The Director’s Chair Issue #14 – May 21, 2001 (The Commercial Director – Part 3)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
Free Monthly Ezine for Film and Television Directors
May 21, 2001 Scene 2 – Take 5
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7. Feature Article – The Commercial Director (Part 3)
8. Directing Tips – Tips for Young Filmmakers
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Welcome to Issue #14 of The Director’s Chair (May 21, 2001).
1) The Feature Article this month is “The Commercial Director,”
the last in a series of three articles written by Tony Johns,
a commercial Director from New Zealand.
2) The Directing Tip this month comes from Cody Agenten, a young
filmmaker from Wisconsin, USA
3) Check out “THE BUSY PERSON’S GUIDE TO DIRECTING” where I
review the best Film and Television Directing Websites and keep
you updated on the best Directing Websites in my weekly Directing
45-Second Newsletter. Each issue will include more filmmaking
websites, links to film and TV directing articles, and a weekly
Directing Tip. http://wz.com/arts/Directing.html
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Peter D. Marshall
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7. FEATURE ARTICLE – The Commercial Director (Part 3)
To read “The Commercial Director” (Part 1) visit:
To read “The Commercial Director” (Part 2) visit:
“The Commercial Director” (Part 3)
Ok, so you’ve been to film school. Maybe you’ve shot a few spec
commercials and music clips and slowly you’ve built up a show
reel. You now you feel you are experienced enough to earn a living
from your directing skills. However, before anybody will take you
seriously (and give you heaps of money to make TV commercials and
music promos, etc) it helps to have a production company behind
What does a production company do for you? It is up to the
production company to promote you and to find you work. They will
outlay the costs on show reels and advertising, etc and basically
look after your interests – they are your agent. Some, not all,
will have you sign a contract that will bind you to the company.
The reason being, you won’t be able to go off and join the
Each production company has their own set of guidelines regarding
what you can and cannot do. For example: some production
companies do not like you approaching advertising agencies
without their say so. Others won’t let you do any self-promotion
at all. They believe it is their responsibility (which is true)
but it can be very frustrating when you haven’t worked for a
while and you find that the producers of the company are too busy
elsewhere to promote you. It is becoming more and more common for
production companies around the world to employ a full time rep
to sell their directors. Alternatively they sign with a freelance
Regarding fees, once again each production company is different.
A director can usually earn ten percent of the overall budget on
a commercial campaign but this can vary from production company
to production company. Some will give you a percentage of the
overall profit plus your fee – this will give a director an
incentive to keep cost down and not go over budget. The director
can also work on a day rate: for every day that he shoots
(principal photography) he charges a fee.
In my part of the world this can be anywhere from three thousand
to ten thousand dollars a day. Obviously this would vary from
country to country. The director would not charge for time spent
in pre-production or post-production. Production companies have
been known to require the director to pay for any costs over and
above what has been budgeted for. This would be deducted from the
director’s fee. Some production companies will cover your
day-to-day expenses; i.e. mobile phones, petrol, entertaining
So how do you choose a production company? First, find out who is
hot and who is not. How many directors do they represent? You
don’t want to be just another director on their books. Find out
the types of producers they have – what experience do they have?
Do they have useful connections? What is their background?
Remember you don’t have to settle for the first offer that comes
Big is not always best either. There are smaller production
companies that do very well in the commercial market and in some
ways, when you are starting out, joining a smaller production
company might be your best bet! They say the life expectancy of
a commercial director in one city is between three and five
years. You will find that you are hot one moment and cold the
next. This is no reflection on your talent. It is simply the way
the industry works. Agencies always want to work with the latest,
hottest director (its an ego thing). It is important that you do
not rely on one city or one country to sustain your career. The
more markets you can cover the more work options you will have.
Make sure that the production company you work with has
connections in other markets.
There are various types of producers but I believe most come
under two titles. Creative producer; money producer. A creative
producer not only looks after the money side of a production but
also likes to have a say in the creative process. This can be a
great asset to a director if the producer is well experienced but
look out if they’re not! A money producer is only interested in
counting numbers and leaves all of the creative decisions to the
director, which is as it should be. However, I do believe that on
occasions it can help to have other people to bounce ideas around
So the best advise I can give to anyone looking for a production
company to join is to take your time and don’t rush your
decision. Weigh up the pros and cons and if all else fails – flip
That’s it for now. Good luck
Tony Johns Biography.
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 http://www.wedofilms.com and he can be contacted at
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8. DIRECTING TIP – Tips from a Young Filmmaker
Cody Agenten is a teenager from Northern Wisconsin who wants to
share some filmmaking tips for young filmmakers. I asked him a
few questions and here are his answers.
1) Where do you find the resources? (camera, editing, talent)
Quite often when I shoot a film, I do A LOT of borrowing. My
school owns a Panasonic VHS Broadcast camera that is usually used
for shooting school performances, etc. It’s the same for the
editing equipment. My school just has some VERY simple Avid
editing stations that they bought on a whim, so I use those. As
for talent, it really boils down to whoever I can find. Friends,
teachers, etc. The problem here is that these people usually
have busy schedule’s, so you end up working on their time. When it
comes to things like this, never get discouraged if something
doesn’t work out in the way of equipment, talent, etc. If you
don’t have the money to buy the equipment, find someone who has
what you need and see if their willing to loan or rent it to you.
Get it anyway you can, (legally of course).
2) How do you pick locations?
When it comes to locations and sets for films, the same technique
as above applies. BORROW, BORROW, BORROW. First check if your
living area is good for a shoot, or you or your family owns
something that will work. That is the easiest. If you don’t have
a location that will work, ask your neighbors, friends, etc. If
they don’t, drive around and look for the right place. If you
end up finding it, and you don’t know the people who own it, ask
them for permission to use the area. More than likely they will
with little or no money value attached. If you need a
soundstage, you may want to ask the local music venue or
performing arts theatre. These places are great, as they come
with equipment too. The only problem is that they USUALLY won’t
let you use it unless you rent it. And the costs for renting
stages is not cheap. But it may be your only choice.
2) How to divide up the crew? (director, cameraman, AD)
This is an easy area for one main reason; you as the film artist
will end up doing most or all of everything. On a shoot, you may
only have two or three people who actually know what’s going on.
The other people are actors, etc. This means that you need to be
aware of what’s going on at all times. YOU need to be the
lighting engineer, YOU need to be the cameraman, YOU need to be
the director. Build up your skills in every aspect of the art.
3) Where do you find actors?
As stated before, use people you know. At this point, don’t worry
about acting abilities. Teach your actors on the spot, show them
what you know. Just keep going over and over the script if they
can’t act out a certain part. They should get it eventually.
4) How much does it cost to produce a 5 or 10 minute video?
Cost all depends on what you want to do. First, check out what
you have, and then look at what you need. My philosophy is that
if you’re shooting a 5-10 minute video, your expenses should NOT
go over $50. Use what you have. If you don’t have it, get
creative. Remember, it just needs to look good on camera, it
doesn’t matter what it looks like in real life. This applies to
everything from wardrobe to props. BORROW, BORROW, BORROW!!
5) Where do you get the money to make your videos?
All the money you use should be out of pocket. Don’t take out a
bank loan or anything like that. Like before, GET CREATIVE!
Every so often, you may want to find a sponsor if you’re doing a
BIG film. Somebody who will pay YOU for displaying or using their
product. This may come in very handy, but sponsor contracts often
have a lot strings attached. Just don’t spend more money than
what you have to.
6) Where can you show your film/video?
Once you are done with your film/video, you want people to see
it! This can be done in a few ways. The first and easiest idea
is to show a bunch of your friends, and have them spread the word
about it. Before you know it, more and more people will be
wanting to see your piece of art. Another way to have it shown
to the world is to enter it in a traditional media art exhibit,
(like paintings, drawings, etc). You may need to pull a few
strings to get it in, but people love to see non-traditional
media art mixed in with traditional. And this way, your art get
exposed to a whole new range of people.
Another way to get your name out there is the internet. Capture
your film on a computer and hand it out all over. Atomfilms.com
is a great place to start. They are very stringent on their
choices for films, but if you can get in there, you’re going to
be exposed twice as fast. If your short film is REALLY good, you
may want to look into getting the film on the Sci-Fi channel’s
show, Exposure, (http://www.scifi.com/exposure/). This is VERY
hard to get into, but if you do, your phone will be ringing off
the hook with new contacts.
Remember, NEVER turn off that camera!
My name is Cody Agenten, and I am a young filmmaker from Northern
Wisconsin. I have been interested in all aspects of filmmaking
from as early as I can remember. I have made numerous short
films, and plan on continuing to do so throughout my film
career. My genre interests range from horror and sci-fi, to
comedy and surreal. The one thing that I would like to pass on to
all the young and budding filmmakers out there is to never lose
your passion. Filmmaking explains us as a civilization, and must
never be lost. So never put that lens cap on, and never lose
your dream. Cody’s email is: email@example.com
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