NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

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Whatever Frank Todaro will tell you about being Frank Todaro (35 years old, former journalism student, Jimmy Page wannabe), this little factoid is first on his list: he is not a perv. The New York commercials director is a regular guy, always ready to empty a keg after tearing up a phonebook, or some such manly pursuit. So why is Todaro (right) decked out as the second coming of Tony Curtis in Some Like It Hot? It's entirely Creativity's doing. We'd commissioned photographer Darryl Estrine, of ESPN Magazine and Vanity Fair fame, to portray five of the hottest Noo Yawk spot directors -- and to slip in references to their enduring influences. Which, in Todaro's case, happens to be Billy Wilder's famous '59 flick featuring guys in drag. n Who else was transformed before Estrine's lens? We picked Bruce Hurwit for his rollicking Cartoon Network spots; Joe Chapura for his simultaneously sweet and funny :30 for Teen People, featuring spelling-deficient cheerleaders; and Skip D'Amico because his sure-footed commercials for the Lifetime channel make even men want to watch TV made for women. Last but not least, we included John O'Hagan, surely a Cannes Grand Prix contender. His fabulously acted Outpost.com spots still made us laugh when we saw them for the fifty-seventh time.

Frank Todaro

Age: 35

Born in: Westchester County, N.Y.

Known for: SportsCenter 'The Kid'; Snickers 'Chefs'; The California Milk Campaign 'Isolation'

Production company: @Radical.Media

What are your best qualities as a director ? "I have no strange, indecipherable accent. I find many small things amusing. I have a decent ear for dialogue. I am often mistaken for a P.A."

Who or what are your influences? "I've stolen liberally from people like Jackie Gleason, Woody Allen, Preston Sturges, Peter Sellers, Howard Hawks, Bob Newhart, David Letterman, Ernie Kovacs, Buster Keaton, Chuck Jones, the Marx brothers, and Billy Wilder. Some Like It Hot is one of my favorite movies."

What's the best thing about New York? "Endlessly fascinating people who are involved in all manner of activity. And it's much closer to Yankee Stadium than Los Angeles."

John O'Hagan

Age: 30

Born in: Dublin, Ireland

Known for: Outpost.com; Dial-a-Mattress 'Squirrel'; MTV 'Blaxploitation'

Production company: Hungry Man

What are your best qualities as a director ? "Being patient and constantly thinking about the edit."

Who or what are your influences? "Probably my two grandmothers because they showed me where to go in life. As for movies, I love Drugstore Cowboy, Apocalypse Now, Paris Texas, and This is Spinal Tap; and directors such as Fellini, Jarmusch, Herzog, Almodovar and Campion."

What's the best thing about New York? "Its diversity, and those weird recordings in taxicabs."

Skip D'Amico

Age: 37

Born in: Hollywood, Fla.

Known for: Spots for Compaq Computers, Lifetime, Showtime

Production company: The Artists Company

What are your best qualities as a director ? "An ear for dialogue and performance. I love working with actors and have enormous respect for what they do. I think our casting choices reflect that and the way we work together. Beyond the performances, I place a lot of emphasis on the look and design of my film as well. I like straddling both worlds that way."

Who or what are your influences? "I think about Ron Howard a lot. His style of directing seems so civilized. He seems like such a nice, normal guy who is capable of lovely work. I hope to strike that kind of balance. I like Mike Nichols because his work is wry and classic. Danny Boyle has a really modern, imaginative approach. My taste in movies is really pretty eclectic; it runs from Lawrence of Arabia to Trainspotting."

What's the best thing about New York? "Getting home to it after being away on a project for a few weeks."

Joe Chapura

Age: 36

Born in: Philadelphia

Known for: WWF 'Another Day at the Office'; Sprite 'The Piano That Hit Me'; Teen People 'Cheerleader'

Production company: Big Picture Communications

What are your best qualities as a director ? "Observation, preparedness, perspective, imagination."

Who or what are your influences?

"Surrealism, for its oblique, humorous way of looking at the world. Translated to directors, for me that means Jacques Tati. He discovered a new, open form of comedic storytelling, coupled with a complete disregard of classical narration. I admire his charming art-direction sensibilities that discover beauty in the mundane. But above all, he is a master of physical comedy. Tati never did the obvious thing with a joke. He had the enviable ability to express nuance in exploring the humor in everyday life."

What's the best thing about New York? "The characters on the street. I look around and see the funniest things -- people expressions, the chaos, the confusion. And when I don't, I make them up."

Bruce Hurwit

Age: 37

Born in: Hartford, Conn., now lives in Greenwich, Conn.

Known for: Cartoon Network, 'Ledge' and 'Click;' Chiclets 'Road Trip'

Production company: Crossroads Films

What are your best qualities as a director ? "I try to create characters that have their own subplots going on that may or mot have anything to do with the main story. It makes the casting much more interesting and the performances less predictable. I like scenes that are big enough to allow jokes to happen in the background which can have their own story. Also, I never hit anyone."

Who or what are your influences? "The people and situations I come in contact with. Last week my car was towed to the 76th Street Pier. Getting it out, I met enough people and heard enough great dialogue to create a short. In terms of directors, I love Woody Allen, especially Radio Days, but I should also mention Chuck Jones of Road Runner and Bugs Bunny fame. Both his timing and his soundtracks are amazing."

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