I can't speak for other directors, but what is really exciting and refreshing for our directors is the ability to become content providers. With the continued push toward webisodes, our directors are getting more opportunities to get involved creatively from the ground floor. We're getting invited into the process much earlier. I think what this will eventually do is continue to show creatives that most directors are tremendous creative forces, and when given the opportunity to participate earlier the juices will flow quicker and stronger.
Everyone knows most jobs are not completed in the first or second conference call. The job never really gets rolling until director and creatives are physically in a room together, hashing out ideas and solutions. The directors are also realistic, and they understand this doesn't work for every job and every creative, but we've always looked at Hungry Man spots as mini movies, and this is an opportunity to make slightly longer clips. It's great to be a director when the world is clamoring for content.
Patrick Milling Smith Co-founder/Executive Producer, Smuggler
Storytelling itself is evolving, obviously. A director cannot live just in the 30-second medium anymore to truly flourish in the new landscape of advertising. Branded content goes anywhere from 30 seconds to a couple of hours and it can live on a cinema screen or a mobile phone. The different methods of watching this content also play into key decisions on how a director must chose to grab an audience's attention and leave an impression. A director must be technically savvy and adaptable, and completely comfortable editing and working on motion graphics. I think there will be and should be more demand for the multifaceted director; not a jack of all trades but someone creatively adept in multiple practices.
I see directors staying involved now for the entire process of a production. This sort of educated collaboration can only make the quality of work better. It's also, indeed, more economical to keep as much of the process with as few people as possible. I also think that writing skills are handy for the modern director. The 30-second script is very different from longer-format storytelling, and directors who can creatively adapt and add to the scriptwriting process seem to be better positioned to grab different opportunities quickly.
David Rolfe Director of Branded Production, DDB/Chicago
The production company as a flexible, diversified creative content culture will take the stage more than ever, so I think directors will need to take a more active role within their company. The directors who fail to do this —and those who lack the skills to do so—will fall out of the business. Directors must create creative opportunities for their company, and their companies must listen to them. There will be new directors in the fold, with evolved skill sets such as gaming know-how, long-form writing skills, digital orchestration, one-stop production skills—story creation, shooting, editing—and exec producing. So there will be fewer of them out there in general, and far fewer directors as we know them now.
I think we'll see the need for directors to have greater agency alliances with producers or CDs, while at the same time they'll need to undertake opportunities created outside the agency sphere. Agencies, as their individual project work gets bigger in scope and one-off production activity shrinks, will probably call upon a smaller body of directors for stewardship.
As for those of us hiring directors, I don't teach this in my department—the best skill a producer can learn is to focus on the unabashed pursuit of more and greater resources—but I confess I have often behaved in a "less is more" manner over the last few years, calling on a less diversified group of resources. But the business is different now for young producers—project work is getting bigger or at least more complex than I had ever thought it could be. Back in the day, I just wanted to grow up and do a killer Nike spot, or have Chris Guest do one of my ESPN spots. But now I'm trying to crack things I never dreamed of. So the resource pool shifts.