How would you describe what you do?
In essence, I communicate ideas and emotions through sound and picture. At best, I make an audience feel and think.
How did you get into this job?
I wrote and created film from a young age, and always aspired to direct...including writing work. However, to get there, I started as a film loader and 2nd AC on sets in the USA, eventually working up to DOP, which I worked as for 10 years, always with the goal of directing. After those years learning, I have been directing for 7 years commercially.
What is most challenging about what you do?
In directing commercially, always the challenge is balancing the needs and desires of many different interests - the client, agency and all of the often competing interests of the people in those organizations. The challenge is to protect the vision for the creative team, while compromising when needed - balancing those interests of respect for the client and those that pay us, with my job to protect and express the creative vision.
What is most rewarding?
People. Always people. The audience, of course, but the process of working with so many expert artists and craftspeople, is a great honor and a source of joy for me. Whether working in China, Germany or the USA, the incredible people I have worked with have become a global family for me, and I have been blessed with deep and incredible friendships - and a wife - from that family.
What’s a typical work week like?
There are two parts of my work - on-set (shooting) and off set. Of course I like others spend more time off set than on typically, especially now doing more commercials and less TV work. My normal week off set includes writing work for myself, often in the evening, alone. Writing treatments, doing boards and conference calls. Then shooting, of course - is 20 hour days of intense management, collaboration, creation and sweat!
What needs to happen the most in order for a shoot to run smoothly?
Effective leadership and preparation. If the production and creative leadership - from the client, agency and me, is good, no matter what else happens, it runs smooth, if combined with strong preparation and planning. Also, if the client/agency/director triad has developed clear shared goals in advance, both for logistics and creative, it assures then when things fail, as they always do, that the entire system can adapt without conflict. But a director but be not just a strong artist, but an effective, experienced leader. A good AD cannot just solve this.
Whats your best job/worst job?
The best job always results in great creative results all the way through post and client approval. As a Director, if the process is wonderfully smooth and satisfying, but the result is poor - it still is a failure for me. If the process is terrible, but the result is very good - it is still a failure. The best job has both - wonderful people, smooth process with challenges met well, and a great result. If my client - agency and client - are very happy, even if I did not like the process or result, then it is always a success. My job is to deliver results that satisfy the client, not me.
What advice would you offer someone considering a career as a Director?
I will answer assuming the question is asking about directing commercially, not just art for art sake. And the answer is this - do you aspire to be a strong leader? Directing is creative, but is just as much about leadership and management. If you don't enjoy that work, directing commercially is going to make you miserable. Second, I would advise them to work first on crews - in camera, art, grip - and to write, write write and create create create all the time.
If you had one project that you could post on AdForum to represent your work, what would it be?
The Volkswagen Amarok film I directed from 2017.
Finally tell us something that most people don’t know about being a Director?
The best directors are not serving their own ego, or a vision that is an extension of ego. They are serving the idea, and in turn the audience. The idea must exist separate from the director to succeed. This is a difficult lesson.