Top Directors

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The Shadow Casters

Frank Budgen, Gorgeous/Anonymous Content

2004 Grand Prix winner Frank Budgen might have already filled his commercials quota for this year, having shot two dazzlers for Mercedes and Stella Artois. The former elevates the spot to truly visceral art form: a dreamy, sometimes Francis Bacon-esque pastiche of images eerily captures the frustration of 9-5 office rat life, then climaxes to illustrate the open-space bliss of the driving getaway. The latter takes on an equally art-minded bent for Stella Artois, an old school black and white non-talkie about a crew's odd game of Russian roulette with a killer, or at least life-changing, bottle of brew.

Michel Gondry, Partizan

Michel Gondry's wildly imaginative head, we're fortunate, once in a while happens to dip into the advertising realm. The influential dreamer behind seminal clips (The White Stripes and Bjork) and spots (Levi's) has also realized a fertile field in features with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Now wrapping his self-written fiilm The Science of Sleep, he'll soon move on to the feature Master of Space and Time.

David Fincher, Anonymous Content

When David Fincher makes an appearance in spots, we know it, on his huge techno-fantastic spectacles like Nike's "Speeed Chain" and "Gamebreakers" as well as HP's "Constant Change."The director is now working on his upcoming feature Benjamin Buttons, starring Brad Pitt, whom he also shot pulling off a smooth escape from frenzied paparazzi, for Heineken.

Spike Jonze, MJZ

After Ikea "Lamp" we wondered when and if we'd see any more advertising brilliance from Spike Jonze, but he's roared back onto the scene with the most stunning spot we've seen all year, for adidas' One shoe, a commercials tour de force reminiscent of his surreal silver screen accomplishments. Next up, we'll see him showcase his comedic chops on a Y&R/Chicago Miller campaign that takes the piss out of brew ads, starring animals giving self-conscious thespian confessions (see story, p. 44).

Ivan Zacharias, Smuggler/Stink

Ivan Zacharias' rare commercials outings a year are always well worth the wait. This year the former DP/documentary filmmaker behind gorgeous productions for Absolut ("Mulit") and Smirnoff ("Matrioshka") added another beverage-based stunner with-his tale of betrayal for Stella Artois, about a fighter pilot in hiding who gets snitched on by a brew-loyal bartender. He also erected a weird world where car crashes, bodies on fire, motorcycle jumps are the norm, to show "over the top protection," for Rexona deodorant.

Jonathan Glazer, Academy

Jonathan Glazer, the mind behind commercials masterpieces (Guinness' "Surfer," Levi's "Odyssey") recently stepped back into spots with a new addition to his long line of stunning Stella work, on a spot featuring the clergymen engaging in some on-ice mischief (see story, p. 49). Following the big screen success of Sexy Beast and Birth, he's onto directing Robert DeNiro in a remake of the Japanese film Chaos.

The Newly Single

Tom Kuntz, MJZ

Kuntz & Maguire would have taken a place in our top 25, had team half Mike Maguire stuck around for just a little bit. The pair proved as sharp as ever, most notably with their hilarious campaigns for Virgin Mobile, which included the simple capella phone convos as well as one of out top spots of 2004,"Chrismahanukwanzukah." Their final team triumphs were a wacky campaign featuring Tanqueray spokesdandy, Tony Sinclair and a surreal series for Now that Maguire has returned to the agency side as an ACD at Goodby, the solo gig looks super-promising for Kuntz, who just directed a respectably funny follow-up to Starbucks "Glen," featuring a guy named Hank who gets stalked by sports diehards.

Ulf Johansson, Smith & Jones

Flying solo, former Traktor Ulf Johansson has continued to ace A-level work, including the startling athletic role-reversal for Nike's "What If" and the thrill-filled "Michael Vick Experience." He also helped to launch Skittles onto its new path of downplayed weirdness, for TBWA/Chiat/Day/N.Y.

The Hotshots

Nicolai Fuglsig, MJZ

Cample Doyle Dye CD Walter Campbell didn't hesitate to predict that Nicolai Fuglsig, like Jonathan Glazer and Tony Kaye, was destined for features (see Creativity, September 2004). That's not hard to see from his reel, full of big, cinematic turns for Mercedes, Carling and Fox Sports -- with more coming for adidas. All are the result of his meticulous method of plotting out his shoots in miniature, like a general mapping a plan of attack.

Dave Meyers,

Dave Meyers' commercials career has played catchup to his reputation in clips , where he remains one of the masters. Since directing Apple's iPod launch, he's segued his chops to Nike's "Chamber of Fear," the NFL Network, and Sony's PSP. Meyers also showed emotional skill on ESPN's intimate athletic playoff promos.

The Solo Masters

Joe Pytka, Pytka Kinka Usher, House of Usher

Joe Pytka and Kinka Usher already have secured Superman status in the annals of advertising history, but they ceaselessly continue to impress us with their impeccably crafted A-rate films.

The Boundary Breakers

Haxan, Chelsea Pictures

Haxan just might be the new directing pioneers, having brought their multi-dimensional storytelling skills to campaigns like W+K/N.Y.'s "Beta 7" for Sega, and most recently McKinney's "The Art of the Heist" for Audi.

Smith & Foulkes, Nexus

Proof that animation directors shouldn't be underestimated, this team is behind Honda's magnificent "Grrrr," which could prove to be the granddaddy at this year's awards fests.

The Performance Artist

David Shane, Hungry Man

David Shane's reel is funny, for sure (check out Dell's 6-fingered Clay and spots for BC SPCA). But what stands out most are the impeccable, dead-on perfomances that make it that way -- and the true skill it takes to capture them.

The Indivisualists

Francois Vogel, Tool

Perhaps more "artiste" than advertising maven, Francois Vogel's work is as much eye candy as it is food for thought, apparent in his mind-boggling stunners for HP.

Bruno Aveillan, Quad USA/Believe

It's hard not to be swept up by Bruno Aveillan's gorgeous images, from his earlier mythological magic for Thermasilk to his recent turns for MGD and Lexus.

The Evergreens

Frank Todaro, Moxie Pictures Joe Public, HSI

With their massive contributions to commercials comedy, Frank Todaro and Joe Public may be known for pure funny business, but a closer look at their work shows an ever-increasing depth that's not to be taken for granted.

Global Warming

Suthon Petchsuwan, Matching/TWC (see above) wKeith Rose, Velocity, S.A.

The impressive work of these directors manages to touch hearts and stir excitement in a universal way.

The Rock Star

Mark Romanek, Anonymous Content

Mark Romanek is one of those rare talents both creatives and directors cite as a creative idol for his masterful clips work. He's recently been stirring up more magic in the spots world, for ESPN, Mastercard and Saturn.