Baz Luhrmann

My Creative Life

Baz Luhrmann, Handmade toys and AI: James Millers shares his creative taste

Leo Burnett creative partner discusses his populist inspirations

By James Millers

Just to throw out a little disclaimer up front here, unfortunately you aren’t going to find some obscure mid 17th century artist or the complete works of Proust here. My taste is somewhat more populist than that.


Depending on who you ask right now, this is a bit of dirty word or acronym, but I find I all really fascinating. I’m a bit of a nerd, I don’t mind that, I’ve always been interested in techy stuff. I built a PC from component parts when I was 12, which might not seem like a lot to today’s kids; who are coding new social media platforms at the age of 6 months. But in the era of Windows 1995, we’d not long since had our minds blown by Jurassic Park. I digress. Fast forward to today and, for me at least, AI is quite eye opening and the speed at which it’s developing is crazy. I love playing with it, it’s an incredible tool, the fact that I can get almost any conceptual image I can describe, create human-ish voices, even more practical stuff like noise reduction and resolution enhancement. Sure, it might create people with 7 fingers on each hand, but for now that’s why it’s just a tool. Part of the process. Like when photoshop was invented maybe, I still use scissors too.

Autonomous Dwelling Augmentation

Ok, ok, DIY, is that boring? Well… probably. But I’m not talking painting here, nobody really enjoys that do they? I’m talking the more interesting stuff (to me anyway), like properly creating things with my hands like cabinets/wardrobes, and even turning the odd off-cut into a toy, for my son. Ok, yeah, it still sounds a bit boring. But I think if you can buy the tools to do it yourself well, for the same price you’d pay someone else, then I’ll take the new tools and learning something along the way. I think the reason I like doing this stuff is that it involves problem solving and gaining new skills, and it has a very tangible end point where you can stand back and look what you’ve done, before ultimately overanalysing the little things you would do differently, if you could do it again. It’s a lot like advertising in that way I guess.


Films are a big love of mine, but I’m not going to throw out any obscure 30s film references here, my taste is way more obvious and everyman. But do I try to watch as much varied stuff as possible, from Palme d'Or winners like ‘Triangle of Sadness’ to things that would struggle for an MTV award like ‘Fast and the Furious 10’. Yep really. Someone once said to me read the Telegraph and read the Sun, maybe it’s kind of like that, not politically but two completely different audiences. I think Baz Luhrmann is a genius in this respect, he does an amazing job of smashing those two worlds of film together. He makes bold, artistic and stylistic choices that, on paper maybe shouldn’t work, but they do, and they do in a way that doesn’t alienate the masses. I think there are similarities to what we do in the day to day of working in advertising - bridging those two circles is what we try to do on a daily basis and possibly one of the hardest things to do well.

James Millers is the creative partner at Leo Burnett


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