MFF Preview

Art & Copy

By - Sep 26th, 2009 07:18 am
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Art & Copy

Art & Copy
USA, 2008, 89 min, English
Saturday, Sept. 26, 5:15 pm, North Shore Cinema
Tuesday, Sept. 29, 5:30 pm, Oriental Theatre


“Big ideas come out of big pencils.” – Leo Burnett

My role at ThirdCoast Digest is much like that of Don Draper of AMC’s “Mad Men” series, which is one reason I was tapped to preview Art & Copy. But it’s not that I wear a fedora every day, drink highballs and work on Madison Avenue – but I do sell ads. Art & Copy isn’t about that part of the advertising business, however; it’s about the part you don’t see – the part that happens in people’s minds where the spontaneous explosions of synapses and electricity smash together to create  ideas. This is a film about the hidden genius of the ad agency underworld and the essential talents of the industry’s creatives who make capitalism work.

Apple Computer, Wendy’s, Volkswagen, Nike. Every brand, logo and slogan you have ever heard of most likely came from an advertising agency. It’s said that “advertising makes food taste better, makes cars run better and changes the perception of everything.” I agree with that. It’s why we tolerate (and crave) places like Pizza Hut. I remember working there as a goateed teen and, on the first day of training videos, the narrator exclaimed that 70 percent of how food tastes is how it looks. That snippet alone stuck with me and made me focus on making prettier pies.

Art & Copy is very much a movie about the unsung heroes of big business. It shows how Tommy Hilfiger was able to beat out brands like Ralph Lauren over night and how the Apple iPod could own 73 percent of a market without even showing its product in color and silhouette ads. Art & Copy is a history lesson in what makes a brand successful and why. Think about it, to this day, one-fourth of all Americans would still “walk a mile for a Camel.”

The movie is beautifully filmed and marries the wisdom of giants from advertising’s “creative revolution” of the 1960s. These artists and writers all brought a surprisingly rebellious spirit to their work, in a business more often associated with mediocrity or manipulation. George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Hal Riney and others featured in the film were responsible for campaigns like “Just Do It,” “I Love NY,” “Where’s the Beef?,” “Got Milk,” “Think Different” and other brilliant campaigns for everything from cars to presidents.

Hate advertising? Make better ads.

According to the film’s director, Doug Pray, he was able to capture the  film because the subjects were still in the places that made them who they are. “When I began making ART & COPY back in 2005, it seemed like a significant departure from my previous documentaries. Instead of dark clubs, back alleys and truck stops, I was now filming in light-filled, architecturally breathtaking West Coast ad agencies and pristine New York City penthouses. Instead of underground artists and angry independents, I was interviewing people who were worth millions and were pioneers of an industry that literally defines mainstream culture. Now that the movie is finished, I see more similarities than differences. My subjects in ART & COPY, though dressed in finer clothes and a few decades older, have actually exhibited a rebellious voice not unlike the graffiti writers or screaming rock singers I’ve shot in the past, even though they’re working from deep within the system. They still regard themselves as underdogs. They think they are misunderstood by society. They’re all fiercely independent mavericks. But mostly, they too have a personal message — one that transcends the commercial messages they create — that seemingly has to get out. Like my other films, this ad film is about the innate human urge to express oneself creatively.”

Pray has directed a number of highly acclaimed feature-length documentaries about American subcultures and maverick characters.

His best-known and most recent film is Surfwise. But it’s Art & Copy that is a must-see for any artist, marketer or anyone who has ever seen a television commercial.

What did you think about Art & Copy?  Likes? Dislikes?

Categories: Arts & Culture, Movies

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