In a reversal of the usual film career track, at the age of 43, New Zealander Alison Maclean is an up-and-comer in commercials, having already staked a substantial claim in features and episodic TV. After studying sculpture and film at Auckland University, the biggest boost to her early reputation, she says, was the 1989 short film Kitchen Sink, a creepy black and white story of a woman who finds a shrunken, tentacled thing in her drain, which eventually becomes a man. It's disturbing enough to be worthy of David Cronenberg, and it led to Crush, her first feature, made in 1992, which starred Marcia Gay Harden and was co-written by Maclean. This "complicated story of infatuation and revenge" played at Sundance and Cannes and was critically well received. So too was her 2000 feature, Jesus' Son, starring Dennis Hopper, Billy Crudup and Holly Hunter. In the meantime, Maclean, on the heels of "a small development deal with Disney," had moved to New York in 1992 and landed some TV gigs, including the very first two episodes of Sex and the City. "No, I had no idea what it was going to become, but it was a great experience," she says. She's also directed for, among others, Homicide and HBO's Subway Stories and Carnivale. Earlier, she shot several music videos for Natalie Imbruglia and had been thinking about commercials, but it wasn't until she met Park Pictures executive producer Jackie Kelman, about three years ago, "that things started happening," Maclean recalls. "It took a bit of time to get my work seen and to get those first few jobs, as it always does - I made some PSAs to get me into it."
Now she's into it, with the current Dunkin' Donuts "Voiceover" campaign, from HHCC, featuring bizarre characters (including Ricardo Montalban) intoning Dunkin' coffee copy to increasingly nervous strangers. She also has distinctive comedy work for Quaker Breakfast Squares and Harvard Pilgrim health care on her reel, and she's easily positioned in that coveted comedy/dialogue mode, thanks to her background. Though that's not the only place she'd like to be. "The agencies that have come to me have done so because they're interested in performance," she notes. "It's mainly about mood and character, more than a cinematic look. I'd love to expand that into more visual kinds of storytelling."