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The Work That Made Me: Douglas Avery

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Douglas Avery opens up about his creative influences and the work that made him who he is today
The Work That Made Me: Douglas Avery
After graduating from NYU with degrees in Fine Art Photography and Psychology, Douglas Avery began his career in photography, assisting Richard Avedon, Steven Klein, Albert Watson and Annie Leibovitz. His short film, 'Hitch, was featured in Cannes’ Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase. Douglas won Best New Director at the British Craft Advertising Awards for his first spots as a commercial director, his second project in the US garnered him a Clio for Best Direction and the accolades have continued ever since.

Work includes for Carhartt/Direct-to-Client, Gatorade out of TBWA-Chiat-Day-LA, ESPN/Weiden+Kennedy-NY, Audi/Venables & Partners, Gillette/Grey NY, AXA/Publicis Paris and Levis/ BBH London.

He is currently repped by Soup Films in Germany, Grand Bazar in France and Film 47 for North America.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…
I can’t really say I have strong remembrances of any specific ones from childhood, but in my early teens I played on an international US soccer team and I remember how funny ads were in the UK versus America. That early distinction must have made an impression because I was transitioning into directing from fashion photography. I was primarily living in London and thought it would be a great place to start in ads, as I loved the dark wry
British comedy sensibility. I would say as a kid two films definitely made more of an impression upon me, specifically realising that they were born of specific sensibilities and influence of the directors that made them. The two films were Blue Velvet and Goodfellas.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…
Hands down my all-time two favourite music videos, from wholistic view the marriage of visual creativity and music are Michel Gondry’s EVERLONG for the Foo Fighters and Chris Cunningham’s ALL IS FULL OF LOVE for Bjork. Both were done just before I was starting to get interested in directing. Interestingly enough a few years later I became good mates with a director who had been with Chris at Black Dog, RSA’s music video division in London, and he told me lots of behind the scenes stories about the making of it. Very Kubrickian, as it was low budget and really a few folks spending a bunch of time messing about and trying stuff in a tiny little studio space. My friend also told me that Chris got bored at one point and was through some stuff out the windows onto the street near people for a laugh and ended up hiding in a closet when the police were called and showed up to the RSA building!

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that I keep revisiting…
This might be a question that is unanswerable. There are so many, across many different platforms. A few highlights would be Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy, all of Sam Shepard’s short stories, anything that Andrew Wyeth ever made, the sculptures of Robert Graham, and John Register’s paintings.

My first professional project…
Levis campaign out of BBH London. It was such a formative experience, a three-month long project, shot in Beijing and South Africa. Four totally different films, including inspired by Nelson Mandela. It was such a collaborative project as there weren’t really any scripts to start, more just general concepts that we fleshed out as we progressed and scouted. We got to visit every place that Mandela was imprisoned, which was incredibly moving and insightful. The agency CD was Nick Gill who was incredibly generous and supportive for me as a newbie director. I was lucky to snag a British Arrow for best new director for the film we shot in China.

The piece of work (ad/music video/platform…) that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…
Oh, there’s far too many of those to list in this small space. Suffice to say, I see a lot of them even in script stage.

The piece of work (ad/music video/platform…) that still makes me jealous…
Well, the Bjork video of course. Johnathan Glazer’s Wrangler ad RIDE, an ode to Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. Ivan Zacharis has two, Stella Artois PILOT and Honda’s IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Mark Molloy has Apple’s UNDERDOGS.

The creative project that changed my career…
Levis was an obvious one, as it launched my career in a way that was extraordinarily formative. Worldwide locations that were central to the storytelling, collaborative creative and people focused. I am always looking to grow as a filmmaker and a storyteller. To repeat oneself or get stuck in a comfortable groove isn’t productive or inspiring. I am a huge proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. Some other projects that come to mind through the years would be: Altoids HAIR for its dark comedy married to a Kubrick atmosphere, an behemoth of a US Army anthem campaign that was a bureaucratic and logistical behemoth that I was able to still wrangled down to its core idea of intimately being in the heads of real soldiers pre-battle, a Sears real people anthem campaign that was shot across the US in a very hands on way, in the places that the people lived-worked-played and my recent global AXA Kathmandu film as it was a single narrative focusing on one woman’s personal journey during and after the devastating 2015 earthquake. We could only film the before and afters in Nepal, all of the quake and aftermath scenes had to be recreated in Bangkok due to the sensitivity of the ongoing rebuilding of Kathmandu.

The work that I’m proudest of…
I subscribe to the viewpoint of my beloved NFL quarterback Tom Brady, who is fond of saying when asked which of his 6 Super Bowl wins was his favourite …'the next one'.

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…
I did a worldwide Heineken spot early in my career which we filmed in Hong Kong. It was a pretty usual and cool project but looking back I realised it was far too influenced by a great spot that Michel Gondry did for Polaroid. When I see them side by side now, I most definitely cringe.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…
As I said earlier, it is usually the next one. Just before all of production was shut down before the pandemic, I was developing an exciting new project with William H. Macy. Needless to say, I’ll be raring to jump back on that one when things start up again.
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Soup Film, Mon, 27 Apr 2020 15:24:44 GMT