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Authenticity, Emotion and Experience Matter Most in the Pursuit of Creative, Resonant Storytelling
- Friday, Aug. 6, 2021
Whether working on a commercial project or directing a feature film, I find myself obsessively focused on conveying true emotion to viewers and giving them an authentic experience. My background is in visual arts, photography and music. Regardless of the final form a given project may take, my approach to the entire directorial process--concept, execution, aesthetics, performance and post--remains the same. I strive to explore and express authenticity, tone, atmosphere, and experience through a process that centers on the people who are featured in - and join in the making of - the work. We are in the business of conveying emotion and experience. The more tangible and deeply felt, the better. In my experience. utilizing a truly collaborative, human-first approach always leads to a more resonant and heartfelt result.
As a partner and engineer in a small Chicago indie recording studio in the 90’s, I collaborated with musicians of all stripes and genres. Those personal and creative relationships continue to this day. Many are still releasing albums and/or performing in bands, but few score spots on a regular basis. Their lack of industry knowledge is an asset in many cases, however, because, like me, they approach their creative work for ads the same way they would for their albums, bands or film scores: with a focus on creating great work that conveys real emotion. The intended experience and emotional impact of each piece of work, be it a commercial, film or album always acts as the North Star. It’s never just another jingle for these musical collaborators, just as it’s never just another spot for me or any member of my team. Every project, regardless of its final form, allows us all to explore, collaborate and create in exciting and cumulative new ways.
My most recent feature film, The Evening Hour, which premiered at Sundance in 2020 and debuted in theaters--NYC on July 30, 2021 and L.A. on August 6, 2021 -- took a similar creative approach. We shot in a very remote part of Kentucky – Harlan County – in the southeast corner of the state. Projects about Appalachia often fall into reductive traps and risk stereotyping-- mediated renderings of the region are sensitive and have to be handled with care. The Evening Hour is based on a novel of the same name by Carter Sickels; screenwriter Elizabeth Palmore and I wanted to do justice to the ways in which Carter captured a complex, nuanced portrait of Appalachia and its people. To accomplish this, we turned to an almost anthropological process that included deep collaboration with the local community and its residents. Focusing on the conveyance of authentic emotion and experience, we worked to ensure that the film’s plot, script, cinematography and performances would truly honor those among whom we worked, lived and created while making the film.
I don’t change my approach whether I’m directing a commercial versus a film; one project can (and usually does) teach you lessons about how to craft the other. My entire heart always goes into all the work. Over time, the back-and-forth between commercials, films, music and visual art has fused into a singular, consistent approach that puts authenticity, emotion and experience first. It’s always about achieving results that resonate. Stories, songs and even brand messages are always best conveyed by the human subjects, emotions and experiences that live at their center. Rendering and conveying that kind of tangible and relatable experience to the viewer as authentically and indelibly as I can is the thing I love most about doing this work.
Braden King is a director with Washington Square Films