It was a Nutrigrain spec commercial. I was at a small production company called Turnpike Films that basically paid for a spec reel of mine which kind of exploded on the web in 2003. Our company website couldn’t stay up and running because of all the immediate traffic, 22 million hits in the first four months. The CEO of Bell Canada gave us more bandwidth just so the site could sustain the amount of traffic it was getting. It was as bizarre if not more than when I worked on the Budweiser WHASSSUUUP? campaign, which caught fire, and literally everyone on the street was saying it.
Creating anything and having somebody wanting to not only fund what your vision is creatively, but also pay you on top of that so you can support yourself and continue being creative and express your vision was something that I thought was really, really super cool. The worst or lowest point to any project are when people that you’re working with doubt, not only you, but they doubt themselves. Then people aren’t as willing to just go for it and take chances, and I think that is the downfall of any creative project.
If you start taking the easy way out you’re kidding yourself if you think that’s going to lead to doing anything great. You will just pick up bad habits. You are what you shoot, and people can make all the excuses they want about the work they do, but at the end of the day you have the option to turn jobs down, and you also have the option to push to make a shoot more complex than it has to be sometimes in order to try to find something better.
I do everything pretty much the same way, and it’s preparation, preparation, preparation. I always drew my own storyboards and I would show exactly what I was going to do and that’s what I’ve always done. I did that with my commercials, my short film and with my feature. I’m pretty ritualistic about drawing my storyboards. I always like to have an initial vision and then go from there.
That’s a tough one, because there are so many things you learn in the beginning. I would say stick to your guns. It’s as cliché as anything, but that’s what it comes down to in every respect. Every step of the way people want you to surrender. You can’t give away your rights as a creative. The journey is too long for you to surrender or compromise anything. Voluntarily surrendering your creative rights is just a not an option.
What they did to TV, they’re now doing to the internet. They’re alienating the viewers. Not being able to watch a sports highlight without watching a commercial – the same commercial that I see on TV, the same commercial that I see in the movie theater. While we’ve furthered our avenues for content, we haven’t furthered the content itself. We demand people’s attention. Why? We have to earn it. That’s the one puzzling thing for me as a viewer. Show me something new. I don’t ever believe a target market can be from age twelve to sixty. That’s just ridiculous. We’re not evolving with our thinking or respect for the viewer. We just think that we make things and people will automatically like it, and that’s a boardroom mentality. That’s not reality at all.
Listen to everyone, but make your own decisions. You can’t shut people off. You gotta just discipline yourself to keep your mind open because you never know where a great idea is going to come from.
While we are in a business, it’s the responsibility of the people with the quote unquote power to be able to farm the best creative ideas, and you have to know how to get the best out of people. I’ve worked with people under me all the time, crews and this and that, and when you learn how to get the best out of people, it can be magic. A lot of that is having people respect you. And to get people’s respect you earn that through trust, and you don’t scare people into respecting you or anything like that. By maintaining a good creative environment, people can’t feel the weight of the world that you’re applying on them. Treat people with respect and decency. You can be firm with people and you can draw the line, but overall getting people’s respect will yield the best creative environment, which creates the best work.
That’s a really interesting question, because after doing my first feature everybody wants to know “oh was it different” or people are almost expecting it’s a whole other world. Because a lot of feature people who don’t know anything about commercial directors treat you like you have a rattle in your hand or a lollipop in your mouth. Like you’re this little kid, who just doesn’t know anything. If you have the image in your head shooting is shooting. You either see it or you don’t. I always thought shooting a feature, was sometimes easier, because you’re not worried about thirty seconds or you’re not worried about trying to fit the three-second product shot in at the end and if the wind blows and the guy’s hair is blowing in the wrong direction. Those are things that are just crippling sometimes; where in a feature it was more about what you think is important in the script from an emotional level and then supporting that through your visual approach.
That’s the hardest question. It’s like favorite song. Man I’ve got so many directors flying in my head; it’s like a battle royale going on in my head right now. I would say Stardust Memories because it incorporates a lot of influence from Fellini, who is one of my heroes. Being able to create a unique visual style and be confident with the camera and also incorporate humor is pretty incredible. I’ve been thinking about Woody Allen a lot lately, just a powerhouse that guy is or has been throughout his career. I love humor and I love visual style and that movie is pretty incredible even though some peopleconsider it as a downward slope in his career.
Anna Karenina probably, the visual style is incredible. It felt very original. It incorporates a lot of familiar things you’ve seen before, but the way they mix them together is very original and the performances are great, the storytelling is extraordinary. I felt as a director I was actually learning something by watching this movie. That’s the first movie that pops out in my mind lately.
I’ve always had a real passion for surrealism and absurdity and at the same time I’ve always wanted to do a movie with a true emotional thread, and that’s what A Many Splintered Thing is. All the characters are grounded in reality even though the experiences are sometimes told through the main characters imagination. Really excited about it.
Tranquility, New Jersey
Director / Station Film