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Opinion and Insight

It’s Been a Good Year for… Gary Freedman

Independent director tells LBB’s Alex Reeves about his on- and off-set development in a vintage year

It’s Been a Good Year for… Gary Freedman

Gary Freedman is on a bit of a roll. Having picked up a Gold, a Silver and a Bronze award at eurobest and a Silver at the British Arrows in 2016, he started 2017 buoyant on a raft of accolades for his films for HSBC and Heineken. And it’s fair to say he’s bested that achievement this year. His phenomenal Heineken spot, ‘When You Drink, Never Drive’ , in which he made ingenious use of archive footage to tell a new story about racing legend Jackie Stewart continued to astound juries throughout the year, winning him a Gold and a Silver Lion in Cannes, a Silver Clio and four awards at eurobest.

He’s humble about the success of the film, attributing it to the creative brilliance of Publicis Italy’s idea. “As always, the idea is king,” he says. “But I think we gave it heart. It’s quite a challenge to have someone say ‘no’ all the way through a commercial and it not be negative. So we worked hard to give the scenes a context which made Jackie come over as a good guy.”

That wasn’t the only work Gary received plaudits for though. His wonderfully bizarre 2016 Christmas celebration for Harvey Nichols, ‘Britalia’ also turned heads, earning him a Campaign Big award last month.

His playful, cinematic escapades for Volkswagen ‘The Button’ earned him a second spot in the Big awards. As it would be for any film obsessive, shooting that was a particular treat for him. ”It’s fun making that sort of thing with multiple film genres. [There’s] lots to play with.”

Amazingly, Gary didn’t just sit in his trophy room feeling happy with himself this year either. He was out there shooting, accumulating anecdotes. “I had a rather strange encounter with an on-set doctor in Ukraine which is too rude to recount publicly…,” he teases. Make sure to squeeze that one out of him if you bump into him at an award show or on set in 2018.

Which set that remains a mystery, but maybe that was during the production of one of the Christmas spectaculars he served up last month. Following last year’s varied festive treats for Harvey Nicks and McDonald’s, he was in demand. And he delivered on the hype, firstly with a high-tech Arctic elf-fest for Argos and then with a heart-warming tale of sharing for Samsung.

Although he’s been directing since 1999, 2017 brought new lessons for Gary. “I think every year you become more yourself,” he says. “It’s clearer to me what I like now. Not that you ever want to do the same thing again and again, but over time I think you’re more aware of the things you’re good at.”

As we spoke to Gary he was due to get on a plane back to his homeland of Australia with his family - a highlight of the year despite his professional achievements. When asked about goals for 2018 he simply responded: “Who knows? One day at a time, sweet Jesus.”