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At our first CraftWorks event of 2019 at BAFTA 195 in Piccadilly, an eclectic range of panels and interviewees inspired, entertained and informed a packed audience from across the advertising industry.
Our first panel of the day focussed on a pair of films for ITV promoting their drama output. Sadly, it was reduced by last minute withdrawals to just two contributors but as this duo was Uncommon's Nils Leonard and Pulse's James Marsh, we were still able to cover all of the bases. Expectations are always high when Nils Leonard is on a stage and and he didn't disappoint - offering an insightful account of the thinking behind the two films. But he was happy to take a back seat for once as James Marsh held forth on the challenge of working with two actors - Roger Allum and Brenda Blethin - who were, to varying degrees, understandably protective of the characters they play.
The harmonious relationship on stage between Leonard and Marsh was a reflection of a highly collaborative experience when the films were made, and it was clear that the mutual regard they have for one another had helped to secure the excellent outcome witnessed by the audience when the two films were shown.
The key takeaway was the importance of trust. Once James Marsh had secured the trust of two actors, he was able to gain the performances he needed, while the trust that sat between March and Leonard was a vital component too. More important still was the trust which Leonard and his colleagues at Uncommon secured from ITV Creative, who are accustomed to autonomy when it comes to making trails and promos. Leonard reported that ITV provided all the licence needed to secure an excellent outcome and the work was certainly proof of that.
The next interviewee was Charlotte Bavasso - co-founder of Nexus Studios - who met the challenge of identifying three pieces of work that she admired even though she had nothing to do with them.
Her first selection was an ad for Levi's from the 1990s featuring Flat Eric. This bold piece of work from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in its pomp featured the aforementioned yellow puppet and his human companion Angel rocking out to a track by Mr Ouzo. It's one of those rare pieces of vintage work which still feels fresh, and Bavasso described it as one of the reasons she was drawn to the advertising industry in the first place.
Her second choice was a beguiling piece of work for Shiseido from last year which demonstrates the versatility of animation. The faces of the actors becomes the canvases for the animator adding an extra layer to a sweet love story. It's a charming piece of work and was new to most of the audience.
Finally, Charlotte Bavasso opted to show a sequence from a movie - The Minority Report - which predicts the advertising of the future. The film is based on a book by Philip K Dick who was also the author 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' - the basis of the film 'Blade Runner'. Dick's dystopian visions incorporated an idea of advertising which is so targeted that it's borderline harassment, and Bavasso spoke enthusiastically about its potential. In the light of the various revelations surrounding Facebook's cavalier approach to data protection, Bavasso's championing of this approach was contentious but she feels it's an inevitable development and grasped the opportunity to stake a claim for Nexus's ability to deliver it.
The third panel was a celebration of Steve Moss's winning film in the 2018 Homespun Yarns competition. Moss was joined on stage by Charlie von Rotberg, Jack Patterson, Kai van Beers, Matt Lawrenson and Jo Bierton who each talked about the contribution they made to his dark comedy. Moss spoke about the importance of fulfilling latent ambitions, something that had been fuelled by the loss of his beloved father. He offered a moving account of finally completing the film he'd told his dad he would make, and how much its success then meant to him.
DAVID REVIEWS stands fully behind this annual competition inaugurated and run by Stitch Editing. It's a stark contrast to the cynical and often pointless backslapping provided by advertising awards, offering instead a real opportunity to new filmmakers wanting to set out their stall. It also provides just about the best event of the year when everyone comes together to decide which of the films commissioned by Homespun Yarns deserves to be considered the pick of the bunch. The standard of film-making which emerges from this competition is first rate and we're already excited about the 2019 incarnation.
Our Strictly Super Bowl panel was made up of Anna Carpen, Sue Higgs and Vaughan Arnell and they rather tore into the selection of commercials from the 2019 event. Sue Higgs, in particular, could find almost nothing good to say about a collection of work that everyone judged to be below par.
With the fabulous Antoinette de Lisser keeping the scores, it was an entertaining trawl through ten of this year's films with a pun-based ad for Bubly featuring Michael Bublé ultimately triumphing with a score of 24/30.
The final panel which was very much the headline act of the whole show was a reunion between Walter Campbell and Tom Carty - the peerless creatives who lit up advertising in the 1990s with a sequence of extraordinary work which has never been matched.
Campbell and Carty were mischievous, difficult, inspiring and entertaining. One member of the audience later said it was liking watching Michael Parkinson interviewing Rod Hull and Emu, and it's hard to argue with assessment. But in their trouble-making and initial reluctance to participate in a normal interview, the pair were demonstrating the rebellious streak which made their work unique.