Name: Charles Stone III
Occupation: TV commercial and music video director-filmmaker
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Duties: Create visual stories for ads, music videos, and feature films
Charles Stone III is happily reaping the rewards of following his life-long dream of creating “moving images with sound.” For the past 11 years, the Brooklyn-based filmmaker has used a number of visual mediums to express his creativity to the masses. His artistic vision and unique sense of humor have been the driving force behind music videos for hit recording artists such as Eric Benet, The Jungle Brothers and A Tribe Called Quest. His current work in commercial advertising has become one of the best known and most often mimicked TV ads of this decade.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1988 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in animation, Stone — son of noted journalist Chuck Stone — landed a job as an animator-special effects designer for a small film production company. “I had always wanted to make movies like Star Wars ever since I was a little kid. I wanted to be the one who put all that stuff, special effects, live-action movement, and sounds, together,” says Stone.
In 1989, his portfolio of animated short film work landed him his first gig as a music video director for the now-defunct hit rock-R&B band Living Colour. He was given a $ 10,000 budget to work with for the group’s first video. (A typical music video today costs around $ 250,000, and can go over $ 1.5 million for a high-end, minimovie production.)
Salary: Music video directors generally earn 10% of the total video production budget of each video they direct, says Stone. This can translate into a yearly salary of about $ 150,000 or more. TV commercial directors’ fees range from $ 7,000 to $ 30,000 per day, and can yield yearly salaries of from $ 150,000 to more than $ 2 million. Feature filmmakers, depending on whether they self-finance their project or work with a major studio, can earn fees from as little as $ 30,000 to several million dollars per picture.
Training: Because filmmaking can be a difficult profession to break into, Stone advises people who hope to be directors to first intern or work at a small production company. Although there is no formal education required to be a filmmaker, a creative background in photography, illustration, or film will help. Having a “reel” — a videotape portfolio highlighting your work — and a representative to shop it around to film industry executives for you will also increase your odds of making it.
Stone made his national television directorial debut during last year’s Super Bowl with the much talked about Budweiser/Anheuser Busch commercials that feature him and a group of his homeboys greeting one another with the now ubiquitous “Whassup?” refrain. Based on a short film, True, that he directed, the ad spot idea was picked up by DDB Chicago, one of the country’s largest advertising agencies, which pitched it to Anheuser Busch.
For his work, Stone was given the grand Clio Award, the advertising industry’s highest