It's important to stress that there is no one set route in helping a director build his or her career. Personally, I invest in the life of that person. Strong management, passion, understanding, the ability to really listen and know when to push someone beyond where they stand are the main ingredients we add to a director's talent. One often only gets a few opportunities with the right projects early on to build that great reel, so it's important to really hit them out of the park in terms of production value, conceptual elevation and 100% attention.
However, I think it's safe to say that the majority of the heavy lifting comes from the director's own talent. Directors, like anyone in the creative world, must have an interesting story to tell and an expressive way of going about executing it. Great filmmakers serve up a voice that gets inside you in a memorable manner. I personally look for exceptionally smart problem solvers. I like preparedness, a fun outlook on life, a strong and responsible work ethic, a good decision maker who works well within groups as well as alone, a Liverpool FC fan and those with a sense of humor about themselves.
Recently we have been making the transition from music videos to commercials with Jon Watts and Jaron Albertin. They both have that freshness and an absolute handle on craft from their years in videos. The ability to adapt and work under pressure is amongst the most invaluable lessons learned in videos. It's no accident that a handful of the most successful commercial careers were born in the music video world.
The element that makes these two directors the real deal, however, is personality. Both have a vision that is unique to them. Both are effortlessly cool, but they give all around them that confidence that however complicated the job at hand is, they both have a firm handle on it. They have a way about them that makes people want to go that extra mile and ignites excitement among everyone on the project. You can't teach that. You can appreciate it, though, and understand what it can do.
I've been blessed to work with some amazingly talented people. I witnessed Spike Jonze in his early twenties. Jhoan Camitz was one of the most uniquely individual and talented directors I've ever sat beside on set. Ivan Zacharias is a classic storytelling genius. Brian Beletic is the most prepared on every aspect. They all have one thing in common and that is natural class. I've learned more than I could have ever learned from a lecture or a book by simply watching them ply their trade.
We feel that a career continues to grow when there is variation to the work. It's important to keep a director inspired and on his toes. Beletic, for example, started in videos and was doing mainly comedy spots when we started trying to build towards a more conceptual reel. This brought out his soul in many ways. The Air Force One project for Randy Krallman was also an example of a piece of work that was completely at odds with the rest of his reel. Ultimately going after different types of work just improves a director's craft and makes them more interesting.
I would not want to run a company that just worked with already built talent. Part of the excitement comes from growing with people, watching them develop and then seeing the same of yourself as a result. The proudest role Smuggler can play is being around to help with the career curves. It's what gives the place its culture. It's what makes the rest of the directors look out for one another and creates a habit of people wanting to see each other do well and give anything they can to help out.