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The Directors: Bethany Mollenkof

The Directors 69 Add to collection

Sibling Rivalry director on jumping right into visuals, having a passion for telling stories with nuance and why research is everything

The Directors: Bethany Mollenkof

Bethany Mollenkof is a commercial director + editorial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA.  She specialises in portraiture and intimate, visual glimpses of the world around us.

Bethany's work appears regularly in major publications such as the New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, and ESPN. Commercially, she has worked with Apple, Nike, Netflix, and more.

Bethany lives in Los Angeles, CA and while she is originally from the South, she grew up in Kenya and South Africa. Most recently, as an independent photographer/director, she conducted work for ESPN directing a Fifty/50 celebrating 50 years of title IX that will show at the Tribeca Film Festival.


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

Bethany> I get excited when I read a script and know my unique background and point of view can elevate the ideas. I want to make things that feel special and distinctive that nobody else could make.  


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

Bethany> I jump right into visuals and start scribbling ideas down while gathering imagery that resonates with me emotionally. Once I have filled my brain with a good amount of information, I will go for a long walk, cook a good meal or go running. Before I actually write the treatment, I will verbally explain my idea to someone close to me to see how it lands. I love to verbally process an idea before I create a treatment, it helps me be clear and deliberate. 


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?

Bethany> Research is everything. Understanding the context and the world my spot will exist in allows me to problem solve quickly and effectively. Being clear on who the target audience is and how they will view the work informs how I tell a story. I like to ask producers lots of questions and view previous work the brand has created to either build off their momentum or help steer them in a new direction. 

 

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

Bethany> Filmmaking is all about everyone staying aligned and working towards the same end goal, so I try to pay attention to everyone on set. I love working with line producers that are nimble, creative thinkers, AD’s that are responsive and efficient and since I do a lot of docu-style work, DP’s that are intuitive and empathic. 


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?

Bethany> I am passionate about telling stories with nuance and empathy. I think this has become even more important to me after having my daughter during the pandemic. We have all lived through so much. People want to feel, they want to connect, they want to be seen. Through my work, I strive to create stories that allow people to feel like their experiences are represented, they matter.  


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

Bethany> Because my background is in documentary work I only want to work on ‘serious’ jobs.

 

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

Bethany> There are always crazy problems in production. So, every job I assume something is going to happen and when it does, I just breathe through it. It’s rarely as serious as it feels at that exact moment. 


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

Bethany> From the onset of a project, I think it's incredibly important to make sure the idea is buttoned up and clear and that everyone is on the same page with vision and aesthetics. Clarity and communication are foundational to effective collaboration. 


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?

Bethany> Our industry should better reflect the world we represent in the stories we tell. I think the commercial space can be so innovative if we leave behind some of the old ways of doing things and recognise there is not one POV or a ‘right’ way of doing anything. 

 

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? 

Bethany> The pandemic has taught me to see everything as a gift. I don’t get as stressed out over little things as much and I am acutely aware of how difficult it has been for so many people. 


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)? 

Bethany> Because I am also a photographer, I am always thinking about the various ways a project can be formatted. I want my work to be seen by as many people as possible and it won’t if I don’t consider all of the ways it can be distributed. 

 

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

Bethany> I love tech! 


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

Bethany> Nike: Renee Montgomery 

Textured Waves 

ESPN Sedona Prince 

Photo Montage

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Sibling Rivalry, Tue, 21 Jun 2022 08:33:15 GMT