“Of all the directors we worked with, the name of Lester Bookbinder caused the deepest breath.

No detail was beyond his eagle eye.
On a square foot basis, his sets were by far the most expensive and time consuming to make.
One of his tricks was to direct a carbon arc light across the set to highlight any imperfection, and woe betide if found any were found.
To have him walk on set on the morning of the shoot and just nod his head in approval was one of the art director’s highlights.”

That’s from one of the guys responsible for building a set for Lester, film art director Mark Hill. (There’s more from Mark on working with Lester here: http://marchill.org/apollo/index.php/film/89-film/123-working-with-lester-bookbinder.)

I’ve been trying to track down the results of this ‘eye’ for a while now, turns out they were all sitting on arrowsarchive.com, run by the good folks at The History of Advertising Trust, they’ve been kind enough  to gather them together for me to show here.
At the time they were spellbinding, like nothing else in an ad break, ads like the one for Chanel No 5 felt like entering a more exotic world.
Looking at the ads now, some feel a little old-fashioned, their age given away by the ‘addy’ voiceover or long forgotten product.
Some feel a bit sexist for 2015.
Some appear to have virtually no discernible idea, ‘woman hangs around in a room for 25 seconds, cut to Bally logo’.
But all look amazing.
Many use a type of lighting you no longer see, the result, whether it’s a rolling Liqourice Allsort or a tapping foot is 


I could only find one music video Lester shot, so I’m attaching it to his commercials.

14 responses to LESTER BOOKBINDER: The Commercials.

  1. Tony Kaye says:

    Singular. Studied. A distinct voice. If anything can sum up “The Art of Advertising”… This body of Bookbinder mastery is surely a leading candidate.

  2. colin lamberton says:

    I remember a load of these, mainly from my junior school years.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful and inspiring blog Dave…

  3. Barney Edwards says:

    Lester, such a gift to be reminded!

    They called him ‘Sir’ on set. He was amazing. The whole creative performance was. Imagine going into The Directors Studio in the morning to see that – a day of visual theatre – lit – in 3 D – to music – with a screening of the ‘rushes’ @ 8 sharp the next morning in the viewing theatre – on a ‘big’ 20ft cinema screen… Walking with giants.

    I love Lester’s work.
    His Producer at Jim Bakers Directors studio was Mervyn Lloyd.
    He later became my Producer.
    ( He had originally been Ridley’s first Commercials Producer)
    He produced a lot of these films. I see his touch too .

    @ The Directors Studio : Renault – Lester did the car stuff – and Barry Lategan the girl/fashion stuff in the same film.
    An original groundbreaking ‘look’ they created.

    An interesting Co – Directing ‘mix’- ahead of its time!

    Like you say Chanel is amazing – visually complete – the lighting and editing adding a veneer of more brilliance.
    Filled with subtle visual shocks… carrying backstories.
    That as most were done ‘in camera’ – meant they had to be carefully planned out on paper. A discipline missing now. Everyone doing it on lap tops, so there is a loss of precision in people’s tactile understanding of a given set up.
    At Directors Studio we used to work with Terry Jones as editor – who we talked with – before – during – as well as after filming.
    Another thing that doesn’t happen much now.
    A very clever editor Terry – who ‘looked after’ Barry Myers too.

    Chanel still looks fresh.

    The Ballet and Campari, art styles are awesome too!
    Mini poetic Arria’s.

    The acoustic in Lester’s work is always powerful. The sound is truly inventive.
    As are his music tracks.

    He was really on his music – sometimes wanting to play the sax himself I seem to remember.

    His work cuts to music brilliantly. Because the images are so great, one tends not to notice until you see a longer form edit like the Dire Straits video – which I love.
    The picture to track sync with the choreography is so good.
    And sustained long enough to let you know this aint’ no fluke!

    Very American – Sokolsky – Hiro – Penn (still life ) influenced lighting.
    I miss those days. Ad work was very special.
    Crossing the line where craft turns to an art.

    I think this posting draws one’s attention to how important what you are doing actually is. It’s inspirational. Entertaining. Full of lessons.

    I really enjoyed watching these films. Thank you for the experience.

  4. Carl Shuck says:

    I worked with Lester and Mervyn when starting out; hugely impressive figures to me. I was Assistant Producer to Mervyn on both the Pura lard and Chanel commercials (training while at University), in fact I was also a hand artist in the Pura ad! Shooting Chanel at Shepperton, Mervyn took me to an adjoining stage at lunch to see ‘a friend’ – it was Ridley shooting Alien!

  5. Joe Dunton says:

    I worked with lester 6 to 8 years with video assets, he made me into a lens man, I’ll never forget like, SK its in the detail – joe dunton

  6. Joe Dunton says:

    SK is short for Stanley Kubrick ,
    Lester were top top men

  7. Jenny-Anne Jett says:

    hi, thanks for your awesome lester posts!! i just found out about him by seeing the dire straits romeo & juliet video for the first time & adoring it, not that i can find a hi res version of the whole clip with the dogs & cat at the end

  8. John Stanier , BSC k says:

    Lester had the most profound impact on my career. He was a very gracious man but did not suffer fools easily . He and Jim Baker were a great team together with Melvyn Lloyd , his line producer . When we shot “ Skateaway “Lester gave me the screen credit of “Lighting Cameraman “in appreciation of my contribution to the production ( he had never worked on film to the degree that “Skateway “ required ).. what a wonderful man both as a photographer artist and human being .RIP, Lester.

  9. Rosemarie Swinfield says:

    I worked with Lester many many times as his make-up artist. He was the complete perfectionist and could be very demanding. I remember a cinema shoot of a single finger. I think that I repainted the nail at least ten times before he was satisfied. I didnt mind because he was always right. I feel priviledged to have worked with him.

  10. Emma Quinn says:

    I have vivid memories of watching the Chanel No 5 advert on TV – we didn’t watch commercial television much when we were little but this really stood out. However, wasn’t there a longer version of the advert where the car comes out of the tunnel and is then driving along the perfume bottle which is on its side? Or am I mis remembering it – it was a long time ago and I was very young.

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