View Point: Director, Chris Volckmann

"Sometimes it's right in front of you, sometimes you really have to dig. But when you do find it - everything clicks."

View Point: Director

In a few words, can you tell us who you are and why you love working in production?
My name is Chris Volckmann, I'm a director living in Seattle via New York via San Francisco. I love the speed of commercial production, and the experimentation it affords. I know that might surprise some folks, but I honestly feel that commercial production is actually one of the most experimental mediums.
Did you have a dream job as a child, and if so, what was it?
I wanted to make movies as far back as I can remember. Well at first I wanted to be an archaeologist because of Indiana Jones, but then I was informed that's not really what archaeologists do in real life, just in the movies. Since then it's been film.
If there was one aspect of the industry that you would change, what would it be?
The best work happens when layers of communication are broken down and there can be honest, collaborative conversations between client, agency creatives and the director. When things are guarded, it's too easy for people to develop their own interpretation of what the creative plan is, and then throw a wrench in things when you're too far down the line to effectively adjust.
If you had one project that you could post on AdForum to represent your work, what would it be?
That's a tough question... I'm very proud of the anthem spot I directed earlier this year for Adidas Basketball launching Damian Lillard's Dame3 shoe. It was a very personal dive into Dame's life, his journey. We worked entirely with real people which is another thing I really enjoy. I love basketball... lots of boxes checked.
Did you have a mentor at one point in your life and how did that person help guide you?
I'm not sure I can point to one individual but I've had the benefit of working with a lot of talented people. My career path is pretty varied, having spent a lot of time in the design and VFX industries in addition to live action. I've learned a ton from a wide variety of designers, animators, clients, photographers and friends.
Do you have a hobby or activity that serves as an outlet to keep you creative and lets you step away from your job?
Not really hahaha. I have two kids, they take up most of my time. I like my job. If I'm not working then I get incredible antsy. If I have down time from client work I'm probably working on a personal project.
What aspect of your job gives you the most pleasure?
Finding the story. Sometimes it's right in front of you, sometimes you really have to dig. But when you do find it - everything clicks. The rest becomes instinctual.
What needs to happen the most in order for a production shoot to run smoothly?
You just need smart, like-minded people who can collaborate and listen to each other. I like working with the same crew as much as possible. Our sets tend to have a liveliness to them that I really miss when I'm working with a crew for the first time. We know each other well as people and as artists, and that degree of familiarity allows us to focus exclusively on the story we're telling.
What would you say was the biggest challenge for production companies when working with a creative agency on a project?
It's a shitty answer, but budget. It's never been harder. Management of expectations is critical, because there just isn't the financial foundation for indecision any more. It's super important to me that everyone is on the same page from jump, because when you're not, things fall apart really fast and the financial pinch limits everyone's ability to adapt on the fly.
What direction do you see production going in as an industry?
That's tough to answer, it's a broad question. I think there's a different answer for different facets of production. I think we're in an era of devaluing expertise. There's a sense that anyone can do anything, and everyone is trying to do everything. I think that's dangerous as a whole. It isn't that I don't believe companies or individuals can be valuable in multiple aspects of the industry, but we're crunching thing together to a degree that the work is suffering. So I guess my hope is that we get back to basics a bit. That isn't to say that we don't adapt, but figuring out an industry construct that gives brands access to the best talent to tell their story is what's most important.

Chris Volckmann