Ask anyone who is familiar with David Cornell’s expansive body of work and they will tell you it is vivid down to its most minute details. Cornell has won countless prestigious awards, including Commercial Director of the year, the DGA’s highest honor for commercial directors. He is a visionary whose accomplishments precede him, and whose depth of experience and admiration for the fine art of storytelling continues to evolve. It is a testament to the timelessness of his art that Cornell was most recently nominated for an Emmy.
“For me, those are the the kinds of commercials I love doing,” says the CommitteeLA director in reference to his Emmy-nominated work for the Royal Bank of Canada. “And that kind of commercial is the kind I like: storytelling, cinematic, it’s very rare these days.”
A commercial director for over 30 years after moving to the U.S. from South Africa, Cornell has witnessed the stylistic and cinematic shift in commercials as society has evolved. He points to the storytelling opportunities born as a result of the Internet and YouTube as the kind of work he is excited to pursue with CommitteeLA.
“I think that the opportunity of doing longer-form pieces, and then extracting a 60-second or 30-second piece from it, gives commercial makers fantastic opportunities to tell more feature-like stories. That aspect really interests me,” says Cornell.
Given his expansive and impressive career in directing, it may come as a surprise that Cornell never set out to be a director.
“I was working as an art director for an agency in South Africa. I got my first job by going to London for a week and came back as a producer. Then I worked with many South African directors, but very soon I realized I wanted to be them. I just wanted to be the guy looking through the camera. To this day I like to operate my own camera,” says Cornell.
Trained as an architect before stepping into a role as creative director, once Cornell fell in love with directing he was hooked. Self-taught in the craft after producing his first spot, Cornell swiftly moved into the director’s chair himself, moving to the U.S. and launching a successful career.
Splitting his time between his home on the Venice beach canals and his farm in Puglia, Italy, art fills Cornell’s daily life year-round: he counts golf, sculpting, harvesting crops, and making wine and olive oil on his farm among his hobbies when not directing. Cornell is also actively involved in the DGA community, moderating its Commercial Director Symposium for the third year in a row in 2016. “It’s inspirational looking at their work,” says Cornell of the DGA’s directors. “The audience generally enjoys that I’m asking questions as a director, and the work is normally so beautiful. It’s always been very interesting for me to do, and also sort of effortless because I am interested in their work and I’m particularly interested in hearing how other directors get the job done.”