What the most creative advertising idea you’ve seen recently? 

They say laughter is the second most powerful form of intimacy, right? Sure, commercials can’t cuddle you to sleep, but I fully back advertising that doesn’t take itself too seriously and brings a little happiness into the world when it’s in such a poo-poo place. Some examples:

Man, I wish I shot this weird and WTF!?-wonderful Burger King !

Nando’s ads (from South Africa) are politically ballsy and funny as fuck. Who knew?

This Samsung spot [below] reminds me of those legendary Skittles ads, just a lil’ longer. The jury’s still out with where this kinda content lives, but with the option to ‘Skip Ad’, surely advertising needs to work even harder to be entertaining - like, Nike coulda made Rocky, and it’d be a win-win as a movie and as branded content - ya’ feel me?

Samsung – The Awesome Product Adventure

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What website(s) do you use most regularly?

Fellow directors, production assistants, or anyone locked up in front of InDesign, thank me later! When it’s 3 am and you’ve just finished laying out a storyboard but then you discover that email: BOARDS FEEDBACK! You need to move just one measly frame, but in ‘real-life’ that means laying out all 6 bajillion frames again and basically sleeping in the office? Well, listen up, is an online storyboard tool where you can share layouts so homie can feedback on the WIP as well as doing the stressy layout stuff for you. Yup, you can sleep in your own bed tonight baby!

Also, Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees for searching. It’s a bit hit n’ miss, but without sounding like brown-Jesus, I think our only survival as a species lies in offsetting CRAPitsalism by giving a just an itsy-bitsy bit back every time we take, take, take. #VOTEEHSAN

What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?

Leica M11 camera: I popped out to grab a coffee but, instead of a macchiato, I got megapixels... 60million of ‘em. Here’s how you justify an impulsive, ostentatious splurge to your therapist: 

“Listen, Maggie; photography ‘is my troofff’, innit! It takes me back to slinging my dad’s 35mm over my shoulder as a kid, but I gave that up for #smart-phone-photography (if you can call it that), and we all agree that’s melting our brains, right?! This is more than just a flashy camera with a sexy red logo, Maggie. It’s as analogue and organic as digital gets. Because there is no autofocus one’s forced to focus figuratively, to practice a discipline of gratitude, of slowing down, of observing and celebrating life through its teeny-weeny window. But yeah, okay, fine, find it on eBay in a few weeks’ time.”

What product could you not live without?

Can we just have a moment to big-up the most underrated ‘feature’ ever: the noise cancelling on Apple’s Ear-Pod Max’s. Sure, you feel like a total nincompoop wearing a silver bra on your head, but you really can’t put a price on peace. Whether that’s treatment-writing in a crowded cafe or napping on an airplane, once you’ve experienced silence in the loudest of spaces, you’re kinda screwed… as far as finding your zen goes, anyways.

What’s the best film you’ve seen over the last year?

Everything, Everywhere All At Once! That scene with Racacoonie [below]... I can’t remember the last time I actually lost weight from laughing so hard! I watched this with one of my EPs, and we both walked out jaws scrapping across the floor. Like, 'Bruv, that’s the movie we HAVE to make!’ No genres, no rules, like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Insane!

What film do you think everyone should have seen?

Bear in mind I’m a simple Toy Story 4 or Beetlejuice kinda guy (don’t judge me). I avoid pretentious films like a cheek-peck from a Pakistani-auntie at a family wedding. However I go to the cinema A LOT. My favourite films are the ones that disguise polemic ideas as easy-entertainment. No one’s seen a dinosaur, but any numptee can describe a T-rex because they’ve seen Jurassic Park, right? So, using that same analogy, films that expand our world-view, positively reshape stereotypes, or shed light on progressive ideas without being preachy get the ‘Rotten-Es’ 5* rating.

Get Out: The way this film relates to the micro-struggles of people of colour feeling ’unsafe’ in predominantly white spaces, without ever tapping into stereotypical tropes or ‘pity porn’, is pure genius. What makes Get Out a masterpiece is how it takes the conversation of equality outside of ‘woke circles’ by first and foremost being a hilarious, edge-of-seat, nail-biting horror. Subverting the genre by portraying the equally uncomfortable paranoia of prejudice with such nuance feels like being seen and, therefore, comforted. There is solace in knowing ‘it’s not just me’.

Wild Tales (Relatos Salvajes): Okay, who doesn’t love a Will Ferrell film but they can feel a bit too lowbrow or broey, right? Well, Wild Tales proves there is such thing as clever comedy. Irony at its best. Six 20 minute-ish short films, tied together with the theme of satire and vengeance. I wouldn’t have said 'no' to a Rob Schneider cameo though.

What’s your preferred social media platform?

I’ll be the first to admit my love/hate/addictive/toxic relationship to ‘the gram’. On one hand, Insta’ allows creatives to share a little more of an insight into their process, tastes or values beyond their usual medium, and that’s been a priceless tool. I’ve definitely landed a few scripts off the back of being a goofball online or sharing something beyond my immediate reel. However, I go through phases of over-posting (story’ing) all our dumb-ass dance-offs on set, then I’ll get overwhelmed if I have to reply to any kinda engagement, so I’ll vanish, before eventually missing the attention.  

As someone who can’t even reply to texts, I’ll often post with comments and metrics turned off. It’s kinda nice to express yourself, put something out there and forget about it, liberating oneself from Insta-judgement (sorry, but your mates are gonna double-tap either way; hardly a gauge of how pretty you or your work is, bruv).

My captions are waaaaay too long, my content’s messy (usually I’m cackling over it), and reducing our complex or, shall I say, numerous identities to a single identity is a head fuck; like inviting your mom, the mandem, and the masjid to the same party. So, I do try to limit my posts to: Raising-Awareness #Fightthepower, self-promotion #Onset, and self-expression #Roadtrip! I actually sound like I’m disciplined, or have a strategy here... I don’t.

I’m conscious about my role in the collective anxiety around the comparison/competitiveness at the core of social-media. So, I’m that guy fire emoji’ng your avo-toast pic’, because why not give someone their props? A busy, jet-setting director seems pretty glam on the surface, but no one sees the all-nighters or burnout, so I try to balance it all by being true to the ADHD clown I am. I’m not cut out to be an influencer of any sort, but I’ve got a friend who only eats chicken wings (no lie!), so documenting that nearly turned into my niche for bit... shout out ‘man-like-Kev’.

What’s your favourite TV show?

Frozen Planet to fall asleep to… The images have a dream-like quality. I can’t even fathom the effort they must go to. Directing a pack shot with an actor eating a yoghurt in a studio is hard enough, let alone a pack of five killer whales ambushing a seal chilling on an iceberg... mind blown! 

What’s your favourite podcast?

At the moment, Jay Shetty's On Purpose; I’m on a bit of a conscious wave. Man’s getting older, but definitely no wiser sadly.

What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently?

Not really a show/exhibition, but I’ve enrolled in a Practical Philosophy course at the London School of Philosophy and Economic Science. Honestly, just to get stuck into the deepest, fiery debates with the weirdest, most beautiful, eclectic mixture of people that I’ve never come across is so inspiring and quite humbling. I love finding out how wrong I am for thinking I’m right. And those cute volunteers who serve us tea (bless ‘em) are about as far from the Soho 'Hype-House’ crowd as one could possibly get!

If you could only listen to one music artist from now on, who would it be?

I could just listen to DJ Khaled saying "I like what Drake Like" for the rest of my life, but…  It’s a toss-up between Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. If you haven’t sobbed to Blonde (unquestionably the best record of all time), you have a heart of stone.

Tyler the Creator for his production, foreal-foreal! The instrumentals on Flower Boy, that’s some modern-day Quincy Jones! For me, T.T.C. took over where Neptune’s left off, but less club and more punk, more whimsical or soulful even. It’s his signature quirk of mashing up a rich, orchestral level of composition but with that odd, future edge/tactile roughness that makes his music so timeless.

While we’re here can I just say Ye’ can go in the bin - WASTEMAN!

If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?

I know we’ve been here before but diversity’s become the marketing buzzword. Finally, we’re happy to throw an ethnically ambiguous face in front of the camera as a palatable tick-box, but can we just be honest on what the industry looks like behind the lens? Someone’s gotta call out the hypocrisy of capitalising off ‘coloured-cool’ vs. those genuinely wanting to dismantle inequality (for all marginalised groups). Gimme an entire TED Talk to even approach this subject.

But I’m so exhausted from banging my head against a white-washed, middle-class male wall. I feel like I’ve come to just accept my naiveté for placing an expectation on the status quo to suddenly give two shits, let alone sympathise; it’s just not their problem. But as long as ‘they’re’ empowering me, that’s facilitating my activism: who I want to hire on set, who I want to cast, who I want to mentor, whose pockets I want to put money in, as well as the stories I need to tell (a good segue to shout out my short: Peanut Head, which is coming soon).

On that, though, I’ve been on a journey of discovering and celebrating my own background as something I’ve far too often denied myself/been forced to deny (eg, I abbreviated my name from Ehsan Bhatti to Ehsan B. back in the day because I was asked to change it, the suggestion was Ehsan Jackson, ffs!). I want to use my work to explore this idea of what is ‘Brown-cool’, what’s our ‘hip-hop’ and where does brown cultural capital lie? (It sure ain’t yoga, cuz). ‘They’ took that too, and now I sound like DJ Khaled.

Who or what has most influenced your career?

On a somber note, a family member was wrongfully sentenced to prison (released a few years later after a random investigation) when I was growing up. Traumatic, but ironically it was the blessing to push me to elevate out of my circumstances; put my head down, stay outta trouble, move out of the ends, DJ to support myself, and eventually get a degree in architecture, and thus, why I’m here today. I know everyone’s got their own story, but I’m genuinely proud of myself. 

Trauma either consumes you or you grow from it. For me, subverting that pain into passion and purpose is why I wanna open doors for others, and create a culture that gives a voice to the voiceless. We, as a family, didn't have a voice, or the resources, or the skills to defend ourselves and the system took advantage of us. In some ways, I’m doing what I’m doing for 15-year-old Es. Likkle-man is my inspo!

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

No lie (or no cap, as the kids say), I got voted the second ugliest kid in primary school… kids are harsh, man.