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Campaign Brief (AUS/NZ) Online.
Campaign Brief Magazine : November December 2008
Pilkington: “In Europe everything is so PC that it’s hard to tell a joke anymore. But in Australia and New Zealand you’re still allowed to be rude and offend people.” Plaza’s new signing James Pilkington: BAFTA nominated and good fora laugh He’s been nominated for a BAFTA, he’s worked with the creators of The Mighty Boosh, and he’s got one of the funniest reels in the region. CB catches up with Plaza’s new signing, James Pilkington. THERE ARE A FEW THINGS you notice whe n you fi rst meet Ja mes Pilkington – he’s abo ve-av eragely funny, he looks a bit l ike a bear, and he’s arguably more British than Ricky Gervais. Over the past decade, Pi lkington has compiled o ne of the stro ngest comedy ree ls in the region. Yet he only tur ned to directing af ter tw o fai led att empts at medici ne and stand-up comedy, when he re scued his fl ai ling career by direc ting a short f ilm called ‘Pocket’, w hich went o n t o win the BBC ’s Best Short Film Award in 1998. His s econd short fi lm, ‘ Swee t’, starred fam ous comedy duo T he Mighty Boo sh (Bri tish comedians Julian Barra tt a nd Noel Fi elding) and was nominated for a BAFTA. Despite these successes in Europe, Pilkington decided to move to the Southern Hemis phere after shoo t- ing a spo t in New Zeala nd, where he no ticed the comedy scrip ts a re ruder a nd funnier. He mov ed to Auckland four ye ars a go, and has just re locat ed to Sydney to work with Plaza after five m ont hs scriptwriting in Prague. How do you think you’re perceived as a director in Australia and NZ? I think I ’m viewed with mild d is- dain. That’s not true – I’m s een as a comedy director, which i s great because t hat’s a ll I w ant to do. I N OVE MB ER/DEC EMB ER 2 008 don’t do anything other than come- dy because I know other people can do it better. And i f you can’t be at them, don’t bother. How did you get into directing? I trained a s a doctor an d fail ed, then I became a stand up comedian and failed at that, and then luckily I got into film school. Then I wen t on the dole. And then? I spent two years making a short film called ‘Pocke t’. It won the BBC’s Short Film award and sud- denly I was on t he nex t plane to Los Angeles to meet wit h studi o guys. I was picked up by Par tizan and I’ve been d irecting commer - cials ever since. So why the move to Australia? I travelled to New Zeal and f or a Peugeot shoot and thought, ‘What am I d oing in London?’ In Europe everything is so PC that it’s hard to tell a joke anymore. But in Australia and N ew Zeal and you ’r e still allowed to be rude and offend peo- ple. So I moved to Ne w Ze aland four years ago, and now t hat I ’m based in Sydney I’ve become one of those f at British Poms you see on the beach. Why did you join Plaza? I’v e j us t r etu rned fr om five months in Prague where I’ ve been developing three different projects. I’ve got producers at tached to two of my scripts, but I’ve been looking forward to doing some commercial directing again. I met up with Pete [Masterton, Plaza EP] and we hit it off straight away. I’m a big fan of Paul’s (Middleditch) work – Pl aza is the best comedy shop in town, so they seemed like the perfect fit. You worked with The Mighty Boosh comedians Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding before they were really famous. What are they like? I cast them in a short film I’d writ- ten called ‘Sweet’ about a guy with an imaginary girlfriend . I t was a good script and idea to s tart wi th, but c ombi ned wit h t wo of the biggest comedy stars in Britain, you get something really funny. That’s why I love working with comedians – i t’s not like work, it’s like pissing around with your mates and having a laugh. What makes a good comedy director? It’s a relationship. A good idea is mad e g reat by c ollabor at ion between a director, cr eatives an d talent. It’s about developing an idea and f inding every single joke possi - ble that can be told, and then once you’ve exhausted every comic pos- sibility, you shoot the funniest one. When did you first read the Dove Chocolate scripts? I was shooting in Prague last year whe n I got the scr ipt s fr om Cummins Nitro Melbourne an d I thought, ‘Holy shit!’ because they were under-written, which is usual- ly a sign you can add a little more. I thought, ‘These are the scripts I’ve been waiting 10 years for.’ We shot two 60-seconds in three d ays with 10 location moves, so it was a d iffi- cult shoot. But we had g reat loca- tions and great actors wh o kn ew how to play it small. Aft er we’d wrapped it I thought, ‘Right, now I can go and write a fil m because I think that’s brilliant.’ Your ‘Simplifying Summer’ spots for Trumpet (Colenso BBDO) are similarly funny, but shot in a different tone. Tha t was my first job in New Zealand and it was a brilliant script. Sometimes you meet creative teams like Levi S lavin and Dave Govier and the y’re almost like comedy double-acts. Again, the script was underwritten and they allowed me to interpret it the way I wanted and then work together to make the spots as stupid as possible. How have you evolved as a comedy director? JP: I still like doing balls-out com- edy, but sometimes I like to keep my b alls in. Less can be mo re, which a lot of creatives have seen in my treatments. To me, an under- played approach can be a bit clever- er and sophisticated. Something as simp le as the length of a pause determines where big laughs can be found. I also l ike tryin g to add something a little surreal to some- thing real. That’s what comedy’s about – taking realness and twisting it on its head. How do you guide the performances of your talent? You don’t get performances out of actors, you get actors who can do it. It ’s abou t finding real peopl e. Comed ians mak e g reat act or s because they know what the audi- ence thinks, they know about the subtleties of pauses and looks, they can make you laugh without doing anything. When you’ve g ot funny peopl e and a funny script , you don’t have to work too hard. What’s the story with these photographs? I once did this job working with supermodels in no clothes. You’ve got to do the tough jobs as well as the good ones. I think it’s fair to say the phot os show I ’m a t ypi cal bloke. CAMP AIGN B RIE F 43
Awards Dec 2008
January February 2009