Anthony Mark Saul has taken a meandering route to end up as the director he is today. As a DOP and photographer he has keen eye for creating stunning and dynamic visuals. His past as a session musician set him in good stead for a career that’s seen him work with with a number of celebrities.
He’s well accustomed to working within short schedules and tight deadlines and is always up for a challenge. Very recent examples of this kind of work include a commercial and social media content featuring Formula One racing driver Daniel Ricciardo, who was filmed across three LA locations in a six-hour window, a live recording session with Paloma Faith - who he’s known for many years - that was well and truly against the clock, and a last-minute promo film for House of Peroni & Google Tilt Brush featuring model Bailee Roberts, tons of VFX and only a one-week post schedule.
As he joins Glassworks Productions’ burgeoning roster of directors, LBB’s Alex Reeves borrowed a few minutes with Saul to find out more.
LBB> Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Were there any clues back then about what you'd end up doing?
AMS> Yorkshire feels like a very different part of the world to London. I was incredibly lucky and had a very peaceful childhood. Art was always my favourite subject at school but it wasn't viewed as a realistic career path back then. I was really interested in crime and did a degree in Law before moving on to train as a barrister; that led to my initial move to London but I never expected that I would be where I am today.
LBB> Is it true you grew up with Paloma Faith? What was she like?
AMS> I met Paloma when she was 18. She was studying contemporary dance and working in a bar called Milo in Leeds. One night we got chatting after hours and she started singing 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow' into a sweeping brush. It was an incredible. The next morning she just turned up out of the blue at my house and told me to grab the guitar. I've still got a few 4-track recordings; they might even be her first ever demos. You could tell even back then that something big was going to happen for her. She was wild and audacious but she also had that rare presence someone needs to break through.
LBB> What was it like working on a music video with her much later? That was quite a testing production, I hear?
AMS> We're really close friends and luckily that this is true for our professional relationship too. I have taken thousands of photographs of her and made quite a few videos. There are always issues working in the music industry and they usually involve a severe lack of time and money.
After one of her recordings featured on a John Lewis commercial her label decided to release it last-minute as a single. We had to shoot, edit, grade and deliver a high-end music video featuring a full band with strings within five days from it being commissioned. Just recently I had to shoot a three-song live session capturing perfect audio takes and performances with just two cameras in four hours. Thankfully Paloma and her incredible band absolutely nailed it.
LBB> You were also a session musician for a while. How do you remember those days?
AMS> My career path has been a bit unconventional but I have enjoyed the journey. I played session bass guitar for a while and was lucky enough to tour with some cool bands and artists performing on main festival stages across the UK and Europe. The last thing I did was a recording session with the legendary producer Tony Visconti which was an incredible experience.
LBB> How did you get into filmmaking?
AMS> I blame the Canon 5D Mark II. I was really happy working as a photographer but then this camera came along that changed everything. Suddenly everyone was asking if I could do with filming what I did with stills. I was a heavy user of strobe photography so I already knew the technical side of achieving a similar look would be very different but knowing how to light creatively was much the same and it just went from there.
LBB> You're a DOP, photographer and director. How do you feel about each of those roles? Do you like to do a balance of all of them or do you have a favourite?
AMS> I think they all merge together quite naturally. As a photographer you are essentially a director and DOP by default. Learning to communicate with talent on photoshoots gave me the experience needed to be able to direct on set. Playing with lights in my studio allowed me to understand how to create different moods, beauty or drama. They each come with their own challenges but I enjoy each role equally and feel lucky that I get to do a bit of everything.
LBB> How does your background influence the way you direct? How would you describe your style?
AMS> There is often an insane amount of pressure on shoots and in pre/post production but my upbringing and lifestyle definitely helps me to remain calm and composed. I always try to remain down to earth and friendly with everyone from runners to clients. There are too many egos in this industry and I just want to concentrate on making good work with good people. I'm very lucky to have built up a network of stunningly talented film professionals who all make life easier than it might be. I think all of this has as much to do with style as the end product but in terms of pure aesthetics I like my films to be very graceful and beautiful.
LBB> You've worked with a lot of famous faces. You must have some stories. Any that you're willing to share?
AMS> As with every industry you get your fair share of prima donnas but I always remain professional when dealing with them and wouldn't ever gossip publicly. On the whole I have found most celebrities are genuinely really nice people. This winter I did a swimwear brand campaign with my new UK representation, Glassworks Productions, out in LA featuring Formula 1 Racing Driver Daniel Ricciardo. I was taken back by what an absolute gentleman he was and how tolerant he was on what was a very hectic and extremely cold shoot. I needed him to do a few scenes in a bitterly ice cold swimming pool and also getting pushed repeatedly into the wintry sea for a couple of scenes.