- Thursday, Jun. 2, 2016
- NEW YORK
SHOOT’s afternoon Directors/Producers Forum and evening New Directors Showcase, both held at the DGA Theatre in NYC on Thursday, May 26, offered a wide range of observations and insights, as well as substantive exposure for up-and-coming filmmaking talent.
Among the highlights was an “In The Director’s Chair” session with Alan Taylor, a DGA Award (Mad Men) and Emmy winner (The Sopranos), who reflected on his career spanning TV, features, commercials and branded content while sharing details of his latest creatively ambitious endeavor, a new original series for WGN America.
Here’s a rundown of Forum proceedings:
The Forum kicked off with a Producers Perspectives discussion moderated by SHOOT editor Robert Goldrich and featuring panelists Joshua Blum, founder/president of Washington Square Films; Kira Carstensen, president. Commercials and Music Videos, Pulse Films; Scott Chinn, executive broadcast producer, Droga5 New York; and Anthony Nelson, head of content production, J. Walter Thompson New York.
The panelists reflected on how the role of the producer has evolved in recent years, particularly as different forms of content gain momentum with the advertising and entertainment sectors coming closer together. For Carstensen, a recent project--which she was only at liberty to discuss in broad strokes--marked in several respects the changing nature of what a producer deals with in terms of the process behind creating and producing content. Pulse is producing this episodic comedy web series for an undisclosed client of Droga5. With six mini-episodes, the show provided an opportunity for character development and was treated much like a primetime TV series. A showrunner/EP took the reins and hired were an episodic TV director whose credits include 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Will & Grace, a TV casting director (from Veep and with experience in other comedy shows), a TV series line producer and makeup/costume team.
Droga5 presented Pulse with a pre-sold idea, at which point showrunner Sharon Horgan (creator/star of Amazon’s Catastrophe and showrunner/EP on the upcoming Divorce starring Sarah Jessica Parker for HBO) assembled a writers’ room which spitballed ideas relative to characters and character development, and different story angles. Their work in turn was then brought to a Droga5 creative team who honed those ideas down further. A smaller writers’ room then further developed that material, coming up with scripts for multiple episodes. These writers and the agency creatives then convened again to advance story arc and characters further with an eye on brand relevance and messaging. The collection of episodic talent helped to make the project feel more like a little miniseries rather than a piece of long-form advertising.
Carstensen was drawn to Pulse Films--which she joined in January 2014--by its expertise, talent and resources to take on projects which entail the cross-pollination of advertising and entertainment. Pulse maintains separate Film & Scripted Television, Non-Scripted TV, Branded Entertainment and Channels, and Commercials and Music Video operations. And last year, Carstensen teamed with Horgan and Jeremy Rainbird of Merman to open the comedy branded label Merman X Pulse, which focuses on alternatively conceived and produced ad projects.
Underscoring the changing nature of what producers work on today, Chin cited Droga5’s recent experiential fare for Google’s annual developer I/O festival. The three-day event (May 18-20) showcasing new cool technologies and products in the Google universe was taken out of a convention hall setting and moved to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, Calif. Droga5 partnered with Google to create the interactive experiences Paper Planes and Paint Party which added to the festival vibe. Paper Planes enabled attendees to create a virtual paper plane on their mobile device and to throw it from the phone into the Internet. At I/O, participants got to see their planes fly on a large amphitheatre screen. Destination stamps from different cities could be placed on the planes. The project generated some 75,000 planes from all over the world.
Meanwhile the Paint Party experience had a digital and a physical component. Mobile devices were enabled so that users could physically flick paint from their phones onto the big theatre screen. As for the physical experience, there was an industrial robot arm at I/O that could interact with mobile devices featuring new innovative Google technology. The robotic arm could be directed to guide a paint brush to a selected color in a carousel and then flick that color of paint onto a large cube which the participant could position, thus creating a collaborative art installation.
Chinn noted that these types of innovative projects could only be attained through production department participation from the outset. “One of the ways that the producer’s role is changing is getting involved much earlier than we would have five or 10 years ago,” said Chinn who noted that over many months Droga5 producers were directly involved with the creatives and great clients, teaming on the making of quick prototypes and then exploring all the possibilities to fully realize the potential of the idea. He added that producers also take an active part in how a good, strategically sound idea can be expanded to different platforms beyond what was originally envisioned. “How else can it live,” he explained, so that the widest range of people can interact and enjoy the project.
For J. Walter Thompson’s Nelson, there’s been a major shift in priorities when seeking partners and collaborators. Whereas the director has long been the major magnet drawing the agency, that filmmaker’s support infrastructure is now also under careful scrutiny. Nelson noted that the production company, its resources, expertise and support staff now figure prominently in the decision as to which director to select for a project. He emphasized that the caliber of production partners has become more important than ever with new content forms and platforms coming into prominence.
When he started out on the agency side, Nelson recalled, “It was a director’s game. You called the directors.” But now, said Nelson, having a partner who can develop different kinds of content has become as important as the director.” Nelson observed that there’s a chunk of money for marketing--but whereas before most of it was for a high-end broadcast :30, now far less is apportioned for that spot. Now brands want other forms of content--thus your choice of production partners to help create and produce “that stuff” becomes all the more crucial.
Washington Square Films’ Blum said that the evolution of the producer’s role is for him exemplified in how his company has evolved over the years. While he describes Washington Square as primarily involved in commercial and branded content production (Pepsi, Ford, Apple, Coke, Chevrolet, IBM, Benjamin Moore, Snickers), Blum has served as producer or executive producer on such features as Margin Call, All is Lost, A Most Violent Year, Listen Up Philip, Wendy and Lucy, and Francine. His film endeavors at Washington Square over the years have been nominated for four Oscars and seven Independent Spirit Awards. In the offing for Washington Square Films is a Broadway theater production. And Washington Square continues to maintain a talent management division for directors, actors and varied artists.
Regarding how new opportunities are opening up for producers, Blum noted that Washington Square Films produced Orange Sunshine, a feature documentary written and directed by William Kirkley. The documentary debuted at this year’s SXSW Film Festival where it was nominated for the Documentary Grand Jury Prize. Orange Sunshine delves deeply into the never-before-told story of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, a spiritual group of surfers and hippies in Orange County, Calif., who became the largest suppliers of LSD and hashish in the world during the 1960s and ‘70s. This story, though, is ultimately about friends, deftly told by Kirkley who put many years into the project, the most daunting challenge being to gain access to the married couple who headed a band of idealistic, almost communal families, smuggling hashish from Afghanistan to fund manufacturing of LSD which they would frequently give away for free or at minimal cost.
Orange Sunshine--which Blum said is being released by Amazon--also led to the production of an offshoot 3D virtual reality experience tied to the origin of the Brotherhood. Titled The Beginning, the Kirkley-directed VR piece played in the interactive section of SXSW, placing viewers into the high-stakes drug trade before transporting them into a psychedelic desert retreat. “It’s the best simulation of an acid trip I’ve ever seen...Walls melt, furniture floats,” related Blum.
Yet while Blum embraced the VR experience, at the same time he observed that he’s lived through CD-Roms, three iterations of 3D and various other technologies. So who’s to say that VR is here to stay? he asked. Ultimately as producers, he affirmed, “We love storytellers. We are dedicated to storytellers and talent.” One such storyteller is Kirkley whom Washington Square Films handles for spots and branded content.
Content & Technology
Goldrich moderated this discussion in which panelists from different walks of the industry shed light on how technology is not just facilitating--but breaking new ground for--inspired content. Panelists were cinematographer Trevor Forrest; Brendan Kiernan, managing director and co-founder of integrated experiential production company HeLo; Sam Smith, creative director of MediaMonks in Los Angeles; Jay Tilin, VP of editorial services for Company 3 in New York; and Kristin Tomborello, executive producer at BBDO New York.
Tomborello recently served as executive interactive producer on the recently released virtual reality film A Walk in Their Shoes for AT&T and TOMS Shoes, produced by Vrse.works. The piece lends a human dimension to the longstanding initiative whereby for every pair of TOMS shoes purchased, another pair of shoes is donated to a needy person. Viewers of this film are able to travel from California to Colombia and experience giving through the eyes of an actual customer, seeing his impact from purchase to the donation of shoes and their effect on someone in need. TOMS’ day-to-day giving is done with the help of AT&T’s global network.
While BBDO has dabbled in some 360 fare, A Walk in Their Shoes marked the agency’s first full fledged VR storytelling experience. Tomborello noted that BBDO consciously embraces new platforms and looks to create appropriate content for them as it has in the past, for example, for Vine and Snapchat. Inspired by touching documentaries already done in VR such as Waves of Grace (on the Ebola outbreak in Liberia), BBDO sought the proper content to tell an uplifting story via virtual reality. There was a considerable learning curve, however, related Tomborello, noting that there are “no jump cuts, no fast movement happening. Everything is a slow panning story.”
In 360, you don’t know where viewers are looking so you have to think about editing in a different way, observed Tomborello. You have to “take time in each of your edits to let the user experience the world around them....You cannot expect wackiness, energy pumping, zoom-ins and zoom-outs.” The project was an education for everyone. BBDO thought of the project as “a super technical student film” that it and its production partners were “trying to figure out as we go along.”
She added that the technology is constantly shifting. When they shot A Walk in Their Shoes in January, a GoPro camera setup was the way to go. Since then the Facebook Surround 360 and Nokia OZO cameras have come out, meaning that we are currently in an ongoing state of playing catch-up with new options to consider.
Kiernan too is well versed in VR but instead centered his Forum conversation on the creation of physically immersive experiences, an endeavor inspired in part by HeLo’s “Ian Up For Whatever” Bud Light 2014 Super Bowl campaign in which hidden cameras captured real person Ian’s epic adventurous night which went on to win a Cannes Gold Lion in Film Craft-Achievement in Production. That lauded piece of work, explained Kiernan, got him and his compatriots at HeLo thinking about real physical experiences that are tangible, real, sometimes even surreal. While VR is amazing, it is still a very solitary, mediated experience. HeLo thus became interested in exploring more physical immersive experiences, developing a roster of not only directors as content creators but production designers to help create environments and spaces in which this physical fare could flourish. HeLo is collaborating with immersive theatrical companies, one of which is the L.A.-based Wilderness. HeLo and Wilderness have teamed on developing a fuller expression of a prior physical theater experience with The Day Shall Declare It, which is currently in the middle of a 10-week run in downtown L.A. An audience of 32 people interact with the actors, become part of the story and in a sense help to co-create the story. Kiernan and his HeLo partner, EP Justin Moore-Lewy, will make a presentation at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity later this month to delve into the implications of physical immersive experiences--including complementary screen and mediated experiences--for brand building and marketing.
Cinematographer Forrest won a Best Cinematography honor at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival for Una Noche. Fast forward to a couple of months ago at the latest Tribeca fest where Forrest viewed some 20 VR experiences and shared with the Forum audience some of the resulting lessons he learned. The Click Effect, for example, put him some 35 feet under water. He recalled even looking down and not seeing the bottom, feeling the sensation of floating, swimming with whales and dolphins in virtual reality. This physical dimension “excited me as a cinematographer,” reflecting another tool and context to bring to storytelling, “to actually make the audience feel something more.”
Beyond feeling “something more,” virtual reality--with the cinematographer/viewer being the camera--can lead to societal reform, continued Forrest, citing the VR film 6 x 9 which was shown at Tribeca. The piece gives viewers a sense of what solitary confinement in a 6x9 prison cell feels like, and by doing so proved integral in helping to bring about U.S. legislation so that a minor could not be placed in such a solitary confinement cell.
Forrest added that he’s been told that the Nokia OZO is the gold standard for VR cameras. He noted, however, that there is a microphone on the unit which captures immersive sound. The presence of that microphone takes up a space on the camera which prevents it from being truly 360. A special plate has to be shot to patch that up, said Forrest, underscoring that even with the gold standard, we are still in the midst of a process where there’s room for further progression and shakeout of technology.
MediaMonks’ Smith provided an overview of the VR marketplace by sharing his experiences on three recent projects--one low budget, another medium budget and the third with a rather large budget. The low budget piece was for a nonprofit organization and had to be done for $3,000 within two weeks. Time and budget constraints informed the camera choice which was the Kodak SP360, Kodak’s action cam competitor to GoPro. Smith said he was impressed by the two-camera system (at $400 per camera) and paired it for the project with Autopano stitching--for each minute of footage shot, there were three minutes of stitch time.
The medium budget project was for a big travel company, with beautiful landscapes and vistas captured successfully with a Sony A7S five-camera rig. The rig went underwater and was also put on a drone which crashed multiple times. “Never trust drones,” advised Smith who went with Nuke for the post workflow. “Nuke was super helpful for stitching footage,” assessed Smith who said the VR film required about a month of postproduction.
The project with a huge budget was a VR film starring Nicole Kidman for Saudi Arabian Etihad Airways. Titled Reimagine, the film takes a 360-degree look at the luxury interior of Etihad’s Airbus A380. Smith said the production went with one RED camera and was shot in plates so that it could more easily be lit like a big Hollywood movie. A Nuke post pipeline was set up, with work done over a four-month span. Smith described the final result as “technically perfect, it’s beautiful.”
No matter what the budget level, Smith concluded, “The only way to find out what works in VR is to go shoot it...There’s a lot of room to explore right now and that’s super exciting.”
Meanwhile moving outside the VR realm, Tilin, who’s head of the editorial department and finishing editor for feature film and episodic TV shows at Company 3 in New York, discussed the potential of HDR (High-Dynamic Range) which is top drawer quality brightness in imagery, allowing viewers to experience great highlight detail while at the same time seeing a greater depth of shadow richness and detail in those shadows. While VR is an immersive experience, Tilin described HDR as designed to enhance and bring another dimension to the traditional TV experience. At Company 3. Tilin worked on the Marco Polo series for Netflix, billed as the first end-to-end HDR project. Shot on the Sony F55 camera, Marco Polo is set in 13th century Mongolia, with a goal of trying to portray the scenes as if lit solely by natural fire light or sunlight. Tilin related that for example there would be a fire illuminating a cave or a scene while viewers could still clearly see people’s expressions within that scene. Standard production practices were kept in place for Marco Polo in terms of image capturing, standard monitors, even the offline editorial dailies process, maintaining working environments that were comfortable for the crew. The magic occurred, said Tilin, in postproduction with images exploding in the DI grading suite, with special monitors able to display the increased HDR brightness and range. “We can start diving into what the camera actually captured and bring it out far more than what was possible with standard dynamic range. To give some context, Tilin noted that brightness is measured in nits. There are some 100 nits in your TV set at home. Deployed by Tilin on Marco Polo, the special monitor, of which only 14 are in existence, had a measure of some 4,000 nits.
Tilin isn’t an advocate of future proofing for HDR but thinks momentum will build for the greater brightness technology. Still to be determined is what action broadcasters and cable providers will take as they explore how to deliver this kind of increased data to homes. Currently HDR is only available through streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu and the like. Tilin said that he went to a retail electronics store the other day and saw two TV sets which displayed HDR. Next Xmas season, there might be 30, he said hopefully. “Will it [HDR] go the way of 3D? I don’t think so,” conjectured Tilin. “This [HDR} to me is a game changer.”
On The Witness Stand
SHOOT publisher and editorial director Roberta Griefer interviewed Jeffrey A. Greenbaum, managing partner of advertising and entertainment law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz (FKKS) relative to legal issues facing the industry at large. This “On The Witness Stand” session yielded insights on such fronts as production company-director contracts, intellectual property, and the recently ratified SAG-AFTRA commercials contract negotiated between the union and the ANA and 4As Joint Policy Committee.
For the latter, Greenbaum noted that the SAG-AFTRA contract “tried to look at situations where they were creating a higher talent cost on projects where it wasn’t appropriate to do so.” Now for qualifying projects--certain live events, hidden camera and real people man-in-the-street situations, and select short-lived social media projects, even a union signatory agency can produce at lower rates or perhaps not under a SAG-AFTRA contract. This enables agencies and production companies to be much more competitive in certain areas. “It’s a very big change,” affirmed Greenbaum.
As for director-production company contracts, Greenbaum observed that directors often have “the wrong things in mind,” becoming a bit too preoccupied with aspects of compensation such as day rate, profits, who will “pay for my cellphone.” Greenbaum said “the most important thing is fit. Did you find people who really believe in you, who have a vision for your career, reps who believe in your career.” Is there a similar vision as to how they’re going to sell you and your work?
“If I’m a director at any stage of my career,” said Greenberg, “the thing I’m most concerned about is that I don’t get lost...Am I at a company where it makes sense, where I fit into a roster of directors?” He added that typically contracts are being drawn up for two years. Yet he’s seen some production houses pushing for seven-year contracts which can prove onerous in situations when in the middle of year three a director hasn’t done much work--and still the production company won’t let him or her out of the contract.
Greenbaum’s pet peeve is that production companies at times approach contracts with directors like marriage and divorce. It’s like going through a divorce and chronicling everything you hated about that relationship. Then you are about to get married again so you want a prenuptial agreement, looking to prohibit whatever it was you hated about your first husband or wife. That doesn’t exactly make for the ideal start to a new relationship. The “mistake” is that “production companies use the contract to express the hostility that they have over all the bad experiences they’ve had with directors in the past. I try to encourage them not to do that, particularly with directors who are just starting out.”
It’s prudent to remember, said Greenbaum, that the relationship between a production company and a director is “fairly uncomplicated--a production company is going to help find you work and you’re going to direct it and get paid for it.” To fashion a good contract for that relationship doesn’t necessarily require lengthy negotiations or thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Relative to intellectual property, when it comes to creating advertising, the norm has been “everything is owned much of the time by the ultimate client,” said Greenbaum. Production companies and agencies are trying to change that in certain instances as different forms of content emerge. Still it’s very difficult to change the traditional compensation model. One dynamic is that as new people enter the business, they are replacing those who have done things the same way for the past 20 to 30 years. Greenbaum said he was on the phone recently negotiating an ownership issue and since the people were not long-time industry veterans, he wasn’t hearing that this is the way we’ve been doing it for the past 20 years. They were open to considering different options. And as new kinds of projects surface, there are interesting conversations to be had. Often the problem is that people start that conversation at the wrong time. They bid on a project, are awarded it and later want the legal terms to be different. That conversation has to be initiated early on, “up front” in the process, said Greenbaum.
Part of properly engaging in that process is “presenting yourself differently,” observed Greenbaum. “If you present yourself as the traditional whatever, doing the traditional whatever, you’ll get the traditional model.”
In The Director’s Chair
While he is continually seeking new creative challenges, director Alan Taylor is in one key respect hoping that history repeats itself relative to his current project, Roadside Picnic, Taylor is in pre-pro on the TV series which will be an original programming centerpiece for WGN America. During the “In The Director’s Chair” session in which he was interviewed by SHOOT editor Goldrich, Taylor described WGN as an “enthusiastic network with something to prove.”
With Roadside Picnic, Taylor would like to replicate the success that another network looking to establish itself in the original programming sphere enjoyed some nine years ago with the debut of Mad Men--a game changing show for AMC, now a basic cable mecca for top drawer original fare such as Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Better Call Saul. Taylor directed the Mad Men pilot for which he won the DGA Award in 2008, and was again nominated for the same Guild honor the following year on the strength of that series’ “The Mountain King” episode.
Whereas Mad Men had the writing prowess of series creator Matthew Weiner as a driving force, Roadside Picnic affords Taylor the opportunity to further extend his creative reach to script development as he collaborates with show creator/writer Jack Paglen. Taylor said of Roadside Picnic, “It’s something that means a lot to me emotionally,” noting that the series represents the chance to “do something personal that I have a connection with.”
For Taylor the connection was to the sci-fi novel "Roadside Picnic" from authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky. The film Stalker, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky--whom Taylor admires--is loosely based on the novel, with the screenplay written by the Strugatsky brothers. Even a first person shooter video game was inspired by "Roadside Picnic." Taylor said of Stalker and the game, “This book I love inspired high culture and low culture.” He affirmed that to now have “a television series to tell the whole story and dive into the characters” was particularly appealing to him as an filmmaker.
Taylor described Roadside Picnic as “an alien visitation story where you never see the aliens.” It’s a tale that centers on “how do we carry on when the meaning has been sucked out of everything.” Finding the story to be “absurd, beautiful and dark,” Taylor has embraced the challenge of doing justice to the spirit of the novel via a creatively ambitious TV series.
Roadside Picnic is the latest chapter in Taylor’s directorial career which on the TV front is marked by three Emmy nominations: a win in 2007 for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for the “Kennedy and Heidi” episode of The Sopranos (HBO); another directing nom the following year for the Mad Men pilot; and a Best Drama Series nod for Game of Thrones (HBO) in 2012--for which he directed multiple episodes and served as co-executive producer. Taylor’s directorial imprint is also on such shows over the years as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Rome, Deadwood, Carnivale, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, ABC’s Lost and NBC’s The West Wing.
Furthermore Taylor has diversified successfully into theatrical features with Marvel’s Thor 2: The Dark World, which went on to gross $645 million worldwide, and Terminator Genisys. And he’s moved into shorter form as well with commercials and branded content via production house Bullitt.
With the Director’s Chair session wrapping the afternoon Forum just prior to the SHOOT New Directors Showcase that evening, Goldrich began the conversation by asking Taylor about his career beginnings and the path he took to become a director. After attaining a PhD in history at Columbia, Taylor went to film school at NYU, explaining that he continued his higher education “partly as an avoidance mechanism to stay out of the real world as much as possible.” Though he doesn’t consider film school necessary in order to launch a directing career, Taylor shared a valuable insight he gained from his NYU experience. “I was competing with the other students and at a certain point I realized that at my best I will make a movie that only I would make and at their best they will make a movie that only they could make. Competition sort of faded and we were all in it together...which is a great feeling to hang onto.”
Taylor hung his hat initially on a well-received, lauded short film he wrote and directed--That Burning Question--which opened a key door for him. EP/director/writer Barry Levinson saw the short and gave Taylor a chance to direct NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, which turned out to be a multi-episode gig. A producer then gave Taylor a feature opportunity, Palookaville, and then writer/director/series creator David Chase, on the strength of Palookaville, gave Taylor the chance to direct an episode of The Sopranos. At the time, Taylor’s aspirations were feature film-centric and he thought TV was “a rightly despised medium”--until he saw The Sopranos script. He helmed an episode but “got snobby again” and told Chase he wasn’t coming back to the show. Taylor recalled that Chase banned him for two years but the director did indeed return, working on eight more episodes, including the Emmy-winning “Kennedy and Heidi.”
Taylor noted that a director depends heavily on the decency of the actors, recalling specifically the generosity of James Gandolfini who portrayed Tony Soprano. Despite nailing and owning that role, Gandolfini “would take direction,” said Taylor, citing an example where one line didn’t feel quite right so he approached Gandolfini who did the entire scene again. It was more than just a tweak; the change necessitated Gandolfini making a major shift which impacted the feel and nature of what had been originally shot. “He would listen and collaborate,” related Taylor, assessing that he’s always felt lucky whenever he gets the opportunity to work with actors like that.
Taylor almost didn’t work with actor Jon Hamm on Mad Men. Having collaborated with writer Weiner on The Sopranos, Taylor reunited with him on Mad Men and they conjured up the notion that you can’t have an overly attractive person as a lead for a serious drama. “Casting was tricky,” said Taylor, recollecting that they had Hamm read 10 times and that the network didn’t want him. “It took us a long time to get over all that and realize Jon was the right guy...that we were telling a reverse story--the ideal of American masculinity and letting it implode.”
Asked if he had an inkling that Mad Men would become iconic, Taylor said no, explaining now in retrospect that this was his way of complimenting Weiner. “What I didn’t appreciate at the time was how vast Matt’s intentions were...The characters had depth and dimension but I didn’t realize he was taking on American culture and the decline of Western civilization.”
Taylor too felt fortunate to get the opportunity direct Game of Thrones, with his first episode of that series being the memorable “Baelor” where Ned gets his head chopped off in season one. “I was happy to sign on for more and get more involved” in Game of Thrones, shared Taylor. That deeper involvement included his taking on co-executive producer responsibilities. However he found that the task of exec producing “was pulling me away from the task of directing.” Taylor discovered that he was not one of those people who can easily both direct and exec produce. His decided preference was to be “in the sandbox” as a director, playing with characters, story and varied elements.
Game of Thrones proved instrumental in opening up the feature filmmaking door for Taylor. Marvel’s interest was piqued by the Game of Thrones sensibilities and how they would translate into Thor 2: The Dark World. On the flip side, Game of Thrones has also figured in the nature of the ad industry projects Taylor has done thus far through Bullitt, including branded content for Game of War and Hearthstone.
Furthermore Game of Thrones had him working with valued collaborators, including on the cinematography front Kramer Morgenthau, ASC, and Jonathan Freeman, ASC. Both won ASC Awards for their work on Game of Thrones. Morgenthau also shot both Thor 2: The Dark World and Terminator Genisys for Taylor while Freeman is slated to lens the upcoming Roadside Picnic.
Regarding advice he would offer to aspiring directors, Taylor observed that the film school route he took “is probably even less relevant today then when I went” to NYU. “It’s always been the case that you should start making short movies and hopefully they get better over time.” Such filmmaking is “essentially free” in comparison to when Taylor started out when 16mm film and time on a Steenbeck were needed. Taylor advised against going into the industry and trying to work your way up the ladder to director. What tends to happen, he conjectured, is that people get flourishing careers as the location guy or an assistant director. They often get pigeonholed in those capacities. “If you make a little crappy movie and then a slightly less crappy movie and come into being a director then on something slightly larger, that’s an easier way, a cleaner way and a more likely way” to break into the industry directorial ranks.
Lead sponsors of the 2016 SHOOT Directors/Producers Forum and New Directors Showcase were harvest films, Company 3 and the DGA. Silver sponsors were production companies GARTNER and The Devil You Know, and law firm FKKS. Bronze sponsor was Palace Productions MediaVision. On the morning just prior to the Thursday afternoon Forum and evening Showcase, Company 3 hosted a breakfast and color correction workshop for the Showcase directors.
Editor’s note: See separate story for comprehensive coverage of SHOOT’s 2016 New Directors Showcase reel screening, and panel discussion moderated by SHOOT’s Griefer and featuring four of the Showcase directors along with feedback from Amy Wertheimer, SVP, group executive producer, BBDO New York, and Sam Penfield, executive producer/partner at 1stAveMachine. Click here to access the New Directors Showcase reel and Showcase director survey interviews. Click here for photos from the Meet the New Directors Panel and after party. For story on 2016 New Directors Showcase, click here.
SHOOT publisher and editorial director Roberta Griefer ushers in the SHOOT Directors/Producers Forum, introducing SHOOT editor Robert Goldrich who moderates the kickoff panel, Producers Perspectives. In this panel discussion, a pair of ad agency producers and two more from the production house side of the business reflect on their ever evolving roles spanning diverse content forms which have grown out of the coming together of advertising and entertainment.
Panelists: Joshua Blum, founder/president, Washington Square Films; Kira Carstensen, president, Commercials & Music Videos, Pulse Films; Scott Chinn, executive broadcast producer, Droga5 New York; Anthony Nelson, head of content production, J. Walter Thompson New York
A group of panelists from different walks of the industry sheds light on how technology is not just facilitating but breaking new ground for inspired content. An executive producer from BBDO NY reflects on her agency's first foray into a full fledged VR storytelling film. A production house principal shares lessons learned from a piece of immersive theater currently playing in L.A. and its implications for branding and marketing. A new media production house creative director discusses his experience on three VR projects--one modestly budgeted, another with a decent mid-level budget, and a third with a huge budget. A cinematographer looks back on this year's Tribeca Film Festival and the noteworthy VR projects on display there. And a seasoned post artisan affirms that HDR could prove to be a game changer. SHOOT editor Robert Goldrich moderates this panel discussion.
Panelists: Trevor Forrest, cinematographer; Brendan Kiernan, managing director of HeLo; Sam Smith, creative director, MediaMonks; Jay Tilin, editorial dept. head & finishing editor, features/episodic TV shows, CO3 NY; and Kristin Tomborello, executive producer, BBDO New York
SHOOT publisher & editorial director Roberta Griefer interviews leading industry attorney Jeffrey A. Greenbaum, managing partner of advertising & entertainment law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz (FKKS). Greenbaum disusses production house-director contracts, intellectual property issues, and a breakthrough provision of the recently negotiated contract between SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ANA and 4As.
SHOOT editor Robert Goldrich interviews director Alan Taylor, winner of the DGA Award for the Mad Men pilot and recipient of an Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series Emmy on the strength of the "Kennedy and Heidi" episode of The Sopranos. Taylor is also a Best Drama Series nominee for Game of Thrones for which he directed multiple episodes and served as a co-executive producer. His feature film directorial credits include Terminator: Genisys and Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World, which went on to gross $645 million worldwide. Taylor has also successfully diversified into commercials and branded content via production company Bullitt.
In this Forum session, Taylor reflects on the path he took to a directorial career, shares backstories on Mad Men, The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, discusses how he extended his creative reach to feature films, commercials and branded content, and shares details on his latest project, Roadside Picnic, an original series for WGN America.