What is the most creative advertising idea you’ve seen recently?
Obviously I love all the big concept, highly-visual work out there, but maybe the thing that stood out most on TV was that Brewdog ad for the guy ‘who probably has a pet snake’. It neatly destroys all those shit, formulaic, commercials that pander to market research and try to appear inclusive. I remember it playing in the pub and making people laugh.
- Production Company Biscuit Filmworks/UK
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What website(s) do you use most regularly?
Amazon is pretty good. I recently bought some towels, a dry ice machine, some Chinese lasers and a miniature leaf blower on there.
What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought?
I’ve got a little drone that I take with me when location scouting. It’s a game-changer in remote or mountainous areas as well as in cities where you have to quickly find a carpark, bridge, rooftop or whatever. We've used it (and crashed it) all over the place.
We were shooting in Seoul not too long ago and I became obsessed with these rooftop baseball batting cages. They look amazing as you drive through the city at night, lit-up amongst all the high-rise buildings and neon, so I added a little scene into the script. The drone allowed us to scour loads of cages at night without having to bother knocking on doors. We probably did a week’s worth of scouting in a few hours. And the chosen rooftop was cool enough for the local production team to shoot a K-Pop video up there too.
What product could you not live without?
Probably Mars Ice Cream Bars. I’ve got a little cool bag that allows me to sneak them onto planes.
What’s the best film you’ve seen over the last year?
I thought The Stranger was pretty special. It didn’t really get much buzz but it’s a really well-made, low-budget crime film. It’s gritty and dark but it nicely makes you work to uncover the plot which creates so much incredible tension. It’s beautifully lit and shot too, without feeling staged. Having said that, Licorice Pizza was probably the thing I enjoyed most at the cinema. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a fun coming-of-age story.
I love all the unexpected action and the little narratives that rise organically. There’s loads of technical mastery in there too; intricately choreographed shots are combined with seemingly spontaneous performance. Very few filmmakers pull both of those things off seamlessly at the same time.
What film do you think everyone should have seen?
There are a bunch of films I should have seen and haven’t, so I’m definitely not a voice of authority here. I suppose No Country for Old Men probably had the biggest effect on me when it came out. It’s the film I probably re-watch the most too. I remember seeing it in the cinema when I was at art college and just starting to think about a career in filmmaking. I suppose it was the first film I’d seen that combined arthouse craft and narrative sophistication with cool stuff like guns and drugs. Intense action scenes and explosions of violence were smashed together with beautiful imagery, like the boot scuff marks on the police station floor, or the sweet wrapper in the gas station.
There’s all this poignant, conceptual stuff about fate and masculinity in there too, but the Coen brothers make sure it’s not too worthy or pretentious by mixing it with everyday characters and flashes of humour. Before that viewing, I hadn’t realised you could combine powerful, thought-provoking images and ideas with people jumping out of windows with bags of money or chasing each other with shotguns. It gave me the final push I needed to have a go at directing.
What’s your preferred social media platform?
I like using Instagram and TikTok to watch videos of mental things happening in everyday life. Truckdriversforlife is really good. I save a load of stuff with the aim of writing it into a film or something someday. This morning I watched a husband and wife robbing a bank with a fire extinguisher in Lebanon, a guy dancing at a wedding, and a woman in the rain stabbing a car with a kitchen knife.
What’s your favourite TV show?
The second season of Fargo wins, I think. Noah Hawley’s writing and dialogue is brilliant. The season is a self-contained story, so easy to re-watch, and it combines two of my favourite things: violence and snow.
What’s your favourite podcast?
I’d say my favourite film-related podcast is probably Team Deakins, where Roger and James Deakins interview people they’ve met while shooting. Although you have to skip through the ones where people blabber on about their personal journey, there’s some incredible insight in there. Roger and James chat to people like Denis Villeneuve, Frances McDormand, Scott Cooper and Paul Dano and discuss the way great contemporary films like Sicario and Leviathan were made.
What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently?
The last thing I saw was Chris Killip's retrospective at the Photographer’s Gallery. His work depicts the lives of normal people in the North of England throughout the 1970s and 80s. There’s a tough social realism to his work but also this sublime element. He captures these surreal moments and incredible compositions within a hard, stark world.
If you could only listen to one music artist from now on, who would it be?
That’s easy; Darude. I don’t like all his music, so I’d just play Sandstorm over and over.
If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?
I can’t complain too much about the industry. It’s allowed me to travel everywhere and hangout with loads of incredible people. It’s helped me grow and become a better director while making plenty of mistakes too. I feel very lucky. I guess the big obvious thing that most of us want is more inclusivity behind the camera. It’s changing fast now, though. There’s been this huge democratisation of filmmaking in the last few years and that’s very exciting to see.
Who or what has most influenced your career?
Probably my mum. She worked as a primary school teacher and just has that ability to inspire kids, even little shits like me and my brother. She was always giving us paint, helping us draw or trying to teach us to play instruments. I was very bad at the recorder but went on to really love art and design. I think we were lucky because she was tough too and made us work as teenagers. She drove me to McDonald’s on the first day of a school holiday to get a job there.
I failed the interview to work behind the counter so ended up wiping tables in the local shopping centre. When I finally got my first running and assisting jobs I was just so happy to be doing something in a creative industry that I worked like crazy.
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.
The brother I mentioned above, he’s actually my twin, and and we’re totally identical. He’s also based London but works in a different industry. We both forget to warn all the people we work with which often ends in one or other of us blanking business associates and fucking up each others careers. A bit like Phoebe and Ursula in Friends.