Frank Budgen

Frank Budgen, the 48-year-old commercial director and co-founder of London’s Gorgeous Enterprises, is enjoying yet another spot success with Nike’s “Streaker” from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore. Yet he’s not particularly happy with the way the job-—or the popular spot—turned out. In fact, the director, who won a Grand Prix honor at Cannes last year for Nike’s “Tag,” is so dejected, he may just sit this year out.

Q. Why did “Streaker” appeal to you?

A. I just thought it would be good fun seeing a naked man running around on the telly in a commercial. It’s a good idea for a pair of running shoes.

Last year was such a strong year for you. Out of four spots you directed, three won gold Lions at Cannes and the fourth won the Grand Prix. How do you top that?

Well, I should have gotten over it by now, but I’m still feeling a bit down about this Nike spot, to be honest. It’s a very good idea, and I understand it’s very popular, but it didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to.

How so?

It’s a bit different the way you work [in America] than the way we work here. I’m totally enveloped in a job here throughout. On this one I presented my cuts, really minimal cuts. I think it was 16 shots, which over a 60-second commercial is quite unusual. It was cut as though it was real time, like a real football game. I got these two well-known football commentators, and I showed them the cut, but I showed them about 10 minutes of football footage first and got them to ad-lib. When the streaker came on, it was a real surprise. Through the rest of the session, they were still amused by this, and I got great stuff from them. When we put this on the voiceover on the cut, [the agency] loved it. And then 24 to 48 hours later, it was, “Maybe we want to make it a bit more pacey and dramatic, and more angles.” They completely recut it, and ended up with something like 36 shots, as opposed to something like 16. And they rerecorded the voiceover without us even knowing.

This was the same agency you won a Grand Prix with. Were you surprised by the switch?

Oh, completely. I said up front, I want to stay involved in every aspect of this. In theory they were up for it, but when push comes to shove, things change. I feel I get more down about things than I should, but I can’t help it. I’m thinking, oh, do I want to do commercials? At the end of the day I know and they know I’m fed up with them and pissed off with the way it turned out. It could have been better, and it was better.

Has it soured you on the entire idea of directing commercials?

Yeah. I do maybe four jobs a year. So you take on the ones that you think could be special. After the successes, all last year, you think, well, if anybody’s going to be trusted, then it should be me at the moment. I think I want to stop doing commercials completely. It just knocks you back a bit. I’m not desperate to do another one straightaway. Maybe three months will go by or six months will go by and a good script will come in and I’ll take the plunge again.

Have you seen any good boards lately?

Rarely. Also, I’m overly critical now. I’m sure I’ll bounce back. But at the moment I’m just seeing what else is around. I’m taking on a promo at the moment and a couple film projects as well. I spend more of my time thinking about films and working on films than I do commercials but just haven’t made any yet. It’s time to concentrate on that.

You were a creative director at BMP DDB when you began directing. What made you make the switch?

It was always something that I thought I’d want to do. It was just a long route into it because I spent four or five years getting a show reel together while I was working in an agency. I didn’t get to actually make that many commercials. And then to get to direct them, you may only do one or two jobs a year that you get to direct yourself. I wanted to get a reel together before I made the break.

What is the smartest business decision you’ve ever made?

I don’t think I’ve made any decision based on business. In terms of Gorgeous, that was really just three mates who got together and said, “Why don’t we do it together?” And I don’t think any decisions have been for business reasons. Just do what you want to do and do it as well as you can, and hopefully everything else will work out.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

Blimey. There was someone in my art class at school who said something like, “Which college you going to go to after school?” I’d never even considered doing further education. So I thought, you know, that’s a good idea. Spend four years at art college. It puts off getting a job.

What was the last film you enjoyed?

I saw City of God last week. I thought that was good. Mulholland Drive is going back maybe a year, but that stands out. Punch Drunk Love I saw a couple of weeks ago. I thought that was very good.

Any work that’s made you jealous recently?

I did get jealous of an ad last year that I was sent. I think the name of the radio station is XFM. It was a very small job, and I passed on it and I saw the results afterward. It was one of the best commercials of last year. Basically, it’s music tracks put into people’s mouths, so it’s people speaking like drum bass or speaking to any sort of musical sound.

What’s your greatest fear?

Oh, God. … Never shooting anything but a commercial.