Once you find out just which Eisner he is-he's the son of Michael Eisner, yeah, the guy Mickey Mouse reports to-you'd think that would explain everything, but you would be as wrong as Mike Ovitz was not too long ago. Breck has put his foot through the commercials door Disney-free, with a short film he directed at USC's graduate film school, a little number called Recon, that stars, oh, just Peter Gabriel, Charles Durning and Elizabeth Pena. Surely Dad did the casting you surmise, but, again, no. As Breck tells it, Recon is a vast student special effects-oriented project that combined the talents of the animation and production departments, and one of the producers was friendly with Peter Gabriel. Pena wanted to work with Gabriel, Pena and Durning have the same agent, and there you are. "The first day on the set was definitely an intimidating situation," Eisner recalls, "but you immediately get into it. You have a minute to be amazed, and then you have to get right down to work." He got right down to work from 1994-'96, which is how long it took to complete the film, since it was made for the microscopic sum of $21,000. "It was very important to me not to use any personal connections at all," he notes; in fact, he was initially known on the project as Breck Jones, and Gabriel had no idea who he was till shooting started.
And that's all Eisner had to show-no spec spots, no music videos-when he left school, but it was plenty. "Recon is my thesis," he says. "You want to come out of USC with one strong piece of work that shows what you can do, and the object here was to have feature-quality effects." Eisner is still doing effects in his first two spots, but he's veered into comedy-Recon is no laugh, what with Peter Gabriel running around without a face. Eisner describes the film as "a future noir about a detective [Gabriel] who uses technology to access the brains of murder victims," and if Recon looks like a small piece of a feature, it is indeed designed as the first 10 minutes of a larger film, according to Eisner, which he hopes to make one day.
But never mind features at this time, it appears Eisner is going to be busy now that he's ironed out the thorny transition to 30 seconds. "It's something I had to learn," he says. "At USC, people are complaining when they have only 30 minutes to tell a story."
If you're still wondering about his name-the Breck, not the Eisner-he's not named, somewhat appropriately, after a shampoo. His real first name is Michael, but he's not a Jr., he says, and to avoid confusion he was called by a short version of his middle name, Breckenridge, his mother's maiden name and the traditional middle name of eldest sons in his mother's family. But his nickname's not Bud.
And he also wants to make a music video now, so Peter Gabriel better put his face back on, he may be getting a call.
Jacques Rey travels in some pretty heady features circles. While doing a phone interview from Warner Bros., he pauses, then says, "Sorry, I lost my train of thought, Tim Burton just walked in." Rey is doing set design for Burton's upcoming Superman movie, and he's been on the set and storyboard teams for a host of megabucks productions like Batman & Robin, The Fifth Element, Mars Attacks and Independence Day.
In fact he's been doing set and costume concepts ever since he graduated Art Center's design department in 1990, but Rey, 30, who was born in Brazil and raised in Arizona, always planned to make a transition to directing-and now he's joined Propaganda and made his debut with an appropriately set-starring live action/animation spot for Cheetos and DDB Needham/ Chicago. In the spot, Chester the Cheetah sneaks past a snoozing guard and cranks up the Cheetos factory to "dangerously cheesy" production levels, with explosive results, but the stunning factory background overwhelms the action with its Burtonesque Bat-Deco style-though Rey points to "the influence of Metropolis and the spirit of the great optimistic industrial age when everyone was very positive about machinery." The set is "'a mix of miniatures and CGI very seamlessly put together," Rey explains. "I didn't want everything to be flat and cel looking, so we went for two and half-D, which is really well-shaded cel that would fit the 3-D environment we designed."
But don't assume that animation is his bag; it's strictly chance that this was his first job-he's looking for live action. Rey was already a known quantity at Propaganda, where he's storyboarded many commercials in the past, but he dipped into his set design savings to make a spec Cotton Inc. :60 before he signed on-mostly sensual shots of a woman in bed that may be dangerous but they're not cheesy-and he also made a short film, not yet transferred to video, which he describes as a somewhat Tales From the Cryptish "ironic story of a woman, a painter, who finally gets what she wants out of her art but has to kill a guy to do it."
It's not likely Rey will have to kill anyone to get what he wants out of his art, and anyway, Chester the Cheetah is invincible. "I don't mind doing intense design-oriented work," Rey says. "I just don't want to be pigeonholed as an animation guy." > 46
Luis Kuri, on the other hand, had three spec spots on his reel, one a Best Student Clio winner, when he joined Coppos Films in L.A. last year. Kuri, 27, was born in Mexico City and raised there and in Houston, and he left for Pasadena City College at age 18 with the intention of moving over to Art Center and a film career.
His Art Center spec work boasts not only the expected good execution but subtly comedic ideas: His Volkswagen Concept Car Clio winner is a Young Frankensteinish lighting extravaganza, and the payoff is this stubby yellow experimental vehicle descending from the mad doctor's lightning rods; a spot called "Area 52" features a team of surgeons operating on the Energizer bunny, only to discover he's really powered by Duracells; and a Leader sports eyewear commercial, which could be mistaken for a wiseass NHL promo for ESPN from Wieden & Kennedy, stars a nearsighted hockey player who can't put a shot on the net.
Appropriately, Kuri says he wants to make "surreal, dark comedy," but so far in the real world he's been limited to some MasterCard spots that he describes as "basically one-shot commercials about a guy stealing someone's wallet"-they're not on the reel for lack of agency clearance, apparently-and at presstime he was finishing a Bugles spot from CME/New York that features a snacking race car driver.
Besides seeking a shot at music videos, an area he has yet to explore, the bilingual Kuri also has an eye on the Hispanic market; Spanish was his first language (his father is Saudi Arabian, his mother is Mexican), and he has a formative experience of Mexican commercials viewing, which may, however, be a mixed blessing.
"With few exceptions, Mexican commercials are really very bad," he says. "The original ones are mostly bad, and the rest are dubbed-down bad American commercials. But I wouldn't mind at all making Hispanic-market spots if they were up to high standards."
Alexander von David is a very intimidating name for a director, but don't worry, the guy doesn't have a monocle, and his spec reel is all screwy comedy. Von David, 27, is of Hungarian descent, but he was born in Santa Monica, a few blocks away, in fact, from Atlas Pictures, which he joined just last month after graduating Art Center at the end of '96.
"I pretty much walked in off the street," he says. Exec producer Sterling Ray "was in a good mood, I guess; I was just expecting to hand him the reel and walk out the door, but he sat me down and he watched it, and for the next two hours he talked to me about how good my concepts were. My head is still spinning."
Von David, often assisted by his Art Center buddy, DP and co-editor Rod Santiano, put together four spec spots at Art Center for a total cost of about $12,000, which he says the people at Atlas estimate would cost in excess of $400,000 in the real world, and this is a telling point about more than all the free equipment available at school. Von David's spots have a polish about them that's not often seen in spec dialogue work; he gets really good performances from his actors, and all his humor-enhancing closeups and sound effects are just right. The reel is led by a very funny Listerine conceit in which an extremely foul-mouthed couple curse their way through the morning bathroom chores with almost all their dialogue bleeped-till mouthwash cleanses their tongues. A Trojans spot features a girl laughing hysterically in a guy's face during a romantic picnic when he says, "I know you want me, I can see it in your eyes. Kiss me now!" Tag: "Maybe next time." A well-made Terminix spot features a roach's POV as a guy tries 50 futile ways to kill an armor-plated bug, while a Mag-Lite spot has a girl stuck on a dark and deserted roadside with an amorous creep whom she tries to stall by using the flashlight to portray everything from a firefly to a coal miner to a production of Starlight Express.
Even his reel close is funny, as a high-pitched mosquito voice intones "The horror, the horror," doing Marlon Brando from Apocalypse Now.
So von David is not afraid to be pigeonholed. "I'm looking for comedy work," he says. "That's comedy work." But he's not into micro-pigeonholing. "I hear there's a lot of different kinds of comedy you can go into. I just want a couple of people and a camera and a good concept."
Like Jon Francis had for the award-winning "Toll Booth" spot for the New York Lottery, which is von David's dream job. "I still laugh at it," he says. "I admire Francis so much I made a bootleg reel of his work. Look, I just want to do the kinds of spots I'd like to see on TV. Oh, gee, that brings into question my taste, doesn't it?" > 52
Tom Moore also went to Art Center but he majored in advertising, with the intention of being an art director, which set his film career back a few years. He's now 31, and recently signed with Emerald Films in New York, but upon graduating in '92 he joined MTV as an on-air promo writer, which lasted six months and set his life back a few years.
Moore had shopped his portfolio around, turned down a job at Y&R, "then Abby Terkuhle loved my TV ideas and wanted me to write, which seemed a little odd since I was an art director," he recalls. "Anyway, at MTV nothing clicked. I was younger than the PAs, and I didn't feel like I was part of the team. So there I was with a typewriter on my lap on the F train back to Brooklyn." Then Moore reached a personal low, when he took a job handing out flyers for a restaurant. "I was afraid people from MTV would see me."
Things picked up when he landed a junior AD spot at O&M, and a year later he moved to Grybauskas Beatrice where he made his directorial debut with a Mexican-market spot for Jose Cuervo-downtown characters cavorting to a Red Hot Chili Peppers funk stew. Moore left to focus on a directing career, and he managed to build a pretty substantial spec reel. His spec campaign for Rock the Vote, one spot even starring celebrity transvestite Lipsynka, could just as easily be the real thing, and the same goes for his work for the fictitious Poetry Channel-he's got all those jerky, zoomy cool MTV moves down cold.
He also shot a nasty little no-dialogue film in '95 called Still Life, a story that mixes taxis and taxidermy, as a beautiful woman lures men to her apartment, kills them, stuffs them, then displays them at an art gallery as lifelike sculpture. He got the idea, of course, after his girlfriend left him. The film was a finalist at the New York Festivals, where his Vote campaign won Gold.
At presstime, Moore had not shot his first Emerald work but he was vying for a package of Frasier promos. Yes, despite his "serious" reel, he wants to shoot comedy. "Comedy is all in the casting," he says. That's far more promising than