Directors Roundtable 2007

By Published on .

Directors of the Roundtable
Directors of the Roundtable
Back row, from left: Guy Shelmerdine of Happy, Smuggler; Matt Piedmont, HSI (seated); Noam Murro and Tim Godsall, Biscuit Filmworks; Tom Kuntz, MJZ; Foreground, from left: Richard Farmer of Happy, Smuggler; Phil Morrison, Epoch Films; Grady Hall, Motion Theory; Anonymous Content's Joseph Kosinski; Zack Snyder, Believe Media; Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris aka Dayton/Faris, Bob Industries; Gary Freedman of the Glue Society,

Also, make sure to check out the video interviews with some of the participants.

Creativity: One of the issues we discuss a lot is the changing media environment. How has that affected your jobs as directors?

Jonathan Dayton: We'd worked in music video, and first hand, I've watched an entire industry disappear. This really vibrant, great place to work, with real budgets, it's just gone. The landscape is entirely different. Whether that's underway in the advertising business, I don't know.

C: Gary, Glue Society doesn't just direct, you also concept and do things beyond what's been expected of a typical commercials director. Do you think that's the role directors are evolving into today?

Gary Freedman: I don't think so. I've had one distinctly different experience, which was an hour-long TV show for Axe. I directed, and another one of the guys and I helped to co-write it with the agency. That was a completely new experience. I can imagine more of those instances emerging, but that doesn't necessarily mean that every director has to suddenly become a jack of all trades.

C: Matt, you kind of came into this industry doing something that was an alternative to typical advertising. Can you tell us a little about your experience shooting for BudTV?

Matt Piedmont: I came from TV as a screenwriter, and I got hired to create, write and direct seven different shows for BudTV. It was crazy, shooting 40 pages a day. It was really fun, I hope that there's more opportunities like that. I had no experience shooting a 30 or 60 second spot. It was a cool experience in that they said, "We want to do it right," and put some cash behind it. And there was no interference.

C: What do you think of the aftermath of the whole thing—the site itself?

Matt: The site is horrible. It's not usable, it's really bad, but luckily I think people like the content, which I'm happy about.

HSI's Matt Piedmont with Joe Kosinski (center) and Zack Snyder (right)
HSI's Matt Piedmont with Joe Kosinski (center) and Zack Snyder (right)
C: Do you think advertisers are providing more creative outlets for you—for example the adicolor things you guys [Happy] did?

Guy Shelmerdine: That's a very rare situation. There wasn't really much money in the budget and we did get complete freedom to do whatever we wanted for a specific color. That was completely enjoyable and fantastic, and being for adidas, was a complete bonus.

Richard Farmer: We've been approached with other similar projects, but there's something that's not quite the same. Adidas literally said, do whatever you want, just tell us what it is, no nudity, no cussing, between a minute and four minutes. Other things we've seen don't have the same parameters.

Guy: If McDonald's wants to have five directors make their own short films and they have a small amount of money, it's not as attractive.

Happy's Richard Farmer (left) and Guy Shelmerdine with Grady Hall of Motion Theory (right)
Happy's Richard Farmer (left) and Guy Shelmerdine with Grady Hall of Motion Theory (right)
C: You see a lot of that these days, advertisers being curators, inviting creative talents to do whatever the hell they want and then somehow putting their brand on it. When does that work and when does it not?

Richard: I think it's how they're going to deliver it. Sometimes slapping it on the net is not enough. What was great about adicolor is that they had it downloadable on iTunes. That was huge. Within two weeks it had 60 million downloads, for free. Those kinds of numbers are real.

C: Jon and Val, when I talked to you last you mentioned you'd directed a film for viewing on a cellphone, for Sundance?

Valerie Faris: Sundance hired five filmmakers to do short films designed to play on cellphones, no profanity, no nudity, but you could do whatever you wanted. The funny thing is, you know, the main industry for cellphone movies is going to be porn, so we were laughing about that. We went to a big cellphone conference in Barcelona, about 60,000 people. It was interesting, there's this hunger for content, all these companies want it, but they don't know what they want. It's a creative opportunity in some ways, but it's also an opportunity for exploiting people. We did it, but we didn't give them our best ideas because they were going to own anything we did.

Phil Morrison: They use the term "curated," but then it also brings a notion of endorsement. You're not just being hired to make something for someone. Kind of like the way that actors appear in commercials as themselves.

Epoch's Phil Morrison
Epoch's Phil Morrison
Noam Murro: Why would you want to do a short movie sponsored by McDonald's? Either we do a short movie because we like it, or we do a commercial that's being paid for and we know how to judge it. But the whole idea of doing a Marlboro sponsored piece of art? It gives us validity because now we can do something longer than 30 seconds?

Zack Snyder: Advertisers get to think, I'm creating art, but I'm selling something at the same time. It's almost like doing a music video—I think, this is art, but at the same time, it is an ad.

Phil: It's like when [the film critic] Manny Farber wrote about white elephant art and termite art in movies. There was an opportunity in TV commercials to be a termite. This is meant to be a commercial, but we can find a way to make it cool or good hearted or funny or sad. But the stuff that you're talking about has that white elephant aspect, it's meant to be "capital A" art to begin with.

Tim Godsall: If you get the same thing but you're allowed to swear, where you're allowed to show some nudity, then the whole point becomes Look! You can say shit with a logo at the end. But it'll be for the internet—it's viral!

Tom Kuntz: I'm doing something for Xbox that's going to be seen only on Xboxes, so you know you've got a guaranteed audience. It's not lying, it's not pretending to be entertainment or anything, but it's got its own validity. It's nice because we all get so used to telling one joke in 30 seconds.

C: Also it's funny because commercials aren't dead, either. The Skittles spots you directed have become sort of a pop culture phenomenon.

Tom: I heard a great quote from the creative director of Skittles. They were discussing the same issue and he said, "We made some funny commercials and they can't keep that candy on the shelf." It's like anything, all the bad ones will get forgotten and the good ones will work.

Matt: Most of my stuff I create with two people in mind. I figure, if they will like it, hopefully everyone else will too, whether it's a sketch for Saturday Night Live or a screenplay.

Tom: We're all happy to be there and do it, but you want to fund this weird stupid thing? Bud is more a marketing question. Is it in their best interest to be making this?

Joseph Kosinski: We were talking about the death of music videos. If nothing else, all this is the breeding ground for new filmmakers now. My first job was a Nike [online film], $10,000, but it was an opportunity for young filmmakers to get in the mix.

Guy: It seems also with bandwith getting better, the craft has to go up. Now, stuff gets seen a lot because it's funny or whatever, but as you start to see things get bigger on the screen, and computers will integrate more with TVs, you'll be able to appreciate the craft much more.

Joseph: That's the problem with YouTube and, not to rip on Adcritic, but Adcritic-size videos. It's hard to appreciate that side of commercial-making in little thumbnails. That's why I think the little funny ones are the most popular.

Zack: They're the most popular but they're still disposable. You download that thing, look at it, laugh. But if the thing was on fire, you wouldn't put it out. It's like Kleenex.

Noam: I think the issue is more about making it relevant to popular culture. I just watched Saving Jessica Lynch on YouTube—how can a commercial be more fucking satisfying than that? It's fantastic, the best thing I've ever seen! I'm going to compete with that in a four minute format? No.

Val: I think it's interesting how advertising mentality has seeped into everything. Like all the product placement you see in movies, getting money to put in products.

C: Like a VW bus?

Jon: They're probably cursing us.

Tom: Yeah, I have a VW bus in a screenplay I wrote, actually. I'm pissed at you. We have to have words.

Phil: So Alan Pafenbach didn't talk you into that?

Jon: We're still waiting for our checks.

C: Today, do you think the demands on you as directors are increasing in terms of what you need to know technically?

Grady Hall: I came from screenwriting before Motion Theory, so I've gone from zero to 100 in the past five years learning all about visual effects and design. It just helps me to not worry about if it's possible or not. Because I know that anything is possible, we'll just have to figure out how to do it technically later. But another thing that I've really learned and really tried to avoid is saying, "Wow, I really love this technique. Let me figure out how to put it in a commercial somewhere." Those turn out to be some of the tragedies. Everything with me starts with screenwriting.

Jon: I remember when I first heard about the Flame and Inferno and I just needed to understand the basic way they work. There are always people who are far better at doing it, and you just need to know enough to pass it off at the right time. You don't want to create nightmares for them.

C: Zack, what about 300? Had you worked that way before?

Zack: I've done a lot of commercials with visual effects. The movie wasn't a revolution. I always say it was basically the same technology the weatherman has. You stand in front of a bluescreen, film the actors, put some crap behind it. We didn't invent anything. It's just aesthetic. Anything is possible now, with the right amount of money and time.

C: Joe, you started out in architecture, right?

Joseph: Yeah, it was a great background for directing in a weird way. In architecture school, we used all the same tools that Digital Domain and ILM were using for visual effects. After learning those, I realized there was a lot more I could do with them than designing bathrooms in New York City, so I started making short films and put a reel together the old fashioned way. Visual effects is the side I came from, so the shoot is 1% of the process for me, so I think compared to most directors I think my role is probably very different overall. The more involvement, the better for me, whether it's doing pre-viz or color correcting at the end.

C: For the Gears of War spot didn't you use the actual game engine?

Joe: That was unique because the requirement was that the spot had to be done in the game engine, so it wasn't a matter of playing the game and grabbing cuts. They literally gave us this million dollar piece of software. We built our own game inside the game engine just for the purpose of filming this spot. I got to do all my own cameras, directed the performance on a mo-cap stage. In a way it was very similar to a live action shoot because with the engine, there's no compositing. There's no rendering of elements, you're capturing it all real time at once. You cue the actor, you get the camera ready and it all happens real time.

Zack: The idea of video game cinematics—it's almost like another place for people to go, "Oh look, it's like a movie," and as time goes by it will be more and more like a movie. And a lot of people want to make movies out of video games, but making a movie out of a video game is like making a movie out of porn. Say you saw this porn with a pool boy and a housewife. You would make a movie out of their interaction, and not show any of the fucking. That's kind of what a video game movie is. That's why to me what you're doing with the commercial is much more honest.

Tom: After I saw your Xbox spots it felt like any commercial advertising a video game with live action would feel like a lie.

C: I thought the PS2 commercials you guys [Jon, Val, Noam] did were really good, and those were live action.

Jon: Those were fun.

Noam: We're now making them into a seven-minute film.

C: A number of you here have done films. What's the transition back and forth like?

Noam: I'm interested in just going back, just to advertising.

C: You guys [Zack, Jon and Val] have said in the past to make sure you're doing something you love.

Zack: Tarsem told me, know that if you make a movie, there's a really good chance that you'll only make one movie, so you just better be happy with it. If you don't then you're doing it for the wrong reason.

Zack Snyder
Zack Snyder
C: That's how you approached Dawn of the Dead?

Zack: Absolutely. I happen to think zombies are awesome, but I had a studio movie, and they said, this is a summer romp zombie movie, make it like that. And they were mad at me the whole time. "Where are the doves? Where are the sheets blowing in the wind? You're a commercial director, we've seen your reel." I just said, "It doesn't make sense."

C: How did you not get kicked off?

Zack: They didn't care that much about the movie to kick me off. They had The Chronicles of Riddick and Van Helsing going on at the same time. The transition back is hard. In advertising, you get into a groove, let's get some boards, conference calls. The feature business doesn't really care about your time. You're on an endless time continuum. I don't know how they think we're paying the rent. Dawn cost me. It's such a great honor we're letting you direct this movie, and a year later it's like, "Holy shit! What am I doing? My kids are going to starve if I don't get this thing done!"

Jon: We had to save up for our movie. But it was really fun. The shocking moment is when you call cut and you're happy and you don't have to turn around for the second monitor. It's unbelievable, the speed at which you can travel—it's just you and great actors.

Val: But it wasn't a studio movie, so it might be a different experience.

Noam: I don't think there's a better world than commercials out there, if you get to a place we all are, where most of the commercial work we do is quite interesting and gratifying—financially, creatively, and not sitting at home doing another fucking lunch. The notion that there's this whole great other pasture out there [in film]—it's a different animal, but it doesn't mean it's a nicer one.

Jon: A studio can become just like an agency.

Zack: Exactly. It's just like dealing with a client. Because they have tricked you into thinking they want your heart and soul in the thing, and they show it to a preview audience, "People don't like that part, change it."

Jon: This begs the central question we face all the time, in advertising and film. As you approach a project, you ask yourself, "Can good things happen here? Are we really wanting to make the same movie?" Obviously there will be some differences, but in commercials, the thing I'm struck with so often is they either haven't thought it through very well, or there's a divide between what the client is thinking and the agency is. When we see that chaos, we usually try and run.

Gary: I think you can read the script and see that it's been through the process and it's loaded with problems.

Grady: And how they act on the first call is how they're going to act throughout. If there's anything that's suspicious on the first call, it ends up being the whole process.

Guy: The worst thing is when there's like 10 opinions on their side and they're looking to you to figure it out.

Tim: Just shoot it 10 different ways.

Tom: There's a big difference between what someone buys on a piece of paper and what we all end up doing with it. I had that experience with a film. You go and show them the movie and they go "No, no, no!" Then where are you?

Zack: On 300, the client from Warner Brothers, who's awesome, said to me, "Look, when we were giving you notes on the movie, before you made it, we had no idea what movie you were making."

Noam: But he was childish, in a good way. They want to find something they can't afford. Then there are the octave changes and then you know you're fucked. In advertising, some of it is actually innocence in a weird way, on the part of the agency and I think your job as a director is to try and smell it up front and say, "We love you but not this time." Try and understand psychologically what they're going through because they live with it. It's a hard process.

Phil: This may be a small distinction, but I've been noticing that it's not necessarily the difference between what someone else wants versus what I want. It's the willingness to not know immediately what you want, to think of a script as an opportunity to discover what it might become.

Jon: I think that comes with relationships. Now, it feels like there's always that thread of—we're about to lose this account, or we just got the account, so everything has to be a home run.

Noam: Sometimes you hear, "Our jobs are really on the line here." I don't know what to say. I hope I can save it?

Gary: Or "There's a lot of attention on this script."

Tim: I find we have a lot of freedom to talk to clients the way the agency can't because we don't have any politics. The client could have a fetishistic obsession with some element of wardrobe. Get the plaid shirt out of here! I'll just go over, "Can we shoot the plaid shirt?" The client's like, "Yeah, plaid shirt's good." It's easier for us sometimes. Except when the agency has been fired. I've had the good fortune to work on a couple jobs recently which, weirdly enough following a Tom Kuntz job, the agency was just dismissed and I did the next one.

Tom: (laughs) I'm not the only one.

Tim: Actually, the protocol once they've been fired is so polite that you can do whatever you want. So you have a really pleasant shoot. You go in thinking, Oh god, they just got fired, it's going to be horrible, but actually, I'd like to work exclusively for agencies that just got fired.

C: Storytelling—what's the key to doing it well?

Noam: Have a great story on the page.

Richard: The eyes of the actor.

Guy: We learned that from an editor, when we were first starting out. He just told us it's all about the eyes—they say so much emotionally.

Phil: I agree because at least in a commercial, specificity is really, really critical. You don't have time for long, slow transitions from one emotion into another.

Tom: For me, it goes back to what Noam says. When something's great on the page, then you're just on the hook to keep it great. A lot of times, it's "Here's this awful script, but do your thing!" I can't do my thing because this will never be something else. It's got to be great to begin with.

C: What about helping to rewrite the script?

Grady: We've run into that, more and more the past couple years. Less people are doing more stuff, they have more projects to do and they come to us, "Oh, by the way, feel free to change the script entirely."

Motion Theory's Grady Hall
Motion Theory's Grady Hall
Guy: We've been caught off guard with that all the time. You spend all this time rewriting, and they're talking to five other people.

Noam: I cancel everything that says "open to interpretation." No thank you.

Jon: I hate to make any rules, but in general, I like it when there's some emotional truth there. Do people act this way? Is this the way life happens? That's a great starting point.

Tom: Are you saying that long painting [from Old Spice's "Painted Experience"] is real life?

Jon: Those were really great creatives. And they were on the frontlines protecting us.

Noam: It's that simple. If creatives are great and brave, it's going to be great, and if they're shitheads and they don't give a shit, it's going to be bad.

Tom: There are certain agencies or creatives I personally feel safe with. I know that they will guard the project the best they can. When I do a rough cut of something and see that they actually sold that cut, it's a miracle. It almost never works that way. Usually, you see a cut, "I don't want anyone to see that!" And nobody who goes on Adcritic knows that. Everyone just thinks that's your best foot forward.

Phil: And then all these great people we're talking about become directors. Many of my favorite ad writers I've worked with are all now directors, like Tom, for instance.

Jon: We've lost some great DPs.

Gary: I've been here two years, and you find that when you're doing calls in particular, you're quite interested in who those creatives are, because you're not going to edit it. You may not be as involved as you might be working in Europe. You are putting quite a lot of faith in them.

The Glue Society's Gary Freedman
The Glue Society's Gary Freedman
Tom: I'll research them. They're going to end up putting something with your name on it out into the world so you just try to do some quality control.

Tim: Tom makes them send their reels into him. And if they award someone else, you have a follow up call to know why. But I do the same thing. You can't help it. Because now it's also cross-referenced because of you guys [Creativity/Adcritic].

Biscuit's Tim Godsall
Biscuit's Tim Godsall
Jon: When we first started doing commercials, I remember our company saying, "Do you want us to pay for a director's cut?" I was so pained by what turned out, I just felt like, we lost that war, let's move on. I didn't want to think about what could have been.

Guy: Isn't the editing process for the agency, almost like going on vacation for three weeks to the edit company? You just beat things to death. There's a spontaneity that comes with getting it quickly done.

Tim: I don't care how smart you are, I don't think you can look at one 30-second story 60 times a day five days in a row and have any sense of what it is anymore. I can watch it once, twice, see a couple alternatives, make up my mind. I'm too thick to process it after that.

Tom: It also comes back to working with the right people. Those people are decisive. Then there are places where they just want to see every possible incarnation of the same scene around a kitchen table and then they pick cut 22.

Noam: That goes against the grain of what this medium is all about. Shooting is only half of it. Half of it is putting it together.

Val: We always try to stay through the edit. And then we try to get our editors on stuff. A talented editor who doesn't suffer fools is a good thing.

Phil: It's interesting what Tim was saying because lately I have been flabbergasted by how little editing time there is. It's really hard and takes a lot of time finding the thing that will make that one genuine moment work.

Matt: I think that can be your friend too. In the TV world, we had to go live on set every night, so you don't have time for a lot of notes. Maybe in retrospect, you look at it and say we could have done it differently, but I hate it when there's an open deadline.

Gary: I've often found you can spend a long time debating a cut with really small little changes, and then one music decision by the agency has just rendered the whole process moot.

Guy: Music is always how things get fucked up. The danger is always putting in a scratch track that you'll never afford and then suddenly you're trying to fake some track that was number one and went platinum, for 15 grand.

C: Joe, your Gears of War spot had really cool music, but then people on YouTube took it and put their own tracks in.

Joe: Yeah. That was fun to watch. They cut it to "Rock Lobster," " YMCA." That was unique in that we had the track before the job started. The first thing I did was edit the song down to a minute and then I boarded the whole spot out to the lyrics of the song. The edit was set from the beginning so there were never any issues. Everyone knew exactly what they were getting so it was just a matter of filling in the colors. I don't know if anybody's worked with pre-viz, but I think, in some ways, it's the director's best friend. All the decisions that can fuck up the project in the end, are figured out in the beginning.

Noam: But the point is not to do that. The point is all the decisions should be made after you shot. That trend's really scary. Let's make all the decisions now, then what?

Zack: But if your instincts are informing the pre-viz, it's sort of the same process.

Joe: And you also don't want to be so rigid about it that when happy accidents happen, you can't adapt to it, because there are always times when something amazing happens and you've got to find a way to work it in.

Zack: Going back to storytelling—what is it? It's instinct. Everyone has their set of instincts, their own point of view. That's why I want to watch something, to see someone else's point of view. I know my point of view, it's boring!

C: What about comedy? Are there any sorts of keys to making something funny? Tom, was Skittles funny on paper?

Tom: Obviously, they were great scripts. But there were key moments that were not scripted. That's a perfect example of the creatives knowing how to embrace the happy accidents in the edit, or a different line that I tried. It's the basic process. It's a good script to begin with, my job is to keep it good, treat it correctly, and then try to make it even funnier where possible.

C: When you're directing stuff are you laughing when it's happening?

Tom: Sometimes. I have a weird thing with that. I can be, holy shit, I love this. I know this is right. Then you get in the edit and it isn't. And there will be a lot of times where I think it's dreadful and find that I was wrong. That's what keeps me confused and doubting myself all the time. But that's what also keeps you working and trying things. We're all paid for our hunches. But we don't all really know until you put it together.

MJZ's Tom Kuntz
MJZ's Tom Kuntz
Gary: Sometimes you don't even know after it's been put together. I've had shoots which felt like a disaster, and I wasn't happy with the end result, until about six months after it was finished and suddenly I went, oh, it's actually not bad.

Guy: You know when USA Today gauges the Superbowl spots. What the hell? The ones I thought were really genius are not even on there. They put the worst ones up.

Tom: I find it always fascinating that someone's coming to me to watch mass culture. I don't watch any of the normal television—well, I watch American Idol.

Noam: I do too.

Phil: About laughing on the set, I will laugh a lot, completely disingenuously, just for the sake of morale, when things are really lousy. Then I'd see these cuts and I'd have no faith in the editor because of what he was choosing. I couldn't figure out what was going on, but it turns out my script supervisor was circling when I would laugh and took my lying, manipulative directing seriously.

Zack: On my movie, I had awesome script supervisors. I'd yell cut and she'd whisper to me, "That sucked so bad! Please go make them act better." And I'd go, OK, hang on, we'll be right back. And then we'd do another take and she'd go, Excellent!


Matt: We always call it crew hoo hoo—the crew's laughing doesn't necessarily mean it's good.

Noam: Any time I laugh loud on set, it sucks. Anytime I think I'm going to go out and do something great, it doesn't come out. You go out and think you're going to do something important—that's when you get hurt. It's true for humor—it's best when it's contextual.

Biscuit's Noam Murro
Biscuit's Noam Murro
Jon: Certain actors, even when given the greatest jokes, the greatest setups, are just not funny. Some people may be great actors, but they suck humor out of the room.

Tom: The opposite too. Usually the funny guys don't even have to say anything. You walk in, they stand there and start to stare at you, and you're like, "Holy shit! This guy is funny!" Anything this person does is going to be funny.

C: Can we talk about budgets? All of you I'm sure have worked on limited budgets—but in the end, maybe you still came up with something brilliant. Looking back, if you had more money, do you think that would have made a difference?

Richard: You need money for time.

Noam: It's all about time.

Tom: Sometimes time can kind of mess with you. With comedy, the longer people have to sit with a joke, they can overthink it and all of a sudden they go back in the edit and start changing things.

Tim: Some of my favorite projects have been totally challenged timewise. But it can enforce a certain simplicity, which can help a lot.

Val: I think on movies it's dangerous to have too much time. Especially on comedies. Keeping people moving, not thinking too much, I like it—it feels so productive—you don't have time for people to go back to their trailer.

Noam: It's a simple balance. As a director, you don't always know what you're going to get out of something. I think part of it is allowing time, to work not necessarily with the people, but to work with yourself.

Richard: In the ad world, there are lots of scripts, especially in the last year, that on the page, needed that extra day, and when you go into the bidding process, you don't have money for it. So who knows who's going to get this job? It's been really wonky lately. Tom: What I think too, aesthetically in commercials, production value excess is generally kind of frowned upon. Maybe I'm speaking for myself. If you see some big thing where they bring out every bell and whistle, you think, that is so awful. I think it's kind of like our generation's aesthetics. I'd much rather see something where it's like a weird one take. But movies, big is great. I want to go see your movie, dude [Zack] I haven't seen it yet, but I want to go see that. Big, visceral—it's hard to do that on the TV screen, even harder on the computer screen.

Noam: The aesthetic of what's beautiful is very different right now. I think when Pytka started doing it, it was probably really very different.

Matt: Your movie [Jon & Val] had great style, but it was about performance. In comedy, you want to air on the side of performance, as opposed to looking great—oh the sound guy wants more because there's a plane out there. It's like, I don't care about the sound. We're going to move on because we're going to burn out the performer.

Noam: It's true for anything like that. I just shot on this camera, the Genesis and everybody was oohing and ahhing. It doesn't make the story better. People make the story better.

C: What about being on a team? Do you ever think of doing something by yourself, Jon or Val?

Jon: I made films before I met Val, but it was just a whole other world when we started working together. I really enjoy being surprised by what Val's going to say, and having at least one person I really trust on the set. It's far more interesting. Especially given what we all do—at those times when you go, "I can't believe what they're saying!"—to be able to look at her and go, "It's not us, right?"

Val: Maybe it was painful at the time, but five minutes later it's funny because we get to share it.

Noam: Can we be a trio?

Phil: [to Jon and Val] You guys have the kissing too.

Zack: So does Happy.

Happy's Richard Farmer
Happy's Richard Farmer
Richard: We're open to anything. Guy: We have a good time. We have twice the amount of energy. And we're always challenging each other to push ourselves to do something new.

C: What about Happy Hour, your film festival?

Guy: That's just one of those projects we do on the side. We don't make any money off it. Basically we've gone to all these short film festivals and we got really bored with the format. We decided that all you can take is about an hour of cool shit. So we tailor make an hour of really cool content—short film, music video, and also implement actors into the party to create an interactive experience with cinema and theater.

Richard: You go to a film festival and there's like a filmmaker Q&A—snooze! Why not do something that's about the audience and bring the entertainment back into it?

C: Tom, what's the solo experience like? Have you learned anything from it?

Tom: The honest truth is it's not that different. When Mike [Maguire] and I decided not to direct together, at that juncture I was concerned. Is there something that's happening there that was super integral to me making something good? But that concern went away as I started working. The good thing about teams is there are more of you to stand up for your vision, whereas one of you, it's hard to be the tough guy with a bunch of people.

Val: I'm just curious about how often people choose not to do commercials because they don't believe in the product, or have a moral conflict.

Gary: There are times when I've read a script but I couldn't believe the brand on the end of it. It could have been an OK script, but it just didn't feel genuine.

Tom: The sad thing is that most big corporations own all these little brands so even if you don't think you are, you're putting money into their pockets anyway. It's a bummer. I did a bunch of candy last year, but we live in a free country, where hopefully kids are being educated. That's what you hope but then it's not what it's like.

Tim: I've never played Xbox or Playstation but I've done commercials for both. That's where I feel the most conflicted, with video games, but they also make the coolest commercials, so I kind of give myself a waiver, be a bit of a hypocrite. I know that there are a lot of violent games and my instinct tells me that they do contribute to negative development.

Noam: I did a Hummer commercial. A fucking Hummer. Will I do it again today, based on what I know now? I don't know. You have to judge within yourself. But at the same time you can't be fascist about it.

Phil: And there are just as many commercials for even cool products that seem relatively benign or cool but the messages in the commercials about people are misanthropic or gross. They might actually be well done—and I bet it will be really popular but it's kind of nasty. Those are hard to deal with too. I think it's impossible to demand some sort of consistency in yourself if you're going to do this at all. I figure, if I do have a visceral reaction, if I've been willing to do all of these, and this one makes me feel bad, then this one must really be bad.

The Roundtable
The Roundtable
Most Popular
In this article: