ve got the job but I didn’t choose you. On another day its: you can shoot that shot but it’ll never be in the cut. Sometimes it stands in for: didn’t you once make a film that was a complete disaster? So please, as much as I love you all, please watch the code & remember...

I know who is on this mailing list.