Spencer Dodd, Managing Director/Executive Producer, UK & Europe, The Sweet Shop

With the tools to become a director now at everyone’s disposal, has that made finding new talent that can genuinely compete in the marketplace more or less difficult?

With the advances technology has made in recent years, there are certainly more people equipped with the tools to produce high-quality work than ever before.

Traditionally, the barriers to entry were relatively high and only a privileged minority were afforded access to the equipment and personnel necessary to generate a showreel. That’s changed and anything that makes the industry more accessible to a diverse population, must be welcomed.

However, as a direct consequence, the competition for this talent in the market place is now much greater. There are a lot of very accomplished film makers out there and over a hundred production companies representing them in London alone.

It does mean that there’s a lot more work generated for everyone to review and to evaluate, and time pressures on staff are extreme.

Having a distinct voice does help you to stand out, as does an ability to make people feel something, to tell a story and to get across a message within a limited time frame.

For the directors of tomorrow I think, more than ever, it’s about consistency over time. Proving over time that an outstanding piece of work isn’t just a happy accident and that a director can deliver consistently under differing conditions, facing a variety of deliverables and with different people alongside them.

How important would you say the annual YDA competition is to the industry at large?

There was a time when an agency producer would be able to look at a script, evaluate it and then recommend to their creative team a dozen directors for the project in question with a fair degree of confidence that they were the best and most appropriate people for the job. They’d ask the team to select their favourite three and would move forwards with them.

I’m not sure that’s still the case.

It’s impossible for an agency producer to navigate the current landscape of talent with any degree of certainty due to the sheer volume of content being produced around the world. There are of course the names that we all know and love but there are a huge number of very talented directors out there above and beyond those we are familiar with that at time would be better suited to a project.

The level of competition in the market place and the time pressure that producers are under means that it’s impossible for them to be aware of and to research the depth of talent that is available to them.

So, the YDA is a fantastic opportunity for young directors to showcase their work and perhaps draw attention to a wider body of work that hasn’t yet been appreciated in the way it should.

Here you have a captive worldwide audience at your disposal ready to watch the work away from the pressures of the office, in a relaxed open environment, hungry for new talent and that has been curated by people with experience of the industry.

Last year The YDA introduced a new, socially aware category called Changing the World Frame By Frame; what role do you think directors and the ad industry at large must play in global social education?

With the tools we have at our disposal, the ability to mobilise an audience and draw attention to any given event combined with a director’s ability to tell a story and move people, creating empathy and calling people to action, I think the scope for us to shape and influence the world around us is far reaching. With that opportunity comes a degree of responsibility as we respond to and draw people’s attention to the things that are going on around us whether that be environmental change, discrimination, or social injustice.

It seems that now more than ever there is a need for those stories to be told.

I can only speak for The Sweet Shop and we take this responsibility seriously providing internships opportunities to local councils, seeking out appropriate ethical projects to support and sponsor with at the same time taking an environmentally aware approach to production.

As more agencies and some clients continue take production in-house, what do you think these companies are missing out on by turning away from the more traditional model of commercial creation?

I think Steve Davies at the APA puts it far better than I ever could in this article ….,4LHF2,8IYN6Y,H2V7A,1

This is then summarised and supported by these pieces from a variety of sources and perspectives….

In-house production is we’re told designed to cater for fast-paced, low-budget work, sometimes of limited creative scope.

However, this has traditionally been the breeding ground for emerging directors; an environment in which they are able to grow away from college funded and self-initiated projects, responding to agency and client needs and exposed to the pressures of time and money that surround production.

With these opportunities limited and agencies looking increasingly towards freelance directors, they are cutting off the supply chain to the industry and restricting the opportunities available to the best of tomorrow’s talent, while at the same time limiting the options available to their clients.

What will you be looking for in the shortlisted work when you sit down with your colleagues to judge the YDA?

It doesn’t necessarily need to be the most polished piece of camera work.
It doesn’t necessarily need lots of elaborate effects or trickery.
It doesn’t necessarily need to have a cast of thousands.

What I’m looking for is a simple, core idea expressed well and that makes me feel something. The art of storytelling and the ability to move people is something that’s central and key to a director’s craft.

Having a distinct voice does help you to stand out, as does an ability to make people feel something, to tell a story and to get across a message within a limited time frame.

About The Sweet Shop
Our Network

We call ourselves a global boutique production company, because that’s just what we are. With fully serviced offices in all corners of the globe and a localised, friendly approach, you’ll feel we’re everywhere at once, bringing you work with soul.
Our People

We think you’ll like working with us. Our teams are experienced and agile, professional, but fun and informal. We’re passionate from start to finish. We work hard and push the boundaries to pull off the best possible production. And with a brilliant, well-curated pool of talent, with us the journey only gets sweeter.
Our Craft

Our Directors are true artisans of film craft. Whether it’s TV commercials, feature films, music videos or digital content, they’re fiercely proud of the stuff they make and how they make it. They’re humanity obsessed. Their work gives you that fierce little lump in your throat. It’s unapologetically funny. It makes you gasp with surprise. It makes you feel you’re part of something bigger, no matter where you’re from.
Our Ethical Approach

We’re decent humans and we care. We work ethically to support communities locally and internationally. And we really mean it. From the way, we operate our business and production, to the causes we align ourselves with. We’ll leave no bitter after taste.

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