15 Ad, Film and TV Directors Who Are Raising the Standard for Storytelling

Meet some of today's top talent behind the camera

Reed Morano won an Emmy for directing an episode of The Handmaid's Tale.

The director Frank Capra once said: “There are no rules in filmmaking. Only sins. And the cardinal sin is dullness.” Indeed, Adweek’s picks for directors in this year’s Creative 100 are notable for the vividness they bring to their projects, whether those are movies, ads or TV shows. Each is raising the bar for their industries, while always capturing the imaginations of their audiences.

Scott Witter for Adweek

Ava DuVernay
Director

Over the past decade, Ava DuVernay has become one of the most in-demand filmmakers in the world.

Impossibly busy, DuVernay, the cover star of Adweek’s Creative 100, is currently working on the third season of her show on OWN (Queen Sugar), is in preproduction for her upcoming Netflix series (Central Park Five) and is slated to direct a superhero movie for DC (New Gods). Plus, she’s got a few other TV shows cooking—a pilot, Red Line, at CBS, and a comedy based on Colin Kaepernick’s high school years.

There’s also an HBO movie, Battle of Versailles. She’s somehow also found time to work on another documentary (though she’s not ready to talk about it yet). All that after debuting her first foray into sci-fi fantasy, the big-hearted, visually stunning A Wrinkle in Time, this past March.

“I’m a black girl from Compton. I picked up a camera for the first time when I was 32 years old. I didn’t go to film school. I’d been a publicist for all of my 20s, I’d been working to amplify other people’s films,” says DuVernay. “In no world could I imagine doing what I’m doing now.”
Kristina Monllos

Autumn de Wilde
Director and Photographer

Acclaimed American photographer and filmmaker Autumn de Wilde is known for blurring the line between art and advertising. Her contemporary pop style, with a distinctly cinematic essence, can be found in such work as the movie poster she shot for I, Tonya, the Italian dreamscape she created for Martini and her campaigns for Prada.

In her whimsical short movies for the fashion label, The Postman’s Gifts and “The Postman Dreams 2” (a sequel to her 2015 campaign), de Wilde showcased the iconic Prada Galleria bag, in various encounters with Elijah Wood, Emma Roberts, Sasha Frolova, Amber Valletta and Natalia Dyer as they explore their “personal obsessions and desires.”

De Wilde describes her work creating portraits, music videos, commercials, books and films with influencers—including Busy Phillips, Beck and the late Elliott Smith—as an intimate collaboration between her and her subjects. But dreams are her primary influence. “There’s no logic, but you don’t question it,” she says, “whereas when you’re awake you’re questioning everything. So, when I mix reality and surrealism, my characters don’t question things, however bizarre the situation, and I think life is truly bizarre and colorful.”
Cara Anderson

Nabil Elderkin
Director and Photographer

Goodby Silverstein & Partners’ epic lip-sync battle between Peter Dinklage and Morgan Freeman for Doritos and Mountain Dew was truly lit, and not just because Dinklage was surrounded by fire in the much-buzzed-about Super Bowl LII spot.

Director Nabil Elderkin elevated what could have been a campy commercial—Dinklage lip syncs Busta Rhymes’ rap from Chris Brown’s “Look at Me Now,” while Freeman takes on Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On”—into a truly enjoyable ad that had enough edge to be a hit with the hip kids. “The Weeknd texted me [after he saw it], and he was like, ‘Dammmmmmn,’” says Elderkin.

The veteran music video director and photographer—who also helmed Wieden + Kennedy’s new Maya Moore Jordan Brand “Wings” spot—had worked with fire before (see Frank Ocean’s “Swim Good” video), but the Doritos/Mountain Dew ad was a next-level endeavor.

This story first appeared in the June 11, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Recommended videos