Who are the top directors these days? Let’s see…Fredrik, Chris, Frank, Danny, Ringan, Nicolai, Noam, Ivan, Tom Kuntz, maybe Rupert Sanders and, of course, Michel and Jonathan if they’re not on a movie.
I think I’ve said this before, but that’s a fairly similar list to 5-10 years ago. Nicolai and, to a lesser extent, Noam are the only ones you hadn’t really heard of in 2000, but if you had a great script at the turn of the century, chances are it would have gone to one of the others.
So why is it so difficult to break into the hallowed turf of these top guys, and why do they rarely fall off?
I was talking to the MD of a production company last week, and his theory is that it’s down to scale. Once you’ve done one big job well, you’re in, and that’s because if you can do it once, people are happy to trust you with it again. For example, Nicolai shot Sony ‘Balls’, and was subsequently given other Biggies such as Guinness ‘Tipping Point’ and Monster.com ‘Morning’.
Biggies are a certain type of ad that has several tempting features: a substantial timelength, a juicy budget, less branding (therefore a cleaner film for the director), exotic locations and a better shot at awards. That’s why, once you’re in, you’re in, and only a large number of financially motivated turds will see you cast from the Golden Mountain (see Gerard De Thame, Tarsem, Tony Kaye etc.). Even those who have had to move to the foothills of the Golden Mountain may be called upon again at any time for another shot (see Traktor’s ‘Men v Women’ Mail on Sunday ad).
Obviously, you have to maintain a certain standard, but then the playing field is tilted in your favour forever more. The real question is, how do you get your first Biggie?
I guess there’s a good argument for the incremental progression of a career that finally gets you to the point where someone will trust you with their baby. For example, Danny Kleinman was hardly an overnight success before he got this:
But in those days he was generally thought of as just a comedy director, so with the coolness and scale of ‘Wakeboarder’, he stepped up fully into the bigtime, particularly for the scripts that leaned in the direction of funny.
Oddly enough, the same team and client gave Nicolai his Biggie break:
So there we have it: if you get invited to the Golden Mountain and don’t mess up, you’re in for as long as you can keep your mojo going.
Will anyone get there soon? Well, after HSBC ‘Lumberjack’, I’d expect Vince Squibb to step up. Dougal Wilson looked like he was going to, but seems to have gone a bit quiet lately. And then there’s Jonny Green – a director with all the requisite potential.
Good luck to them all.