For Emerging Commercial Directors, Relationships are Everything

Natalie Sakai, Managing Producer at ContagiousLA, shares her perspective on the critical relationship between commercial producers and commercial directors.

Whether you are a novice or seasoned commercial director, one of the best feelings you will ever experience in this business is that sense that you have the right team on board. It’s the “little something” that makes you feel confident in one another and in the project that lies ahead. It’s a very energizing and motivating feeling, especially for emerging filmmakers.

In any profession, you’re bound to face challenges; some of them will be fairly universal in nature, but many will be specific to your industry or profession. In commercial production, we find that our directors are faced with obstacles that are somewhat unique to their counterparts who work in feature filmmaking. A key example of this is the delicate balance between creative license and the specific objectives of an advertising agency. You also have to consider your budget and project schedule. There are countless moving parts, and that challenge grows with the magnitude of the project.

“Being a great producer is less of a job and more of a social calling,” said Natalie Sakai, Managing Partner and Executive Producer at ContagiousLA. Sakai goes on to explain, “Everyone in the team matters, from the production assistant to the cinematographer.” She stresses the importance of inspiring every member of your team, giving them each a voice, pride, and ownership over the project at hand.

Sakai has found great success in working with teams of all sizes. Her company manages the commercial careers of a number of award-winning directors. ContagiousLA recently produced spots airing soon for Star Wars, Marvel, General Mills, Mercedes Benz, Fat Tire, and more. With all of this experience behind her, Natalie’s advice to emerging filmmakers is simple: the story is key. According to Sakai, the most sought-after directors are also the best storytellers.

So, as you work to build your reputation in your niche and expand your professional network, strive to align yourself with an experienced producer who will push you to refine your storytelling, perfect your character arcs, and over time, become the best at what you do. Think about it: in feature films, you have at least an hour or two to tell your story. Commercial directors have a fraction of that time available to them – on average, about 30 seconds.

Moreover, you have to put that story to work. It can be entertaining, but if it does not convince consumers to purchase a product, it’s not getting the job done. The treatment you present on any given project should feature a unique perspective. It should demonstrate that as an emerging commercial director, you trust and rely on your creative instincts. This can shine through in even the smallest details, and a seasoned producer will be able to spot that kind of talent from a mile away.

Natalie Sakai is Managing Producer at ContagiousLA. Novice film directors looking for a producer can follow her on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.  

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