Ivan Zacharias, Smuggler

By Ti Published on .

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Any quick calculation of the number of agency creatives and producers who put Ivan Zacharias near the top of their list of top directors, against the number of projects the director actually took on last year - all of three - would reveal that the young Czech is, pound for pound, one of the most sought after directors in the industry.

Zacharias is obviously fastidious about the kinds of projects to which he'll lend his famous eye - his all-killer, no-filler reel is ample evidence of that selectivity. Said reel reveals an accomplished filmmaker whose body of work matches the visual stylists for expanding the mind and riveting the eye with filmic finesse, but never ignores the other bodily regions that must be stirred for a commercial to be truly great (the heart and the gut, for example). The work ranges from the slick caper of Levi's "Atlas Bakery" to the down and dirty Royal Marines "Limits," which perfectly fills its brief of scaring the hell out of pansies who would start to cry an hour into boot camp, while serving as catnip for the born jarhead. The Lion winners span styles too, from the period epic of Stella Artois "Plague," to the on-the-fly field-cam feel of "Born Free," for Land Rover.

The director says three to five jobs a year is the preferred commercials exposure, and although he does admit appreciating leisure time, Zacharias doesn't exactly lie fallow between spot gigs, instead keeping sharp with personal film and design projects, the broad creative undertakings in turn feeding back into his commercials work. Currently, Zacharias is working with longtime friend, director Jan Sverak (director of the Oscar-winning film Kolya), serving as DP on a one-hour documentary about Sverak's father, another famed Czech director, actor and theater founder. Zacharias also recently got to stretch beyond 30-second boundaries with Absolut's 10-minute Bollywood extravaganza Mulit, recently recognized at the One Show Film Awards.

Zacharias, himself a former documentary filmmaker and DP, clearly doesn't limit himself to any one type of commercial but chooses scripts for the strength of the idea, preferring "classical stories, classical ideas and simple jokes." He also admits falling out of the practice of keeping a close eye on the latest in spot technique. "I used to study a lot of commercials to see how they were done, but I don't really do that anymore. I prefer to do it our way." The "our" refers to Jan Velicky, Zacharias' longtime DP/collaborator. The two work together on every project, along with Filip Malasek, Zacharias' editing partner on most of his work. "We're always seeing how we can shoot things and how we can invent our own style. So, hopefully, we'll make something that lasts longer rather than something trendy, something that in a year looks old and embarrassing."

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