The Top Brass: The 10 leading television commercial directors

Top creating? They turn brands into TV stars
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The Independent Online

Daniel Kleinman

Daniel Kleinman has the knack of making people laugh. His John Smith's campaign, featuring comic Peter Kay dive-bombing into a swimming pool, generated a lot of publicity for the beer as the catchphrase "Top bombing" echoed round the UK.

As well as other John Smith's ads, he has directed provocative and comic commercials for Boddingtons, Tango and John West.

Mr Kleinman was originally an illustrator and music video director; his avant-garde technique attracted the advertising world, leading to work such as Audi's Wakeboarder ad, Smirnoff and its Crooner ad, and commercials for Xbox.

"I meandered into advertising, unintentionally, from directing music videos in the 1980s for Madonna, Fleetwood Mac and Prince," he says.

"Because I did a lot of experimenting, I have a broad base of knowledge and am not one of those directors where everything on my reel looks the same. I do anything from special effects to comedy dialogue to focusing on photography, tension or sexiness. That's the main reason I've been doing so well for so long.

"A memorable moment this year was the discovery that two of the phrases from the John Smith's ads were painted by the Air Force on bombs used in Iraq: 'Top bombing' and ''Ave it'. I'm not particularly proud of this, but it demonstrates the power of the commercial catchphrase."

Fredrik Bond

The industry magazine Campaign has ranked Fredrik Bond, 33, among its top five commercial directors in each of the past three years. Recent ads range across a raft of consumer brands targeting the UK, continental Europe and the US, including Wrangler, Peugeot, Nike and Adidas.

"The best part is when things you have intuitively pieced together start to fall into place and, hopefully, evoke people's emotions."

Bryan Buckley

Six months after graduating from his advertising and design course, Bryan Buckley became the youngest ever winner of the One Show Pencil creative design award. Now 40, he helps run the Emmy-winning international production company Hungry Man, whose work includes ads for Dr Pepper and Egg.

"Find your own voice, keep it, and never do anything for the money."

Frank Budgen

Frank Budgen began directing ads full-time in 1991 and later became a partner at production company Gorgeous Enterprises. Best known for his work with Guinness - including the Bet on Black snail racing ad - he has won "best director" at three of the past four British Television Advertising Awards.

"Don't wait for it to come to you. Get out there and do it."

Tom Carty

Tom Carty's directing career is barely two years old yet he has already earned recognition for commercials including The Economist, MTV, Nike, PlayStation 2, and the BBC Rush Hour ad featuring a well-toned roof-runner leaping across houses. With business partner Walter Campbell, he has also worked for Volvo, BT and Dunlop.

"I'm passionate about my work, I like having a laugh, and I've got the luck of the Irish."

Stuart Douglas

Commercials directed by Stuart Douglas, 41, cross from the high-street brand Waitrose to sports and games giants Nike and PlayStation, starring athletes such as Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Muhammad Ali. His work for the Government on road safety, "Kill Your Speed", scooped awards both here and in the US.

"I'm privileged to visit and work with a vast variety of people, teaching you to respect others and their ways."

Jonathan Glazer

Jonathan Glazer, 37, director of the gangster movie Sexy Beast, trained in theatre design and direction before starting a successful career in films and commercials. His Guinness Surfer ad - horses emerging from foaming waves - was voted best commercial in Channel 4's The 100 Greatest TV Ads.

"With all the work out there, you think, how can I compete? It took me a while to learn you do it with ideas."

Pontus Lowenhielm

Pontus Lowenhielm, 37, is one sixth of the film collective Traktor, which has written, directed and produced some 300 ads, including Miller Lite and Diesel. Awards include a Gold Lion at the Cannes advertising festival.

"With the biggest brands, making something 'real' is almost harder than creating 'fantasy' because everyone has a subjective notion of what 'real' is."

Chris Palmer

Chris Palmer began his advertising career in style in 1985, winning "outstanding beginner" at the Creative Circle awards. A founding partner of the production company Gorgeous Enterprises, he has since directed ads for Adidas, Orange, British Airways and Kick Racism Out of Football. In 1997, he won "director of the year" at the Midsummer TV commercial awards.

"Shooting commercials is infinitely preferable to working."

Ivan Zacharias

Ivan Zacharias, 31, made his mark early in his career when his first TV ads, for the Prague National Gallery, won a Golden Drum award for best central European commercial in 1994 and 1995. A former student of Prague's renowned FAMU film academy, his more recent projects include ads for the new Royal Marines campaign, VW Beetle, Coca-Cola and Stella Artois.

"The greatest challenge is to tell a story in a very short stretch of time."

Do you want to break into directing?

* This is one of the few careers requiring no academic qualifications. But you do need to be self-confident and dynamic.

* Get signed by a production company. A test commercial, promo or unusual set of still photographs can help get you noticed.

* Many directors also emerge from film schools, advertising copywriting, agency art directing or from a technical area, such as cameraman.

* Alternatively, start at the bottom and work your way up from a post as a runner in production or post-production companies - where you can listen, learn and then prove your ability.

* Directors have to transform a written script into film. Be prepared to visualise and pitch a treatment, work with actors, and liaise with film crews, agencies and clients.

Compiled by Kate Hilpern with information from the Advertising Producers Association Top 50.

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