No clear winner in Bessies Director heat

Each year at the Bessies, the room quiets somewhat before the announcement of Best of Series in direction is made.

Each year at the Bessies, the room quiets somewhat before the announcement of Best of Series in direction is made.

The production house reps grip the sides of their chairs, the agency producers actually shut off their cellphones, and the directors hold their breath.

Sorry folks – not this year: None of the spots considered made the cut.

Instead, four directors – Martin Granger, David Wellington, Carlton Chase and Tim Hamilton – have been recognized with Craft Awards for the direction of five different spots.

Rethink partner Chris Staples, who headed up the panel in charge of selecting the direction award winners, says the judges couldn’t justify singling out one from the pack.

‘Our feeling was that all of the spots were very well directed but there was nothing particularly outstanding about any one of them that stood head and shoulders above, requiring a Best of Series award,’ says Staples.

All four helmers may be good, but only one can claim that a spot he directed also won two Best of Series prizes (for writing and cinematography). That director is Carlton Chase, who won for the Mercedes-Benz spot ‘The Story of Raymond,’ via Lowe Roche.

Repped by Radke Films in Canada and Chased By Cowboys in the U.S., the L.A.-based Chase took Gerald Kugler’s storybook-like script about needless self-deprivation and brought it to life in South Africa last year.

Kugler says Chase contributed a great deal to the spot beyond directing and helped reorganize his copy in a way that would give the scenes a better flow.

‘Carlton certainly had his perspective on the spot,’ says Kugler. ‘He is a pretty opinionated guy, as most directors tend to be. The truth is he made us work really hard to make the idea better, and at the end of the day it’s always about the idea.’

Next up is Martin Granger, who would have scored a three-peat Best of Series had he won for his Bud Light Institute work again this year.

Having won the last two years with ‘Sin & Sentimentality’ in 2002 and ‘Ulterior Emotions’ in 2003 – both Bud Light ads – Granger continued to bring to life the innovations taking place at the Bud Light Institute in a very effective manner with this year’s ‘History.’

Granger took writing Craft Award-winner Peter Ignazi’s high-concept script and added his signature visually eclectic and comedic style to Institute ‘advancements’ created to distract women in order to free up time for their male counterparts.

The spot, like others in the Bud Light series, is unapologetic and very funny, as one would expect from Granger, a former Second City Toronto cast member who started his directing career with Avion in 1994.

Avion took another spot on the list with director Tim Hamilton, who has had a noteworthy year. In addition to directing Bessies-acknowledged ‘Land Surveyor’ for AGF Financial Services and agency TBWAToronto, Hamilton was picked up for representation in the U.S. by director Michael Bay’s commercial house, The Institute early in the 2003.

The ‘Land Surveyor’ spot depicts a surveyor who fancies himself a fashion photographer and coaches his coworker as one would a model.

Hamilton exemplifies why he is known for his comedic sense and knack for guiding actors with the spot, traits he has frequently displayed in nearly a decade with Avion. Known for his short film Truth in Advertising, which has won him international acclaim, Hamilton’s recent spots include work for Zellers, A&P and Lipton.

The two final spots honoured with Craft Awards for direction are also AGF ads from the same campaign, but those two were helmed by veteran director David Wellington.

Like ‘Land Surveyor,’ Wellington’s spots depict ordinary people in ordinary jobs who clearly want something more out of life.

In ‘Flight Attendant,’ Wellington directed Nigel Hamer to a performance Craft Award as a flight attendant with a flare for the dramatic, reciting the emergency landing spiel with Shakespearean flourish. Similarly, in ‘Court Stenographer,’ Wellington directed performance Craft Award winner Norma Dell’ Agnese as a stenographer who adds some over-the-top dime store novel drama to her recitation of court proceeding minutes.

Wellington has no shortage of experience working with actors. He has received Gemini nominations for direction on CTV’s The Eleventh Hour and the MOW Blessed Stranger: After Flight 111, as well as winning best direction for a MOW or mini-series prize with Dead Aviators in 2000.

He also helmed the acclaimed feature adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, which toured the film festival circuit and lead his cast to a sweep of the performance categories at the 1996 Genie Awards.

Craft Awards: Direction

Title: ‘Land Surveyor’

Advertiser: AGF Financial Services

Agency: TBWAToronto

Production House: Avion Films

Direction: Tim Hamilton

Title: ‘History’

Advertiser: Labatt Breweries

Agency: Downtown Partners DDB

Production House: Avion Films

Direction: Martin Granger

Title: ‘The Story of Raymond’

Advertiser: Mercedes-Benz

Agency: Lowe Roche

Production House: Radke Films

Direction: Carlton Chase

Title: ‘Flight Attendant’

Advertiser: AGF Financial Services

Agency: TBWAToronto

Production House: Steam Films

Direction: David Wellington

Title: ‘Court Stenographer’

Advertiser: AGF Financial Services

Agency: TBWAToronto

Production House: Steam Films

Direction: David Wellington