Artistic Television: 10 Directors’ Commercials for the Small Screen


Darren Aronofsky’s unsettling crystal meth PSAs made the rounds earlier this week. The Black Swan director worked with the Meth Project Foundation to trouble us with visions of intense drug addiction, and boy did it work. Aronofsky isn’t the only gifted filmmaker who has dabbled with short-form film and the telly advertising world, however. Many auteur moviemakers found their start on TV, creating some of the most memorable works that have ever been brought to prime time. Others just enjoy creating little bites of film-esque entertainment as a break from the Hollywood machine. Whatever the reasons, the condensed screen time provides a fascinating snapshot of each director’s overall style. Click past the break for a look at ten directors who made creative commercials for the small screen.

Tarsem Singh for Campari

Before Tarsem Singh was working on his Snow White adaptation, Mirror Mirror, The Cell director was injecting his visual sophistication into early music videos for bands like R.E.M and creating some of the most elegant television commercials around. His slinky Campari ads are the cleverest of the bunch, toying with a little gender bending and using a track from Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut by Jocelyn Pook.

David Lynch for Christian Dior

David Lynch brought lush, high-drama to Christian Dior. His commercial was one part in a four-chaper series, introducing the fashion line’s 2010 collection. His vision for the company, Lady Bleu, was shot in Shanghai and features all the trademark Lynchian (heavy on the Twin Peaks) touches: a blue rose, red curtains, eerie score, and all the strange dreaminess that goes along with it. We like this far better than his pregnancy test commercial. Yep, that happened.

Ridley Scott for Apple

Fresh off his success with 1982’s Blade Runner, Apple teamed up with Ridley Scott to make an Orwellian-inspired commercial introducing the Macintosh computer. The high-profile and high-cost clip remains one of the most famous of all time, and its cultural impact unparalleled. The creative landmark set the bar high for the future of advertising.

Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola for Stella Artois

Rushmore director Wes Anderson and director Roman Coppola charmed the pants off of us when they envisioned this high-tech bachelor fantasy with a mod twist. It’s adorable and humorous and makes us want all the Stella in the world.

Michael Bay for Victoria’s Secret

Michael Bay’s quick, chaotic style is perfectly suited for television commercials, which may be why the Transformer’s director found his start with the boob tube set. The blockbuster filmmaker brought everything to the table for his pairing with Victoria’s Secret: lens flare, an unnecessary fleet of cars and airplanes, slow motion, spazzy camera angles, and of course, scantily clad women.

Michel Gondry for Air France

If the long flight to France from the U.S. was as dreamy and poetic as Michel Gondry’s commercial for the French airliner, we’d camp out on that plane permanently. Like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep, Gondry teases our senses with artful scale and perspective changes, and expansive gestures of time and the everyday.

David Fincher for Heineken

Brad Pitt reunited with his Fight Club director, David Fincher, for an amusing take on fame and obsession for Heineken. Fincher found his start in the commercial and music video business, but has always treated his works on the small screen larger than life. The campaign’s success was helped by the moody tone and mindful pace of Fincher’s cut, which is reminiscent of all his best works.

Baz Luhrmann for Chanel

Baz Luhrmann’s commercials are no different than his films: you either love them or hate them. Some describe the advertisement he created with Nicole Kidman for Chanel’s iconic perfume totally affected. Others would say it’s achingly romantic and not unlike the elaborate fantasy he dreamed up with the actress in Moulin Rouge! Does it make you pine for No. 5, or just the end of the commercial?

Spike Jonze for Adidas

Hello Tomorrow features the music of Karen O and the talents of Where the Wild Things Are director Spike Jonze behind the camera, delivering a sleepytime vision for Adidas sneakers. Jonze’s visual tricks don’t include the usual stop motion animation, but the commercial’s playful, yet introspective, sentiment and style is all his.

Errol Morris for PBS

Gifted documentarian Errol Morris has directed hundreds of commercials, but it’s his piece for PBS, Photobooth, that won him an Emmy in 2001. The Fog of War director created a flipbook animation set to an opera. As expected, it’s a bright little TV spot in a sea of ADD-laden commercialism. We like it a lot better than his adult diaper commercial, obvs.