Duncan Jones from Commercials to Feature Films

Duncan Jones is one of my new favorite heros, he is the director of the low-budget film Moonwhich is easily now one of my favorite sci-fi movies.  The film was a critical success, winning the 2009 award for Best British Independent Film and was also nominated for two BAFTAs at the 2010 awards and won the award for “Outstanding Debut by a British writer, director or producer”. He also recently just finished doing another sci-fi feature on bigger scale, Source Code the follow up to Moon.

If you study Duncan Jones, I think there is a lot to be learned from his story. For example, how he went from building up his show reel, to working in the advertising field directing commercials, to directing his break out independent feature film, Moon. This is exactly the root that I want to go and knowing your goals beforehand helps make the whole process much smoother. Thus, I believe having an overall game plan is just as important as the films you make themselves. Duncan receieved this advice from someone who absolutely knows what they are talking about. Read on...

An excerpt from Duncan's Q&A with the Boston Phoenix Blog:

Q: What about commercials?

A: I did commercials for a few years. I left film school, ended up working at a computer games company where I was a games cinematic director, which was a new job title at the time. I was also doing something called assistant designing, which is where you sort of light the backgrounds in mission objectives, so I got to work there for a while. The money I was making there, I was investing in short films and music videos, built up my show reel doing that and then eventually worked in low budget, medium budget and high budget commercials, ended up at an advertising agency working as a creative, where I wrote commercials and directed them, and after about a couple of years of that, I took a leap into doing my first feature film.

Q: A lot of directors go that way, British directors especially, Ridley Scott for one.

A: Yes. Absolutely. Well Tony Scott was the one who suggested that plan of action to me. I had the chance to work with him briefly up in Montreal, just after graduate school for three weeks on a TV show he was doing called "The Hunger." Between takes, he would spend time with me, he explained how he got into film and how he started out in advertising and that's sort of what triggered my desire and need to leave graduate school and go to film school.

On Duncan's future plans:

Q: Have you corrupted Hollywood yet?

A: (laughs) I don't think so. But I do have a grand plan and I would love to get into the position of guys like Tarantino and the Coen brothers who are writing their own material and then have a good enough budget to do it the way they want to do it. That's where I'd like to get myself.

Q: You actually sat down and wrote down a life?

A: I didn't write it down, but my producer and I, Stuart Fenegan  who worked in commercials with me before we did "Moon," we did have a long term plan of trying to find a way, in fact Chris Nolan came up early on, we were talking about how he went from "Memento" to "Insomnia" and that put him into the position to do a film like "Batman." I think the world has changed since Chris Nolan had that path. I think there are actually more options now for a director in my position than there were for him. "Moon" was an opportunity to create a small independent film, like a calling card. "Source Code" was the opportunity to show I could work on a bigger budget, with bigger stars and in the Hollywood system. We were looking at what Chris Nolan did and trying to do something similar ourselves.

Here is a look at the new Virgin Money commercial directed by Duncan Jones filmed in London at Shepperton studios, UK, in October 2011. This new commercial premièred on Sunday 8th January 2012 at 20:15 on UK television channel ITV.

Behind the scenes we see how Duncan Jones employs old school methods with model miniatures and optical composting: