26th Edition of Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase Premiers at Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

On Thursday 23 June at 11am, Saatchi & Saatchi premiered the 26th edition of the annual New Directors’ Showcase (NDS) at the Lumière Theatre in Cannes, to an audience of more than 2,300 Cannes Lions delegates.

This year the Showreel features 20 directors, including one Artificial Intelligence (AI) director.  The question is whether the audience are able identify the AI film, which was created through a collaboration between Saatchi & Saatchi, Team One and Zoic Labs in Los Angeles.

The 2016 Showreel features an international selection of directors hailing from Chile, Israel, Poland, The Netherlands, UK and USA.

Intense subject matter and dedication to craft feature strongly in this year’s NDS Showreel, with genres including horror, animation, drama, and music promos, with a smattering of humour. 

Andy Gulliman, NDS Curator and Producer, and Director of Film & Content, Saatchi & Saatchi, commented: “There’s an abundance of craft and different techniques on the NDS 2016 reel; from Claymation to full on AI, beautiful cinematography and amazing narratives. What’s amazing this year is there are more directors not represented by production companies than any previous year. This year it was harder to find the humour we’ve recognised in previous years. In 2016 dedication to craft outweighs laughs.”  

Three female directors are featured this year; Reed Morano, Caroline Bartleet and Dorota Kobiela. There are noticeably fewer commercials on the 2016 Showreel – Reed Morano’s thought-provoking ‘How do you see me’ film for Coordown, which stars Hollywood actress Olivia Wilde, and the Layzell Bros humourous ‘Shoplifters’ ad for Harvey Nichols. 

An eclectic mix of styles features on the 2016 Showreel, with dramatic tension, cinematography, documentary and slapstick horror. ‘Embarrassed’, London-based commercials director Jake Dypka’s collaboration with poet Hollie McNish, demonstrates his passion for bringing truth and humanity to his craft. New Jersey-born filmmaker Dan DiFelice’s ‘Carved in Mayhem’ also visualises poetry, in a beautifully-shot monochrome film of one man’s journey to salvation.

American director Connor Hurley wrote, produced, directed and starred in a beautifully cinematic music video ‘El Perro del Mar’ for In The Woods. Hurley is currently gearing up to produce a feature film about the US prison system. 

British actress and director Caroline Bartleet won the 2016 Best British Short Film BAFTA for her tense 7-minute short film ‘Operator’. Bartleet based the script on a real life 999 call, which inspired her to make the film, which reveals the incredible composure of emergency services operators during crises. Another powerful short is ‘We Live This’, a documentary directed by James Burns (USA), which follows the lives of four young boys from the projects in New York.  The NDS Showreel features an excerpt from the short. Burns has an incredible life story, he spent time in solitary confinement at age six, and was later incarcerated at an adult facility in Colorado when he was still a minor, spending years in the criminal justice system. After his release his formative years where the subject of a feature film ‘Jamesy Boy’.   

American filmmaker and musician Jason Kupfer’s horror short ‘Invaders’ was featured at Slamdance and Beyond Fest, and won at Fantastic Fest, and documents an attempted burglary turned into gory slasher fest. Bennett Silverman (USA) also pays homage to the horror genre in his trailer for breakout horror movie ‘Handjob Cabin’, which follows four friends whose vacation is interrupted by an overly friendly ghost.      

Director Matt Lambert (USA) collaborated with musician Mykki Blanco and cinematographer Martin Ruhe on ‘High School Never Ends’, an epic Shakespearean music video shot in rural Germany and exploring forbidden love.   

Studio Smack hail from the Netherlands, and their trippy promo for De Staat’s track ‘Witch Doctor’ has won multiple awards including Berlin Music Video Award 2016 for ‘Best Concept’, Edison PopPris 2016, and Holland Animation film festival 2016 ‘Grand Prix for Best Dutch Animation.

French director Nicolas Davenel started his career as an Editor, before moving behind the camera to direct his first music video for ‘The Parisians’. His latest unsettling promo for French trio KCPK, produced by Iconoclast, depicts the evil underbelly of Russian gang life with an adrenaline-fuelled journey through different generations exposed to the mobster world. 

Israeli directors Uri Lotan & Yoav Shtibelman created an enchanting animation for Jane Bordeaux’s track ‘Ma’agalim’. The animated promo invites the viewer into a cartoon world inhabited by a wooden doll. A wooden doll, stuck in place and time, is overtaken by every-day life scenarios.

Director and computational artist Albert Omoss (USA) takes the viewer onto a trip through their own consciousness in ‘Undercurrents’, an experimental short film which pushes the boundaries of animation. Omoss began programming computers at the tender age of 8, and his work explores the fragility of the human form. 

New-York based director Rupert Burton worked with Method Studios design group on his AICP Reel, featuring visuals of professional dancers motion-captured then manipulated by digital artists using procedural animation and dynamic simulations. 

The AI director featured in the 2016 Showreel goes under the pseudonym of Anni Mathison, and the result of the experiment commissioned by Saatchi & Saatchi and Team One is a short film named “Eclipse,” conceived, edited and directed by machines.

The short film debuts on the anniversary of scientist Alan Mathison Turing’s birth on 23 June 1912. Turing was the first to ask the question, “Can machines think?”, which then leads immediately to the question can machines be creative.

“Eclipse” uses several technologies in a never-before-seen combination to create the film from start to finish:

  • IBM Watson and Microsoft’s AI chatbot Ms_Rinna (Microsoft Rinna) registered the emotion behind the lyrics to generate a completely original storyline for the music video.
  • In addition to helping provide the storyline, Ms_Rinna was asked opinions on characters, wardrobe, location and catering for the shoot.
  • The team used Affectiva’s facial recognition software and EEG data to help cast the perfect co-star.
  • Drones gave direction on the day of the shoot by using a combination of data from IBM Watson’s tone analysis and Affectiva’s facial recognition software. This data allowed the drones to capture intense emotional moments with mathematical precision. 

  • AI was used again during the edit. The team created a proprietary program that identified which clips to put where based on the beat of the song and the emotional intent of the lyrics. 

  • All of the visual effects were created using a custom neural art program. This program allowed the machines to apply a filter to the raw footage based on reference images selected based on the artist’s vision.

“What’s next in the evolution of what it means to be a director? Because of innovations in technology, the definition has changed over the years,” adds Chris Graves, Chief Creative Officer at Team One. “We are continuing to explore and advance the art of filmmaking, and are challenging the creative community this year, by asking them and the world, ‘Can a film made by machines move you?’”

Click here to find out more about the NDS.

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