Not too long ago, there were two ways to become a director: go to film school or get a parent to make a phone call to someone they know.
Today, armed with a camera (or sometimes just a camera phone), young people are taking matters into their own hands. Brave, multi-skilled people are knocking on doors, saying they’re ready to work.
It’s worth taking a step back and celebrating what these young people are doing, what they’ve been able to achieve, through a combination of sheer will, and a few supporting accessories like a laptop and editing software. The current moment means that creativity is more democratic than ever. What’s more impressive still is the range of content shot, from documentaries and short films, to social content and music videos for all mediums.
Today, armed with a camera (or sometimes just a camera phone), young people are taking matters into their own hands.
While it’s not a necessity for the next generation of directors to be multidisciplinary, the fact is that they are. They’ve grown up around different kinds of technologies, watching a range of films, TV shows, social content, and ads that all borrow from and influence each other. This prompted them to wonder how things are made, who made them, and why they can’t be the ones to make something like that too. That curiosity led to them having to shoot, edit, grade, and add in VFX without outside involvement, unlike the traditional route that sees a director work with a colourist, a DOP, or an editor, and so on.
That’s absolutely not to say that ‘traditional’ is bad. It isn’t, and no one is trying to say that, especially when plenty of young people are pursuing traditional routes too. But what I am seeing, and partly why Ballistic has been set up as part of Great Guns, is that the industry isn’t as excited about this new crop of directors as they should be or - maybe - the industry doesn’t know how best to utilise their skills.
Let’s not forget that Covid accelerated the additional skills a director had in their toolbox: lighting, editing, virtual production, Unreal - nothing was going to stop them delivering new work. Directors who were signed at the start of Covid had backup from their production companies to make their work happen, but others didn’t.
I believe [the Covid] wave of directors is a force to be reckoned with, without the fear of failure.
Those without support made it through two years of the pandemic and delivered high-quality and original work in the process. I believe this wave of directors is a force to be reckoned with, without the fear of failure. Backup from a production company will only add a dimension of support and experience that will catapult them further up the ladder.
One of the benefits of multi-skilled talent is the added value they bring to the shoot. With knowledge and understanding of how a piece of work is made, they’re able to better visualise how to make their vision a reality not only with what’s shot, but through the post-production process too. And because they have at least some experience of the process, they also have the ability to communicate their desires to the post professionals, ensuring that no wires are crossed. Immediately, it makes for a smoother and more collaborative working environment.
Brands today are in a bit of a pickle. Social media platforms like TikTok are presenting new challenges and creating a whole new visual language that only platform-natives understand. In many cases, I see brands chase this ‘new-ness’ without trying to engage the people who are already versed in what the modern consumer wants. Why? It’s doing a disservice to everyone - the young people who want to break into the industry, the consumers who want to be spoken to on their terms, and the brands trying to cut through the noisy marketplace.
The industry is changing and so is the type of content that’s being made.
I know that there’s a bit of a worry that the current crop of directors are a case of ‘jack of all trades, master of none’, to which I say that the concern is misplaced. What we have are different styles of directors rising and responding to the challenges of the current market. Let’s not forget how much the film industry reveres multi-talented directors, instead of fretting over them not having enough focus or skill in one area.
The reality is that the industry is changing and so is the type of content that’s being made. To not only keep up, but to get ahead of these rapid changes, the industry needs to embrace that the next generation of directors is hungry and interested in all aspects of production. With emerging platforms and technologies like virtual productions, it’ll be to everyone’s benefit to best harness and nurture this interest and talent, not curb it before it’s had a chance to truly flourish.