Ron Howard, the Oscar-winning director of a "Beautiful Mind," is making a rare foray back in front of the camera this week. (No, he's not reprising his role as Richie Cunningham for a "Happy Days" reunion.)
The filmmaker is teaming up with Canon and its agency of record, Grey, New York, for a movie-themed ad campaign, "Long Live Imagination." The campaign includes a photo contest, "Project Imagin8ion," which will encourage photographers to submit photos to serve as the basis for a Hollywood short film, as selected by Mr. Howard. The first spot debuts tonight during "Conan" on TBS, with other airings are slated for Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives," Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" and AMC's "Breaking Bad."
"It's incredibly well-designed and very visual. It was kind of fun to not have any responsibility to come in and do what the director asked me to do," Mr. Howard said of his first formal commercial endorsement (a 2008 Funny or Die endorsement video of Barack Obama notwithstanding). "I thought it was a great idea and a fantastic storytelling exercise, this challenge of pledging to take your inspiration to form these photographs. It's gonna push the story in in all sorts of creative directions and yield something that's very original."
As part of the contest, Mr. Howard will select eight photos, one each from eight cinematic categories: Setting, Time, Character, Mood, Relationship, Goal, Obstacle and The Unknown. Winners will be selected after June 14 and will be incorporated into a short film, shot with a Canon DSLR, that will premiere this fall in New York at a red-carpet event. Alliance, the entertainment-marketing arm of Grey, helped facilitate the program.
Mr. Howard said he grew up around Canon cameras, and even shoots with Canon's DSL from time to time, such as a series of clips he directed for Funny or Die featuring celebs such as Heidi Montag. "It's a company I certainly don't mind endorsing," he said. "It was very logical to me that they would come up with an idea that's creative and stimulate people's imaginations and just remind people of how much creative potential they have."
Mr. Howard's production company, Imagine Entertainment, has been keeping him busy behind the camera, starting with this summer's "Cowboys & Aliens," a sci-fi western directed by Jon Favreau. "That's a fun movie. I can't wait til opening weekend to sit with audiences while they watch that," he said. "It's just a fun combination of the two genres just yields some really fun fresh action. It's great. Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford sharing the same frame is really great for movie fans."
He and longtime producing partner Brian Grazer are also prepping this fall's comedy "Tower Heist" as well as the Clint Eastwood drama "J. Edgar." He's also about to go into preproduction on an adaptation of Stephen King's "The Dark Tower," set for release in 2012. The abundance of similarly titled projects is still confusing to Mr. Howard, who started talking about "Dark Tower" when Ad Age asked about "Tower Heist."
He and Mr. Grazer just saw a finished cut of "Tower Heist" last week, and was pleased to find standout comedic scenes with co-stars like Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy and Matthew Broderick. "If you're a fan of anybody in the ensemble, you won't be disappointed," he said.