Shane Meadows is a remarkably pragmatic director. Today he appeared at London’s Nokia store to hype a promotional stunt tied to the London Film Festival, in which aspiring filmmakers are invited to submit a 90-second short showing “what being connect in 2009 means to you.” First prize gets you a trip to the fest and the (ambiguously worded) “chance” to work on Nokia’s next ad campaign, but showing up at the store got you the more realistic chance to talk with Meadows and have him view your work,
If anyone knows how to pragmatically negotiate the line between getting paid and making art, it’s Meadows. “Somers Town,” his last film to get a release here, was bankrolled by Eurostar. In return for making arguably his best film yet, Meadows figured out how to end a basically plotless youthful idyll with his protagonists taking Eurostar from London to Paris, thereby justifying product placement as a) his climax b) what’s possibly just a dream sequence. He didn’t entirely escape criticism, but most people were so pleased with the film they let it go. And now Meadows is making it clear it wasn’t a one-off. And why not?
Plenty of directors make TV spots for money — see the Nike football/combat themed ads from David Fincher and Michael Mann — and their fans check this work out with no resentment. Time was when the next generation of auteurs emerged from music videos — lo and behold Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, David Fincher, et al. Meadows is attempting to show that you can initiate a project under corporate sponsorship and still come out winning. Of course, that’s all much easier when you have an established reputation.
[Photo: “Somers Town,” Film Movement, 2009]