Straiton: `things have really started to kick’

The next time someone tries to convince you that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, just slap on David Straiton's reel and tell them to snap out of it. Straiton is living proof that working hard does...

The next time someone tries to convince you that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, just slap on David Straiton’s reel and tell them to snap out of it. Straiton is living proof that working hard does not have to be boring.

Like his reel, Straiton is enthusiastic, energetic and thoughtful. Deceiving, because behind the candor and humor it might be easy to forget Straiton is one director who understands his craft well.

Straiton, who divides his time between hometown Toronto and New York City, signed on with Toronto-based Dalton Kessler Productions a year-and-a-half ago, ‘but it’s only been in the last year that things have really started to kick,’ says Straiton.

He has directed spots for Brew Your Own, Ford, Loblaws, Microplay Video Games Stores, Scope and, most recently, a pool for Pepsi Max and J. Walter Thompson, which began airing across Canada early this month.

The Pepsi Max gig marks a turning point for Straiton. His biggest account in terms of a high-profile client, it will certainly garner him a reputation as one of Canada’s up-and-coming commercial directors. Stylistically, the spots are a departure from the Microplay campaign that landed him a certificate at this year’s Marketing Awards.

While Straiton’s hilarious Microplay spots are aimed at the shred-head/hard-core video game user – the man has a knack for the fast-paced, rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic a la mtv – the Pepsi Max campaign is quieter and subtler, appealing to an older audience and signaling a coming-of-age for the director.

Hip and stylish in a Friends sort of way, the Pepsi Max campaign – a pool of three 15s – features a young, personable twentysomething guy talking about twentysomething issues: student loans, truth, the semantics of the word ‘Max.’

‘I come from the new breed of director who cut their teeth playing with film. I’m at the point now where I have the opportunity to show what I’m capable of,’ says Straiton. ‘I think I’m becoming a better director.’

Heralded for the energy he brings to his craft, Straiton’s work ethic focuses on working. He has never been part of that been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt mentality. His is a mind frame that does not tolerate the traditional television hierarchy.

‘You have to be able to jump into and from different genres. I don’t believe in the linear ideal where a director goes from music videos to commercial work to series. All of the genres shouldn’t be working against each other. They complement one another,’ Straiton says. ‘For me, it’s always been a matter of work – of straight survival, making a living – and the number of experiences that you can have.’

Straiton’s list of television credits includes gigs for mtv, Nickelodeon, and Insight Productions’ sports series Pumped!, and the Juno Awards. In addition, he has directed documentaries, music videos and corporate video.

Although Straiton is making a serious stab at the commercial sector (‘there are a certain number of days I’d like to get this year’), he still has the proverbial foot in the longer format door, pulling in series work from the u.s. Most recently, he sold two television pilots, which he describes as ‘acerbic sitcoms,’ to mtv. The first, on which he also takes an executive producer credit, is set to air sometime in May.

He relishes those assignments that allow him to contribute creatively. ‘I’ve been lucky with the jobs I’ve had in the past – they’ve had an open forum and the agency and client have approached me and asked, `What can you do with this?’ With Pepsi Max, the boards were loose, and I enjoyed working with a young creative,’ says Straiton. ‘And I love kids’ shows,’ he adds. ‘I think it’s a really neat market and it’s a great place to pass around new ideas.’

But as much as Straiton enjoys the creative process, he realizes there’s more to commercial work than having cool ideas.

‘David has a good sense of the business end of the industry and the producer’s function in the scheme of things,’ says dkp executive producer Cindy Kemp.

He is blessed with that rare combination of creativity and economic feasibility – maybe it is more than a coincidence Straiton studied English and business in university.

Working on both series and commercials, Straiton believes he has the best of both worlds. And he is more than happy to be working in tv. ‘In television, there will always be a big demand for product. It has a voracious appetite and all you have to do is feed it.’