Joe Pytka, Pytka

By Ti Published on .

Leaving aside the 30 years of groundbreaking work for a moment, one can take a quick glance through a sampling of recent Pytka spots and still be struck by the enormous range of the work while detecting some unmistakable notes played sweetly throughout. Following on the first round of the standout Fed Ex banter campaign, a tailor-made Pytka job, the director delivered the goods on the sharp, solid IBM b-to-b campaigns, the most recent featuring the angst-ridden business types confessing their IT nightmares. He pulled out the full-on production number with a human touch for Sony's "The Trip"; reasserted his effects finesse with partners Digital Domain with the Jordan vs. Jordan spot for Gatorade; directed the recent large-scale GE campaign; and delivered on the dead simple and funny Christmas campaign for Amazon.

Regardless of the scale of the job or the visual trickery involved, Pytka still employs some of the production cues from his background as a documentary filmmaker; always leveraging the power of a face and an expression, always looking to avoid force-feeding an idea. "I apply classic film techniques," he says. "I try and tell a story as simply as possible, with good casting and manipulation of the script."

And while he's cagey about some things relating to his spot work, one thing does come through loud and clear: he is, as ever, a passionate filmmaker. Peppering his conversation with film references, he decries bad filmmaking and says that the art of filmmaking as a whole has never really reached the artistic heights of literature or painting (though he will give credit where it's due - he calls Ben Kingsley's turn as the vituperative Don Logan in Jonathan Glazer's Sexy Beast "absolutely brilliant"). Discussing the changes that have transformed the industry since he's been crafting spots, Pytka readily admits the deleterious effect consolidation has had on creative and the shift in priorities from the work to the bottom line. "You're dealing with large corporations that have to be kind of benign and kind of mediocre in a way, by definition. There are a lot of things that are legislating against really good work." So how does he manage to do so much of it? "You do what you do as well as you can do it and hope for the best. Luckily, a lot of my clients want really good work."

His long-simmering passion for food and wine was also recently realized with the opening of Bastide in L.A. And if critical response to date is any indication, the restaurant Pytka has been lovingly laboring over for years looks to have as promising a future as the young Pytka did back in the day.

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