The Good Oil director opens up on inspirational shower thoughts, escaping an angry bull and looking at advertising like a team sport
Adam Gunser is a purveyor of tone, genre and style. He takes a character-driven approach to comedy, seamlessly bridging live-action and CG to create work with heart and a pinch of the unexpected. Adam has worked with brands such as Carlton Dry, L&P, HSBC, Pedigree, Bank of Melbourne and Dell. He has won a host of awards at Cannes, D&AD, Clio, One Show and AXIS.
Name: Adam Gunser
Location: New Zealand
Repped by / in: Good Oil AU/NZ, Darling at RSA London, Soup Berlin, Frenzy Paris, Spy Canada
Awards: Cannes, Award, Axis, One Show, etc etc
What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Adam Gunser > What sets scripts apart for me are the ones that contemplate a viewers visceral and emotional reactions to the content. Not only creating an image to represent or sell a product but also a feeling for a customer to associate with it. And also ones that make me giggle.
How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Adam > Like a high school student with poor time management. I try to live with the idea for a few days, reserving my shower time for deep contemplation - before researching for as long as I possibly can. Then with time running out on the clock, I’ll put together everything I learned in research and everything I thought about in the shower… most things, not everything.
If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with / don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
Adam > I don’t think it’s possible to take on a campaign without having a reasonably robust understanding of the brand and the context of the ad. Hence the research step after the shower step. I try not to rely too heavily on the internet for research. It's better to ask human beings about their experiences with a brand so that you get a personal and nuanced response.
For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Adam > Personally, I find the relationship with the creative team and CD to be the most important. The idea has lived in their minds for so much longer than yours and the well of knowledge to draw from is invaluable. They can talk to all of the struggles and triumphs they have gone through just to get the words in front of you. I look at advertising like a team sport, the more players on your team the better. Especially players on your team with the ability to persuade a client to do things that are scary but ultimately the right thing to do.
What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Adam > Honestly, anything that makes me smile… or makes my eyes sweaty.
What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Adam > That I’m a fully functioning adult. I’m not.
Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?
Adam > Someone has sheltered me from that… thank god.
What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Adam > I once had an angry bull chase me around a field in Cape Town for half an hour. That was a problem. I hid under a techno crane… some solutions are more obvious than others.
How do you strike the balance between being open / collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Adam > I think 90% of what we do is a collaboration. The key is to not protect the idea from an agency or client but to work with people who share a common vision of what the idea is and are all pulling in the same direction.
What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?
Adam > I wouldn’t be in this job without some incredibly generous people who gave their time and knowledge to help me succeed. It's all of our responsibilities to pass that on, especially to people who are traditionally underrepresented in our industry.
How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?
Adam > I think the pandemic has made us all more aware of how we interact with each other and how to care for the people around us by being responsible and conscientious. I wash my hands way more now. I’m gonna keep doing that.
Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?
Adam > It’s impossible to prepare for every format choice. You can’t frame everything for 1:1 while shooting anamorphic. Something will always suffer. I try to focus on the main way people are going to consume the work and if the format serves the idea. if those two things are aligned then the rest can be retrofitted in post.
What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI / data-driven visuals etc)?
Adam > Most of my work has a strong VFX thread running through it. I try to keep up with that side of the production process as much as possible. There are always new ways of achieving a vision and things evolve quickly in the post world. We have also all had to adjust to this pandemic so the use of virtual production has been a really positive one for me. It astounds me how quickly the industry adapted and although there are always some teething issues, It seems to be working well now… and it keeps our carbon emissions in check.
So my relationship status with technology is… complicated.
Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
- L&P, 'Drink Chilled'
- Carlton Dry, 'Temple Of Dry'
- AA Insurance, 'Dinosaur Vs Unicorn'
- Bank of Melbourne, 'If You Have The Will, We Have The Way'