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Production Vet Oliver Fuselier Reflects On Tool's Palme d’Or Win At Cannes
Oliver Fuselier
Managing partner, live action, looks back on company’s ascent to the Lions summit
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Oliver Fuselier has much to celebrate-a recent promotion from managing director to managing partner, live action, at Tool of North America; and Tool breaking through at last month's Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity to win its first Palme d'Or as the year's top production company.

Fuselier started with Tool as a freelance EP some six years ago. “I didn’t know if I would be here for two weeks or two months,” he recalled. Instead he was called on to come on staff as an exec producer, a role he served in for three years before being upped to managing director, a capacity in which he actively began curating the company’s live action directorial roster. 

Prior to this year, the 21-year-old Tool hadn't even cracked the top 20 in the annual Palme d'Or derby. Working in concert with others, including company founder, director Erich Joiner, and Dustin Callif, managing partner, digital, to help attain the Palme d’Or is particularly gratifying for Fuselier. For one, Fuselier had a hand in bringing into the company fold John X. Carey, Benjamin Weinstein, Floyd Russ and J.J. Adler, the four directors contributing to nearly all of Tool’s Cannes Lion wins this year which collectively earned the Palme d’Or honor.

Weinstein directed REI’s “#OptOutside” campaign from Venables Bell & Partners, San Francisco, earning Cannes Lion Grand Prix distinction in both Promo & Activation and Titanium. Per the campaign, REI closed its retail stores on Black Friday so that their employees and customers could instead enjoy the great outdoors, spending the time around Thanksgiving to be with family and friends. “#OptOutside” also garnered two Direct Gold Lions, a Promo & Activation Gold Lion, a Cyber Gold Lion, an Integrated Gold Lion, a Design Silver Lion, a PR Silver Lion, a Mobile Silver Lion, a PR Bronze Lion and a Mobile Bronze Lion.

Russ directed skincare brand SK-II’s “Marriage Market Takeover” which won a Glass Gold Lion and an Entertainment Bronze Lion; the Glass kudo recognizes work that positively impacts ingrained gender inequality, imbalance or injustice. “Marriage Market Takeover” puts a spotlight on Chinese women being labeled as “Sheng Nu”--translated to “leftover women” used to stigmatize unmarried women over 25. The campaign aims to emphasize that everyone should have the freedom to marry for love and not because of undue pressure from family and society. In the film, women who feel alienated and ostracized--often by their own parents--because they “dare” to live independently, to wait for true love or simply choose to live alone, decide to declare their independence at the marriage market in Shanghai’s People’s Park. The marriage market is designed for women to find men whose “qualifications” are listed for matrimony. For some, it’s as if parents are selling their daughters who seek out the most desirable men--desirable in terms of job, income, property and other materialistic standards. The group of women in this short film instead turn that market on its ear, using it as a place to articulate their right to choose the lives they want to lead.

Carey helmed Philips’ “Breathless Choir,” which took the Cannes Pharma Lion Grand Prix, two Health & Wellness Gold Lions, four Pharma Silver Lions, and one Pharma Bronze Lion. Conceived by Ogilvy & Mather London, “Breathless Choir” puts us in the shoes of 18 people with respiratory problems who--despite every breath being a battle--strive to sing with the help of celebrity choirmaster Gareth Malone.

And Adler directed “Girls Who Code” which took a Cannes Film Craft Bronze Lion. Conceived by McCann New York for Girls Who Code, the national non-profit working to close the gender gap in technology, this video satirizes stereotypes about why women are underrepresented in computer science. This anthem piece presents absurd theories for why girls “can’t” code, pointing to ridiculous reasons such as “they have boobs”, “they menstruate,” and “they’re beautiful.” With their funny and provocative tone, the videos are designed to spark conversation about unconscious bias and call out stereotypes related to gender and appearance that have been used to exclude women from traditionally male-dominated fields like technology. 

Additionally Tool Digital scored a Promo & Activation Silver Lion for Domino’s DXP from CP+B, Boulder, Colo., showcasing a state-of-the-art pizza delivery vehicle.

Building a roster
Relative to lessons learned from the Lions and his tenure thus far at Tool, Fuselier related, “Remember that you are only as good as your roster. Creativity in a director is an evolution, so help support them and allow them to grow and learn, gaining experience along the way so that they can be the best creatives they can be.”

Fuselier’s priority upon being promoted to managing director from EP a few years back was to build the company’s roster of live-action directors, adding to such mainstays as Joiner, Geordie Stephens and Sean Ehringer whose roots are in agency creative soil. “I set out to curate the roster to extend our reach and make us even more appealing to creatives at agencies,” said Fuselier. “I wanted directors who write, who are sources of ideas, who ideate in the way that agencies do, And I wanted talent that crosses a broad spectrum of different platforms spanning TV commercials, digital, experiential, VR. At the core of all this are storytellers who create stories that people, brands, clients and agencies can connect with.”

Talent has blossomed at Tool. For example, said Fuselier, “Floyd [Russ] has been with us for five months and wins a Glass Lion.” (Russ also earned inclusion into this year’s SHOOT New Directors Showcase.) 

Carey, though, is no stranger to Cannes recognition. Back in 2013, Fuselier brought Carey to Tool, not too long after the director’s “Real Beauty Sketches” for Dove out of Ogilvy Brazil win the Titanium Grand Prix at Cannes. On the strength of “Real Beauty Sketches” done while Carey was at Paranoid US, he earned in early 2014 a DGA Award nomination as Best Commercial Director of the Year. Fast forward to 2016 and Carey now has at Tool another Cannes Grand Prix to add to his accolades, this one in the Pharma Lions competition.

Attaining a balance
Infusing Tool with new talent was also key to another task at hand when Fuselier originally took the live action reins as managing director. “The digital arm of the company thanks to Dustin’s great work had developed a reputation for innovation and gained recognition at many competitions,” said Fuselier. “Digital was winning lots of awards and my goal was to attain more of a balance at the company with live action getting into the mix of award-winning projects.”

The meshing of live action and digital, creating true integrated fare, has been integral to Tool’s growth in recent years, reflecting a close collaborative relationship between Fuselier and Callif. This is evident on assorted jobs, including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “Together We Are Stronger” campaign for which Fuselier and Callif served as EPs. The campaign from Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore, enables people with MS to experience their life’s passions in a new way. MS is an often disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. It can take things away from people, sometimes the things they love to do, or the ability to do them in the way they used to.

In the short VR film Off My Wave, we meet Steve Bettis, a local surfer from Ocean Beach, Calif., who has been living that lifestyle for 50-plus years. A few years after being diagnosed with MS, Bettis’ ability to balance and ride the waves started to fade. His good friend, professional longboarder Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, took to the waves with a virtual reality camera so that Bettis could once again experience the joy of being in the water again. We see Bettis re-live his passion of surfing via VR.

In the other campaign short titled Exit Stage Never, we meet Amy Meisner, a professional dancer who was diagnosed in 1997. She now dances with her wheelchair and choreographs others, but is unable to perform like she once did. LaTonya Swann, a fellow professional and BET’s Born to Dance winner, took to the stage with a virtual reality camera to share with Meisner a whole new dance experience.

The campaign encourages individuals to connect and share their solutions and passions with one another by posting their own videos across social channels with #WeAreStrongerThanMS. People can view these experiences and find out how they can share theirs at

Tricklebank, GMUNK
Callif has also brought talent into the Tool fold, including artisans who have successfully transitioned to directors, prime examples being Ben Tricklebank and GMUNK who are on both the company’s live-action and interactive directors’ rosters. “Ben was one of the most awarded digital creatives around and he’s evolved into a talented director,” assessed Fuselier. “And GMUNK--Bradley G. Munkowitz--is an incredible digital technologist who too has established himself as a director.” GMUNK’s credits include the Vice Creator’s Project “Cars Vs. Drones” for Holden Astra. Tricklebank teamed with Joiner to direct The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Foundation’s interactive documentary Clouds Over Cuba for The Martin Agency. Clouds Over Cuba won assorted awards, including a News and Documentary Emmy and honors from the AICP Show, D&AD, Clios, One Show, Art Directors Club and 11 Cannes Lions. More recently, Tricklebank directed “Harmony: Mastered From Chaos” for Hennessy VSOP Privilege Cognac and Droga5 New York.

Meanwhile other directors added relatively recently by Fuselier to the Tool lineup include: Phillip Montgomery who has worked with such brands as Jack Daniels, GE and Walmart; Leigh Marling who has directed projects for Nissan, Lego and Miller Lite; and Jeff and Jackie Schaffner, creators of FX’s comedy The League.

Fuselier said he’s tasked the Tool sales force “with bringing in great creative work even if it’s budget-challenged.” He’s gratified by the number of creatively worthwhile projects being awarded to Tool and its directors. “The Palme d’Or is normally given to a company that has a campaign that sweeps Cannes in a given year,” he observed. “For us, it wasn’t just one campaign. While REI was a big winner, our Cannes Lions were spread over four directors and multiple projects, which is an accomplishment.”

Still Fuselier isn’t one to rest on the company’s laurels, even a Palme d’Or. “Never stop auditioning for your job and don’t take anything for granted,” he advised. “Never stop learning and listening. Never stop pushing yourself and those around you.” 

Part of pushing himself, said Fuselier, is not being afraid to admit ignorance. “Don’t say you know something when you really don’t. That’s served me well throughout my career. Don’t be afraid to ask questions--that was particularly the case when coming into a company [Tool] that was getting significantly into digital. When I didn’t fully understand something, I asked for help. This led me to be able to participate in the development and integration of this company, to explore with directors from a traditional background what was possible by extending their creative reach, easing them into the world of digital and integration. That’s part of supporting your talent--and it’s that support that has helped us evolve and break new ground at Cannes.”

The Palme d’Or is just part of that “new ground.” Tool also won at Cannes its first ever Titanium Grand Prix.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client SK-II Agency Forsman & Bodenfors, Stockholm Sophia Lindholm, Karina Ullensvang, art directors; Tove Eriksen Hillblom, copywriter; Christian Sunden, designer; Alexander Blidner, film producer; Peter Gaudiano, digital producer; My Troedsson, planner. Production Tool Floyd Russ, director; Mary Church, producer; Jacob Moller, DP. Editorial Cut+Run Robert Ryang, editor. Music Future Perfect Music Victor Magro

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Girls Who Code Agency McCann New York Joyce King Thomas, chairman, chief creative officer, McCann XBC; Priti Kapur, executive creative director; Susan Young, group creative director; Kelly Kim, designer; Aaron Kovan, director of integrated production; Rebecca Magner, producer; Danielle Korn, director of broadcast production; Kimberly Kress, director of talent partnerships; Michelle Kelly, global strategy director. Production Tool of North America J.J. Adler, director; Oliver Fuselier, managing partner, live action; Lori Stonebraker, exec producer; Greg Jones, producer. Editorial Spot Welders Kevin Zimmerman, editor; Joanne Ferraro, exec producer; Amanda Slamin, sr. producer. Postproduction/VFX Company 3/Method Angela Lupo, exec producer; Jamie O’Bradovich, colorist; Katie Andrews CO3 producer; Tom McCullough, VFX artist; Alex Tracy, Method producer. Graphics CRAFT Karen Hennegan, director craft edit & graphics; Steve Tozzi, animation creative director; Paula Halton, cutdown editor. Music JSM Joel Simon, exec producer/composer; Neil Jason, composer; Norm Felker, producer. Audio Post Heard City Eric Warzecha, Evan Mangiamele, mixers; Sasha Awn, Talia Rodgers, audio producers.