The poolhouse co-founder and freelance agency producer explores the real, the drama and why at a certain point it’s time for talent and brands to send strong messages that reach beyond selling tampons
At first, I thought this task would be easy, but I sat around dreading it for a few days before I dug in because the world of High Five is so grand, so how do I narrow this? As a former head of production and agency producer, I’ve seen so much work over the last two decades, and because of my previous agencies, I was in global so stuff from all over the world. For me, it has to move me - if it makes me cry then even better - and I am not a comedy person. I don’t even like watching funny TV or movies. I love drama and I love real; the more the better, and I believe at this stage of some of our careers it’s time to give back and send strong messages...
The Guardian - 'Three Little Pigs'
Agency: BBH London
Production: Rattling Stick
Director: Ringan Ledwidge
Post: WORK London x The Mill
I remember the first time watching this, I was just in awe. The edit, the lighting, the art direction, the direction, the freedom of the story...the drama. Ringan was my unicorn. I loved him and respected him so much and we became friendly. I remember having lunch with him in London one time and asking him how I could get him to say 'yes' to one of my agency’s projects, and he told me very simply and humbling: "Give me something that I have total freedom to execute, otherwise it’s not worth it." This piece is a perfect example, he had total creative control and the way the story comes together, it was so real, it’s like there are really three little pigs and they are going to jail IRL. The craft in every aspect of the process was tailored and sewn together perfectly, there is no cutting corners anywhere in this film. It’s definitely something we should all strive to create in our production lifetimes.
Change the Ref - 'The Lost Class'
Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago
Production: Hungry Man US
Director: Bryan Buckley
Post: NO6 x Parliament
Sound: Beacon Street Studios
This was one of my favourites coming out of the Film Craft jury this past year because I felt that the craft of production on this was insane. Can you imagine being an agency producer and taking on the NRA? I felt the agency took a lot of risk here and so did everyone involved to create the trickery they did, and they did it perfectly. I cried, so that is the most important in moving my inner flutters towards a project. Working with real people is more difficult than actors, always, but then having to trick someone at the level of the politics that this team did, to get the speech they did and then the art direction is all those empty chairs, it speaks volumes of fearlessness, importance, and drive. Bryan Buckley has turned into a real activist and I’m not sure people truly know this and it’s incredible. He has had this amazing career as the Super Bowl king and comedy, but his passion really comes through with his films, short films and his activism work. If you followed him during the 2020 election in the US you would have been watching him punk Donald Trump with live statues pulling out the horrible and disgusting things he said and did and holding it in time in a statue in front of like the Capitol and now this work he is doing against the NRA. This is what matters, this work. High five to Bryan and Hungry Man!
Always - 'Like a Girl'
Agency: Leo Burnett Chicago
Director: Lauren Greenfield
So much truth in a simplicity of execution on Lauren’s part here. It’s brilliant. A casting set up asking young adults and then young girls what it means to run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl. The way they edited it together with the mockery upfront leading into the truths of these young girls showing us what it truly means, to try, to be fast, to hit hard. It went from mockery to real and then the sudden acknowledgment that this is incorrect, what does it matter to be a girl or not? Just be the best you can be, work the hardest you can, run the farthest and fastest. This campaign came along at the beginning of the experiments, this is what this is… an experiment and it was so thoughtfully executed by Lauren and her team. Lauren is one of the greatest documentarians - who has gone on to direct some of our industries most prolific advertising campaigns. This one stood out to me as her most true work in advertising and it had an everlasting effect on me. I cried, of course.
Sandy Hook - 'Evan' x 'Back-To-School Essentials' x 'Teenage Dream'
Agency: BBDO New York
Director: Henry-Alex Rubin
Post: NO6 x Mackcut
Sound: Beta Petrol x JSM x Human
I’ve kind of bulked all of the Sandy Hook work together here. I’m a bit biased because I’ve shot almost a dozen films with Henry-Alex, and was one of the first producers besides David Rolfe to ever work with Henry. He astonished me from day one of meeting at a bar in the East Village. He puts his full heart into all of his work and his Sandy Hook work and commitment to this multiple campaign is again, like Bryan is doing with his activism, something we should all be doing at this point in our careers when we reach these levels. Giving back, using our talents to make a difference. Sandy Hook each year just doesn’t disappoint, it’s unfortunate that these films need to be made in the first place and each time Henry needs to find a new way in to strike that cord with the audience, to tell this horrific story of pain and loss. He works with real victims and their families to weave together the most horrendous events in these peoples lives. Their trust in him comes through in the films. The editing, the music, the framing, set ups - they speak so much truth and will bring you to tears as it does me, every time.
Budweiser - '9/11 Tribute'
OK, so now you’re all going to think I’ve totally lost my mind, but yes, this is one of my top five. I literally just watched it and cried again. I believe it aired only one time one during the 2002 Super Bowl and then again on the 10 year anniversary in 2011. Like many others, I lost people I knew in 9/11, and I’ve had the privilege of producing three Budweiser Super Bowl campaigns. I’m also an equestrian, so I understand the background of working with horses and the great gift of therapeutic magic these creatures have. Again, very real, very simple, very symbolic - there are no words, just that bow at the end, the respect, it literally brings me to tears every time. I love love love this film, It’s what legends are made of. Simple, smart, memorable - it strikes a chord. It was also a brand who sends a message to their community of love, and sometimes we just need to put the beer down and remember the bigger picture...