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Editor Rick Russell, of Final Cut, and Ole Sanders, one part of the directing collective Traktor, have worked together over many years and on a huge array of projects that stretches back over more than 25 years. 

Traktor and Russell's partnership has borne some classic commercials for brands including Reebok, Malibu, CarlsbergLabatt Ice, Nike, Boots,  and a whole lot more. More often than not the Scandinavian quintet's brilliantly unusual humour and Russell's comedic timing leaves viewers in stitches, and here they discuss their approach to their art, why they work well together, and why a treatment should be "a statement of misguided intent".

Hornbach – Unleashed

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Above: Traktor's most recent collaboration with Final Cut for Hornbach.

Rick: Having just unleashed the new Hornbach spot on the world, it reminded me of working on the classic Reebok Belly, 20+ years ago! I wanted to ask you how Traktor's comedy style has evolved since the early days? 

Traktor: Innocents being chased by random stragglers and/or animate objects has long been a bedrock of our output. Growing up, our pirated BetaMax copy of Deliverance had a profound effect. It was banned in Sweden, so we spent our days trying to recreate it. Give or take a banjo. At least once a year we still make sure to have a poor sod being chased by an incongruous entity. Whether it’s a giant beer belly on a tricycle, an angry chicken, an evil beaver, a furious badger, or a driverless, futuristic El Camino, it’s hard to go wrong when victimising strangers and chasing down the innocent. People can relate. And consume. And this is where we pivot shamelessly to you, Final Cut. Because we like to chase you down.

Growing up, our pirated BetaMax copy of Deliverance had a profound effect. It was banned in Sweden, so we spent our days trying to recreate it. Give or take a banjo.

We must have done 100+ commercials together. And with over a dozen of your fine feathered folk. We have tried to identify the DNA of your roster that keeps us coming back to Margaret Street for Perrier so cold it tickles your nose. Is it the strong sense of trickle-down quality control? The mildly unhinged fervour? What else can you own up to? Is it true that to transition to an editor at Final Cut you must spend 10 years as an unpaid assistant, run through Soho in drag, both ways, and see no less than 50 sunrises while trying to sync up the rushes from a Nagra with faulty batteries? 

Reebok – Reebok: Belly

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Above: Reebok Belly, from 2004, an example of Traktor's anarchic but hilarious approach to advertising. 


Rick: You're right, we've done a ton of ads together over the years. Ah, the DNA, or the 'secret sauce', of the Final Cut crew. Some would say that, sadly, the old-style apprenticeship of which you speak is long gone, but that’s probably a blessing in reducing the pedestrian traffic in Old Compton Street. I've always taken great pride in seeing our young talent develop and come through the ranks, but this also needs the endorsement of directors who'll give an editor the chance to shine and show what they can do.  Traktor have always been loyal and supportive collaborators in that endeavour, as well as throwing your legendary Cannes parties where the new generation of editors could learn the hard way that dancing is the only real networking.

It never feels like the top. Every pitch, and every project, feels like the first one. Someone asks, “How do you see the transitions?”, and we give it a decent whirl.

You've just scored another Ad Meter Number One with the Rocket Mortgages spot for this year's Super Bowl, natch! What’s your secret of staying at the top after more than 20 years?

Traktor: It never feels like the top. We would never call it that. Every pitch, and every project, feels like the first one. Someone asks, “How do you see the transitions?”, and we give it a decent whirl. Golf is a terrible metaphor for many things, so let’s use it. Having to focus on the tiny white ball without thinking about what everybody else is doing, or the looming sand-trap of mediocrity up ahead, is rather apt. So, we just grip it and rip it. And sometimes the ball bounces off a tree onto the green. Boom! But sometimes it hooks onto the opposite fairway smack in the forehead of a creative director from Brazil, and you whistle innocently as you blame the editor and drop another ball. Do you think that is a fair approach?

Quicken Loans – Dream House

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Above: Traktor's recent spot for the 2022 Super Bowl, which scored an Ad Meter Number One.


Rick: To cement your shaky metaphor: as editors, we tee off with the blind fear of the blank timeline, recover in the relative privacy of the undergrowth to either side of the fairway, negotiate the odd sand trap of creative cul-de-sacs, and eventually make it to the green for presenting to the agency folk, line up the putt for several days/weeks and finally sink it for the client. Is it a bogey, par or eagle? We have to wait until awards season! 

We care about this stuff, so it’s nice to see it work out from time to time.  

Traktor: The Super Bowl is obviously a spicy season for us. The sheer numbers game of coming out on top even once (amid a field of 75+ commercials) is daunting. A 1.3% chance. And to win it three times is just downright nausea-inducing (0.00022% according to a wild guess). We marvel. And apologise. But not really. We care about this stuff, so it’s nice to see it work out from time to time.  

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Xelibri – Xelibri: Face Of The Future

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Malibu – Malibu: Parking

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Mail on Sunday – Mail on Sunday: Battle

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Labatt Ice – Labatt Ice: Info Intro

Above: A selection of spots edited by Rick Russell and directed by Traktor.


Rick: How do you guys straddle the comedy sensibilities of the US and UK/Europe so deftly? Do you have a conscious difference of approach? That's a twin question!

Traktor: We live and work on both sides of the Happy-lantic Ocean™ so we don’t think so much about the difference in sensibility. It’s a different kettle of fish, but deep down it’s all kippers. Want some? And this brings to mind the song we play whenever we suffer from existential transatlantic doubt. You could call it our immigrant anthem. Name that tune, then crank it up!: 

Could we have kippers for breakfast, mummy dear, mummy dear They got to have 'em in Texas, 'cause everyone's a millionaire I'm a winner, I'm a sinner, do you want my autograph I'm a loser, what a joker, I'm playing my jokes upon you But there's nothin' better to doooo… 

Final Cut have had a tri-coastal presence longer than we have. How do you find the approach changes as you cross Greenland? Is it different when you’re hired by production (the European model), rather than being hired as 'our editor' by the agency (the US model)? How do you tread those mills?

Life is short and treatments are long. We shudder on behalf of the creatives who must read them all. So, we try to make it worth their while.

Rick: When we first started working in the US, back in the noughties, it was quite a culture shock to be hired by the agency, and it was common to be actively discouraged from contact with the director. This seemed bizarre and utterly counter intuitive. Over the years this dynamic has shifted much more to how we are used to working with directors and production companies in the UK. I find most editing gigs are now an agreed hire between the director and the creatives – the old 'double recommend'! 

The treatment is now a mainstay of any director's pitch but they often read as rather generic. Yours always have a unique Traktor comedy voice, and often elicit choking into our morning flat whites. Here's a candid exposé question; how many coffees does it take to write a treatment? 

Basement Jaxx – Where's Your Head At

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Above: Traktor and Russell's legendary promo for Basement Jaxx, Where's Your Head At?


Traktor: Life is short and treatments are long. We shudder on behalf of the creatives who must read them all. So, we try to make it worth their while. The treatment should ideally be a statement of misguided intent and unharnessed energy that somehow embodies the gravy we intend to slather over the meat and potatoes. There’s only so many ways you can spin 'cinematic' and 'premium', so sometimes it’s better just to write a poem. 

Rick: On recalling the Traktor foray into music videos, collaborating with the legendary commissioner John Hassay, I have to probe whether there's any truth in the anecdote that you once played the Hollywood Bowl in disguise? Tell all!   

In truth, the experience gained in that [music videos] has been fundamental to most of our editors’ careers.

Traktor: We spent a couple of summers as dancing gorillas for Basement Jaxx. We had to make good on a drunken promise made in London, so we debuted our short, furry set at Coachella in front of 40,000 people. It went very badly, so we carried on at Glastonbury and the Hollywood Bowl, twice. How have music videos contributed to the magnificently rickety foundations of Final Cut? And how cool is Joe Guest on a scale from 3 to 9? 

Rick: Music videos have been a core theme of the Final Cut legacy story. Most commercials cutting rooms shunned those late night hours and that budgetary-challenged world. In truth, the experience gained in that discipline has been fundamental to most of our editors’ careers. No more than the legend that is Joe Guest - answer to final question... he has to score a box-fresh, camo-jacket wearing, ‘Dobly’ 11.

Illustration at top of page by Emily Brooks

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