Every year for the past 26 years, Saatchi & Saatchi has showcased the most exciting new directors the world has to offer to the crowds at Cannes Lions. Andy Gulliman, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Worldwide Film & Content Director, is today the man at the head of the New Directors’ Showcase. LBB’s Addison Capper caught up with him on La Croisette to find out the biggest themes of this year’s reel, where the best opportunities lie for young directors in 2016, and the challenges that lie in judging content in the age of Snapchat and YouTube.
NB: check the bottom of the page for a note about an AI-themed NDS interview to come later this week.
LBB> What were the biggest themes in this year’s NDS?
AG> It was dark this year. I looked at that quite a bit, but the outstanding pieces do veer towards the dark side rather than a humorous one. I think people will really feel the gangster type pieces.
LBB> Do you have a theory as to why that’s the case?
AG> Every year there is always that element. And every year it’s part of my curating process to make sure that we don’t go too dark. There is usually a phenomenal piece that is humorous enough to change the overarching environment. But this year it was difficult to find anything that was as funny as we’ve had in previous years. There was a lack of truly laugh-out-loud humour.
LBB> Traditionally, music videos are the natural stepping stone for a young director to cut their teeth. Music promos are on the rise but still aren’t privy to anywhere near the funding that was spent on them in the past. What genres do you think open up the most opportunities for young directors today?
AG> I do see music videos as still being that source, and they are still well represented in the reel. I think that’s because music videos still allow directors to express themselves. They write the treatment, they execute it in the way they envision it. It’s still a genuine form that allows them to express their capabilities and abilities.
However, what I also saw a lot of this year were short form content pieces. But a lot of those content pieces this year were too long. There were a lot of good ideas but they were over-executed. They didn’t know when to condense it into in a short, share piece - and when you think that the NDS is based on commercials, and getting an idea across in 30 or 60 seconds, that is an art in itself. So we have to ask ourselves, if a director was given a timeframe to make the film in, would they still be as skilled?
LBB> People are making content constantly these days - thinking of Snapchat, bloggers, etc. Some of it is genuinely clever. How does that affect your curation of the NDS?
AG> We do have to take that into account. We take everything into account. This is the 26th year of the New Directors’ Showcase. During the first years, the only way to source talent was to view things on tape, and those tapes had to be transferred all around the world. And that’s how the NDS was curated, different offices around the world watching various takes. It’s quite archaic thinking back. Now it’s a case of keeping your eyes wide open to an online screen. But what happens now is that we end up getting the reel locked in, and someone sends something that turns out to be bloody amazing. There are 20 spaces and it’s whether a film can hold its place to the end. It’s more spontaneous.
LBB> It’s much easier for people to create content now, but ultimately that means there is a lot more content out there. Do you think that’s made it harder to make the reel these days?
AG> Without being disrespectful to those that didn’t make the reel, it is harder because we have to see a lot more that isn’t very good. But I love the fact that people see the opportunity, that there are effectively more directors out there. In fact, there are more unsigned directors on the reel this year than ever before.
NB: In addition to the reel, the New Directors’ Showcase features a live show conceived around a theme that mirrors the happenings in the ad industry. This year it was less a live show, more an experiment into the creative capabilities of machines. Machines conceived the concept for, casted, directed and edited a music video, which was then hidden in the reel for the audience to attempt to find. Check back to LBB later this week to find out more about how Andy and Team One (part of the Saatchi & Saatchi network) made it happen.