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The Directors: Alex Dunning


Flipt’s director on being authentic, missing human interaction and being a meticulous crafter

The Directors: Alex Dunning

Creative turned director Alex Dunning created content for some of the world’s most iconic brands picking up awards along the way from D&AD and Cannes amongst others.

As a creative, Alex was able to work alongside some of the industry’s top directors gaining insight and experience through all stages of production. With a passion for photography and an incredible eye for detail, Alex brings a cinematic and empathetic quality to all his work.

Alex’s most recent work for Crystal Palace Football club has just won him a Shiny award.

When they announced fans would be able to return in the new season Alex had an idea for a script - he wrote it in a morning. It was a longshot, but Alex got in touch with the club chairman. Four hours later an email from Steve Parish (CPFC Chairman) came through, the script was approved and the production greenlit. At its heart this film is for the fans and about the fans. The supporters are the lifeblood of football and celebrating them is incredibly important.

Alex has a hunger for film making and brings stories alive with craft, passion, and truth.

Name: Alex Dunning

Location: London, UK

Repped by/in: FLIPT

Awards: Shiny Young Directors

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the  other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Alex> What excites me is not just the script, but the ambition to make a great film. Whether it contains just the beginning of an idea, needs a bit of work, or is already well structured, I always want to see how I can bring it to life.

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Alex> I’ve always meticulously crafted my treatments. I have a photographic memory for all things film and tv, which helps me bring my vision for a script to life. I want my treatments to build the tone and help realise the visual story for the reader. 

LBB> 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?

Alex> I think it would be irresponsible not to familiarise yourself with the brand or market. There are many social nuances between different cultures and understanding them is vital to storytelling.

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Alex> Just one? Can I pick a couple? I’d say producer and DP combined - I know that’s cheating, but hear me out. If you’re in tune with your DP, making a film is almost effortless. As for the producer, what can I say other than we all know how hard a great producer works. It’s not always the easiest job making the idea in your head a reality, but they make sure you have the tools to do it. 

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Alex> For me it’s always been about feeling authentic - once you can relate to the characters, and imagine what it’s like to be in their world, you can devise all sorts of mishaps and extraordinary things around them. 

Personally, I’ve always been drawn to the idea of escapism. We’ve been quite blessed with great sci-fi films over the past few years, especially from the likes of Denis Villeneuve.

But, I’m also a sucker for a rom-com. A love story well told is not an easy feat. The coming of age ‘Licorice Pizza’ (Paul Thomas Anderson) has to be one of my favourite films of the year. 

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Alex> Why, what have you heard?

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Alex> It involved a wig, more wide shots than expected, and a slender first AD who won’t be named. That’s all I’ll say. 

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Alex> Having come from an agency background, I’ve learnt to find solutions quickly that protect the idea, and deliver the needs of the client.

LBB> 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?

Alex> I’m all for it, diversity is key to not creating echo chambers on set. At Flipt, we’ve created a line of cost on every job that directly goes into making this happen.

LBB> 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? 

Alex> Casting has been very interesting to see during this time. People seem to go above and beyond when doing self tapes and it really helps to see before doing recalls. 

But, if I’m honest, I’ve missed human interactions. I used to love working out of coffee shops in busy parts of town. Watching how people interact with each other is how I learn to repeat it in film. 

Just the other day I was on the tube escalator when a gust of freezing cold wind travelled down the steps. A young woman in a dress that said Summer rather than Spring let out a yelp, before her partner ran in front of her and held his jacket up like a wind breaker. It was sweet. Those are the moments I missed during the pandemic. Snippets of life you’d otherwise not see, and would never write about.

LBB> 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)? 

Alex> I’m obsessed with structure and shape, so I have the format in mind at all times when shooting. That comes down to choice of lenses we use, as well as shot selection. 

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Alex> I’ve always had the opinion that technology is a weapon to wield with caution. Get it right and it’s stunning. Get it wrong and you’ll never be forgiven.

One thing that has me itching to get my hands on is the use of the ‘Unreal' gaming engine teamed with virtual sets. Disney has been using them on Star Wars TV Shows (The Mandalorian & Book of Bobba Fett), to create life-like landscapes that are almost hard to believe. 

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

Alex> Nurses’ Trust - I feel this piece showcases my ability to create a balance of emotions in a short space of time. It brings to life something that feels authentic and heartfelt. It’s also rooted in a real insight. 

This Girl Can - How to tell someone’s life story in a single shot. I really love the subtlety in this. It’s poetically paced, and I particularly like the sound design of the tyres on the road. 

Welcome Home CPFC - As a supporter of the club, I felt a certain affinity to each of these characters. I wanted to create a collective of people that felt true to who you might actually see at a game. This spot highlights a deep understanding of the brand. Making sure that the cast and the locations felt genuine was absolutely key to building something the fans would appreciate.

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FLIPT, Wed, 25 May 2022 11:26:19 GMT