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The Directors: Andrew Nisinson


Imposter director on the importance of research, deep Wikipedia dives and the scepticism of AI and data driven visuals

The Directors: Andrew Nisinson

Son of an art dealer and lifelong NY-er, Andrew Nisinson is director of many trades. 

Starting off as a DP and photographer, Andrew made the transition into directing by working on BIG rap videos for J. Cole, Bas, Jay-Z…he even filmed Kanye West’s wedding (shhhhhh…he signed an NDA). 

Andrew has broken into the branded space over the past few years by working with clients such as Beats by Dre, Mercedes, Nike, Timberland, Uniqlo, and AT&T. 

Currently, Andrew is developing a feature and multiple narrative projects.

Name: Andrew Nisinson

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Repped by/in: Imposter (USA)

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

Andrew> Connecting to a script is like connecting to a person. Pitching is kind of like speed dating. So for me, I get excited when I think, “Oh wow, I have a lot to offer this script, and this script is the kind of thing I want to be making.” That’s when you know you’re going to make something special.

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

Andrew> One of the first things I do is watch the reel that had been sent to the client to make them choose me as a candidate for the job, and I ask myself, “Why did they approach me for this piece? What was it about my work that would speak to realising the creative?” I think the most important part of writing a great treatment is that it feels like it comes from you. It is best, both for me as a director, and for the agency/brand, if my work is representative of me as an artist. 

From there, I begin to search for representative images. I will usually choose a few as visual cornerstones for how I intend to approach the piece. I’ll then write out a rough sketch of how I’m visualising it. Once we have a first pass of the treatment, I’ll look at it away from my computer, usually on my iPad or printed out, this helps me separate myself a bit, and view the treatment almost as if it had come from someone else. 

After a little refining, the treatment will be shared with production so we can make sure my approach is in line with budget, schedule and all the agency asks. It’s a super detail-oriented process, and I find it very important for it to be just as collaborative as the making of the work itself. Consulting with my DP, production designer, producers, and post team is essential.

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? 

Andrew> Research is so important, and I’m a mega nerd who loves to get into the weeds of things. I’ll do a deep Wikipedia dive, look into old campaigns, and if it’s a different market, I’ll talk to friends who are local to that region to get a sense of how they’ve interacted with that brand throughout their lives. Often brands have unexpected histories, deep cultural connections to communities, or have recently undertaken major pivots that really inform the personality and mythology you are to become a part of if you make the piece.

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

Andrew> I don’t think I could isolate one other person involved in the process. Directing really is like being the centre of a spiderweb; when great work is being done, it’s really the whole web doing it, and you’re really just holding it all together. That being said, I have a very close relationship with the DPs I work with and with my camera team. Even if I am also acting as the DP for a piece, I will likely be on the phone with one of my DP friends to discuss the plan of attack. I’m blessed to have a really tightly knit community of filmmakers around me who all make amazing work, and we all chat all the time about the various jobs that we’re working and pitching on. I’m not a hyper-competitive person when it comes to the business. I’m much more community and collaboratively oriented. Now, part of that certainly comes from confidence in my own abilities and experience, but part of it also comes from the fact that I really admire those around me. When I’ve decided that someone is a great collaborator, I approach them with trust and love. I hate the sort of ‘my way or the highway’ old school way of approaching the craft. I think it’s crucial to foster an environment of communication and confidence, as that’s how people create their best work.

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? 

Andrew> Genre is the lens through which I see the world. The films I make are frequently genre bending, the last one was a horror comedy. I also care deeply about aesthetics and mood. I think my favourite ad work I’ve done almost feels like trailers for motion pictures. I see everything and my taste is really expansive, but I think cinematic and humorous is the style I’m drawn to the most.

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

Andrew> That’s easy. I think because I have a reel that spans a lot of different styles, and have so many skills across the production world (due to how I came up), people see me as a bit of a jack of all trades and may not understand my true personality as a director. Through my writing and producing on the TV/Film side of things, I believe that is starting to come out more. I am also putting out short films now at a pretty fast clip that I think will show people my real identity more and more. By the time I (hopefully) make my first feature in the next year or two, that will fully land, but genre comedy is definitely where I’m living creatively and where I’m most comfortable. My ad work doesn’t really reflect that so much as of now. I’ve done a lot of lifestyle work because of my background in music and fashion. That sort of work is certainly fun for me and I enjoy approaching things as a visual artist, but that’s just one slice of me and I would love for my ad work to further reflect who I truly am as an artist.

LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been? 

Andrew> Yes, I’ve worked with a few and had fine experiences. Occasionally there are things you want to do that get denied, but by and large, it’s nothing super central to the piece. Shooting on film seems to be the main thing that gets shot down. It’s totally understandable why cost consultants would prefer a digital workflow, but as director/cinematographer/camera nerd type, if it feels like the dynamic range and look of film is going to be an advantage, I’m always going to try!

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

Andrew> First of all, in terms of production problems, this is where working with amazing producers is everything. Usually they are the ones dealing with the biggest problems we face on shoots, and very often they will shield directors from even knowing about them unless we have to. We’re spoiled!

The biggest problems I’ve faced as a director have usually been about having to pivot creatively on the fly. The most extreme example of that I’ve ever faced was on a music video. A major artist, whose name I will not mention, missed his flight and suddenly what was supposed to be a daytime shoot became an overnight. The budget was limited and the timeline was tight, so shooting day-for-night or moving the shoot weren’t possibilities. I had three hours to write something new and get it approved by the artist, management, and label. I got my editor an Uber to the stage to sit with my DP, producer and I. We talked it through for an hour, and then I went to a quiet corner, put on headphones, and adjusted the treatment around the available resources and new schedule (with the help of a few espresso shots). Frankly, I think it made the video better. 

When the artist in question arrived, we set up the first shot and his first words to me were, “This doesn’t look like the treatment.” It seemed his management hadn’t passed on the new deck. I then proceeded to verbally pitch him the new approach, then we did a few shots and I called him to the monitor to watch playback. He loved what he saw, and the day went well from there.

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

Andrew> First of all, it’s really important to realise that these campaigns are not our films. These campaigns are by their very nature collaborations. The creative directors are like TV show runners, and we are the directors. If something happens where you think the integrity of what the agency/brand set out to make in the first place is being compromised, it is certainly your duty to chime in and be heard. Sometimes that can mean insisting on something especially if it’s something technical and you know you/your team are right. But ultimately, the agency and client always have the last word and it’s important to respect that.

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? 

Andrew> I think that this is something that MUST happen. Being a responsible and progressive member of the film/ad world is of the utmost importance. Mentoring is actually a big part of my life. In addition to my directing work, I produce and create for many directors who come from marginalised communities, and I like to think people know me as someone who will always be there to give advice and bounce ideas off of. I think apprenticeships are super cool, but sometimes there’s a bit of a question as to where apprenticing is helping or just getting free labour. As a result, I usually prefer to work with artists on their work or help pass them opportunities that pay. If the apprenticeship is paid, then great!

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? 

Andrew> The pandemic has affected me in that I think a lot more about hygiene in ways I hadn’t beforehand, but in terms of how I work or how I approach filmmaking, no. I think “deep quar” made me look internally a lot, and I probably grew a bunch during that period. But no, it hasn’t affected how I approach my craft.

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)? 

Andrew> How the work will be presented is absolutely central to how I approach it. If something is TikTok or Instagram first, let’s say, you have to attack it through that lens. It is definitely always possible to do so. These are legitimate mediums, and dismissing them as cheap or a fad is reductive and backwards. Social media and digital are here to stay. What’s more is that they will continue to evolve, so keeping up with trends is really important for a director, and fortunately, it’s also super fun.

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

Andrew> I’m a major tech-y sort of fellow. Whether it’s production gear like cameras and lenses, or post workflows and image creation programs, I loooove to just hash it out with my friends who are experts in different departments. I think this is one of my biggest strengths. It’s gotten to the point where director and producer friends call me frequently to help figure things out. 

I did a lot of virtual production during the pandemic and I have some pretty awesome systems in place. I think everyone would agree, being on set is better, but there’s so much you can do virtually that it definitely opens up a lot of possibilities. Besides, there’s certainly an environmental benefit to everyone doing less flying, in our industry and beyond. 

Interactive storytelling is something I find very, very interesting. I haven’t had the chance to work on something interactive yet, but I am quite excited to do so. Frankly at some point I would love to even write/create an indie game. There’s so much beautiful art in that space, and it really is filmmaking. It deserves respect. 

AI/Data driven visuals, I’M SKEPTICAL! I know it can be done, and there’s definitely a ton of potential in that space, but I don’t think it’s quite there yet. I’m still waiting on that singular work of genius to change the game. There’s some really cool fine art and experiential stuff that’s been created with this technology, but that work is frequently ‘technology as art,’ instead of using the technology to create something where how it was made is not the cornerstone of its merit.

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

Andrew> My most recent film, What Happened Downstairs?, the Mercedes piece I made last year where I got to create a sort of Mad Men type universe, and probably the fashion film I made for Vogue Italia several years back, The Spirit of Autumn. I think anything where I can really build a world is always going to excite me most.

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Imposter, Tue, 07 Sep 2021 15:30:10 GMT