Odds Favor MJZ at DGA Awards

LOS ANGELES When the Directors Guild of America announces the winner for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials at its annual awards ceremony, there’s a four out of five chance that a single production company, MJZ, will prevail.

“It’s the first time that’s happened to the company and first time in the history of DGA Awards,” said Rocky Morton, a principal and nominee of the Los Angeles production house. “David [Zander] and I started the company 16 years ago and it took a long time to establish ourselves and get the right collection of directors, who stand out in their own right.”

Zander said that the competitive production environment “has never been tougher than right now . . . The competition’s hotter and the budgets are as challenging as ever, but that spawns even more creativity, ironically. It makes us think harder about how to do it.”

Morton was nominated for “Kung Fu Clowns” and “Dance Fight Plumbers” for BellSouth, by WestWayne, Atlanta, and “Office” for Cheese Nips by WPP Group’s JWT, Chicago. He said the spot earning his third DGA nomination is exemplary of today’s financial constraints: “Take Me Home” for the television series CSI, by Interpublic Group’s The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.

“That was among the lowest-budget work this year,” Morton said. “The agency was completely behind us. You need the cooperation of a good creative agency when working on a shoestring budget.”

Morton said the “cool concept” from Martin involved a CSI writer so dedicated to his work that he took it home with him. “Rather than a laptop, he took home a cadaver to inspire him. It was an arresting kind of image and connected to the show,” he said.

Morton said he looks forward to further ad agency creative on entertainment properties. For a Minus Man spot, he conceived of a couple who had seen the movie talking about it all night. They become so engrossed in conversation that the woman, who is a lifeguard, is late for work. The unhappy ending: old-age pensioners are seen dead in a pool.

MJZ’s Craig Gillespie and Spike Jonze are also nominated for best director, along with Biscuit Filmworks’ Noam Murro and Omaha Pictures’ Rupert Sanders, one of whose spots (“Made to Perfection” for Adidas, by Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day) was an MJZ production.

The winner will be announced tomorrow at the DGA Awards dinner at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.