Stuart Douglas of Nice Shirt Films imagines himself castaway on a desert island, relaying to Jason Stone of David Reviews the film clips he’d want to take with him.Each interviewee in this series has faced the difficulty of deciding how much of their own work to include in their selection, but no one seems to have agonised over this as much as Stuart Douglas of Nice Shirt Films. It was clear that he’d much rather champion films made by other directors than big up his own work.This is one of the reasons why he’s as far from the stereotypical representation of a film director as it’s possible to be. Quietly spoken and faultlessly polite, Douglas is thoughtful in both senses. It wasn’t a surprise when he revealed that the thought of including any of his own commercials had made him “uncomfortable” and it was only because of arm twisting by colleagues that he’d included anything from his own canon.His life behind the camera began as half of the stills photography duo The Douglas Brothers. He and his brother Andrew established a formidable reputation in the late 1980s and were celebrated for a distinctive look that was much copied. Like some of their contemporaries, they graduated from photographing album covers to directing pop promos.Then, as now, pop promos did not pay very well, so the brothers jumped at an opportunity provided by Tim Delaney. Having just won the Adidas account, Delaney wanted to surprise the sportswear giant with an “entirely new approach” and believed he could do this by giving the Douglases carte blanche – “he gave us a bunch of money, the likes of which we’d never seen before, and said ‘Go away. Bring me back films. Bring me back stills. Bring me back anything,’ and so we went to America, toured around, and came back with around 17 different commercials.”Was it terrifying to be given such an open brief? “No, we thought it was normal. We thought this was how it worked – they just give you a load of money and you make what you want.” To his regret, Douglas has spent the rest of his career discovering how atypical this experience was.He and Andrew stayed together for as long as they could, trying to make the dual director approach work: “It’s not easy. On set, there’s a machine and the instructions need to be clear. And quite often we would give conflicting directions.”As the younger of the two, he recognises now that he was trying to grab his “own bit of authority”.“It became quite fiery. We’d have fist fights on the set, much to the crew’s amusement. And we held it together as long as we could but actually it was really miserable. Miserable for us and miserable for the people around us.“We called it a day – quite acrimoniously actually – and he went to the States which was good as it gave me some space here and, of course, it gave him space over there. We didn’t talk for about five years but we’re fine now.”Although it was “daunting” to step into the directing arena by himself, he had all the experience required to quickly established a solo career and he’s been successfully making commercials ever since.
Volvo, Mercedes, Sony Ericcson, TAC, Canal+, Levi's, Castrol: Stuart Douglas, co-founder of Nice Shirt Films chooses his Desert Island Clips
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