Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
Wake The Town
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Work That Made Me: Sam Pilling


The Pulse Films’ director declares his undying love for The Wire, the first music video he shot for less than £2k, and how Usher’s daughter played an integral role in catapulting his career trajectory

The Work That Made Me: Sam Pilling

Culture vulture Sam Pilling has a way of finessing the subject matter of any creative brief he turns his hand to. Whether it be pitch-perfect campaigns for big time brands like IKEA, Audi, KFC and Cadillac, or iconoclastic music videos for artists like Little Simz, Run the Jewels and Riz Ahmed - Sam knows how to craft culture defining moments on film. 

Hungrily consuming the work of his peers, the director’s sincere appreciation for the art of filmmaking is best gauged by understanding his eclectic choice of artistic influences and the work he has looked up to over the years. Here, he sits down with LBB’s April Summers to discuss the work which left a lasting impression and the projects he is most proud of contributing to the advertising and entertainment landscape over the course of his career so far. 

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me…

The Guinness Snail Racing commercial. Frank Budgen created such a rich, textured world full of interesting characters, with the perfect mix of comic timing and epic storytelling. Over twenty years later, the film still stands up. It’s fundamentally a brilliant idea which serves that iconic end-line, and which has been perfectly executed by one of the greatest commercial directors there has ever been. 

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry…

Glazer’s music video for UNKLE - Rabbit in Your Headlights. Such a simple idea, with so much atmosphere and mood, and a killer ending!

The creative work that I keep revisiting…

The Wire. Original, expansive storytelling which makes an important comment on society and was just so incredibly good. I rewatched the entire series during lockdown and I’ve recently started watching it again. In short, they just don’t make ‘em like this anymore, and probably never will again…

My first professional project…

My very first music video was for Riz Ahmed, for a track called 'Get On It'. I was unsigned at the time, working as a visual researcher at Pulse Films. We had less than £2k budget so my friend filmed it on his 7D (this was pre-Alexa times) and another director at Pulse kindly lent me his Nikon stills lenses, to help elevate the image as much as we could. It was a beg, borrow and steal affair, which involved an illegal car-chase through the Blackwall tunnel, filming car-to-car for half the night.

The piece of work that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

S7 Airlines - I Am You. In all honesty it felt like there were so many recognisable and iconic music videos referenced in this spot. If this was an homage to that work, then it went too far.  I know all the challenges when making a commercial, but this felt lazy sadly.

The piece of work that still makes me jealous…

This music video for St. Vincent ‘Cheerleader’ directed by Hiro Murai. It’s just so simple and so effective – I love it.

The creative project that changed my career…

This is a weird one but really it is a super low budget music video for SBTRKT ‘Wildfire’ that I did back in 2011. Basically, the short story is that Usher’s manager’s daughter watched the video and loved it, so showed her mum, who showed Usher… Next thing I knew I was in Atlanta shooting a video for him. Although the video itself is nothing to write home about, the experience of being on a larger set, and getting a US Visa to work in America, helped propel my career in quite a short period of time.

The work that I’m proudest of…

Probably my music video for DJ Shadow ft. Run The Jewels - Nobody Speak. Partly because it felt like an important commentary on the state of the world at the time, and partly because it was one of the first opportunities I had to explore comedy in my work.  It was also an honour to meet and work with DJ Shadow, an artist whose album Endtroducing was the soundtrack to my teenage years. I can’t tell you how many times I must have listened to it.

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

It was a French commercial for Winamax, entitled Tout Pour La Daronne, which translates to ‘anything for your mum’ in English. 
The project itself almost never happened because of lockdown. After six months of back and forth, we finally managed to make it, without any covid casualties. I had a very clear in-camera approach, and we had such a great team on it – it was just a lot of fun working out how we would achieve each crazy moment with practical effects. And then, to have a track from The King himself on the final cut, that was the cherry on top! 

view more - The Work That Made Me
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
750mph, Thu, 02 Mar 2023 08:23:35 GMT