Who’s nextóCoppola?

I’ve known for a long time that the Coen brothers shot commercials between films. And I’ve actually auditioned for Christopher Guest, who does the same (and who could not be nicer, while we’re at it).

Having fried large sectors of my brain back in the 80’s, I’d forgotten that my longtime idol, Errol Morris, directed not only the Apple “switch” campaign spots but also those fantastic “switch” spots for the Kerry campaign, so I was semi-surprised to walk into the room this week and see him entertaining the agency types with chimp-attack riffs. Still, documentaries don’t exactly fund themselves, so it wasn’t a total shockeroo.

But when I walked into the room today and saw Joel Schumacher smiling at me (he was very nice, funny and solicitous), I was a bit taken aback; after all, this is not exactly your typical indie director scrambling to keep body and soul together.

I mean, lots of big film directors came out of commercials. But usually, they don’t go back.

So my question is this: trend or no? And if so, how long has the trend been…um…trending?

And how do “regular” commercial directors perceive this dabbling? Are they peeved about the way rank-and-file actors were when famous film actors started muscling in on TV guest shots? Or are they happy because it lifts the perceived taint off of the bastard stepchild of filmmaking?

Damn, this is an exciting time to be alive…

9 Replies to “Who’s nextóCoppola?”

  1. Add McG, Tony Kay and Michael Bay to the list of film directors that direct (or directed) TV spots. McG directed me in a Major League Baseball spot just before he made the leap to Charlie’s Angels. Don’t know if he’s ever looked back. I think it’s been a trend for quite a while.

  2. And Wes Anderson directed those Dasani commercials with the animals acting as if they are human.

  3. Didn’t know that about Wes Anderson.

    As for the rest, there’s a long tradition of commercial directors moving to film. That’s why a lot of them get into shooting spots or videos to begin with: to build a reel and get noticed.

    But the big film directors who then turn to shooting spots…I don’t know. Most of the commercial *actors* I know say they’d leave commercials and never look back if they could make the big bucks in film & TV.

    Then again, actors aren’t known for their mental stability…

  4. From what I’ve been told, film directors like to do commercials cuz they get (actually I think production crew in general) more money for the amount of time they work, relative to film.

  5. Your everyday “regular” commercial director is not being put up for the same jobs as the big guys, who are only doing the jobs that pay extremely well. I guess they find it worth their while when they make a couple hundred thousand dollars from a few weeks of work. Plus, they get a lot of creative control, as opposed to the rank-and-file directors who have to kow tow a bit more to the creative directors at the agencies.

    I don’t think he’s done anything in the past couple of years, but Coppola’s not above it, either. I think a lot of them find it fun- like a really high concept short film which they get paid ridiculous amounts of money to make.

    I worked in the office at a commercial production company for a couple of years and was surprised like you when I first discovered all the big name feature directors who keep their hats in the commercial ring.

  6. Martin Scorsese directed the Deniro Amex spot. Spike Jonez just did an Adidas. David Fincher does them all the time. Big directors do them becuase it’s pretty good money and fairly low time commitment. Who wouldn’t do a job for $100k plus few a week’s work?

  7. This crap is getting real old, all these people crying about De Niro in the American Express commercial that has about a 2-second section showing ground zero. Coming from a city that’s supposed to be so tough, all these people bitching about De Niro “selling a product” that has ground zero in the commercial. GET OVER IT. You’re giving NYC a reputation of being full of weak people who crack under the smallest amount of pressure or people who they think are sell-outs. Oh yeah, remember the Tribeca film festival that De Niro co-founded and American Express is the main sponsor. They have every right to make a commercial like that. All you people who keep crying need to shut the hell up and grow the fuck up. De Niro and American Express have done far more than any of you to get the right to make the commercial they made. If you don’t think so, move to San Francisco, the type of people that keep crying about the commercial would fit perfect there. Sorry was that a stereotype? You figure it out.

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