- Sunday, Oct. 23, 2005
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Who will be the A-list directors of the future? SHOOT has singled out five helmers, who through the work they've already done, have shown the potential to become go-to guys for commercial production. They have diverse backgrounds: three have some type of ad agency experience, ranging from planner to art director to copywriter. One is a veteran of high quality television series work, while another is a recent film school graduate. What the quintet has in common are talent, drive and serious potential.
BRIAN LEE HUGHES
"Comedy has to have a little element of fear," says director Brian Lee Hughes of Reginald Pike, Toronto. "I like to set up something very familiar and innocent, and do this thing called corruption of innocence," whereby a seemingly normal situation is skewed, often to comedic effect. Case in point: "Sales Clerk," which Hughes directed for the Clean City Task Force of the Toronto Board of Trade. The client-direct spot features a pregnant woman browsing in a baby store. A clerk comes over, remarks on the cuteness of the outfits, and then blows his nose--without benefit of tissue, getting snot all over the floor. He walks away without explanation, leaving the expectant mom in horror. A super appears--"What makes littering any more acceptable?" followed by the campaign's tag: "Can the litter." In "Bloody Zit" for Mac Frosters, out of Bos, Toronto, a teen couple faces each other; the girl lovingly strokes the boy's acne-peppered cheek, drawing blood. Instead of concern, she leans over and licks his face. His latest efforts, "Jackhammer" and "Lumberjack" for Burger King, out of Communications Bleu Blanc Rouge, Quebec, tout the immense size of the new Angus 'Shroom and Swiss burger. It's so big is needs to be eaten sitting down--a voiceover explains you need to sit down to enjoy the burger, and you just might never get up. In "Jackhammer," a seated construction worker attempts to use his jackhammer from the chair, which, because of the vibrations, scoots off the cliff of the construction site with the worker still in it--he lands below, unharmed.
Hughes signed with Reginald Pike in February after a successful run as an agency creative. The director, who attended the University of Texas at Austin, was originally a pre-med student: "I didn't like the cutting up body parts." He went on to study fine arts, before shifting over to communications. He went to New York in 1992, getting a job as an art director at Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners. He later worked at the then Fallon Berlin, and Mother, London, and freelanced with several shops.
Along the way, he married a Danish woman, and the pair, moved to Denmark. While there, he worked for Zentropa Films, the production company of celebrated director Lars Von Trier (Dogville, Manderlay), doing design work, and gleaning as much information about filmmaking as he could. A producer named Jes Thomsen, who is now a director/producer at Molotov, Copenhagen, which reps Hughes in Denmark, particularly influenced him. "I learned a lot from him," notes Hughes, "[about] trying to get a performance from a production, and the importance of finding the root of a story as opposed to finding the root of the production."
Hughes later worked on the redesign of Copenhagen production shop BFS, and through Erik-Algreen Petersen, a producer there, starting directing spots. "He saw how I could transition from being purely creative to also directing stuff," relates Hughes. "I did three hundred spots as a creative--I worked with Spike Jonze and Spike Lee and the Cohen Brothers, and when you keep your eyes open when things are happening, you can learn a shit load. ... If you sit on Lance Acord's or Jeff Cronenweth's shoulders, you learn about lighting."
After he and his wife divorced, Hughes returned to the states, moving to Northern California, where he served as a creative at TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, working on FOX Sports and adidas, as well as Sony PlayStation 2's award-winning spots "Gravity" and "Tractor Beam," directed by Dayton/Faris of bicoastal Bob Industries. While in San Francisco, Hughes started working on "Rock Star Scars," a series of interviews with indie bands, the unifying theme being that all the band member shared the story of how they got a particular scar. Mike Moore, an editor at TBWA/Chiat/Day, cut together the project, which Hughes branded for MTV2--the network didn't pick up the spots, but did buy the concept.
Along the way, Hughes decided to pursue commercial directing full-time, and was attracted to Reginald Pike because of the experience his friend Tim Godsall, a director with Biscuit Filmworks, Los Angeles, and untitled, Toronto, had with James Davis, executive producers at untitled, and sister company Reginald Pike. "I thought 'He's the one guy I'd trust to launch me," " says Hughes of Davis. "I'm thankful that he liked my stuff. He started giving me a lot of opportunities--that was in February and I've been shooting non-stop."
Hughes, who co-directed a skateboard movie called Lavender Or Danish Skater Perfect Fantasy Death with Ada Bligaard Søby, now has his sights set on the U.S. "I definitely have aspirations to work on spots in the states," he admits. He is repped stateside by Reginaldo, a recently launched division of Reginald Pike that also represents Reginald Pike director Lena Beug (the rest of the Reginald Pike directors are handled by Biscuit in the U.S.)