Thursday, December 11, 2014

I Don't Want To Direct

Years ago, I was contacted by the head of a production company in town. We had never met, but for reasons unknown, he became a fan of this blog.

He was trying trying to grow his roster of directors and thought it best to start grooming talented copywriters who might blossom into something. When none of those talented copywriters answered the bell, he called me.

I know many who have made the leap from agency staff guy to incredibly wealthy helmsmen with work that we all know and recognize. And so for two minutes I entertained the notion. I remember talking to Richard O'Neill, head of production at Chiat/Day and soliciting his advice.

"Always cast someone unusual. Or frame the shot with something odd. Find a reason to surprise people with something unexpected."

This, it turns out, is excellent counsel. Look at what's good or at least memorable on TV. The Old Spice Man, The Southern Comfort Dude in his Speedo, or The Most Interesting Man in the World. Even Flo, from the Progressive campaign,  -- though I'm not a fan -- stands out.

Because they're not vanilla.
Vanilla sucks.

Vanilla is the common denominator in all the unforgettable characters in commercials. I could start naming them, but then I might offend some friends and colleagues.

But we all know who they are.
They smile too much.
They revel in the stupidest shit.
And they're happy.

Happiness has got to be the most unlikable attribute to be put on film. And yet that's what focus groups, clients and bosses of people we call clients want. Happy, homogeneous and non-threatening. It's the way I imagine the white-robed residents of heaven. And why, even though I'm averse to excessive heat, I'd prefer to spend my eternity in hell.

The upshot is I never pursued a career switch to directing. Another bullet dodged.

I prefer non-team sports. I prefer writing. I prefer doing things the way I want to do them and not having to spoon feed or rationalize every artistic decision or choice.

And I like non sequiturs.

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