Avion getting Beck more Cdn. work

Toronto-based commercial director Eugene Beck knows well the importance of change: with 20 years invested in the biz, he has seen a lot of it and done a bit himself, last month moving from commercial house L.T.B. Productions and aligning himself...

Toronto-based commercial director Eugene Beck knows well the importance of change: with 20 years invested in the biz, he has seen a lot of it and done a bit himself, last month moving from commercial house L.T.B. Productions and aligning himself with Avion Film Productions.

Part of the impetus for the Avion move, says Beck, is the desire to work more in Toronto. ‘ltb was getting the ball rolling in that area,’ he says, ‘but I think this (Avion) is a good place for me to be right now.’

With over 90% of his work coming from south of the border (last year Beck signed with New York’s Creative Film Management to handle his u.s. representation), he is looking for more of a Canadian presence. ‘In a way, it’s too bad that I have, for the past five or six years, made virtually all of my business contacts outside of this country. It would be nice if we could get something generated here.’

As a veteran of the commercial business – his list of credits includes Huggies, Flintstone Vitamins, TRW Air Bags, East Ohio Gas, Kal Kan and a psa for the ABC Literary Foundation – Beck has garnered a reputation for creating work that encompasses a sensitivity, grace and humor that are, like the director himself, quite charming.

Sitting relaxed in the boardroom of Avion and sister company, music video production house Hoodoo Films, Beck agrees that people are a sum of all their experiences, and attributes his background in graphic design and his early years as an agency art director to his ‘if it doesn’t look right it makes me nuts’ work ethic. It is one which has taught him the value of a good dop.

‘The director/dop relationship is a tough one. What you’re essentially asking that person to do is paint a picture for you. If you have a particular idea of what that picture is going to look like and it differs from what the dop is `painting,’ there will be, at the very least, friction. It’s an extremely important relationship – one of the most important ones in terms of how the end result comes out.’

For Beck, directing is an art, but not one in which the director holds all of the power. It is, very much, a collaborative effort.

‘Everyone has something to contribute. As a director you need to allow for that contribution to happen. If you don’t, then that relationship won’t work. Many people think it’s a one-person show, but I think that’s giving yourself too much credit. It takes that sort of well-oiled collaborative team to get you through some of the situations that we get into in our business. The tighter your group is the better you work together and get through the situations. With people you work with a lot, you develop a telepathy – you talk less and you do more.’

In an industry which is growing so rapidly (says Beck: ‘When I started working in Toronto – and I don’t think this is an exaggeration – there were seven directors. How many hundreds there are now – just in the Toronto market – I wouldn’t even begin to guess’), and where the ‘song and dance’ of self-promotion can often make or break a director, Beck believes there is no substitute for experience.

‘The squeeze is on. As everyone on every level of the business is faced with doing things three times as fast for half the money, resourcefulness and experience are becoming more important.’

Experience, for Beck, comes from making the usual share of gaffes and blunders that go along with the job. It is these experiences that have taught him the importance of planning – having a clear idea of the job in his head as well as doing detailed storyboards. And, perhaps more importantly, he’s learned that directing is more than just ‘action’ and ‘cut.’

‘What directing boils down to is not just the people who can actually do the job and have the talent, but also who are able to deal with all of the other levels of what it is to be a director,’ he says. ‘The more you know, the better off you are.’