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 47   0  

IamA Commercial Director AMA!

Ask me anything you want to know about directing commercials (I'm in Canada, so answers might be country specific). My latest spot landed over 1.5 million views in its first week.

My Proof: https://twitter.com/braddworkin/status/853774604640423936

 10   0  

Generally speaking, how many hours of work go into a 30 second ad?

 8   0  

On set or off? Prep can take weeks or even months of planning, meeting, pitching, building, etc... For me, I'm usually doing about 7 or 8 hours worth of meetings just to get to shoot day, plus several days of work at home preparing for those.

On set, it depends on the complexity of the shoot (number of locations, actors, etc...) I've shot a :30 in one day. I've also shot a :30 in 3 days. There are bigger and longer, but that's the average. My DP on my last job did a tourism commercial that took 9 months to shoot with all the travel, different seasons and special events they had to capture.

 1   0  

What's a DP?

 2   0  

Director of Photography. Also used interchangeably with Cinematographer

 5   0  

Does the canadian weather limit outdoor shoots to between April and September?

 2   0  

It really depends on the spot. If the spot calls for it you can shoot outside in the snow and cold. You just have to make considerations for location support (tents, heaters, etc...) and consider what you're asking your actors to do (jumping into a swimming pool would not be ideal). If the spot calls for summer weather and has to be shot during winter we usually travel to warmer climates. There's a good service industry in central America.

 3   0  

What's been your favourite spot to work on to date?

 3   0  

That's a really tough one. Favourite in terms of how it turned out might not be favourite in terms of working on it. For example I really like my spots for Interac and for Boston Pizza, but in the former I was super sick on set, and on the latter it was my first tv spot and I was way too nervous to enjoy it.

I'd say my work for Toyota was my favourite to work on because it was working with kid actors and one of my favourite ad agency creative teams.

TOYOTA: https://vimeo.com/127520047

INTERAC: https://vimeo.com/91938314

Boston Pizza: https://vimeo.com/70117949

 3   0  

What's the most exciting or "out-there" commercial you have directed and why?

 4   0  

The first tv spot I directed was a fake infomercial selling ribs for a major Canadian restaurant chain. It was pretty ridiculous and an interesting challenge to try to craft "bad" performances that were funny in just the right way. Casting was also hilarious because every good actor loves embracing the cheesy side.

 1   0  

Just saw the spot. Hilarious. Whoever came up with the concept is genius. Love the how the brand isn't mentioned. I wish I could have seen the website for it. Was the campaign successful?

 1   0  

Yes. We sold out two production runs of shirts and found people asking for them on Craigslist for hundreds of dollars. Won a bunch of ad awards as well.

 1   0  

That's amazing. I co own a small agency and head up video. I dream of pulling off a campaign like this. Great work.

 1   0  

Thanks! I find the hard part isn't having the idea. The hard part is convincing the client to take the risk. That's why account people are secretly the unsung heroes of creative advertising.

 1   0  

True, but creatives don't always think about if a campaign is right for a client. I have lots of ideas, just not the right clients to implement them with. :/

 1   0  

Can any of the ideas be adapted to work without a brand? Shoot them as a short film instead. Maybe when the creatives see how good the idea was they'll learn to trust you. Or they were right and you can bury that short film in the backyard.

 3   0  

What are some of the commercials you've worked on? Can you provide examples on YouTube or something?

 3   0  

or something...

You can see a good amount of my work on my portfolio site: www.BradDworkin.com

Brands include: Nike, Taco Bell, Bank of Montreal, Budweiser, etc...

 3   0  

Hi Brad,

My son has done approximately 12 commercials over the last few years. He is a well behaved and generally easy going kid. Every time he's on set. The crew and directors either tell my wife, and when I happen to get the chance to go me how amazing he is.

How bad is it with working with 5-10 year old kids?

For reference my son has shot commercials for Kraft Hockeyville, a couple of Spin Master commercials, blue jays Father's Day, etc.

Thanks for your AMA

 5   0  

5 is tough, as they get older it's easier, but honestly I really enjoy working with kids. It's not for everyone (in school they say don't work with kids or animals). I think kids are fun because they have less of a filter. They aren't in their head as much as actors. However I also like to embrace the randomness that kids bring. If a kid bumps into the set, flubs a line or looks away, I think that makes it feel real and I try to keep it in the final spot. Congrats on your kid doing so well. I hope he continues to act for as long as it remains fun.

 1   0  

It was a non union shoot, my wife was there with him I assume he had breaks

 2   0  

Union caps at 8 hours for kids including hair and makeup and lunch. I hope you have more union than not. It's pretty shitty to take advantage of kids.

 1   0  

I agree, we have tried to get him union jobs but unfortunately(fortunately if your in the union) they are harder to get.

 3   0  

Check out the Actra child performers guide. It might help: http://www.actratoronto.com/performers/at-work/child-performers/

 3   0  

Do you make the commercials with the subliminal messages that tell me I must kill again?

 5   0  

You're thinking of that other guy...All my subliminal messages are about cheese.

 3   0  

Must...have...cheese

 4   0  

excellent...

 2   0  

If commercials had credits, how long would the be?

How long does it take from idea to being on tv?

 3   0  

Commercials do in fact have credits, just not in the commercials. There are a number of sites and blogs that collect credits of ads within the industry. Here's a small sample of the people who touch an ad.

AGENCY: ECD VP CD Copywriter(s) Art Director(s) Account Directors Head of Social Media Social Media Managers Head of PR/Comms PR Assistant Head of Production TV Producer Producer's Assistant

PRODUCTION COMPANY: Producer Line Producer Director Marketing Director DP Editor Colourist Music Sound Design Sound Recording Production Design PM PC VFX Makeup and Hair Grip Gaffe PA etc...

As for your other questions, it's a hard one to answer. Often the timing is more a function of the campaign's needs. For example, I've shot a campaign that needed to be in market the week after it was filmed, with the idea having finalized days prior. I've also had spots that I started pitching in October, and then shot in March for an April release.

 2   0  

No love for the art department? ;)

 1   0  

I did say just a sample. Listed production designer but didn't dig into all the props and sets and everything. Much respect to the people who make everything in front of the camera look awesome.

 2   0  

What are the range in budgets for each commercial?

 3   0  

They seem to get smaller every year. For web spots they average around 30-60k. For tv, it's more like 60-250k (at least that I'm on). Of course bigger brands and bigger buys are different. The superbowl is an anomaly and brands can spend millions. I had a spot that needed an ACDC track. That was a cost separate from the budget. I don't even know how much they paid. These are also production budgets. They don't include media buys and PR

 1   0  

Speaking of, do you have any advice for experienced composers trying to get deeper into the industry? I've done work for Herman Miller recently and I'm on a pitch for a Lego campaign. Appreciate the insight!

-Matthew James

www.matthewjames.audio

 2   0  

Get to know the commercial audio companies, sync license people and music supervisors. They place and commission original tracks.

 2   0  

Do you do 15 second commercials and 1 minute commercials?

 1   0  

I have done 15 seconds, 30 seconds for tv and for web I've done 1 minute plus.

 2   0  

Where did you go to college and what did you study?

 6   0  

I studied Film Production at Ryerson University in Toronto

 1   0  

Was it worth it? Did you find that if you havent gone to university you wouldnt be in the same spot you are now,

 2   0  

I couldn't honestly say. A good friend is a feature director and dropped out of film school. I know a lot of people that never went, but got an education purely from being on set. For me film school created an environment in which to experiment and make shitty films that wouldn't destroy my career. No one ever has to see those. It's like getting a do-over on the start of your career. Also I still work with a number of the people I went to school with so I'm glad to have beeen able to make those connections.

 2   0  

What are your favorite subreddits?

 2   0  

What are your favorite commercials of all time?

 3   0  

I would love to make something like this one day: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG8tqEUTlvs

 2   0  

What kind of representation did you need to secure for landing commercial spots?

 4   0  

This one is interesting. My first spot was directed while I was working full time at an ad agency. After that I got on a roster with a commercial production company. Spent a year and a bit there but it wasn't flowing well. I now work with an agent who finds me jobs and takes a cut. I'm finding that it's better to not be stuck with one production company as a lot of commercial directors are.

 2   0  

What are your favorite movies? Your favorite TV Shows?

 2   0  

Changes all the time. Grand Budapest was wonderful, Fight Club was formative when I was younger. I love meta comedy likes Scrubs, Community, Rick and Morty, 30 Rock. I thought DANIELS did a great job with Swiss Army Man. I'm also really into Anti-Plot humour lately

 2   0  

What did you think of the super commercial from 2 months? Which ones were the best? Which ones were the worst? Which one created the most buzz where you live and among your friends and family?

 2   0  

I assume you mean Superbowl? I think Superbowl commercials generally suck at being commercials. The ads advertise themselves instead of the product. Writing an ad for superbowl is about maximum visibility, not brand messaging.

 2   0  

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I have a few for you:

1) How do you manage your finances? From my understanding, directors don't work very often and when they do, they invest a significant amount of time for each project.
2) with budgets for commercials shrinking as time goes by, what are your plans for the future for your career. 3) how do you balance your time between work and your social life?

 4   0  

Some good questions. I'll do my best to answer.
1. You learn the ebb and flow after a few years. I've been fortunate to exclusively do this for a few years now and I just know that when I'm flush with cash I need to save for the winter months that tend to be slow. Also, keep good records, chase invoices and hustle hard.
2. There will always be a need for storytellers. There is a larger need for content than there ever has been in this business. My plan is to keep telling stories as long as they let me. My plan is to be adaptable to the changing production model and build a body of work that is undeniable so that my reputation gets me through doors.
3. The nice thing is a lot of prep is done at home near family. I have a small child so not a lot of social life, but I'm also able to set aside weekends and later evenings for family time. The only way to do it is to do it. Keep office hours, tell colleagues you aren't available during a certain time and remind them to respect that.

 1   0  

Very good answers! Thanks for the insight and congrats on the success that you've found!

 1   0  

Thanks!

 2   0  

What advice could you give me when it comes to negotiating money? I always try to justify the cost of a video and never try to take advantage of a potential client but how do I handle someone trying to lowball me? I'm new to the production game, thank you for taking the time to do this AMA!

 6   0  

Say no. First rule of negotiating, you have to be willing to walk away. Be honest about price, show them where the money goes, if they push again and you really can't lower the budget, walk away.

I worked on a pitch where they said "we have a kid we found on youtube who we can hire for peanuts". I told them to go ahead...
They called me for the next one.

 1   0  

Thank you, I definitely need to learn to walk away. What are some tips in regards to confidence on set when directing people. How do you flesh out your vision? Also, do you edit your own stuff or do you have a go to editor? Editing is my biggest struggle and I really want to get better at it. Thank you for your time.

 7   0  

I had a big turning point in my career. When I was on set I was playing a part like any actor. I was playing the role of confident director with all the answers. It was a protective shell that hid from the world that I often didn't know the answers or wasn't sure the best course of action. I realized that my actors saw me being "confident knows everything guy" and felt they had to do the same. They didn't ask questions, we didn't talk out ideas, they just powered through. The work was...not great. I realized my anxiety, my insecurity were actually tools if used correctly. If I told the actors up front that I didn't always know the right answer and we should work together to find it, it loosened up the set. We became collaborators, playing together to find the right thing. It also made them feel comfortable with making mistakes. I tell them, let's do something really out there and maybe bad because there are no consequences. I may not have the right answer, but I won't let them look foolish in the final cut. Everyone feels like an imposter. Everyone comes home at the end of the day and says "I can't believe they didn't catch me being a phony with no talent." I say, lean in to it. Make it the thing that you all share on set.
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For the second bit. I have edited my own stuff and also worked with an editor. I started as an editor so I have a vocabulary that helps me express my intentions in the edit. I would say watch a lot, download it and go frame by frame through cuts and transitions you like. Learn how a 10 frame fade feels vs a 15 frame fade. And remember, editing is often about telling a story within a story. If the story is two people talking, what can you say about power relationships between those two people just by manipulating how big they are in the frame. When you use the close and the wide can indicate the emotional dynamics between the people on screen.

 2   0  

This answer is eye opening! I'm film student just outside of Toronto and it seems like the only advice you get when directing is be confident and at least pretend to know what your doing. Thanks for doing this AMA

 1   0  

There's a difference between "fake it till you make it" (which is what I think they were saying), and being false. It's ok to say you don't know. It's ok to lean on people, but you still have to steer the ship. It's management. You're trying to create an environment where mistakes are welcome because they are the first step to finding the best answer.

 1   0  

How come directors never pay the post houses for editing/mixing their Directors Cuts?

 3   0  

The correct answer is: because they can. There's an unfortunate thing where post houses and other vendors are so desperate for contracts that they will take the hit on editing additional cuts or working on director's personal projects in the hopes of building a relationship so that the next job, the one with money, will come to them. It doesn't always work and it has been the downfall of many shops. Yes, I'm guilty of asking for favours as well, but I try to keep it to a minimum and if I ask for a freebie, the next one has to be paid.

 1   0  

Have you done work for films/tv? How does the pay vary for film/tv vs. commercials? I often hear that commercials pay substantially more. Could you give me a rough per-hour salary for both?

 2   0  

So many of the questions here are not so black and white. First off, I've never directed TV/film within the union/guild so I would have a hard time accurately identifying that. Directing is what's called "above the line" which means rather than hourly, it's usually a negotiated rate. Looking at the DGC (Director's Guild), here's what I could find.

A D Tier production (2.5mil feature film, 700k/ep tv) would pay in the range of around $8000 per day.

Commercial directors can make between $2500 per day up to $15k per day, but I've also seen it expressed as a function of the budget, like 10% of the total budget. You also get paid for prep days, but at a lower rate.

 1   0  

Which cities in Canada do you work in? Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver? Which one do you work in the most?

 3   0  

I started in Toronto and do most of my work there, now I fly around a bit too. In the last year I've been shooting in Vancouver, Nova Scotia and St. Louis. This summer I'll probably be in Montreal a bit as well.

 1   0  

Do you get catering and/or Craft services for your commercial shoots?

 1   0  

Yup! It's usually pretty good, but not always. Sometimes with food brands they want to save money and feed you from the brand. I try to push back against that. I don't want to spend all day staring at a [brand redacted] in a room that smells like [brand redacted] because they have to keep making fresh ones to shoot and then take a break only to have to eat the same thing.

 1   0  

Do you make any government commercials like for public service announcements and tourism ads?

 1   0  

I have pitched on spots for Health Canada but never done them. I certainly would, but it hasn't come up yet.

 1   0  

Do you make commercials that air just online?

 1   0  

No. I've done work for web and for TV. A lot more web these days, but that's just because the audiences are there.

 1   0  

What is the most watched weekly shows in Canada and about how many million people watch them?

 2   0  

I almost never do anything around the TV buying, usually a media agency handles that, but here's what I was able to find from NUMERIS numbers:
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1. Big Bang Theory (3.35 mil)
2. Survivor (2.24 mil)
3. NCIS (2.01 mil)
4. Bull (1.85 mil)
5. Designated Survivor (1.82 mil)
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Those are the numbers from March 27-April 2.
http://assets.numeris.ca/Downloads/March%2027,%202017%20-%20April%202,%202017%20(National).pdf

 1   0  

Do you make political and Pharmaceutical ads or does canada not allow those?

 1   0  

I haven't made political nor pharma ads. Pharma ads are supposed to be banned in Canada but it's not well enforced. Political ads tend to be only during election cycles. Here's one for Justin Trudeau that some friends of mine did: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdFxaKNd6xc

 1   0  

my friend wants to make background music for commercials, who should he get in touch with?

 2   0  

Look for music supervisors, stock libraries and sync license companies. They find and place music in ads as well as commission artists to create original work.

 1   0  

Do you work for an Advertising and Marketing firm directly or are you working for a company that is sub contracted by a Big Advertsing and Marketing firm?

 1   0  

I used to work for big ad agencies when I started (started my career as an editor). Now I am hired by production companies (or in house production wings of agencies) who are in turn contracted by agencies.

 1   0  

Do you get a perks/freebies/swag/discounts from the company for whim you are making or have made the commercial for?

 2   0  

Very rarely. When I did Nike I asked for a full zip up and some kicks...got nothing. Sometimes I will get a cell phone case or a t-shirt or some promo swag. Honestly I'm getting paid to make the spot. They don't owe me anything.. Best perk was doing budweiser and getting invited to the private box at Busch stadium in St. Louis.

 1   0  

Who are your favorite movie Directors? And do you draw inspiration from them and try to imitate their work?

 4   0  

All artists steal, myself included. When I was young I was copying their style cues. A lot of David Fincher and Wes Anderson and Steven Spielberg. Now I try to copy their attitudes, their techniques and intentions for how they work with talent. I see what they do to create an on set environment that helps creative talents thrive and imitate that. Maybe it's a closed set, maybe it's a loose schedule that allows time for making mistakes and trying things, maybe it's running the camera for long takes and shouting suggestions. It depends on the project.

 1   0  

What are your hobbies outside of work?

 1   0  

Piano, spending time with my young daughter...Honestly film takes up the rest of my time. When I'm not doing commercials I'm trying to think of things to do that aren't commercials. Documentaries, shorts, webseries, etc..

 1   0  

What is the most popular commercial in Canada right now?

 2   0  

I have no idea. If they do chart ad popularity (and I assume they do), I don't know where to find it. Most of the industry absolutely loves this ad, but it's about 6 months old now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78mNZeDaMtk

 1   0  

Do you ever have to make a commercial that you hate but the client loves? Like something that is corny or over the top with clichés'.

 1   0  

I have in the past. These days it's more like including a shot or a moment that you don't think moves the story forward. Often what I will do is shoot the scene the way the client wants but make things safe for a version without it and then show them in the edit the alternative. If they still want it, they can have it. Ultimately it's their reputation on the line.

 1   0  

I have a friend Atlanta Who told me Customers would want crazy stuff that they insisted on in the commercial. That's why I asked.

 1   0  

You have a friend named Atlanta? That's amazing. As you develop experience and reputation you learn when to push back and how to encourage clients towards the best version of the idea. It doesn't always work.

 1   0  

Which commercials have helped influence YOU to buy a product or service?

 1   0  

Old Spice guy. I don't really care which brand I use, it was just what I grabbed first, but those ads made me grab their product, because I appreciated their willingness to take a risk with their brand messaging.

 1   0  

How often do you work in the USA?

 1   0  

So far, not really much at all and when I do it's shooting content for the Canadian landscape and for Canadian clients. I might get my O1 visa next year so that I can start doing work cross border.

 1   0  

Do commercials ever work on you? Car commercials specifically have never appealed to me, nor have they encouraged me to buy the specific car.

Also, your Toyota car commercial was very well done btw.

Also Also, what does it take to produce commercials? Or in other words, how did you get into the business? I'd love to start.

 3   0  

Work is a hard thing to define. Most commercials these days aren't hard selling you a product as much as it is generating a basic level of awareness about a brand, or in many cases trying to create a positive brand association (this brand cares about the things I care about.)
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Ads work on me in a different sort of way. I see a fantastic piece of creative and I have newfound respect for the brand for having the guts to approve it and go in a unique and different direction.
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Thanks for the nice words about Toyota.
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I got into the business because I applied for a video editor position for a confidential job posting and it turned out to be for a big ad agency. I spent the next 6 years editing for advertising and trying to shoot any time they'd let me (web stuff, low budget). Finally got a shot to do something for tv and launched my career from there. Try to get into advertising and get to know the players in your area. Meanwhile keep shooting things and sharing it with them. Become known for being that guy/girl. Go from there.

 1   0  

When you see commercials that you directed out in the real world, how do you feel about them?

 2   0  

I still get super excited. Especially when non ad industry people are talking about them on twitter or Facebook.

 1   0  

100 duck sized horses or 1 horse sized duck?

 3   0  

100 duck sized horses. I could scale down my sets and fake aerial photography. Huge budget savings

 1   0  

How did you begin making commercials? Was it your career dream growing up or anything?

 2   0  

My early dream was to do computer animation. Not being able to draw had an impact on that so I picked up a camera. I dreamed of making films and went to film school not thinking of ads at all. After graduating I fell into a job editing ads and realized I quite liked the self contained nature of ad creative and pursued it. I also knew that there were a lot of film directors who started in ads and music videos and the music video industry basically died in my city.

 1   0  

What do you take into consideration when trying to draw public interest into a commercial?

 2   0  

Does it borrow on an existing audience or subculture? Does it add value to a conversation or to the world in general? Is it a trope or cliche and if so how can we redirect, reinterpret or reinvent it.

 1   0  

How did you first get signed by a commercial production company?

 1   0  

I had been working for an ad agency for the last 6 years and got a shot to direct something they did that made it to tv. It ultimately picked up a few awards and I decided to leave agency life and take some meetings. Getting meetings was easy, getting a rep I felt good about was harder.

 1   0  

How do you make due with a low budget for productions?

 1   0  

If it's too low you say no and walk away. If it's only sort of low you say yes with stipulations. You push back on the creative and make sure they understand the realities of the budget. You also try to identify what the core of the creative idea is so that you can deliver what they really want and quickly eliminate bells and whistles (read: drone shots, craft service, supervised edit sessions with beer and grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh baked brownies).

 1   0  

With regards to DoPs, how do you choose who to work with? How do you find the DoP and keep them in mind?

What is your relationship like with the DoP on set? How much creative would you say they put into your project?

Any advice for a cameraguy shooting a lot of corporate & online content to move into commercials? (I realise that might not be within your remit...)

Thanks very much!

 1   0  

DoP's are my creative partners. Most of the ones I've had the pleasure to work with I found randomly. Either a friend used them or they came out on a job where I didn't choose the DoP (Maybe I came in last minute to a project). I tend to keep working with the same people now that I have a roster of folks I like, but I'm always watching for new people. If I see some work I love I might start quietly investigating who they are so I have them in my back pocket if a job comes up.
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DoPs put a lot into a project, often with limited time to do it. They aren't around for very much prep on commercials. We will have a lot of phone calls and conversations before the day and then during the shoot there's a lot of trust. I like to look at the monitor at the beginning of a shot and then spend the rest of the time down near the actors focusing on performance. I very rarely sit at video village when there's actors in the scene.
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In terms of advice. If there's a type of work you want to shoot, go shoot it in any way you can until you build up a reel. Then join facebook groups, meetups, go to film festivals, go to ad industry parties and schmooze.

 1   0  

Solid, thanks for taking the time to write such a thorough response!

I think I'm doing most of your advice already, albeit slowly as I try to find inroads and contacts.

Speaking of a reel, how much of it would you say is "oh that's clearly a crane, that's a huge lighting set up" etc, and how much is "just looks super nice"? As far as what is likely to be attention grabbing and appealing to directors. I have access to a reasonable amount of kit but coming up with a brief in order to use it is where I fall down.

 1   0  

Don't sweat the kit. Tell a good visual story, use lighting that's appropriate for the medium you want to work in. Intuition is more important because anyone can rent the fancy toys.

 2   0  

That's what I keep telling myself. Thanks again, very motivational, I want to go out and shoot something now!

 1   0  

Sweet. Go do it!

 1   0  

Thanks for the AMA I'm an agency creative hoping to switch over to commercial directing in the next few years. I have no technical experience but plenty of exposure from supervising shoots, reviewing treatments, briefing, etc.. The plan is to shoot some spec ads over the next 12 months. So my question is, am I better off shooting my own spec scripts (concepts rejected by client) or shooting someone else's script? From a technical standpoint would it be worth my while to work as an assistant director for a period of time or should I dive right in? Finally... What is your success rate on winning pitches?

 1   0  

You can shoot spec to build a reel much like a creative will mock up ads for their book, but don't expect to sell any of it. The spec market is basically dead for ads. I'd suggest making shorts or docs that tell stories in the style of the work you want to direct. And when you start off go meet with every creative you ever worked with and let them know what you're doing. They will be your first clients.
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Assistant directing is not directing. You may have some role moving background actors around, but ultimately writing and editing are closer skills to directing. An AD is part of the set management team, managing timing, schedules, unions and crew. It's a path to Producer more than director.
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Success rate when I started was about 10:1. Now it feels like about 5:1, but I might be on a streak right now. Doesn't always go that way.

 1   0  

[deleted]

 1   0  

Check the thread. I addressed most of these questions. As for spots per year it really varies. I had a contract last year for 50 spots, but we'd shoot 10 in a day for web.

 1   0  

[deleted]

 1   0  

Pays better than indie film. It's a pathway in where you can make a living at it. My thinking initially was that if I can get a high enough day rate I could work one week a month and spend the rest of the time working on passion projects. Not quite there yet.

 1   0  

Thanks a lot for doing this. I am very interested in getting into directing commercials. Right now I am doing camera work, trying to get on set as much as I can. Any suggestions for someone trying to get into the business? Also, I'm thinking about doing Phantom camera training a Abelcine here in LA, to give myself something unique and valuable to bring to set. Any thoughts on whether that would be a wise move?

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I will occasionally get asked to operate a camera, but the role of the director is more about team management and performance. I would take acting classes before I would train on a specific camera.

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How did you get into directing ads?

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I've answered this a few times in this thread. Take a quick scan around.

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Why are commercials so indirect these days? They're so unnecessarily extravagant and sometimes turn into a game of guessing what the advert is for. I'm sorry if this doesn't apply to you or my view is very uncommon but I'd like to know nonetheless

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This goes back a long way. You don't have to sell a car, you have to sell a lifestyle. Direct advertising still exists in the form of infomercials. "It slices, it dices!". Most big brands do things that create a positive feeling and a good brand association.

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Thanks for that. Now I have to give advertisers more credit!

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You don't HAVE to. I like keeping it all in perspective. Ultimately my entire industry is based around making a product that people would skip if they could (and they've designed devices for that express purpose). It keeps me grounded to remember that.

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How long have you been a director? How long did it take you to get to where you are now job-wise? Where do you hope to go with your skills? Do you want to take it further, i.e films/ tv shows or something or are you happy directing commercials? Also whats it like being a director?

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If I go by how long I've been getting paid for it, I directed my first tv spot in 2013. I'd directed little jobs here and there, but I was always working at something else to pay the bills. I graduated film school in 2008, so about 5 years to get to that stage, and then another 5 to get to here. I'd love to do some fiction storytelling. I've got an idea for a webseries I'm developing right now, but if I can continue to make my living off of directing then I feel like I'm very lucky compared to a lot of people that try. I don't want to be ungrateful for my opportunities.
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What it's like...is like doing any job you love. I look forward to going to work. I love the people I get to work with and I love that it's never boring and I'm always in a new place doing something different. What I don't love is that you're always hunting your next job. Pitches are like job interviews so if you don't like interviewing all the time, it's not for you.

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First of all, I'm really happy for you on that you have found a job you love. It sounds fun. And yeah you're definitely lucky to be able to make a living out of it. Can you tell me more about your webseries? I think you should go for it.

Congratulations on finding a job you love and I hope you go far.

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Thanks so much! It's too early in the game to talk about the series idea, but by way of teasing, it's about big data as a false creative prophet... you know, for kids!

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I am currently going to film school and I would love to be in your job position one day. What would you recommend I start to do now to get into your line of work?

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You've already taken the first step. Keep working, keep building a reel, keep building a reputation. And learn to think of yourself as a brand. If you called you as a client and said "sell me as a director", how would you do it? If you can't sell yourself, you'll struggle to sell for your potential clients.

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Thanks for the AMA! This is my dream job and would love to hear how you approach the first client call when they download you on the vision for the spot. For example, do you have any strategies when it comes to getting them to like you or your ideas? Anything about your approach on the call would be helpful! Thanks again!

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In advertising I don't usually originate the idea. I'm given a brief of what they want to execute and often a script. Agencies employ copywriters which are the equivalent to a screenwriter for films. After that I'm given an opportunity to prepare a treatment, a document which outlines how I would execute their vision while adding my own ideas. I'm not expected to give thoughts on that first call, just listen and ask questions so that I'm aligned with the creative team.

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Thanks for taking the time to do this! I understand that the amount of agency and client input may vary depending on the spot but how do you deal with working and quite frankly, selling your ideas to agency and clients who may at first oppose your idea? I often struggle with this when in the pre-pro stage or even after sign off they seem to chicken out and go through the "play it safe" route.

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It's a delicate dance and you need to get them on your side. Try to avoid us vs them attitudes. It doesn't always work, even for me. Show them your secret sauce if you can. Instead of saying "the camera should fly into the sky on a crane", say "The end of this spot is really about the isolation of the main character so it would be great if the final image was him from above from a great distance". Then they know not just what you're doing but why.
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And pick your battles.

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Hi Brad, Hope I'm not too late. How does someone work their way into your position? How do I get a foot in the door at an ad agency? I've started a video production business in Australia and landed a few smaller gigs - what comes next? Ideally I would like to freelance, however I'm not averse to getting some experience then going freelance properly. Thanks!

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Ok, so if you want ad agencies to hire your company, you need to connect with agency producers. Luckily agency producers usually want to meet new production companies to add to their toolbelt. Find them on linkedin, facebook, industry mags, google fu. Then when you do, ask for a coffee meeting to introduce yourself, tell them what you do and email them a link to your work. Once you've done that, maintain those relationships. Check in once every few months. Be top of mind for them when a job comes up they need to crew.

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Thanks for the reply! When checking in every so often, what would you be saying? Something along the lines of "how's it going? any exciting projects coming up? this is what I've just worked on."

If you don't mind answering, what's most important when it comes to gear? I have a Panasonic GH4, with a GH5 on pre-order - can I show off what I can do with just my GH4, then on bigger jobs rent larger cameras and lights? Should I just keep my GH4 or upgrade to a GH5 or bigger? (Love the BOM ad, very touching, Brad!)

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It's a relationship. Talk about personal stuff. Ask them about themselves. Talk about sports if they like sports. If they talk about a job that just happened (you didn't do), listen, see what they liked and didn't like about how it went. The hard sell is a turn off.
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Gear isn't important to being a director. I don't even bring my laptop to set anymore because I'm on my toes all the time. DoPs tend to amasse cameras and lights and light meters and stuff. Directors need their paperwork (prep) and pens, and not much else in terms of gear. Also bring a fresh pair of socks. Got that advice from another director. Nothing better than putting on a fresh pair of socks at lunch. Feels like luxury.

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I am aspiring to be a videography. I've done news stuff in college, but I'd like to work on commercials and if possible, move into film. I've been graduated for over a year with no luck breaking into even the news field. What's a girl to do?

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When I graduated from film school they told me the two crew that get hired right out of school are sound and editors. I became an editor as a pathway in, literally applied for a job in Canada's version of Variety (Playback). Make applying for a job your job. Apply to 10 jobs a week until something clicks. That first one is the hardest.

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What are some of the audio "tricks" that most consumers don't realize are intentionally used to make a stronger impression or help audience remember​ advert?

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First off, and I hate this, ads are regulated at a different loudness rating than tv shows, so ads are often quite a bit louder than the programs. Secondly, often playing with silence can make a difference. So many ads are bombastic walls of sound, that pulling out the sound at the right moment to make a point can be very effective. Car commercials will do that. Last thing is called a mnemonic device. "BY MENNEN", the thumping drum of the Energizer bunny, the little dings and dongs at the end of car commercials are all sounds designed to assist with memory. They get stuck in there (it's the concept behind jingles).

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Hi, how did you get to where you are now in the industry? not physically. lol

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I've answered this a few times already, but short version. Applied for editor job, turned out to be an ad agency. Worked in house at two ad agencies for about 5-6 years. Started shooting web content while still working in house then did a tv-spot, left agency and started working as a director. Haven't looked back.

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Was the web content for the company or yourself?

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It was when youtube started to be part of the marketing pie. So a brand would have their tv-spot and then want something on youtube to support it that wasn't just reposting the tv spot on their channel. So we would shoot little standups with their employees or tutorials on how to use a phone, or paint your house. Mostly stuff like that. They had no budget so they were fine with letting the editor on staff who likes to shoot stuff do it. Gradually they got to trust me and budgets started to get bigger.

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Do you enjoy commercials on TV, streaming services and online? Or do you mostly avoid them like everyone else?

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Enjoy might be too strong of a word. I don't mind them as long as they're not excessive. I was using a free app the other day that played a 30 second unskippable sprite commercial every time I used it. It was brutal. I will however pay for Netflix or Itunes seasons pass in order to binge a show with no ads. I think the role of advertising will change into something more like branded content. In that way it's a return to the roots of advertising. Like the "Dial soap Variety Hour" kind of thing. Vice is already doing it with doc series brought to you by Ubisoft and A&W.

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Hey Brad,

I'm a director based out of Atlanta, and I just wrapped on my third commercial. How do you manage agency/client expectations and contradictions? For example, the commercial I just wrapped had an approved script, music picked out by client, talent cast, choreographer hired, etc. Many of the pieces were already in place and locked in.

Now that they are seeing the edits come in, they dont like a good amount of the things they wanted. The song doesnt work for them. They wanted a dance from the choreographer and the dance was too much or not enough, despite a video demonstration before we started shooting. The product shots are too much when sped up like we discussed, but too boring when played at normal 24fps. They seemed to know exactly what they wanted when we started, and I agreed, all of their ideas and suggestions were possible and could work towards the narrative they were trying to put forward. But now that they see it, they are backtracking. How do I manage what they want and what they expect?

My second question is how do you go about getting an agent for commercial work? Ive been looking around for commercial production company that could put me on the roster but not finding any takers. My reel is below if you want to take a look.

Thanks!

-Doc

https://vimeo.com/198760797

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Ugh, sounds like a pain. There isn't really a great technique for this kind of thing except to make sure all the ideas and visions you talked about are on paper before you shoot (In the treatment or pre-pro book). After the fact you can point at it, but sometimes it doesn't matter. Tell them the cost of a reshoot, or tell them about what can be done in post and what can't, and leave it with them. You may not love the final result but it's their money, their brand, and it never has to go on your personal site.
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For getting an agent, just send your reel and CV to production companies and ask for a coffee meet. It's a bit of luck, it's a bit of being known. You could also ask agency producers you've worked with to get you an in for a meeting. Prod Co's will take the meeting to make the agency happy.

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Hey! Fellow Ryerson student here, graduating next year! As I'm sure you remember, the pressure is on to figure out what to do after next year. I've directed a few short films through school, and done some freelancing work with music videos and commercials on the side, but nothing major. I do want to continue directing into the future, but like you I've considered entering the industry as an editor or animator.

You mentioned meeting up with agency producers as a way to get on their toolbelt - I was wondering if you could detail that a bit more! How does the pitching process work? Do you find yourself working with a few larger agencies, or does work come from everywhere?

I've got lots more questions, and I appreciate you taking the time to do this AMA! If you are in Toronto and have got some free time, I'd love to buy you a coffee (or a beer) and talk a little more. I know it's an ask, but hey - we all start somewhere. Thanks!

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Hey there. I wouldn't expect to get hired as a director right out of school but it has happened where a thesis film led to big things. Often though when you look deeper that person was usually well connected even before then.
The meetings with producers are informal, not pitches. It's more of a get to know you meeting. It's about letting them know what you've done, what you can do and what you want to do and hope they give you a chance. You need to cast a wide net. My in was through agency life so when I started I was working with big agencies right away. Sometimes work will come from random places though.
And yeah, PM me. We could probably sort out a coffee somewhere. Maybe Balzacs under Image Arts?

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I'm a student that's currently getting a marketing degree along with a TV/Cinema BFA with the hopes of going into advertising.

Could you comment a bit on the relationship between business and creative that you deal with every day? How much of your work is brand identity, and how much is artistic expression?

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It's a total balance. The two are not mutually exclusive (brand and art). You want to use one as a conduit to the other. I like to think of it like being a translator. I convert brand speak into story language with the help of ad agencies. It's usually a team effort. Directors and ad agencies work together to push the creative to the business. We have each other's backs most of the time.

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What are your thought on the Pepsi commercial?

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So the Pepsi ad was the result of a change to the industry that is getting more prevalent every year. Basically it's about the decoupling of agencies and production companies from clients. Clients, in this case Pepsi, are tired of seeing the agency markup and they think they can do it just as well and for cheaper by building their own in house production company to help them push more and more content. In the best case scenario this means the creatives at the agency write the idea and then the client goes and makes it themselves. In the worst case they also write it without the benefit of planning and strategy that goes on behind the scenes at agencies. The result...is that commercial.
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Agencies have a 360 picture of a brand, their audience, the things they care about. They can help mitigate risk by testing animatics and scripts and just by being aware of the zeitgeist, because it's a big part of their job. When clients ignore that or pretend it's not necessary, they lose. I will often have a conversation during pre-pro about how to manage the influx of internet trolls that will inevitably pop up and build that into the production.

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Cake or pie?

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Pie in Canada. Cake in Europe.

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How do you choose your cinematographer for each project? I'm a DP trying to make better commercial clients so was curious (I mainly do features or short films).

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Personal relationships, reccos and beautiful work that is in the tone or style. Also talking to crew who have worked with them. Sometimes a great DoP is a dick on set. Can't have that. Also if you have a short that gets blog coverage, vimeo staff pick, short of the week, etc.. That can be helpful to get in front of people.

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What the best way to network with other directors? Did you have a mentor?

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Directors don't do a lot of networking with other directors. It kind of sucks. It's part of the reason I wanted to do this. It's sort of every person for themselves a lot of the time. I was lucky. Early on in my career I connected with a great Canadian comedy director who has since gone on to do Trailer Park Boys and some wonderful features. He gave me advice when I was nobody. He totally understood the notion of sending the elevator back down. I owe him a lot. Best thing you could do? Look for filmmaker events. Meetups, film festival parties and industry panels, seminars and master classes. Talk to people. Just in my experience lots of directors want to talk their ideas at you and aren't looking for any new friends unless you can help them make their idea..not help you make yours. (except me. I'm the exception)