The program, which is currently operating in its fourth L.A. incarnation and its first in New York, selects applicants prepared to shoot six spots in as many months (and fund the work themselves). They are able to select scripts submitted by agency creatives-many of whom are building a body of work themselves-and then screen the work for industry heavyweights and get criticism. If they're successful, they'll use the best two or three spots to start a good reel.
"The exciting thing about the scripts we get is not only that they're as good as what gets aired but in fact they're better," says Mande. "Clients often like work more toward the middle, and with our method we get the pieces that reps and creatives will be likely to look at. The work stands out." At a recent meeting of the New York group, Smuggler executive producer Patrick Milling Smith, Now Corporation's Owen Plotkin and Publicis/N.Y. creative director Ted Royer offered their opinions of the work of the 13 directors. "The majority of these people are obviously serious about getting into commercials directing," says Royer. "Some of these first-round ads could be put on the air now. The biggest problem? They need good scripts. But isn't that a problem with our industry as a whole?"
As for Mande-who participated in the first round in 2003-Group101 not only helped her launch her production company but she'll be shooting later this month for a major beverage client.