Born in the Wilds, raised by Architecture and Design. Drew Lightfoot has been making things move from the age of Ten, starting with an early career in stop-motion animation, calling many cities home and filming on every continent along the way, expanding into live-action and experiential storytelling.
- Repped by/in: Canada: Someplace Nice / USA & UK: Not To Scale / Germany: Bubbles
- Awards: SXSW, JUNOs, D&AD, MMVA, MVPA.
Q> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Drew> I love a puzzle - a visual problem to wrap my skull around. I'm constantly looking for opportunities to put my vivid imagination to work and add my own zest. I often have to tone down my concepts for the commercial realm, saving the crazier ideas for music videos.
Q> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Drew> I seek out the crux of the concept – what makes it unique and exciting. I think in pictures, so I like doing little sketches as part of the ideation process. I'm inspired by art, architecture and design – those art forms influence my work more than watching other commercials. I spend more time thinking about the idea or concept - once the visual idea or story is formed in my mind, it flows onto the page.
Q> 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?
Drew> Research is critical. To have a shorthand with the company or product, its history and previous work help shape the conceptualising. Seeing what has worked or failed in the past informs the new direction. I ask a lot of questions of the agency - they've been embedded much longer and have pertinent insight.
Q> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Drew> It's an entirely collaborative affair. My father used to design and build homes and I was once struck by our similarities - focus tremendous attention on the design, work with your favourite teams and the process will be enjoyable, creative and fluid. Art directors and cinematographers are typically the most critical collaborators on my team - those conversations are usually the most imaginative and meaningful.
Q> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Drew> I started in animation so I still have a foot in the playful, visual trickery side of storytelling. I love augmenting reality with impossibility, whether through VFX or animation, I prefer to remain technique-agnostic and select the very best toolset for the concept at hand. It's more inspiring to explore new territory than to repeat past trajectories.
Q> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Drew> There was a period when I was known only for stop-motion animation. I made a point of abandoning it altogether for several years to broaden my horizons. Now that it's crept back in a little, I don't mind at all. My brain still works in frames-per-second and that influences my editorial style - planning how sequences or scenes will flow together.
Q> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Drew> Problem solving is the best part of the job. I hate being told no - to me that's lazy. My favourite crews rise to the challenge and are more than willing to tuck right in. One of the most recently challenging problems was shooting Horizon - a 360 film that took my team all across Canada. In every setup we had to hide the rig carrying multiple cameras and hide ourselves while achieving seemingly impossible perspectives with moving cameras.
Q> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Drew> You're onboard to bring their darling to life. They've been living with it for much longer than you and they've fought very hard to push it this far. I have tremendous respect for the creative process and bring my perspective and imagination to the story.
Q> 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?
Drew> My crews have always been a mixed bag of misfits from all backgrounds and walks of life. I've had the pleasure of working with talented folks in too many countries around the world to count. I've always hired for talent and personality. Absolutely welcome more diversity and gender balance on set. I have been mentoring for over a decade now, find it exceptionally rewarding.
Q> 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?
Drew> Travel was a big part of my work over the years so I've been working, editing, prepping, colouring remotely for years. None of that was new to me. I do miss the face-to-face - being together streamlines every process.
Q> 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)?
Drew> I love working in different formats. VR is frustrating as it only permits a singular and insular and viewing experience. Creating films for domes / cinemas is much more rewarding for the collective experience. As far as filming for TV / web and social, the task is always different so you have to react accordingly.
Q> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?
Drew> New tech is inspiring. Virtual filmmaking is really coming online with VR previewing and real-time rendering of backgrounds. You can plan, build, block and even edit your scenes long before you get to set. What's not to love?
Q> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
Drew> Although very different, these four projects reflect my filmmaking sensibility.
Save On Foods - Holidays
Bud Light - Who You Got?
Dragonette - Run Run Run