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Dougal Wilson on His Best Spots, As Chosen By shots

Dougal Wilson on His Best Spots, As Chosen By shots

For our Heroes issue, we picked five of our favourites for the hero helmsman to analyse.

Blink director Dougal Wilson has long been one of the most celebrated and successful directors in the industry. At the time of writing, Wilson has had 70 separate pieces of work featured by shots (66 as director and four from the time he was a creative at The Leith Agency in Scotland) and each one bears repeated viewing. 

For our Heroes issue we asked Wilson if he would give us his personal insights into five of our favourite spots directed by the great man himself. He graciously agreed… then we realised that choosing just five would be a torturous task.

Still, we persisted and, after much bickering and the exchange of not a few choice words, we were finally able to make the great sacrifice and whittle his output down to just five films that are not just great examples of the craft in their own right, but which also illustrate Wilson’s impressive directorial range. The accompanying illustrations are taken from Wilson’s own sketchbooks.


1. John Lewis The Long Wait

"This was a remarkably simple script by Matt and John at adam&eveDDB, which is interesting because I suppose it kicked off the whole John Lewis Christmas phenomenon. It obviously helped that we found a really great boy, Lewis McGowan, to be the actor. He was from Glasgow and he gave a fantastic performance, looking bored and miserable, which makes it particularly effective when he does his only smile right at the end.

I storyboarded this pretty tightly. We shot on location and had to move a real family out of their house for a fortnight, while we forcibly redecorated it with John Lewis stuff. Lasse Frank did a very nice job with the cinematography.”


2. Channel 4 Paralympics We’re the Superhumans

“This could have been a very different film if we’d gone with my original idea, which was to have the band play a punk song I composed myself. Luckily 4Creative weren’t so sure when they heard my demo. I’m very proud of having been involved in this bit of work and was lucky enough to meet all sorts of incredible people from around the world.


One of the highlights was probably when we recorded the final song with the band in the famous Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios. I kept Googling photos of the Beatles there and trying to stand in the same place. It was quite an epic shoot but luckily the crew were fantastic, including my regular collaborators: producer Ewen Brown, DP Daniel Landin, production designer Andy Kelly and AD Jim Cole.”


3. Orange Dance 

“I usually storyboard everything myself, but with this ad it evolved quite differently. We started with casting, then developed a dance and designed a set around it. I ended up not really using a storyboard but instead making a ‘crap-amatic’ from the rehearsals and sort of drawing maps around the set showing where the actors and the camera should go.

It was a very collaborative job with the agency, Mother, and I think we were all quite nervous until we found the Brian Eno Music for Airports track to put on it, which, luckily, good old Brian allowed us to use.”


4. The Temper Trap Love Lost

“I think music videos are harder to do than ads because you’re completely responsible for both the idea and the execution. So when you do one you’re happy with it’s particularly satisfying. This one was shot over two dark, freezing days in the Lea Valley in east London, with some kids whose unhappy performances are actually pretty genuine.


It was originally planned as a video for Jarvis Cocker, where he was the gym teacher, but it got recycled. I jog quite a lot myself, so I had the idea while I was listening to the track on my headphones. I think I also probably performed some of the dance moves too. Again, this was shot by Lasse on 16mm, which accounts for its moody Scandi-Loach look.”


5. Apple Unlock

“This is a very recent one, and it was fantastic fun to make. I worked with an amazing practical SFX guy called Dave Peterson who worked with production designer Jeremy Hindle to make all our lockers, desks, cars etc explode precisely on cue to the music. It’s always good when you know the music before you film, because you can make everything quite precise (if you’re so inclined). It was quite a noisy shoot.”

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