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The Director's Chair Issue #11 – Feb. 19, 2001 (The Commercial Director – Part 1)

Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors

February 19, 2001          Scene 2 – Take 2

Published once a month.

Publisher: Peter D. Marshall
Email: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com
Web Site: http://www.actioncutprint.com

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1.  Introduction
2.  Looking for Volunteers
3.  Action-Cut-Print!
4.  Back Issues of The Director’s Chair
5.  Quote of the Month
6.  Special Feature Article – The Commercial Director (Part 1)
7.  Film Directing Workshops
8.  The New Media – “Pay here, get content”
9.  Directing Tip – Advice on Making Short Films
10.  Film Links of Interest – Shooting a Digital Video Feature
11.  Question & Answers
12.  And now a word from our sponsors…
13.  Out Takes – D.U.M.P.S.
14.  Share This Ezine
15.  Suggestions & Comments
16.  Copyright Information
17.  Subscribe & Unsubscribe Information


Welcome to Issue # 11 of The Director’s Chair (February 19, 2001)

a) This month’s issue is a big one and also a truly international
one as we have two contributors from very different parts of our
global village.

b) Directing Television Commercials is a creative and important
part of our business – one that is often overlooked by the
writers and publishers of film books and magazine articles. With
that in mind, the Feature Article this month starts with the
first of a three-part series on “The Commercial Director.” These
informative articles were written exclusively for The Director’s
Chair by Tony Johns, an award winning international television
commercial Director from New Zealand. Tony’s next two articles
will appear in the March and April issues of The Director’s

c) The Directing Tip this month comes from Luciano Bresdem of
Brazil. Luciano directs short films and he shares with us some of
the tips and techniques he has learned.

d) I am always looking for comments about this ezine and my web
site, Action-Cut-Print! So if you have any comments, suggestions,
or advice, please email me at: mailto:comments@actioncutprint.com

I am also placing subscriber comments (testimonials) on the home
page of Action-Cut-Print! You can check them out at:

e)  I’ve also had a suggestion about having film reviews in the
ezine. This got me thinking. So, if any of you want to write
reviews of your favorite movies, TV shows, books, magazines,
Websites etc., I will create a new section called REVIEWS where
you have your articles published!


Peter D. Marshall


Calling all Volunteers! If you would like to contribute articles,
tips, links of interest, industry news, interviews, special event
dates or other resources to The Director’s Chair, please contact
me at: mailto:pdm@actioncutprint.com

3. ACTION-CUT-PRINT! –  A Web Site for Filmmakers

If you are a Film or TV Director; a working professional who
wants to Direct; a film student who would like to learn more
about Directing; or a “student of film” who just wants to know
more about Filmmaking from the pros, Action-Cut-Print! is for

Take a moment now to visit
http://www.actioncutprint.com/home.html where you will find over
1200 Online Resources for Filmmakers, a Film and TV Bookstore,
Film Directing Workshops and the very best strategies  for
promoting and marketing your own Film and TV Web Site.


To read back issues of The Director’s Chair, visit:


“There are many things my father taught me here in this room. He
taught me: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.” –
Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), THE GODFATHER II

6. FEATURE ARTICLE – The Commercial Director – Part 1

The Commercial Process: A Director’s Point of View
By Tony Johns, Commercial Director
Copyright © Tony Johns, 2001

What is a Commercial Director?  Unlike a feature film director,
who has at least 90 minutes to tell a story, a commercial
director has, usually, only 30 seconds.  Like a feature film
director, however, the onus is on the commercial director to tell
a story and to entertain.  More than this though he has to
persuade the consumer to buy a product.  How the commercial
director goes about this is to a large extent dependent on
budget.  This can be anything from a few thousand dollars to a
few million but the approach from start to finish is usually no
different from the approach to feature filmmaking. The same
technical crew and staff are required as well as the same
post-production follow through.

One of the major differences is the amount of time allowed for
principal photography. A medium size commercial will more than
likely take one to two days shooting.  A top end commercial can
take anywhere between 3 to 14 days and it is not unheard of for a
commercial production to shoot for six weeks or longer.

Commercials can very in length but usually they run at 15 sec, 30
sec, 45 sec, 1 min, or 90 sec and, if being shown in cinemas, up
to 3 minutes. Television commercials, unlike feature films, can
never be a frame over or under the required time frame.

Advertising agencies have creative teams normally consisting of
an Art Director and Copywriter but the size of the team can vary
from campaign to campaign.  The account director (suit) from an
agency looks after the client’s interests and liaises between the
client, the creative teams, the producers, etc.  The suit may
have only one client to look after but that client can have
several products to sell (e.g. Ford Motors).  The suit’s main aim
is to look after the welfare of the client.

Depending on the type of account, creative teams will work on
several campaigns or, in some cases, work for just the one
client.  A creative team will put forward several ideas for a
television commercial before the client finally accepts one.  It
is not uncommon for the script (board) to go to research.
Research is a way of determining whether an idea will prove
popular and indeed, whether or not it has crossed the bounds of
good taste.  That is, is the commercial ‘politically correct’
(i.e. will it offend anyone), is it targeting the right consumer
group and more importantly, can people identify the product.
There is no point in spending half a million to make a commercial
if no one knows what it is trying to sell.  If the results of the
research are negative any of the following can occur.  The script
is revised (do characters, situations need changing?).  The
dialogue is changed.  The script is scrapped altogether – some
really great ideas have been lost this way.

Once the script has been approved the next step is to hire a
director. There are several ways of approaching this. The
creative team might sift through countless director’s Showreels
until they find a director who they feel can do justice to their
idea. The agency’s TV producer will recommend a director.  This
can happen when agencies have a new creative team or the team is
inexperienced. A creative team has built up a relationship with a
director who they tend to trust. Occasionally a director is lucky
enough to present his showreel to the creative team at the
precise time they are looking for someone.  (Right time, right
place). Word of mouth.

With most brand commercials several directors will be approached
to submit a treatment.  This treatment outlines the director’s
ideas and approach to the commercial.  This should include
everything from art direction to talent, to lighting, to the
finished look. The treatment can some times win or lose the job
for the director.  In some cases a director will put together a
demo tape (anamatic) of his ideas.  This may consist of stills,
wild footage, graphics, etc.

At the same time the director’s producer is asked to submit a
budget.  This also plays a significant role in whether the
director gets the job or not. Too low and the agency might wonder
about the capabilities of the producer/director team.  Too high
and they might be dismissed altogether.  More often though, if
the director is the preferred choice, he will be asked to
re-think his ideas to accommodate the budget or the agency may
approach the client for more money.  The difficulty for the
producer when budgeting a commercial is that not all agencies
give ballpark figures to work with.  Another problem is that the
agency’s ideas for a commercial can outstrip the client’s
projected budget.  In other words the client has been sold an
idea by the agency without fully appreciating the full production

In my next article I will discuss in more depth the treatment
process and the communication between the director and creative


Tony Johns Bio

An award winning international television commercial Director,
Tony Johns came to this profession through his involvement as a
successful recording artist in the 1980’s.  Tony began directing
music promos for his own band and was the first independent
director in New Zealand to do so.  Until that time all band
promos had been directed by Television New Zealand staff.
Impressed with his refreshingly innovative and creative music
promos airing on Television New Zealand, Tony was invited by
music promos for other recording artists of the day.  Advertising
agencies Saatchi & Saatchi and Colenso, attracted by Tony’s
success with music promos, commissioned him to direct television
The demand for Tony’s directing talents compelled him to defer
his musical ambitions to concentrate on his burgeoning directing
career. It was a natural career change he was more than willing
to make given the new opportunities to indulge his passion for
story telling.  Tony’s ability to see beyond the basic script,
visualising all the details from the selection of professional
talent, to the details of art direction, visualizing camera
angles and creative lighting design, to the final edit design in
the planning stages of every project, sets him apart.

Tony has directed commercials in New Zealand, Australia,
Singapore and Indonesia. Tony has recently come under the
umbrella of WeDoFilms in the USA.  Samples of Tony’s work can be
viewed at www.wedofilms.com and he can be contacted at


I have worked in the Film and Television Industry for over 28
years – as a Film Director, Television Producer, First Assistant
Director, Series Creative Consultant and a Commercial Production

I’ve been asked many times to share my Film and TV production
knowledge with others. As a result, I developed several workshops
that I have successfully presented over the past 15 years. To
find out more about these workshops, just click here:

If you are interested in any of these four workshops for yourself
or your organization, please contact me to discuss how we can
bring these workshops to you.

8. THE NEW MEDIA – “Pay here, get content”

Pay here, get content. If you charge them, they will come. That’s
the hope, anyway. – ANN DONAHUE (VARIETY/ev)

Advertising, development, syndication and subscription. The seeds
have been planted for profitability, but all of these business
plans are facing a dot-comeuppance. The basic problem? Nobody can
quantify or define the type of content people are willing to pay

Read the rest of this article from VARIETY/ev at:

9.  DIRECTING TIP – Advice on Making Short Films

My name is Luciano Bresdem, I am from Brazil and I have made some
short films. I would like to share some directing tips that I
have learned.

For me, the most important part for a director is knowing the
script: structure, characters, space, plot,… You should know
the material that you have in your hands. Second thing:
You should know what you want to say with this film – if you
don’t know what you want to say, you will lose the control over
the material, actors, and crew. And the last thing: You should
find the ways to say what you want to say. Discipline and
organization are important here. Make a list, in detail, with
every aspect of the production (Performance, Location, Direction
of Photographic, Sound,…) and remember that “there’s no
unimportant decisions in filmmaking”.

Luciano Bresdem

10. FILM LINKS OF INTEREST – Shooting a Digital Video Feature

Shooting a DV Feature – Steve Saylor

This is an informative 4-part series on the production of a low
budget DV Feature film. Presented by www.cyberfilmschool.com


QUESTION 1 – “If I write a script and send it to film companies
does it automatically have copyright protection?” (Lee S. United

ANSWER 1 – This is a legal question, and I am not a lawyer, but
my advice to you is this: never send out anything that has not
been officially copyrighted.

Before you do anything, contact the Writer’s Guild of America
(WGA) or the copyright department of your government, and ask
them what is the best way to copyright your material.

Here are a couple of Web Sites that will give you more

1) http://www.actioncutprint.com/film-sz.html (SCRIPTS &

2) http://www.hollywoodlitsales.com/

3) WGA http://www.wga.org/


QUESTION 2 – “What would be your best advice to someone who would
like to experience a career in the film industry? And how would I
go about pursuing that goal? I am still a student.” (Andrew M.

ANSWER 2 – 1) Watch a lot of movies and television! 2) Read as
many film books and magazines as you can. 3) Read film and TV
scripts to see how they are structured. 4) Buy your favorite
movies on video, and then get the scripts of these movies and
watch the finished movie and compare it to the script. 5) If you
live near a major film production center, get onto as many movie
sets as you can (an extra is a good way) and watch what is going
on. 6) Find someone in the industry who can “mentor” you. 7) Make
your own “films/videos” with your friends. There is nothing like
practical experience. 8) Join, or create, a film club at your
school. 9) If you are still interested in a career in the film/TV
industry after all this, find a good film school to go to.


QUESTION 3 – “I do have a question about directing. I’m a future
film student. I am working on a script and trying to get it made.
If I were to get the financing would it be a good idea to
co-direct with an “experienced”  director or just pass it on and
let some one else direct? In other words, would taking on a big
project with no real experience be a good idea?” (Juan)

ANSWER 3 – Keep in mind that there is no right answer to this
question. Only you can decide, based on all the facts that only
you will know, how best to proceed. However, here a few

1) do you want to be a director – or a writer?

2) if you want to direct, here is my advice. Because someone has
invested in the film (re: other people’s money involved – not
yours) you always want to be able to come back to the “bank” for
more. Having said that, you want the film to be a success. Which
means you should get the best possible director for this project
and you shadow that person from Day 1 of prep all the way to the
final mix. This way, you get a great education – and if anything
happens – you will not be at fault!

Shadowing a director is a great way to learn the craft and many
writers do this – they sell their script (for scale or for “less”
) and they get to shadow the director. Here are two ways:

a) You just get permission from a director to shadow him/her (no
script involved). This is just a Director that you have contacted
and asked to shadow. What you do, and how much you can do, is
then dependent on your agreement with this director.

b) you have written a script – it is picked up by a producer
and/or director. Part of your deal (put it in your contract)
would be to shadow the director from prep to final mix. This is a
more official way to go.



Visualizing from concept to screen.

This directing book is a complete catalogue of visual techniques
and their stylistic implications for both the filmmaker and
videomaker – a “text book” which enables working filmmakers (as
well as screenwriters and others) to expand their stylistic



For more than 80 years American Cinematographer has been the
monthly “magazine of record” for film professionals all over the
world. AC offers in-depth, behind-the-scenes articles on how
films are shot and lit. Top cinematographers and directors are
interviewed at length. Director Martin Scorsese calls American
Cinematographer a “beacon which has illuminated the field of
cinematography and the motion picture industry for years, and
I’ve been reading it since I was a film student.”


EZINES    –    EZINES    –    EZINES


13.  OUT TAKES – D.U.M.P.S.

Here are a few “suggestions” for student filmmakers from the very

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