Was Smith Eligible for DGA Honor?

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Canal+: A French import.
Have the ghost ads so common at Cannes and other awards shows infiltrated the DGA? Last weekend, Baker Smith was awarded the Directors Guild of America's award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials, topping a field of nominees that included MJZ's Dante Ariola and Craig Gillespie, Biscuit Filmworks' Noam Murro and Dektor Film's Leslie Dektor. The problem? Two of the five spots on Smith's winning reel are French ads for a French product out of a French agency that insists the commercials never ran in the U.S. DGA guidelines stipulate that directors can only submit commercials shot "for use in the U.S.," and that "foreign commercials are not eligible."

In addition to two spots for Fox Sports and one for Mini, Smith's DGA reel included two spots -- "Visigoths" and "Black Bands" -- for Canal+, a sort of French Bravo network. The campaign was shot for Euro RSCG BETC in Paris. Asked if they were made for use in the U.S., the agency's international PR manager Miranda Salt doesn't mince words. "They're French ads only," she says. "They definitely haven't run in the U.S." Salt confirms, furthermore, that English-language versions of the ads were created, but only for entry into international awards shows.

DGA awards executive Marcel Giacusa says concerns about the campaign's eligibility came up in the judging process -- AdCritic has confirmed that several DGA members brought the issue to the guild's attention -- but were allayed by affidavits provided by Smith's production company, Harvest Films, indicating the ads had run domestically some 60 times on cable outlets CNN and ENT. But what about the agency's insistence to the contrary? "All I can say is that we have information that says that they have aired domestically," Giacusa says. He also concedes that in the increasingly global production business "what is domestic and foreign has been blurred," and that award shows may have to take that into account. As it stands, however, Giacusa says the affidavits were enough to persuade the DGA. "If somebody is airing it three times in Topeka, that's not going to cut it," he says. "The truth is, they have these affadavits and the cable operators have confirmed the number of airings, and that's it."

However, that standard doesn't address the question of how ads for a French cable channel could possibly be produced "for use in the U.S." -- particularly without the agency's knowledge -- whether they happened to run or not. Harvest Films executive producer and partner Bonnie Goldfarb declined to comment for this article and referred questions about Smith's award to the DGA.

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