When Russ Lamoureux first started directing nearly three years ago, the former agency creative admits that he had no idea what he was doing. Nevertheless, the first spot he directed already reflected an undeniably deft hand with talent and comedy. The commercial, which he also wrote while freelancing at TBWAChiatDayN.Y., followed the lovably cocky "Austin," a precocious Ian Shrager-in-the-making who struts around an Embassy Suites hotel, extolling its virtues to his little pal. "I'm not a film school guy, I'm not an ex-photographer," Lamoureux says. "I just know characters and comedy. With Embassy, I think I got lucky because I really focused on the parts I knew and let the people around me do the other things."
No doubt the former copywriter sharpened his sensibilities during stints at agencies like Lambesis, Goodby Silverstein, and Chiat. Now that he's signed to Hungry Man, the N.Y.-based 33-year-old continues to build character in all sorts of ways - via broad, comedian-based work for Nick at Nite and The Martin Agency, in which hapless goofs stumble into sitcoms like The Cosby Show, to darkly inflected comedy for MetroTV, out of Union, featuring a disgruntled woman who calmly spears her deadbeat beau with a fork during their dinner date. The sagely downplayed humor no doubt benefited from Lamoureux's insane attention to talent. Beyond holding marathon casting sessions, Lamoureux notes, "I think there's something to be said for letting actors do their thing," often giving them room to improvise their lines. Which doesn't mean his cast gets free reign. "Restraint is one of the words I use a lot. I often tell actors, 'I want you to do this expending the least amount of calories possible.' It's about trying to find ways to keep it subtle. The humor I'm drawn to isn't delivered like it's comedy." Lamoureux also pulled off new stunts, literally, for Toyota and Saatchi/L.A. in which a daring posse demonstrates via Jackass-style experiments, the feel of driving a Tacoma. The extreme fare seems appropriate for the former skateboarder, who also captured the freewheeling, festive side of b-ball for PowerAde via Wieden & Kennedy/Portland. The director says that the spate of athletics work may be training for his next goal. Also an avid cyclist, Lamoureux notes, "outside of directing, I basically ride my bike all the time and follow the tour. I guess I'm really trying to push my way through. I want to shoot next year's Nike work with Lance."