Frank Lowe strode across the stage in Cannes using the classic British staggerwalk made famous by Alec Guiness in THE BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI. The walk can best be described as the subject has put on his first pair of shoes, without socks. He was making a pompous speech about why they weren’t giving a Grand Prix that year because he felt the best commercial was a public service spot featuring a crippled lady unable to use her arms and legs. Public service ads were not eligible for the Grand Prix, but gawky Frank took exception. I guess he had that right being the chairman of the jury. The chairmen (sometimes ladies, but rarely) didn’t have the vote but were there to keep peace among the jurors. Frank may have overstepped his authority since it was unlikely that a bunch of jurors could have agreed on that decision.
I was onstage watching this charade. In those days winners of Gold Lions sat onstage awaiting the news of the Grand Prix. My commercial for Nike Soccer, WRECKING BALL, was a favorite, having won a Gold Lion and being the International Press favorite for that year. I just laughed to myself when I heard the news from Lowe onstage. I didn’t have any hard feelings for the pompous ass, I just tell the story because of his absurdity on the stage. I have no idea why Roger didn’t object to this behavior, but…
In a curious way, Lowe represented the worst parts of England and my experiences there. Lowe had unilaterally changed the rules of the Festival to suit his own purposes because he felt that a British commercial ineligible for the big prize was more worthy. British arrogance. The British did have a heavy influence on television advertising in the seventies with the work of great directors, Ridley Scott, Tony, Adrian Lyne, Hugh Hudson, Alan Parker, a few others, but that time had passed. I admired their work as they did things that we in the States couldn’t, mostly because their commercials were geared to cinema as there was no commercial television in England then. The production values were far more cinematic than ours and there didn’t seem to be the same restrictions, or Adrian wouldn’t have been able to do the provocative work that he did. All of them moved into film and did great work.
My experiences were strange at best. The first time I filmed there I had problems with the men’s clubs, since my producer was a woman and not allowed in, even when the clubs were closed. On another shoot, I wasn’t allowed access to the quadrangle at Eton (used in CHARIOTS OF FIRE) because I was American. It didn’t matter that my entire crew and production was English. The Church of England wouldn’t let me use any cathedral but that in Exeter. They said if I didn’t film there, I wouldn’t be allowed to film anywhere, so I filmed there, even though it wasn’t the best location. The union situation was absurd as the lighting crew refused to work at night despite the fact that it had been scheduled. The other units were okay. The union work rules were hopelessly archaic, far worse than New York’s but they eventually loosened to become more accommodating until it became a delight to work there.
I guess they realized that they didn’t rule the world anymore, all except Lowe.