Australian commercial 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.
“Gemma is an exciting, multi-talented director, whom we believe is an emerging star,” said 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 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. Black-and-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,” said Lee. “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.”
Several of Lee’s short films have also enjoyed 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.