The Next Wave: Speck/Gordon, Omaha Pictures

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Standing at the sink of a run-of-the-mill track house in the San Fernando Valley is Omaha directing duo Will Speck and Josh Gordon, arguing heatedly for 25 minutes about the color and shape of a sponge. In the background, an Englishman roams around wide-eyed, spouting "Genius! Genius!" as he takes in the underwhelming interiors. All this occurred during the prepping for Sears "Rake," for Y&R/Chicago, and it represents the extremes to which the directors will go to create extraordinarily articulated worlds for each story they tell.

"Our job as directors is to really give the audience a sense that all this exists in a universe somewhere," explains Gordon. "Even if it's a slightly more stylized or comedic world than we live in, it's still really important that it has an authenticity and integrity to it." On the sponge, "We're pretty insane about art direction," admits Speck. And the Brit? He turned out to be DP Frank Barber. The directors believed his fascination as an outsider would elevate the visuals of a scene that most American viewers would consider mundane. "To him it was like we were going to Ghana," recalls Speck. "It was such a novelty. He'd get excited about being able to light this and shoot that. The enthusiasm was so infectious." And so was the humor on the spot, which gives a slice of Americana a hilarious reality check. A mother cracks wise on the phone in the kitchen while mechanically keeping her bored son from hurting himself with knives on the counter. Outside the window in the background, the father gets whammied when he blindly steps on a rake.

The directors, both 31, met at NYU Film School and won a Student Academy Award for their thesis film, after which they wrote and directed the Oscar-nominated short Culture. Since then they've continued to apply a cinematic fastidiousness to stories for Budweiser, Ikea, Fuji and Discover. The majority of their commercials work is humor-based, which poses a huge challenge for directors with such fine-tuned sensibilities. "We're really trying to push the glass ceiling in comedy," says Speck, "where you tend to get stories that are very limited. We're really interested in more visual storytelling, figuring out a way to blend our level of observation with a bigger visual scope." Which explains why they were so jazzed about four spots they helmed for Budweiser "True." All were boarded for anamorphic, or widescreen format, the ideal filmmaker's canvas. "Chick Magnet," for example, draws maximum laughs when a dude brings his adorable pup to the park in the hopes of getting the attention of ladies in the distance, but instead, he attracts suitors of the masculine ilk. Speck/Gordon studied cinematographer Gordon Willis' work on The Parallax View to inform their choices on lenses and camera POV in order to enhance the emotion of every scene. From sponge color to camera angle, the pair is convinced of the payoff. "The great movies and the great commercials always work on every single level," Gordon maintains. "In some way people are responding to our level of obsession." Interjects Speck, "Whether they like it or not."

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