Directors to Watch 2007

Published on .

Christopher Hutsul
Soft Citizen; Sleeper Films

After moving to Toronto from British Columbia in 1995 to study at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Christopher Hutsul worked for the Toronto Star as a lifestyle/technology columnist. Now, he works in film and advertising, directing TV and viral campaigns. "I love to delve into bizarre narratives but try to maintain a human element throughout," he says. "I've never been a fan of mean-spirited ads; it's more rewarding to create an off-beat world that has some warmth at its core. No matter how weird the idea, the challenge is to infuse it with realness and heart." His reel includes uncomfortably suggestive spots for Mac's, including "Robot Love," which features a robot humping a pummel horse and Lipton Brisk's "Hunter," featuring a guy who accidentally shoots his friend in the back, the injury going unnoticed because the pal is drinking Brisk Tea. He's also shot for The Hargrave, Molson Canadian Lager and Canadian telecom provider Shaw Communications. Altough film's now one of his main pursuits, Hutsul remains diverse in his creative output and between jobs illustrates for media outlets like The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the Toronto Star and Walrus Magazine and has begun working on a graphic novel dealing with urban exploration. You can visit his blog at

Sara Dunlop
Home Corp

This British director, who studied film at the U.K.'s University of Westminster, caught our eye after directing SkyTV's "Billboards" spot out of WCRS/London, which turned scenes from Sao Paulo, Brazil's well-known billboard advertising ban into an affecting statement for Sky Movies' own ad-free films. That's just one gem on her reel, which also features a quirky visual comedy spot for Toshiba, a one set-up scene featuring a Japanese boy performing silly stunts, a charming love story gone really, really wrong, for Virgin Trains, and plenty of fashion and beauty work that brings slapstick laughs and a sense of fun to the typical pouty model scenario.

Brian Billow

Brian Billow has been working overtime, steadily building his directing reel as he continues his day job as a creative. Billow earned his degree in graphic design from the College of Saint Rose in Albany/N.Y. before moving into advertising at McCann-Erickson/N.Y. and his current CD post at DDB/Chicago, where he's helped to conceive award-winning spots for clients like OfficeMax, Budweiser, McDonald's, and Partnership for a Drug Free America. His moonlighting efforts have led to a reel heavy on comedy/dialogue skills, apparent on a series of "formulaic" spots for The Chicago Film Festival and others starring quirky multi-taskers for McDonald's and a pontificating lottery player for Vermont Megabucks. But his storytelling chops are at their finest in "Bodega," a gripping comedic short that he also wrote, about a thief who plays body-snatcher with a convenience store clerk.

Roel Wouters
Nexus Productions

Dutch-born Roel Wouters studied graphic and typographic design at KABK Den Haag and also earned his MA from the design department at Amsterdam's Sandberg Institute. Currently also a professor of graphic design at Gerrit Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands, the director has put his design influences vividly on diplay on his film projects, art and video installations. Most notable on his young reel is the super smart video "ZZZ is playing: Grip." Shot live and entirely in-camera, the clip manages to bring a homespun look to a techie concept,using a single overhead camera angle, some acrobatic individuals, and a trampoline, of all things. Other projects include a clever student film that makes the most of his classmates' final examination posters, and the short film Sally, a mind-boggling experiment in marble motion, co-directed with Luna Maurer.
Glenn Clements

He's not signed to a production company, but 29-year-old Glenn Clements, repped out of the talent agency Paradigm, is eager to get into spots. It certainly helps that he has plenty of skills that prove invaluable in today's commercials world: he's a writer, producer, director and perhaps most important, he has a killer sense of humor. His resume boasts credits for VH-1, PBS, Comedy Central and most notably, segment work for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, including stories on men in speedos, gay marriage in Massachusetts and the Hurricane Katrina fundraising efforts of Girls Gone Wild idea man Joe Francis. Earlier this year, Clements brought The Daily Show out of the studio and into the war zone, joining correspondent Ron Riggle and writer Kevin Bleyer to shoot the show's first stories from Iraq. His most recent efforts include a segment investigating an unexpected child killer: cupcakes.

Jun Diaz

We've seen this guy before. A lot. As an editor at Mackenzie Cutler, Diaz established a solid rep in this business cutting a number of notable spots for major agencies and big name clients like FedEx, ESPN, Nike and Guinness. We also know him as one third of the creative triumvirate behind the indie darling The Kid Stays in the Picture, directed by Brett Morgen and Nanette Burstein, which Diaz edited and for which he also created all the effects, giving dimension to the photograph-driven film. He also cut the Chris Smith-helmed documentaries American Movie and Home Movie, but in the last few years, Diaz finally took a seat behind the camera, directing spots for NFL and Miller High Life. Now signed to Smuggler, he's brought all of his sensibilities to play on a hilarious Ninja-themed short film for an upcoming eBay push, out of CAA.

Eric Lerner

Eric Lerner has a flair for bringing humanity to cold, dull reality, thanks to his playful sense of character and animation. Such is the case in his series of shorts, Mr. City Men, his graduation project out of Jerusalem's Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, where he studied animation, design and motion graphics. The five-episode effort, inspired by the Mr. Men books by Roger Hargreaves, depicts charming animated characters like Mr. Déjà vu, Mr. Fortune and Mr. Dreamer, who go about their day in a live action urban setting. Lerner recently applied that animation and real life mashup to the Vodafone spot "Mr. Red," and is currently directing soon-to-break brand work for Coca-Cola, out of Wieden+Kennedy/Amsterdam.

Guilherme Marcondes
Hornet Inc.

Sao Paulo-born Guilherme Marcondes made pitstops at Lobo, MTV and Motion Theory before arriving at Hornet, Inc. earlier this year. The architecture and illustration-trained director, now based in L.A., has built up a stunning reel along the way, with visual dazzlers for Diesel, Resfest Brasil, MTV and Animal Planet. Most notably, there's his brilliant must-see short film based on the William Blake poem "The Tyger," a mixed media masterpiece that combines puppetry, live action and animation.

Sean Donnelly
Anonymous Content

Sean Donnelly, who also works out of film collective Awesome Modest with Abbey Luck, qualifies as one of those new school directors who can juggle multiple skills behind the camera and at the desktop. The 24-year-old Santa Cruz, California native brought his innovative animation to a range of projects that include The Spinto Band's stunning video for "Oh Mandy," co-directed with Smuggler's Jon Watts, and a short promoting The Rumor Mill's album Christmas on Clinton, co-directed with Luck, in which holiday revelers suffer a huge meltdown in a morose statement about the world's environmental condition. His commercial work includes live action and animated projects for Scion, Microsoft, VH1 and Tivo.

Arno Salters
Stink; Spy Films

Arno Salters' milieu is, without a doubt, a crafty mixed media wonderland—with minimal use of digital effects. The Paris-based director's recent music videos for Seb Martel and Mates of State depict a quirky hybrid of film techniques that could easily be placed in the same school as contemporaries like Michael Gondry. Seb Martel's music video, "Motus" features a handmade structure of artificial grass, cardboard, the singer's head and other disembodied parts separated into different compartments alongside many other little trinkets that combine to create a whimsical bookcase diorama. Salters also earned notoriety for his recent spot for French supermarket Leclerc, in which store brands are portrayed as businessmen in spandex suits with barcodes, in contention against a backdrop of chalkboard walls strewn with calculations. What remains consistent throughout all of Salters' work is a "home-made" appeal in which imperfections and variations are welcomed with open arms. Salters also happens to be fluent in English, French, Russian and is working on getting equally adept at a fourth language, Spanish.

Clay Weiner
Biscuit Filmworks

Clay Weiner is well known for being all over the place, in a good way. The Columbia grad can certainly write and has penned fine funny moments for The Conan O'Brien Show, The Onion and advertising as well—the former creative spent stints at Cliff Freeman, Publicis and, most recently, BBH. He can act too—one of his aliases include "Intro Guy," the dancing maven who appeared in a series of MTV promos. Recently, Weiner's been on a huge directing/writing combo kick—he conceived the ridiculously funny MTV Immaturity mobisodic series, starring a group of pubescent personified bodily functions. Out of Mekanism, he shot for Sega and Snickers, the latter the online component of the recent "Feast" campaign, starring an oddball cast of candy eaters. Weiner also co-wrote and directed a Bud Light campaign built around a guy with a one-word vocabulary, "Dude!" That would be enough to keep the average overachiever's plate full, but Weiner also shot the silly "Red,White & Blue" clip featuring a country babe making lewd overtures to soldiers in Iraq; he's also pitching a tv pilot, Lake Hartwell, a comedy/drama set in the Deep South.

James Griffiths
Moxie Pictures

We and our judges went ga-ga over James Griffiths' The One and Only Herb McGwyer Plays Ellis Island, which took home both top directing and overall honors at Creativity's No Spot Film Festival earlier this year. The short film, starring its writers Tim Key and Tom Basden, tells the story of a singer's strange "one-man" show and is rife with spot on performances and a perfectly-pitched tonality, all of which come together to bring laughs and suspense to the clever storyline. The U.K.-born Griffiths, who holds a degree in fine art, has yet to direct for the U.S. market, but he's already built an impressive oeuvre of European spots that show off his flair for performances, as in recent brand campaigns for RAC and BT as well as spots for Oxy and Barclays.

The Vikings
Paranoid U.S.

This multidisciplinary, international collective earned plenty of industry attention this summer, when their spot for Epuron, featuring the wind portrayed as a gentle, misunderstood giant, emerged as one of the three frontrunners for the Cannes Film Grand Prix. Although they're called The Vikings, the six-member team literally hails from all over the place. Their roots can be traced to France, in the creative department of TBWA/Paris, where U.S.-born Matthew Branning, Bjoern Ruehmann of Germany and Joakim Reyeman of Sweden came together to produce award-winning work for Amora, Bic, Doctors Without Borders, Mapa, Midas, Sony Playstation and Renault. As The Vikings, the three are joined by Kerstin Lindermeier, a Paris-based illustrator, Sven Glage, an award-winning Hamburg-based photographer and Georg Mueller-Loeffelhoz, an internationally recognized emerging media specialist. The team is currently working on a 360-degree branding project for an undisclosed client and hopes to maintain a diverse repertoire that involves everything from traditional advertising to children's books, art projects or experimental films.

Christian Bevilacqua
Therapy Films

Christian Bevilacqua can sign his name to Samaritans' "Doodle," the touching ballpoint-inspired effort illustrating the mental and emotional clutter that crowds one's psyche. The U.K.-based director, who earned his degree in illustration, is not just about the fine lines, however, and shows his stuff on a range of animated styles, from mixed technique puppetry for Parkers' "Dodgy Dealer" and super cute character work on MTV's "Vinyl Surfing."

Ben Dickinson

As one of the founding members of Brooklyn-based Waverly Films, a directing collective comprised of a group of former NYU film school friends best known for their super silly but well told shorties that have been racking up the hits on YouTube, it's no surprise that Ben Dickinson has a reel that contains the likes of "Pick Up the Phone," an acid-trippy commercial spoof, and "Floating Head," in which a guy bemoans the disappearance of his buddy, a severed head. But he does more refined stuff too, including Absolut "Gay" and "Valentine" co-directed with Waverly cohort and Park Pictures' Jake Schreier, in which a son and girlfriend don't tell it like it is, as well as superb clips like The Juan Maclean's "Give Me Every Little Thing," LCD Soundsystem's "North American Scum," and Rapture's "Wayuh," which lost out to Justin Timberlake in 2006 for the MVPA's best pop video. To discuss this article, visit the Creativity Forums.
Most Popular
In this article: