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14th April 2024
Second Act
Title of film: Jack Daniels, Make it Count feat. Wesley Joseph
Director: Chris Chuky
Production Company: Eleanor Films
As a rising young actor with a passion for performing, Eleanor’s newest signing, Chris Chuky, seemed set on a career in front of the camera – but a twist of fate took him behind the lens instead, where he’s successfully parlayed his acting experience into a knack for casting - and coaxing authentic performances from - talent. Combining stunning cinematography with serious subject matter, Chuky’s work delves into racial stereotypes, family dynamics, masculinity, and the impact of societal expectations with style, panache and more than a hint of retro flair – fitting for a filmmaker who’s described himself as ‘an old soul who’d have thrived in 1970s NYC.’ Off the back of his first commercial for Jack Daniel’s, Chuky tells 1.4 about the ‘sport’ of acting, making projects that demand self-reflection and bringing a Great Dane to heel

DP, Ethan Lodge, Chris Chuky and talent Tamia Stone-Martin                                          © credit: James Barber


After starting out as an actor, you segued into directing – can you tell us a bit more about this career pivot, and how it came about?

In 2012-2013, I found myself deeply immersed in the world of theatre, taking on numerous roles and projects. Acting was my passion, and I was fortunate to be involved in some truly amazing shows. Despite receiving offers from drama schools, the financial hurdle was just too high for me to overcome at the time. So, I took a step back and asked myself: what else am I good at? What else do I love?

That’s when I decided to enrol in a foundation course, hoping to explore new avenues and uncover hidden talents. Little did I know that this decision would lead me to discover my newfound love for directing films. Even as I delved into directing, my heart remained tied to acting. One standout moment was performing at the National Theatre, a milestone that caught the attention of an acting agent and led to representation.

But it was a twist of fate that truly set me on my current path. On the very day I was supposed to start university to study digital film production, I landed my first major job directing a music video. It was a no-brainer—I had to take the job. From there, I found myself balancing acting gigs with my film course, immersing myself in a whirlwind of short films, music videos, and commercials. Until I started making my own short films. The aim was to make films to put myself in, but I just ended up loving being behind the camera, working with cast and crew and telling stories. Each set both in front and behind the camera taught me something new, shaping me into the filmmaker I am today.


How has your experience in front of the camera influenced or developed your skills behind the camera, particularly in relation to casting and getting the best performances out of your talent?

It’s been invaluable in shaping my skills as a director, especially in relation to casting and drawing out the best performances from my talent. Having been an actor myself, I understand the nuances of the craft, which allows me to recognize great talent and select actors who can bring authenticity and depth to their roles but also just simply being able to relate. I think my experience on set as an actor has given me insight into the actor-director dynamic, helping me to effectively communicate with my cast and create a collaborative environment where they feel comfortable exploring their characters. Being an actor is a tough sport that people train and play differently for, so I see it almost like being a coach that has to adapt differently for each player. My background in acting has definitely helped my directing abilities, enabling me to guide actors to deliver their best performances while bringing my vision to life on screen.


From Kelvyn Colt’s Rebirth

You’re about to break into the advertising world with your first spot (for Jack Daniel’s – more of which later), but up to this point you’ve built a solid reputation as a music video director, working with the likes of Kelvyn Colt, Odeal and Wretch 32. What do you enjoy most about the medium?

What I enjoy most about directing music videos is the freedom to experiment creatively. Each project presents a unique opportunity to collaborate with artists and other creative professionals, bringing their visions to life in visually compelling ways. From concept development to execution, I enjoy the chance to work with diverse ideas, sets, crews, and casts, making each music video project exciting and fulfilling. I actually love working under pressure, I feel like it brings the best out of me and with shooting music videos there is never enough time, so the pressure is real.  The ability to work closely with talented individuals and translate their music into impactful visual narratives is what I find most rewarding about directing music videos.

BMW x BFI Blades

You’ve also directed a short film, ‘Blades’, as part of the BMW/BFI Filmmaking challenge – in which a group of black boys break into a building, seemingly with nefarious intent, but in fact just to practise their skating tricks on the ice rink. It’s a surprising narrative arc, a clever way of highlighting unconscious bias and a joyous watch – all within a 90-second timeframe. What inspired the idea for the film, and how did you approach casting for a group of black ice skaters?

The inspiration for ‘Blades’ came from my desire to challenge stereotypes and biases while celebrating the talents of black boys in a unique and unexpected way. I’ve always been drawn to narratives that defy expectations and offer fresh perspectives, and I saw the BMW/BFI Filmmaking Challenge as the perfect opportunity to explore this concept. The idea of showcasing a group of black boys engaging in a sport not typically associated with their demographic was both compelling and exciting to see.

The casting process for ‘Blades’ came before the idea itself. I knew I wanted to create a film centred around ice skating, and I was fortunate to find a group of incredibly talented black ice skaters who were eager to participate. I spent a day rehearsing with them and understanding their dynamics as a friendship group. There was one skater who does the beautiful spin at the start of the ice rink who was cast the day I saw him training on the ice. The cast passion for the sport and their willingness to challenge stereotypes made them the perfect fit for the project. Working with them was a joy, and their enthusiasm brought authenticity and energy to the film’s narrative. Overall, ‘Blades’ was a labour of love that aimed to spark conversations about unconscious bias while showcasing the joy and beauty of ice skating. I love watching everyone’s reaction when they watch it.


BMW x BFI Blades

‘Blades’ isn’t the first of your films to delve into race-related issues or challenge stereotypes; Wretch 32 ‘Mummy’s Boy’ explores mother-son dynamics, absent fathers and powerful women, while Kelvyn Colt’s ‘Rage’ looks at black masculinity, how that’s expressed and the extent to which society tolerates it. What topics or themes are you consciously or unconsciously drawn to explore in your work?

I am consciously and unconsciously drawn to exploring themes related to identity, representation, and societal norms. Race-related issues and stereotypes are often central to my films, as I’m passionate about challenging preconceptions and fostering greater understanding and empathy.

Themes such as family dynamics, masculinity, and the impact of societal expectations frequently surface in my work, as I strive to shine a light on the complexities of human experience. I’m particularly interested in portraying marginalised communities in nuanced and authentic ways, highlighting their resilience, strength, and humanity. I aim to use filmmaking as a tool for social commentary and cultural exploration, sparking meaningful conversations and encouraging audiences to interrogate their own beliefs and assumptions. I feel like my projects force you to reflect on yourself as a person… it does for me.


Jack Daniels ft Wesley Joseph, Make it Count

As mentioned above, you’ve just shot your first ad, ‘Make It Count’, for Jack Daniels – a candid portrait of singer/rapper/producer Wesley Joseph, set in an old-school laundromat. What was the brief from the brand, and how did you choose to approach it?

When the opportunity presented itself, I was excited. Having already been familiar with Wesley’s incredible music, and who doesn’t know Jack Daniel’s, the project felt like a perfect fit from the start. The brief called for an ad that captured the essence of both Wesley and the iconic brand, with a focus on promoting their T-shirt collaboration.

Drawing on my own strengths and creative instincts, I approached the project with a clear vision in mind. I aimed to craft a candid and authentic portrait of Wesley, set against the backdrop of an old-school laundromat—a setting that exuded a timeless charm and complemented the laid-back vibe of the collaboration whilst also including the T shirt. By staying true to my own style, I was able to create a piece that met the brand’s and Wesley’s style.

How did you work with Wesley to create a sense of intimacy and authenticity within a branded space? What specific challenges did the shoot bring?

Working with Wesley was a pleasure, as he understood my perspective being a filmmaker himself. The crucial aspect was ensuring that Wesley created something authentically him, resonating with his fans. This involved engaging in creative conversations to align our vision. The main challenge is always time, as it often is in filmmaking, but we managed to get what we needed. To be honest, many challenges were addressed before the shoot, but if I had to pick one standout moment it was directing a scene with a Great Dane, ensuring it looked in the right direction when action was called – we got there in the end.


Kelvyn Colt’s Rebirth 

Aside from commercials, you’ve recently shot an ambitious 10-minute film to accompany Kelvyn Colt’s ‘REBIRTH’ EP, which weaves together multiple themes, characters, locations and storylines as it tracks the personal evolution of the artist. What was your creative starting point, and did it require meticulous pre-planning or was most of the work done in the edit?

The short film was developed gradually as I directed my first video for Kelvyn Colt’s “Rage,” which was a pleasure to work on. He loved it. This led us to shoot more music videos for the project, ultimately building a world for the EP making it one short film. For me, it was crucial to grasp the story Kelvyn wanted to convey and bring it to life in alignment with the song’s tone. It was a unique sonic experience for me, as the song delved into the theme of fuelled rage in response to the injustices faced by Kelvyn simply for being himself. I connected deeply with the song’s message. I have a habit of listening to a song multiple times and then performing it myself in my room to better understand the vibe I want to create. Perhaps that’s just the actor in me speaking.

Though the situation is improving, the advertising industry isn’t exactly renowned for its diversity and inclusion – how significant was your decision to sign to a more progressive production company like Eleanor to launch your commercial career?

It was incredibly significant! I’ve been approached by numerous companies, but I truly believe you just know when you’ve found the right one — it might sound like talking about a relationship, but it’s the truth. I needed to align with a company that I felt would truly understand and nurture my talent. Let’s go, Eleanor! Sophie and Jack have both been amazing in guiding me through my first ad. Their dedication to maintaining a high standard and their wealth of experience speak volumes.

Patoranking, Higher 

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

At the moment, I’m working on several projects. I’m collaborating with various artists from around the world on live performance videos, which allows me to explore different musical genres and cultural influences. Additionally, I’m deeply involved in a documentary project shot in Berlin, focusing on an incredible artist and his upcoming project rollout. This documentary is particularly close to my heart, as it’s one of my favourite projects I’ve had the opportunity to work on. Alongside these projects, I’m also directing a short film and gearing up to start development on my first feature film. It’s an exciting time for me so much is happening all at once.






Eleanor website

Chris Chuky website


Jack Daniel's, Make It Count


Agency: Iris

Account Director: Helen Barrett

Associate Creative Director: Jan Pruijser

Creative: Ben Parmenter

Creative: Keilan Grant

Producer: Hannah Lawrence

Pr & Partnerships Director: Ashley Philips


Production: Eleanor UK

Director: Chris Chuky

Executive Producer: Jack Howard

Producer: Tony Longe

Director Of Photography: Ethan Lodge

Focus Puller Harry Coleman

2nd Ac Felix Wildey

Camera Assistant Alexandra Brannan

1st Assistant Director George Nelson

Production Manager  Suze Harb

Production Assistant Lara Olutunmogun

Dit  Anthony Downes

Gaffer Chad Morris

Art Director Joe Munro

Art Assistant: Jake Garret

Editor & Vfx Supervisor : Lauzza