One of my heroes is Jacques Cousteau, who said “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”
I see it as my life work to communicate greatness. And I do that through real connections – with my colleagues, with actors, and with documentary subjects. I grew up in South Africa where my dad was a journalist. As a director, I have always had the foreigner’s perspective, looking at life slightly off axis, which has given me luck in picking up on stories and connecting with people who might have gone unnoticed. I love the life I have had the good fortune to have, working with such a rich variety of people in both advertising and documentaries. I am truly grateful to my actors and interview subjects for their emotion, introspection, and downright hilarity. Their humanity is a gift.
Michael Uys (pronounced “ace”) is an award winning filmmaker and television commercial director. Michael’s recent Emmy Award winning documentary, THE GOOD SOLDIER opened nationwide to widespread acclaim. The film follows the journeys of five combat veterans from different generations of American wars as they sign up, go into battle, and eventually change their minds about what it means to be a good soldier. A.V. Club film critic Jason Albert wrote, “It’s hard to imagine watching a more affecting movie than The Good Soldier…it may be as affecting a movie as I’ve ever seen. Really powerful stuff.” THE GOOD SOLDIER was picked up for theatrical distribution by Artistic License Films and presented by Bill Moyers on PBS. The film won multiple awards including the Emmy Award for Long Form Documentary and The Maysles Brothers Award for Best Documentary.
Michael’s first feature documentary, RIDING THE RAILS, garnered 18 major awards including BEST DOCUMENTARY from both the DGA and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, A Peabody Award, and was named as an Outstanding Documentary of the year by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. RIDING THE RAILS, the story of teenaged hobos during the Great Depression, was acquired by MoMA for their permanent collection. Kevin Thomas of The Los Angeles Times described the film as “Irresistible, infinitely moving…an exemplary documentary, the kind of which has been raising the standards of the form.” The film enjoyed theatrical distribution in 100 cities, a Peabody Award winning prime-time broadcast on PBS, international broadcasts in thirty-three countries, and best-seller status in non-fiction home video/DVD sales.
Michael brings his documentary sensibility to his work in commercials and television. He is known for his extraordinary ability to elicit funny, honest, and emotional performances from actors, celebrities and real people.
His spots range from stylized “slice of life” portraits such as GOOGLE (Cheer), PBR (Bottle It), TLC (On the Ropes), and GANNETT to visual “mini-docs” such as DEAN & DELUCA, THE WASHINGTON POST and BORDEAUX (Women in Wine) to emotional testimonials like LIFETIME (Real Women) and ELI LILLY (Orencia).
Comfortable with both scripted comedy and improv, he often casts actors with strong improv skills and has been working with talent from Upright Citizens Brigrade and Groundlings to deliver quirky performances for clients including NFL (Glory Days), SPIKE TV (Men), MARSH (Grilling) and WE (Bridezillas).
Regarded as a creative collaborator by large agencies and small digital shops, Michael frequently partners with creatives in writing and concepting spots. His specialty is making people comfortable on camera and his spots are often poignant or humorous, whether they are testimonials or scripted. He has also directed successful digital campaigns (VIAGRA, HUMALOG) that have combined scripted performances and testimonial segments.
Michael has been tapped to work with celebrities including Pierce Brosnan (SPIKE), Halle Berry (JENESEE), Vivica Fox (LIFETIME), Kareem Abdul-Jabar (PSA) and Christy Turlington (MAYBELLINE). He also directed a campaign featuring Floyd Cardoz for FRESH DIRECT.
His experience includes CG/live action direction in campaigns for the 2010 Winter Olympics (featuring U.S. athletes delivering tongue-in-cheek dialogue and match cut to great athletic moments), and BBDO Moscow (M&M’s) blending documentary style performances and computer graphics.
Among his special effects work are campaigns for TLC (Rolling Room) and STARI MELNIK (European Beer). Michael has also directed several spots with a social conscience – highlights include celebrity PSA’s with Halle Berry (for prevention of domestic violence) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar (for the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center.) He directed a series of comedic narrative film noir style vignettes for PBS featuring Charlie Rose and Tom Brokaw.
As a Piromaniac, Michael has directed campaigns for LEXUS, TAG HEUER, AMEX, AVON, GANT, TOYS R US, & EMIRATES AIRLINE. He has won several advertising awards including an Andy and CTAM Gold.
He graduated cum laude with a double major in Film and Journalism from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Michael is an avid sailor and swimmer and he is currently working on a digital series about the ocean and stories of individuals whose lives have been radically changed by it. He worked with MIT’s Design Lab following the story of young Americans working in South Africa and Zimbabwe using technology and design to collaborate on humanitarian projects in the developing world. Michael recently produced his first narrative feature film, 72 Hours, (2015) about a group of teenagers navigating the world of Brooklyn’s housing projects.
Michael's work is produced by production companies including his own full service company, Out of the Blue Productions.