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Affixxius Director Dave Whayman On the Benefits of Being In-House and His Influential Work for the Police and FBI



Following tradition isn’t the only route to success and showing empathy is key, as CD Dave Whayman proves

Affixxius Director Dave Whayman On the Benefits of Being In-House and His Influential Work for the Police and FBI
Dave Whayman, Creative Director at Affixxius, holds quite a unique role at the Loughborough based production company. Not only is he an integral part of the core creative team, but he’s also Affixxius’s lead in-house director, having been with the company for over 15 years. With a background in editing, his vast experience equips him with the technical tools and talent to assist a client right from the very first initial ideas, through to scripting, storyboarding, production and even post (something Affixxius have added to their offering in recent years).

The director behind some of Affixxius’s most successful campaigns, Dave is responsible for influential films such as Kayleigh’s Love Story and Breck’s Last Game - two award-winning awareness pieces commissioned by the Leicestershire Police that deal with real life cases of online grooming. Both campaigns are used as educational tools by the police and the FBI, helping other children come forward with their concerns, and leading to the successful identification of more online predators.

Highly adaptable in his style, Dave works across a huge spectrum of genres including awareness campaigns such as the above, educational films for schools and universities, and commercial work for brands and agencies. Working with the likes of adidas on one of their recent spots ‘Run’, Dave’s sports films are full of dynamic energy, but can also tap into the human stories underneath the action, such as in his film ‘Gift of Gold’ for Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

In an interview with LBB, Dave discusses his varied and untraditional role, his most memorable projects, and what his love of drawing portraits has taught him about directing.

Q> How did you first get into filmmaking?

Dave Whayman> It started in college when I studied media and I really enjoyed making videos with my friends. I was really into the storytelling aspect and loved learning from dramatised film and TV.  I attended university in Surrey but soon decided it wasn’t for me so I did a few odd jobs before landing a role at Affixxius. 

Q> What’s it like to be an in-house director? Did you ever consider going the traditional route and signing with several production companies? 

Dave> I started out as an editor so it happened organically. There’s been such variety in what we’ve done, there’s always been a new challenge so I am constantly learning and developing at Affixxius - there’s been no real need to look elsewhere! The other key thing for me is that I’ve got such a great team here who trust me creatively. When we work together we have a great rapport and the shorthand between us allows us to work really really efficiently.

Q> You work on a lot of projects with the police. How do you approach hard hitting subjects such as in Breck’s Last Game? 

Dave> I think with campaigns like these it’s important to try to speak to the people who were involved in the case to get a sense of what is authentic and real. For ‘Breck’s Last Game’ we worked very closely with Breck’s mother who was heavily involved in the transcript to ensure that the message we were getting across was correct. 

We also try to take a sympathetic approach with the victim. In ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ we had to get into the mindset of a teenage girl who suddenly has some interest from an older man. Instead of labelling her as silly, we needed to empathise with her situation in order to understand how these events can and do transpire. Putting the viewer in the mindset of a victim is crucial when it comes to promoting a cause.

Q> What was it like working with Breck’s mum? It must have been really hard for her to film.

Dave> Breck’s mum is extremely strong and is using her energy and emotion to help make a difference to people’s lives. She understands that in order to get through to people, you’ve really got to throw yourself into it and confront these heavy issues head on. We had a real understanding on set where I wouldn’t push her too far but far enough to get what we needed to create an impact and deliver the message to other young kids.

Q> How does your approach to this work compare to the commercial campaigns you work on?

Dave> Our strength as directors at Affixxius is our ability to adapt between different types of briefs. We all put 100% effort into whichever briefs come our way and look at each brief on its own merit/ Whether that’s excitement, or fear, or pain, or happiness, as long as you get through to the emotion, then that’s the starting point.

Q> What does an average day at Affixxius look like for you?

Dave> It varies, as well as working to an agency brief and helping them develop concepts, we also come up with our own ideas where appropriate. My normal day can be anything from working on proposals, to working with the post team, or actually going out and filming the latest project. It massively varies and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been around so long. No two days are the same and I’m never bored. 

Right now, while we’re lockdown, I’ve been writing a lot of scripts, screenplays and shorts. But I also do a lot of artwork in my spare time - I love drawing portraits. 

Q> Does that influence the way you direct at all?

Dave> Definitely, it’s taught me a lot about composition and lighting, which helps me when I’m working with DoPs. With my portraits I’m trying to tell a story in a single image, which is a particularly relevant skill for advertising.  

Q> Your short Human Resources tells a rather interesting and eerie story. What was the inspiration behind this film? 

Dave> I wanted to do some more drama work and we had some connections with great actors through our commercial projects at Affixxius. Human Resources takes a dark storyline and intertwines it with a bit of a comedic edge to explore the hypocrisy that exists within society. There are certain things we will find shocking and other similar things we find completely acceptable. The film is designed to feel like it’s just one part of a universe that transcends far beyond what we see within the short. It leaves the viewer wondering about the world beyond.

Q> You also work with a lot of digital effects. How do you incorporate these into your work?

Dave> A lot of big production companies outsource special effects but that obviously comes with a price tag. Because we are a smaller company, we’ve had to be quite flexible across our roles and it has allowed us to achieve some really interesting special effects and VFX in a way that doesn’t break the bank. It’s given us a bit of an edge and proven that you don’t necessarily need to have hundreds of thousands of pounds in order to achieve a certain effect. 

For example, in our ‘Run’ project for Trent Bridge and adidas, we wanted to create the effect of a full stadium. One way we realised we could save a lot of time and money with this was to film it at night to stylise the film in such a way that you can hide some of the “crimes” in the shadows. It produced a really nice and clever effect. 

Q> Which projects are you most proud of and why?

Dave> ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ reached so many people and it had such an emotional effect on such a wide variety of people. It’s used all over the world and helped other children come forward so it has a real tangible impact. From a storytelling point of view it’s a really interesting structure to depict it as a love story. It shows a real sense of understanding for the victim.

I also love the fast-paced action in the sports promo ‘Run’ for Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club, Nottingham Outlaws and adidas. It’s a completely different style of directing to the awareness projects and challenges me in different ways.

Q> How would you like to develop in the next few years? 

Dave> I think it would be great to work with some of the bigger sports brands. We are used to working on such a shoestring that we could do some really amazing things if we had the financial backing. Imagination has never been our problem at all, it’s only ever been the limitation of budget. 

I’d also love to work more in the automotive and technology markets. There are opportunities for these brands to be really innovative with their visual style.

Q> And finally, what’s the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

Dave> Probably from my mum to never underestimate your own worth. 

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Affixxius, Wed, 06 May 2020 14:59:40 GMT