Point of View: Nare Mokgotho (Director)

"There’s a careful balance to maintain with each project between communication needs and story". That's how Nare Mokgotho, director, explains his job.

by Maud Largeaud , AdForum
Nare Mokgotho
Director Massif

POV: Director

How would you describe what you do?
I’m a commercials director. What that entails is giving a visual interpretation to the scripts that I receive from advertising agencies. I suppose my work, as a director is, by and large, a matter of translation: translating the words on a page into a story and imagery onscreen, translating the ideas I have, verbally to the production team around me so that the resulting work is as true a translation of what I had imagined.
How did you get into this job?
My path to directing was a little circuitous. I studied Fine Art and after graduating from art school I spent some years in advertising as a copywriter for a few agencies like J. Walter Thompson, Saatchi & Saatchi and Grey Johannesburg. After a few years in the industry, I moved onto the production side of advertising. On the advice of one of my former executive creative directors, I met with my current executive producer Peter Carr, who was at that point the executive producer at Velocity Films. I spent some time at Velocity, then followed him to Bouffant and finally settled with him at Massif. I began my career as a creative researcher for established directors and learned from the best of them before taking the plunge.
What is most challenging about what you do?
I would say managing the communication needs of the brand alongside telling a compelling and engaging story, which is what draws your audience in. This is a delicate balance to achieve and everything hinges on getting this just right.
What is most rewarding?
The obvious one would be things working out and producing a piece of work you can be proud of – that’s always first prize. But I’ve always enjoyed seeing someone’s eyes light up when you share an idea with them, whether that’s the creative team or your own production team. That’s always the gauge of a good idea for me. You can fake a smile or a laugh, but not the eyes.
What’s a typical work week like?
Don’t know if we have many of those. Think each one comes with new creative challenges. I work in an incredibly collaborative space so the one constant is a free flow of ideas, bouncing ideas around and chipping into other people’s projects. That’s probably the most typical thing to each week.
What needs to happen the most in order for a shoot to run smoothly?
Every member of your production team needs to have absolute clarity about their role come match day. There can’t be any ambiguity about your vision, your sensibilities, and your expectations of them and what you want to get out of the shoot.
Whats your best job/worst job?
The best by far is the treatment phase. Everything follows on from the ideas and the interpretation you set out at the beginning. This is the roadmap you have to refer to throughout the process to test the integrity of each decision.

The most challenging would be the search for the perfect acting talent. The difficulty is that there is no formula to it. All you can do is search until you find the gem you’re looking for.
What advice would you offer someone considering a career as a Director?
It’s a little corny and clichèd, but I suppose they’re clichès because they’re truths everyone reaches for. I would say, do what you love. This is one of the most practical pieces of advice I’ve received myself. Your work is your calling card. The work you produce from the outset is the kind of work you’re most likely going to attract so make sure whatever lane you choose or create for yourself is one you can imagine working in for years to come.
If you had one project that you could post on AdForum to represent your work, what would it be?
RapidLion “Wreaths” is a commercial I wrote and directed for the South African International Film Festival so it’s quite a true reflection of my comedic sensibilities.

In terms of client work, I was quite fortunate to work on ShowMax’s “No Bucks Given” campaign, which is in my wheelhouse: strong, simple concept infused with a subtle, mischievous humour.
I think these two projects best represent my work.
Finally tell us something that most people don’t know about being a Director?
I would have to reiterate and expand on an earlier answer, which is that there’s a careful balance to maintain with each project between communication needs and story. There are always client and communication requirements to consider. These have to be conveyed to the viewer in a creative and rewarding way. A director’s job is to achieve a good balance between storytelling and selling the brand. I think the strongest directors are able to achieve this with deceptive ease.

Nare Mokgotho
Director Massif