Be patient, be open but never lose your point of view. Casting is a big component in making your story connect. I have learned to really challenge and test a potential actor outside the beats in a script. Many times I would be happy that an actor was delivering a good performance to script or how I imagined it. What I've learned is that most of the time when that actor got on set they were only able to do that one thing. It's important to examine the actor's range and creativity within the scene during the audition. In callbacks I'd rather see only a hand full of actors so that I can really play out different approaches to a scene. I like to talk to the actors about their interpretation of the scene. For me its about collaboration and creating real performances. I'm learning to get a story beat done in fewer shots so that the idea can breathe and not feel manipulated. Finding the heart in the idea is key. Defining the key moment that clearly communicates the idea in the script. Building a team is key. You need to inspire your team to participate in building the story through art direction, styling, lighting, etc.
What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out?
This is a good one. I wish I would have understood how to collaborate with agency creatives. I thought they just gave me the script and I showed them a cut in the beginning. It's different now. I get at least as much as I give. If our relationship is solid we do better work. [Here, Hunter works hard with Energy BBDO GCD Frank Dattalo (left).]
What are you still trying to figure out about the job?
A lot. Still learning. Still learning how to create room in an edit for the idea to live in an emotional way. There's always a way in to a story and a way out. I'm still learning all of the possibilities to setting up and paying off my story. I like revealing a new idea by sending a curve ball to the audience that makes the story experience exciting. Creating tension and payoff is key. I used to go into projects safe. No apologies now. This is who I am. This is how I feel, take or leave it. No need to walk softly on an idea. I'm learning how to be true to the story, embrace it and take it all the way. It's important to understand where the creative team wants to be with the spot and how they need it to perform. What are the audience expectations. What are the client expectations. Take the time to work on that without compromising the core idea. This process will make it successful on every level.
Watch some of Hunter's spots
Read more from the 2009 Directors Special Report