L.A.-based director Nate Townsend suffered a tragic loss when his father, Tom Townsend, the veteran ad man and co-founder of St. Louis agency Rodgers Townsend/DDB, passed away in October 2019, just two weeks after an unexpected cancer diagnosis. The younger Townsend then found solace in the act of creation, crafting what turned out to be an unlikely homage to his father: a spec spot.
“Do It Justice” follows the story of an elderly photographer pondering the meaning and potency of his craft. The camera follows the artist as he immerses himself in nature, taking a boat out onto the river, relishing the rushing waters and the open sky as he turns his lens to capturing both the wondrous and familiar.
The photographer’s voiceover delivers lines as poetic as the scenes: “They say a photograph can never do a thing justice. But I never spent much time listening. Except to the world around me—the way in which loss and life stir beneath my feet, above my head. Creation’s never-ending sermon. What remains and what gets buried.”
The story concludes as the photographer passes the torch to his daughter, the cycle of creativity beginning again. “Use this not to capture and log every moment of every day, but as a window through which to frame a handful of moments forever,” he says.
While beautiful on its own, the film turns out to be a spec ad for Leica, a camera that both Nate and Tom Townsend have cherished throughout their careers.
“I wanted to convey how profoundly a person's legacy can be passed between generations,” Nate Townsend says. “By physically passing his craft to his daughter), the photographer sparks within her a passion and love for photography.”
Bringing Leica into the story felt like a natural fit, he adds. “[My father and my] shared language was commercial filmmaking, and here I had a product and brand that meant so much to the both of us. It was through the Leica M4-2 that I was reconnecting with my family history, and ultimately, my dad.”
Townsend says he hadn’t set out to make an ad. “In its earliest stages, my focus was to make a film that would pay homage to my father. I didn't deliver a eulogy at his service, and in the days and weeks after his loss, I failed to find the words to publicly pay tribute to him. The loss was too profound. I was left with an aching desire to create something in his honor, and it wasn't until I visited his childhood home, Leica in hand, that inspiration truly struck.”
After his dad passed, Townsend took a road trip from Charleston, SC, where his father was born, to his dad's hometown of Jacksonville, FL. The journey enabled him to reconnect with his past and feel close to his father once again. When he returned to L.A., Townsend was inspired to take the experiences from his trip and make them into a film.
The piece intertwines a love for Leica with lessons Townsend learned from his father. “It is a testament to all of the qualities that I was raised to believe in about advertising—its power to heal, to inspire, to make this world a better place. Although the sentiment feels trite, my dad lived and believed it full-heartedly, and this story serves as a timely reminder of what that feels like. It also celebrates another mantra that my father lived by—that we should always be meeting adversity and tragedy with love and creativity.”
Moreover, it’s a testament to legacy, he says. “Hopefully it inspires others to share their craft with the next generation. If my father hadn't understood that value so deeply, I likely wouldn't have pursued filmmaking at all.”
Read more about the making of "Do It Justice" on the Leica blog, which also featured the film.