LOS ANGELES—Australian commercials director Gemma Lee is entering the U.S. advertising market for the first time via Los Angeles-based Madheart. Although she has been directing ads for only four years, Lee has accumulated an impressive body of work that includes campaigns for Hyundai, Colgate Palmolive, Weight Watchers and Australian automaker Holden. She has drawn high marks for her skills as a visual storyteller and for a style of commercial making that is dynamic, contemporary, emotionally-driven and, often, provocative.
“Gemma is an exciting, multi-talented director, whom we believe is an emerging star,” says Madheart executive producer Lisa Phillips. “We were very impressed with the craftsmanship of her work and the passion inherent in her storytelling. We are very happy to have the opportunity to introduce her to U.S. agencies.”
Lee was born in Scotland, raised in Australia and earned a master’s degree in filmmaking from Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne. After early success in music videos and short films, she began her advertising career through Taxi Films, Brisbane, quickly attracting work from Australia’s top agencies and brands.
Among her head-turning work is a spot for Colgate Palmolive’s Fragrance Temptations (George Patterson Y&R, Sydney) that, while promoting a laundry detergent, was done in the style of an haute couture fashion ad. Spotlessly art-directed black & white footage shows a sophisticated woman in an upscale apartment preparing for a night on the town, something that surprisingly includes laundering her clothes.
“I loved exploring the film noir feel,” Lee recalls. “I worked very closely with my art director to create a world that felt authentic and rich in detail. We shot on 35mm using some beautiful old lenses. I also contacted a friend who is a cabaret singer in Berlin and asked her to work on the track with us. I loved bringing all those elements together while still allowing my voice to come through.”
A contrast is offered by Lee’s work for sportswear maker Muther of All Things, a Kodachrome portrait of several free-spirited young women indulging in surfing, cocktails and other joys of summer. “I don’t like to repeat myself, which is why my reel feels quite diverse,” Lee says. “I want to make work that is emotive, has visual beauty and connects with an audience.”
Several of Lee’s short films have also enjoyed notable success. Her 2009 short The Wake, which starred Angus Sampson (Insidious), screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the SBS Award for Best Film at Australia’s St. Kilda Film Festival. She is currently developing the feature film Blackwood in partnership with Wolf Creek Pictures.
Madheart is based in Los Angeles. For further information, call 310-421-4441or visit http://www.madheart.com/. The company is represented on the West Coast by Lisa Gimenez (firstname.lastname@example.org), in the Midwest by Hot Betty (email@example.com), on the East Coast by Dana Dubay (firstname.lastname@example.org) and in the Southeast by Sarah Lange (sarahLange@cox.net).