Zone of Interest

From advertising to Hollywood and back again

It’s easy to assume that making the leap into movies is the holy grail for those in advertising, but the path between the two industries is far from one way

When I started working in advertising my agency would always record the sound for our TV commercials at a studio called Wave. One of its founders, Johnnie Burn, was also one of the engineers, and he was very good at his job.

Last week Burn won the Oscar for Best Sound for his work on The Zone of Interest, so he’s still very good at his job. But these days that job lies more in movies than commercials; he’s also responsible for the sound on The Favourite, Nope, Under the Skin, and this year’s Poor Things.

The path from advertising to movies is well-trodden and has generally been seen as a step up to the highest level of whatever creative ability you might possess. In some ways advertising can become a kind of finishing school where you can build your qualifications for movie making.

That makes a lot of sense: it’s much easier to become a commercials director than a film director, and it’s a lower-stakes opportunity to learn your craft and make your name. In addition, there is a regular supply of clients and agencies who are happy to pay you to do that.