2009 Directors Special Report: Jeff Labbe

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Credit: Sarah Graley; manipulation by Alex Bittan
What are some of the best lessons you've learned about directing?
Remain fearless and get dirty.

When a script comes in, I look at it with the fearless ambition of what can I bring to the table. I dig working with the creatives and keeping that wide-eyed spirit alive in each other. You can feel it. It's exhilarating to inspire one another and try to sell stuff that may get blown up by a client or make them want to toss the lot of us into a fire. When that happens you have to crawl out with your eyes remaining wide, dust yourself off and figure out another viable solution together.

Stay small and humble.

I still drive a '96 Isuzu Rodeo which they don't even make anymore. Nancy Hallam (my producer) is constantly mending my smelly shirt. I hate the symbolism associated with a director's chair. I wear flip-flops in London. And would never ask anyone on my crew to do something I wouldn't do. This craft reminds me of the movie Midnight Cowboy, and at any moment you could end up in Florida or right back in Texas flipping pancakes.

What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out?
Culture. Culture. Culture. I wake up every day inspired to work because of the Sonny culture. The relationships they've established and new ones they explore involve a collection of like-minded folks who rise wanting to make something better today than they made yesterday. My morning will usually start with a ping-ping from Helen [Kenny, MD, pictured left] or Gabi [Kay] followed by a ring-ring from Fredrik Bond at 6:00 a.m. shouting, "What are you doing, geezer?" It's a great way to wake up. My advice, find the culture that suits you. When you do, you will thrive.

What are you still trying to figure out about the job?
I'm still trying to figure out how come DPs are so much goddamn cooler than me. It's really unfair, sucks and while I love and respect the DPs I've worked with tremendously, they can bite me. Alwin Kuchler, Eric Treml, hell they even have cooler names. ARGHHH.

Watch some of Labbe's spots

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