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Director Michael Fueter Signs with Thomas Winter Cooke

Marks Swiss filmmaker’s formal entry into the U.S. spot market (October 07, 2004)

Director Michael Fueter

Director Michael Fueter

Director Michael Fueter has signed with Thomas Winter Cooke (TWC) for exclusive representation for commercial work, marking the award-winning Swiss filmmaker’s formal entry into the U.S. spot market. Fueter’s talent for visual storytelling has made him one of Europe’s busiest commercial directors in recent years, earning him work for some of the world’s top car makers including Audi, Opel, BMW and Renault, as well as many other advertisers. His ongoing campaigns for Swiss cheese makers and Felschlosschen Beer, meanwhile, have been hugely successful and brought him numerous awards from top international advertising competitions.

TWC executive producer/partner Mark Thomas said that he began courting Fueter after he and business partner Ralph Winter met the director at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. “Michael is a special talent—a true filmmaker. I believe that U.S. agencies will be excited by the originality of his vision and the pure craftsmanship that resonates from it,” said Thomas. “His work in visual storytelling is superb.”

For his part, Fueter noted that he has been eager to enter the U.S. American market, but wanted to do it with the right company. “I was familiar with Mark before we met and was impressed with his reputation for integrity and for building directors,” Fueter said. “TWC’s association, through Ralph Winter, with feature filmmaking was an added plus. I couldn’t be happier with this opportunity.”

Fueter is the youngest member of a prominent family of Swiss filmmakers. His uncle is the Academy Award-winning producer Peter-Christian Fueter (Journey of Hope), and he directs much of his European work through Condor Films, Zurich, Switzerland’s largest commercial producer and a company founded by his grandfather and currently headed by his father, Martin Fueter.

Fueter, himself, has directed more than 100 spots over the past decade for agencies across Europe, including recent spots for Ovaltine, Audi, Ericsson, Opel, BMW and the financial firm Allianz Suisse. In contrast to most U.S. commercial directors, Fueter’s work encompasses a great variety of filmmaking styles and product categories. He has earned particular success in comedy, but if there is a common theme to his work it is the director’s problem-solving skills, and his consistent ability to deliver strong visuals and high production value even when working with limited resources.

A typical example of Fueter’s resourcefulness is his campaign for Feldschlosschen Beer and Spillmann/Felser/Leo Burnett, Zurich, a winner of a Gold Swiss Art Directors Club Award last year. One spot purports to show the origin of Switzerland’s best know landmark as legions of cavemen use crude tools to chisel the Matterhorn’s familiar peak out of an ugly existing piece of rock.

Working with a limited budget, Fueter nonetheless mounted a production featuring a large cast and multiple locations, and he delivered a spot that tells the story with cleverly constructed visuals and a strong sense of fun. The director shot the commercial in a single day at a Swiss rock quarry that served as both the setting for the faux Matterhorn and the spot’s forest sequence where happy caveman workers march through trees like the Seven Dwarves. He also supervised editorial and post work on the spot.

“We wanted scenes with the ancient worker characters to be believable, but also funny,” Fueter recalled. “That was a tremendous challenge, not only because of our limited budget and time, but also because the actors were non-pros. Yet, through careful preparation and imagination, we were successful, creating a spot that has won many awards and has been very popular among viewers in Europe.”

In addition to the Swiss Art Directors Award, the Feldschlosschen campaign won a Bronze Award as this year’s New York Festivals and took home top honors at the Sixth International Food and Beverage Creative Excellence Awards in London. Fueter’s many other awards include a Clio Award, a New York Art Directors Club Award and a Golden Awards of Montreux Award for the Renault spot Bank Robbery via Publicis, Frankfurt.

Additionally, Fueter has earned broad praise for his recent series of spots for Swiss cheese makers and Zurich agency Guye Benker. The campaign centers on a pair of Swiss farmers and their hilarious efforts to keep foreign cheese out of Switzerland. In one spot, they engage a pair of Italian truck drivers in a game of poker and proceed to clean them out of everything they own, including their truck laden with Italian cheese. Fueter recently directed a sequel to the spot where the truckers return with their buxom, rolling pin wielding wives, only to be driven off by the old men’s terrier.

Not all of Fueter’s work, however, relies on broad humor. His recent spot The Chair for Audi (TBWA, Athens) is pure visually storytelling as driving footage of a black sedan is cleverly intercut with shots of a man “racing” a wheeled chair through the corridors of a nearly deserted office.

“I try to be as open as I can to different types of projects,” Fueter said. “In Europe, I’ve had the opportunity to direct commercials in a broad range of styles and that is what still interests me. I like the challenge of bringing out the visual, the comedic or the storytelling aspects of the individual concept.”

Fueter worked as an editor and still photographer while still in school. He began his career in earnest as a camera operator and became a director of photography in 1993. He moved into directing three years later. As is common in Europe, he also shoots and edits many of the spots he directs.

TWC also represents directors Phillip Cooke, James Rouse, Greg Kiefer, Jeff France and David Jellison. Thomas Winter Cooke is located in Santa Monica.

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