Trends and Insight in association withSynapse Virtual Production
Sheep Farms, Charlie Duke, and Adidas: In Conversation with Richard Bullock
Production Company
London, UK
The Hungry Man director discusses his childhood in Perth, branded documentaries, and his recent work with George Clooney
Last month, Hungry Man director Richard Bullock directed Omega's beautifully shot film starring George Clooney and Charlie Duke. Here, Hungry Man talks to him about this new piece, growing up and making his way in the industry, and what he has in the pipeline.

Q> Where did you grow up, what kind of childhood did you have, and how did you start your career?

Richard Bullock> I was born in the world’s most isolated city: Perth in the south-west of Australia. Lots of ocean, fishing, boating and holidays on my uncle’s wheat and sheep farms. My father was a Woody Allen fan and introduced me at a very young age, educating me on what was what in the world of film. While studying at university, I got a part-time job in a video store and I guess the access to all the films is what got me interested.

Q> Your background was in agencies before you moved into directing - what is it you prefer about directing?

Richard> I miss the training and helping of younger people in the agency environment. That I really enjoyed. What I didn’t enjoy was talking about work rather than making it. I have always had very clear visions about the scripts I wrote and so I felt directing would put me more directly into the making. After all, that's what really matters. I love the team built around each project and the thinking on your feet and bringing all the different departments together to align around a vision. It’s really rewarding, exciting, and challenging.

Q> What is some of the work you are most proud of and why?

Richard> Like most directors, I know we view our work quite critically. I’m proud of aspects of all of the projects I’ve done. But overall, I’m really proud of a documentary film I made very early on about my brother and his work in Rwanda as a cardiologist. We got to share in the making of that film and it brought us closer together, and I think it told an amazing story about incredible people helping to repair a broken country.

Q> You recently directed The Longest Minute Film with Charlie Duke and George Clooney, tell me about making that?

Richard> Well, we had made a similar film previously with George Clooney and Buzz Aldrin. It had been quite successful for the brand so while we weren’t keen to repeat a formula, they were pretty persuasive in the end and wanted me to do it again. What I am most pleased with is actually we were able to make a pretty different film stylistically. Very late on the production, in fact, during the recce, I had the idea to use the voice of Charlie Duke as the promoting mechanism for the two men on set. Sitting in the original firing room and hearing the original audio from the moon landing was quite eerie and had the effect of really stirring Charlie Duke’s tanks. I was pretty happy with how it went. The use of black and white was also driven by the multi-coloured environment inside the Kennedy Center in Florida. The clients and creative director Dario Nucci were very supportive of the move to black and white. The gold touches were inspired by the original photos from the moon landing which show the moonscape clearly grey and only the gold foil of the Eagle and astronauts visors kicking out from the black and white tones. 

Q> Many of your branded films are documentary style - it feels like more brands are moving in that direction. Why do you think that is?

Richard> I’ve been writing and directing branded content since 2004. I felt early on, particularly with sports brands like Adidas, that they had incredible access and enough interest in their assets to make amazing content. Really the only thing limiting us in those days was the speed of download on video files. I just always wanted to make interesting films for brands and I always respected the audience enough to think they’d come along for the ride. One of the first interactive and longer form films I wrote was a meeting between David Beckham and Jonny Wilkinson called ‘Kicking it' for Adidas. The broadcaster for some time was insisting on writing ‘advertisement’ on the screen while we showed it because they couldn’t discern it from programming. That made me very happy. You shouldn’t be able to discern your commercial film from entertainment ever.

Q> What are the challenges of making branded documentary films?

Richard> Time and money. That’s true of most industries. It takes time to do it well and I guess brands have to understand that they can’t make a thirty-minute ad. The audience will see right through it.

Q> What ad work or brands do you find most inspiring at the moment?

Richard> In general, I just love how Patagonia manage their brand in the world.

Q> Do you have anything exciting in the pipeline?

Richard> I am in the middle of the production of a feature-length documentary for a brand. So far we’ve shot in London, Denmark and Japan. It’s on-going for the next year but isn't a full time commitment so I am able to concentrate on other projects in between, which is the dream.