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David Dearlove: “I’m Not a Creative Anymore, I’m a Director”



Having worked on the Titanium Lion-winning ‘Long Live the Prince’ campaign for the Kiyan Prince Foundation, David now tells LBB’s Nisna Mahtani about his goals as a director

David Dearlove: “I’m Not a Creative Anymore, I’m a Director”

Having recently joined Blink, former creative director David Dearlove is ready to get behind the camera and create work which is grounded within the foundations of a good idea. His creative experience has equipped him with the knowledge to utilise all aspects of the production process – and he can’t wait to get started.

“As a former creative, you generally pick the people you want to bring your work to life. You don’t pick the directors, but then inevitably, the best directors are at the best production companies,” says David. “To find myself as part of that roster – and the words are cliché – it’s mindblowing. It’s strange to hear my name up there but I’m dead excited, really.”

Stepping into the director role was inevitable for David, a continuation of his creative process. He says, “If you come up with the idea, you’re thinking about it, picturing it in your head and then when you get to set, it’s just the next logical step.” His time working as a creative meant he was too far removed from the hands on process and wanted to get stuck into the creation behind the camera, “I just like making, and I enjoy film sets.” 

Before his move, David worked on the Cannes Lion Titanium award-winning work for the Kiyan Prince Foundation’s ‘Long Live the Prince’ campaign. The process took some time, evolving from an initial pro bono project to a fully fledged piece which included all the bells and whistles. David explains, “It took us about two years to make from the beginning to when it came out. I’m massively proud of it and it started as a pro bono labour of love. Often, you end up doing many of those and they never see the light of day, but this is one of the ones where everything that we wanted to happen, happened.”

David directed the film which went alongside the piece, combining the charitable venture with a skill which he was itching to try his hand at. And he couldn’t have been happier with the result. “It was the best piece of work, as a creative, I’ve ever done and I’m really, really, really proud of it.”

Following the success of that campaign, there was a shift in mindset. David says his motto became, “I’m not a creative anymore, I’m a director.” While channelling his directorial eye, however, there will always be a part of David which focuses on the creative foundations of a successful campaign. “I’m most excited by a really good idea,” he says. And part of that lends itself to not focusing on one particular niche of directing, but rather on the idea surrounding it and the crafting process.

“Sometimes you get people who solely work on documentaries or all they want to do is mini comedy sketches, and in some ways, life’s easier for them because they can be pigeonholed effectively. My interests are a bit broader. One thing – in broad terms – is that I like things that feel cinematic. I’m more interested in people and performance than a grand CGI piece,” says David.

“For example the film production company A24, who are the hot darlings of film, I love how they approach movies. One minute they’re making something quite avant-garde and the next thing they make something mainstream but it always has a certain aesthetic and interest in original ideas. That’s what I’d like to do – cinematic people and performances - but top of the tree is just a great idea which excites me.”

Part of what motivates David is having the flexibility to switch between genres, and this was part of the reason why he landed at his current production company. “Something that I do quite like about Blink, and actually it’s an extension of me, is that there isn’t a definitive Blink house-style. I like that the company seem to be a bit looser and more free-form. The thing that runs through it all is their interest in the ‘new’, the interest in ideas and how a person can produce an idea.”

Making the distinction between directing in advertising versus directing more generally, he explains that it’s forging sustained relationships which is vital in adland. “As a commercial director, as opposed to a general director, one of the things to get right is the relationships between the agency and the client, because you’re putting their idea out there and creating it. So I think that’s clearly a crucial one.”

“As a creative, you learn the skill on the job or often you don’t feel like you have a skill because when dealing with an editor or DoP, they have a very specific craft and a skill,” says David, when asked about what he prioritises in his role. “Having been a creative, it felt like being a generalist and working with directors in the past, I was often surprised. I realised, ‘oh shit, they don’t quite get the idea.’ So, one thing I did realise when I started directing is that it’s a collaborative performance – when you say the actor is really crucial, someone says, ‘what about the editor and the DoP?’ There isn’t one that’s most important - it’s all of the various heads of department.”

While working with several different directors who have all shaped his career in some way, David specifically mentions Patrick Daughters as an influential figure. “I really enjoyed working with him. Very talented!” But when discussing what each director brought to the various roles, he says that it changes depending on the project and what’s required on set. “I think it’s really important to be decisive. Indecision is almost worse than a bad decision.” However, the thing that he stresses most is that each shoot has provided him with crucial learning experiences, which he’s still collecting.

“The number one thing I was taught is to try to be as nice as possible. That’s how you get the best work out of people,” says David. “My background is coming up with ideas and any chance I can still get to exercise that muscle is great - when an idea starts and a film moves beyond that it’s lovely, or vice versa.” Part of David’s emotional storytelling through film has been showcased through his work for Women’s Aid, which received 18 awards. 

Reflecting on his time working at agencies, David says, “Often I see people say ‘film is dead’ and it’s all about the internet. But actually, what is the internet now? We consume media through Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and for the most part, you’re consuming film,” he says, referring to the reels and short-form videos on these platforms. “Really, it’s that there are certain aesthetic choices you make if you’re filming purely for those formats, but it is still film-based.”

“The future of film and its centrality to non-traditional ideas is still huge.”

More specific to advertising and the commercial side of directing, David believes that there isn’t always an angle which needs to be fulfilled, some projects need to be taken for face value and worked on from there. “I feel like there’s not much work that actually sells stuff. If you make a hamburger, tell ‘em it’s a tasty hamburger. If you’ve got a car that’s good looking, tell ‘em it’s good looking – let’s make an app based around that.” This honesty and the ability to just sell products are what he’d like to see, saying that this content would “stand out by a mile.” 

“A lot of people want to prescribe a higher purpose to a product. If a brand puts on baggy pants and a clown suit, [and it] makes you look, does its best to make you laugh and then says, ‘fancy buying it?’ - I’d like to see a return to that, actually.”

“There’s just a real honesty about a company saying ‘look, we made this thing we really like, we hope you like it too and here’s why we think you’ll like it.” says David, “I think as a creative director you want to search for something that feels new, fresh and original. Ironically, it’s going full circle and there’s nothing more original than a company going on about how great their product is.”

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Blink / Blinkink, Wed, 31 Aug 2022 16:12:00 GMT