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Production Company of the Year 2012: MJZ

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Creativity is always eager to honor companies that carve out new paths in production, the ones that move the creative needle and the industry forward with innovative approaches in unexpected terrain. But on the flipside, we're equally obliged to celebrate those who represent the best of the basics: as excited as we are to savor a ten-course meal at a five-star restaurant, our mouths still water profusely over a well-cooked cheeseburger.

In 2012, MJZ delivered that Grade A burger, and for that earns the title of Creativity's 2012 Production Company of the Year. While the advertising production industry has diversified its skills to accommodate the growing spectrum of marketing messages, MJZ President/co-founder David Zander has stuck devoutly to a traditional commercials focus. "I see this whole thing as not very complex," says Zander. "It's very simple. I think the idea that the work will get you there is probably the truth of it all."

Indeed, the work paid off and resulted in the best reel of 2012. The lion's share of excitement came from Tom Kuntz, who further cemented his talent for turning brands into pop culture celebrities. In previous years he ushered in a new, bizarre breed of candy advertising, for brands like Skittles and Cadbury, and he was behind the camera on Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Can Smell Like." In 2012, he brought fame to DirecTV with Grey New York's "Cable Effects," one of the year's best campaigns --and one that former President Bill Clinton himself cited as his favorite. It illustrated the calamitous, sometimes ridiculous downfall of TV viewers who decided to go with cable: one ends up in a roadside ditch, another hoards cats and yet another reenacts scenes from "Platoon" with Charlie Sheen.

"The difference between Tom and everybody else, besides his great instincts in filmmaking and casting, is his involvement," says Grey head of production Andrew Chinich. "If he gets involved in a project, he's going to work with you for weeks upfront. 99% of the directors you work with, the day you finish, they're going to go off on another job, but Tom is completely involved every day, with scores of emails going back and forth, working through the post, the edit, the VFX, music and sound design--literally every step of the way. It's 100% coverage on his end and it shows in the work. It's kind of like having another super creative involved and it makes a huge difference."

Outside of "Cable Effects," Kuntz also brought excitement to--of all things--a "special offer" spot for the client. It starred John Cleese in a series of rapidly- changing setups, each one rife with hilarious details that promise to reward viewers who pause each frame.

"That spot would not have been what it was without Tom and MJZ's art department," says Grey creative Doug Fallon. "Every set up, the art direction within every shot was just perfection. Every detail was analyzed, scrutizined--and this was for 20-odd setups in such a short amount of time. Their art department is just above and beyond."

And, if anyone was worried about the scent of Old Spice getting a little stale, Kuntz alleviated those fears with Old Spice "Muscle Music," a first-of-its kind embeddable interactive Vimeo video that allows viewers to make sweet tunes off Terry Crews' pecs, six-pack and delts. Beyond that, Kuntz directed one of our 2012 Super Bowl favorites, a spot for Toyota introducing the new Camry with examples of amusing reinventions--of a couch, baby and even the DMV, helped to unleash the anarchy of Axe's new female variant with a catastrophic chain of events and brought to vibrant life the whimsical world of Cadbury's "Joyville."

Other fine MJZ moves came from Matthijs Van Heiningen, who collected accolades aplenty for Canal+ "Bear" and went on to direct Audi's Super Bowl vampire party and bring Daniel Craig into Heinekens' lineup of legends in a co-promotion with Skyfall.

Celebrated Fallon London creative-turned-director Juan Cabral, perhaps best known for his Grand Prix-winning efforts like Cadbury's "Gorilla," the Tate's "Creat Your Own Collection" campaign, and the celebrated Sony's "Balls" spot (directed by MJZ's Fuglisig), showed his behind-the- camera promise with a stirringNextel campaign out of Madre, Buenos Aires and BGH Air Conditioner's "Summer Hater," out of Del Campo Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi, which brought horror to the home appliance category.

For BBDO New York Craig Gillespie uncovered the origins of why Twix bars come in twos, in "Ideologies" and delivered the year's most hilarious haunter, Snickers' "Horseless Headsman."

Dante Ariola turned his sophisticated lens onto the J Train in an actioner for Sony Playstation and TBWA/Chiat/Day, L.A.--and into the supermarket for digital wallet company Isis, out of BSS+P, while Carl Erik Rinsch brought the house down with Kia hamsters, via David & Goliath.

Fredrik Bond celebrated the end of prohibition, war and Budweiser's all-around presence in happy moments of history in a Bud 2012 Super Bowl spot, and saw Puma's night warriors take the night back from the tube demon, in an uplifting film out of Droga5.

Director/DP Joaquin Baca-Asay brought his photographic touches to Delta, for W+K/N.Y., while Nicolai Fuglsig directed a bloody-good promo for Time Warner Cable, which drenched True Blood vampire Jessica in crimson-colored rain, Dow's elaborate productions involving people and bread out of Draft FCB Chicago as well as TwoFifteen McCann's epic trailer "The Commissioning," for Halo 4.

MJZ's reel didn't suffer in 2012, despite the fact that many of the company's directors spent much of the year shooting or promoting features or other film projects, Rupert Sanders on "Snow White and the Huntsman," Spike Jonze on the upcoming "Her," Dante Ariola on "Arthur Newman" and Fredrik Bond on "The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman." The slew of projects, it turns out, warmed Zander up to the notion of testing out the big screen and led to the quiet launch of the company's feature film division.

"When Rupert [Sanders] went off to do "Snow White," and Spike was on his movie, it basically kicked my butt in gear," he says. "These guys are going off doing their own thing, but if we love the project, there's no reason why we shouldn't be involved in making sure they get their ideas made. We want to be in their lives working with them, and, if it makes sense, we'll do it together. It makes more sense than marrying strangers from different worlds."

This year the company will debut its first big screen efforts, "Backmask," directed by former MJZ director Marcus Nispel, and Harmony Korine's "Spring Breakers," which casts teen pop idols Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens into risque new roles, and James Franco into that of a rapping Kevin Federline-wannabe drug dealer.

But ultimately, "I still adhere to our core business of commercials, trying to make our clients happy," says Zander. "Our directors will inevitably do short films, movies, and at times we will partner with them, at times we won't. Make no mistake about it, we're a commercials production company--that's what we do and what we will continue to do."

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