21 years of discovering new talent: the Saatchi & Saatchi new directors’ showcase

Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase (NDS) started in 1991, and is now one of the highlights of the annual Cannes Lions, which was renamed this year as the International Festival of Creativity.

Steered for many years by the legendary Bob Isherwood, former worldwide creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, and Richard Myers, former creative director, global culture, NDS is the best attended event after the award ceremonies.

It often generates a large snaking queue of delegates outside the Palais, keen to penetrate the Grand Auditorium and view the showreel featuring the best new creative talent on the international directing scene, as well as find out what surprise theatrical piece will introduce the Showcase.

The reel features directors from around the world identified by Saatchi & Saatchi’s global Network of 140 offices, and through its relationships with highly relevant sites including BUG Music Videos. The Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide creative board makes the final selection of directors for the reel, which runs for a maximum of one hour.

There is no one ‘winner’ and many past featured directors have gone on to enjoy enormously successful careers. You may be familiar with the names of featured directors from previous showcases; do Tarsem, Michel Gondry, Mark Romanek, Spike Jonze, Ivan Zacharias, Kinka Usher, Danny Kleinman and Jonathan Glazer ring any bells?

Often an eclectic mix, the reel may include commercials, short films, titles, music promos, or examples of new filmic techniques. This year was no exception, and featured a stimulating mix of hyper-reel and stop-frame animation, old skool promos, VFX, CGI, short films and a movie trailer.

Kate Stanners, Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi London, and worldwide spokesperson for the NDS, said of this year’s reel: “As the media landscape constantly evolves, the skills required of a great director are still based on an ability to tell a story, to engage their audience, be that through new techniques or skilled performance.”

Some of my personal favourites from the 2011 reel are; Sandro Miller’s disturbing short Butterflies, featuring a menacing John Malkovich morphing into a cast of ghastly characters; Polynoid’s exquisite computer-drawn film of a moth straying into a web and meeting its end in the grasp of a spider, a kind of National Geographic on acid; thirtytwo’s gritty moral warning of the downfall of a sleazy TV host, eerily reminiscent of a home-grown presenter currently gracing our screens post-breakfast TV?; Andreas Roth’s witty and unexpected Exorcist spoof for ‘Dirt Devil’; and Glee meets Porridge in Daniel Wolfe’s retro prison epic promo for Plan B’s Prayin’.

The 17 directors selected for the 2011 New Directors’ Showcase reel and their respective films are;
Andreas Roth – ‘Dirt Devil’
Andrew Ruhemann/Shaun Tan – ‘The Lost Thing’
Daniel Wolfe – ‘Prayin’
Gary Shore – ‘Cup of Tears’
Jonathan Higgs Everything Everything – ‘Photoshop Handsome’
Lernert & Sander – ‘Elektrotechnique’
Michal Socha – ‘Chick’
Mikey Please – ‘Eagleman Stag’
Neil Dowling and Nils Clauss – ‘Senior Living’
Polynoid – ‘Loom’
Robin Goode – ‘Let’s Date’
Sandro Miller – ‘Butterflies Feat’
Tell No One – ‘Seaweed’
thirtytwo – Chase and Status ‘Let You Go’
The Daniels – ‘Dogboarding’
The General Assembly – Grum- ‘Through the Night’
Tomi D @ Punga- ‘Assland’

Here’s Andreas Roth’s scary ‘Dirt Devil.’

More dark from Polynoid.

And Michal Socha’s mating game ‘Chick.’

Tom Eslinger, creative director-digital, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, commented on the effect of social media and online video channels on the selection process: “Instead of just consuming reels, we throw more and more nets out, but smaller, narrower and more finely woven ones. Several of the directors were spotted through social chatter, discussions on video and film blogs and the humble ‘old’ viral.”

There are also clear signs of a trend towards co-operatives or directing partners producing these films, as opposed to single directors, as demonstrated by the inclusion of; Dutch artist-director team Lernert & Sander; ex-Filmakademie student collective Polynoid; The General Assembly, AKA Adam Littke and Adam Willis pair of directors hailing from California; and LA-based directing duo The Daniels, who share directing, VFX and editing on their films.

Every year the Showcase is introduced by a live theatrical piece with an all-encapsulating theme, which leads the audience into the reel. When Isherwood and Myers were at the helm of the NDS ship, they instigated some stunning shows; Last year legendary Saatchi creative director Paul Arden came back from the grave in the form of an eerily life-like hologram.

In previous years there was the spectacle of director Tony Kaye climbing out of a coffin on stage and singing out of tune; spectacular performances from Cirque De Soleil and Fuerzabruta; and performers from the film ‘Rize’ were flown in from the Los Angeles to tear up the stage under the expert eye of director David La Chapelle.

This year senior Saatchi & Saatchi creatives, Jonathan Santana (left) and Xander Smith, took the baton from Isherwood and Myers and sprinted with it into the future. Santana and Smith undoubtedly rose to the challenge by conceiving the theme of ‘Hello, Future’, a fitting concept for a 21st birthday, or coming of age.

Santana and Smith said of their approach to the brief: “We wanted to create an idea ambiguous enough to incorporate lots of different themes and talents. Essentially we’re commenting on the directorial talent of tomorrow, but also the future reality of the communications field.”

In keeping with the tradition of drama and surprise, ‘Hello, Future’ was a multi-media extravaganza, for which Santana and Smith put together a stellar cast of talent from the fields of fashion, music, art, media and technology. ‘Hello, Future’ metamorphosises into a technically innovative, retro-futuristic theatrical spectacle.

It was a collaborative effort in every sense of the word, and the key players were; leading independent producer Juliette Larthe, Warp Records musicians Jamie Lidell and Clark; Aaron Meyers, who developed an innovative performance software creation; Turner Prize nominated artist Mark Titchner; and visual FX and video designers Marshmallow Laser Feast. It is the first collaboration for this eclectic group, and the result was a unique, one-off production which assaulted all the senses.

The theatrical introduction to the NDS reel takes kinect camera technology one step further. Aaron Meyers created interactive performance software which responded to the movement of performer Jamie Lidell; Juliette Larthe is the producer of the theatrical piece; Marshmallow Laser Feast directed the visual performances, and created the ‘Voice from the Future’ graphics and titles featured throughout the NDS.

Xander and Smith and the ‘Hello, Future’ team created a post-apocalyptic universe, which felt both futuristic and retro, with visuals reminiscent of classic Spielberg of Kubrick sci-fi movies, with a dash of Kraftwerk and Metropolis thrown in. Clark was instrumental in bringing to life the digital host or ‘voice from the future’, with graphics created by Marshmallow Laser Feast evoking childhood memories of E.T. and the voice from 2001: A Space Odyssey, combined with a secret ingredient that pushed the Showcase into another realm.

Gary Card, an über-set designer who has worked with contemporary icons such as Lady Gaga, created a set which bought a feeling of 80’s New York to the stage of the Grand Palais, with glowing plinths decorated with graffiti-like marks evoking the early work of Keith Haring. Jamie Lidell performed a song he had written in the 90’s, which managed to straddle the border between the land of the past and the landscape of the future. Aaron Meyers was the key to taking the performance into the future, by creating interactive performance software which responded to Lidell’s energetic movements around the stage.

Juliette Larthe put this creative dream team together, and managed to pull the production off, even though a lot of the initial planning was done remotely, with Jamie Lidell in Nashville, Aaron Meyers in NYC, Clark working from Berlin, and the rest of the key players in London. Communication via Skype and computers was a big part of the process, quite fitting for a project that aimed to unlock the door to the future.

In 2010 another element to the Showcase was introduced in the form of a competition geared towards unearthing more nascent filmmaking talent. As part of the 20th New Directors’ Showcase, Saatchi partnered with Aniboom, the virtual animation studio.

The winner of the 2010 Aniboom competition, Yannick Puig, went on to direct a film for Toyota at Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles. So this year, due the success of the 2010 competition, Saatchi & Saatchi partnered with Vimeo and Moby for the ‘Hello, Future’ Music Video Challenge.

Along with acclaimed musician, composer and photographer Moby, and international video sharing community Vimeo, Saatchi invited the next generation of young filmmakers to submit a video for the Music Video Challenge based on the ‘Hello, Future’ theme.

The brief was to visualise the concept of ’Hello, Future’ in the form of a standout music video inspired by one of three tracks selected from Moby’s new album, ‘Destroyed’. Moby described the Music Video Challenge as “…a vehicle for really remarkable filmmakers and artists to actually get their work seen by quite a large audience.”

The winner of the competition, Alberto Gomez, will be offered the chance to work on a project in a key office in the Saatchi global network. At the tender age of 23, Gomez graduated from Vancouver Film School only two years ago, yet the video he directed for Moby’s track ‘After’, demonstrated all the hallmarks of an a far more mature director. Visually rich, with references to his birthplace of Mexico, with stunning tableaux which bring to mind Spanish Old Master paintings and Millais’s Ophelia, Gomez’s film is surreal yet possesses a strong narrative.

Jeremy Boxer, Vimeo’s creative director, film and video, said of Gomez: “He was able to create a music video that could stand up next to any professional music video that we have seen.”
David Knight, one of the judges and creative director at BUG (who showed Gomez’s film at their most recent showcase at the BFI) commented: “Alberto is a worthy winner of the ‘Hello, Future’ Music Video Challenge. He’s very much a top commercial filmmaker in the making.”

An edit of the ten finalists was screened at the Showcase. Out of almost 600 entries the final ten were: Frank Beltrán, David Evan Bowers, Alberto Gomez, Brian McCann, Lindsay MacKay, Antonin Pevny, Oden, Martin Rodahl, Alexey Terehoff, and Roland Wittl.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to be there in the flesh, you can view the entire Showcase on the YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/nds

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About Lee Sharrock

Lee Sharrock is the Global Creative PR for Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide, and founder of Lee Sharrock PR, a consultancy for creative industries. She is also a writer and contributes to Creative Mapping, Art India, Art Wednesday, FAD Website and Kilimanjaro. Lee is co-founder of ‘Watch This Space’, an organisation providing curatorial and promotional support for young and emerging artists. She is on the committee of the annual Macmillan De’ Longhi Art Auction, PR Director of Scream gallery in London and press officer of Azerbaijan Pavilion at the 54th La Biennale di Venezia.

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    Well Written – Lee – great job & fascinating coverage of the Show Case Opening…. Phew … must have been good to be there !