The Directors in association withLBB Pro

The Directors: Jonathan Hyde

Production Company
Los Angeles, USA
Lord Danger director on creating magic on set and constantly checking his ego

Jonathan Hyde is a self-taught American director whose international background figures strongly in his distinctive, visual style. Coming from filmmaking’s new school, the so-called “5D” generation, Hyde’s textural and experimental work finds new ways of exploring visual storytelling, always with a human story at its core.

Hyde began his career in film at the young age of 16, starting in post-production as a graphic designer and visual effects artist before becoming a full-time director at the age of 24. Having directed projects in over 15 countries, his work caught the industry’s attention with features in leading production publications.

His body of work includes short films like “Bye Bye Plastic”, which details DJ/Producer and activist BLOND:ISH’s quest to eliminate single-use plastics in the music industry, as well as commercial campaigns for brands like Peloton, BMW, Samsung, adidas, Mitsubishi, Modelo, Corona, Toyota, and The L.A. Times.

Hyde’s commitment to using his creativity to create meaningful change in the world starts with his crew. His projects are set up to provide an equal opportunity to foster diversity by recruiting inclusive, passionate teams with a broad range of experiences and ideas from all walks of life. Hyde aspires to tell stories that are truthful, nuanced, educational, and empowering.

Putting his actions to align with his convictions, his first foray in long form storytelling is a Amazon Original Docu-Series entitled “Always Jane” that follows a transgender teen and her family from Northern New Jersey as she undergoes major changes in her life.

Name: Jonathan C. Hyde

Location:  Los Angeles, CA

Repped by/in: Lord Danger

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

Jonathan> I think the biggest difference in scripts is whether the creative is focused on the product or the storytelling. I always think the best scripts show how the product has an impact on people’s lives. Too much emphasis on a product without any human connection makes a bad spot. When you are able to tell an authentic human story and weave a brand’s purpose into the storytelling it can work really well, and I get excited when I read scripts like that. 

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

Jonathan> Treatment writing is probably the single most important element for me. Staring at a blank page is always brutal but it really forces me to visualize the work ahead of time. Someone told me early in my career that: “preparation is confidence” so I always approach a treatment with that mantra. 

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?

Jonathan> It’s super important to understand the brand, what their story is, and what they want to convey. At a minimum it shows respect for the client, but at the best it helps me avoid making careless mistakes or pushing for things that counter their brand identity or helping them reach their target market.   

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

Jonathan> I would say the relationship with a creative director is the most important. A strong partnership can create magic on set. When I work with a great CD I feel like we can overcome any production obstacles that might exist.

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?

Jonathan> I just love meeting interesting people. Being a filmmaker I’ve been so fortunate to have been able to meet so many cool people and see so many things most people will never get to see. I love getting the opportunity to go learn about an industry or a craft that I might know very little about. 

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

Jonathan> Like most directors I never want to pigeonhole myself into just one style or subject area. Although I’ve spent most of my directing career focused on 'lifestyle' type work, I think people would be surprised to know that I started as a graphic designer and 3d artist. I don’t get to flex that muscle as much as I’d like to these days, but I’m excited for opportunities to bring that background into my work in the future.

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

Jonathan> Probably like most people I’ve had a mixed experience with this. I think it depends on the individual cost consultant’s background, if they come from a production background I find them to sometimes be helpful, but if they don’t understand production they can really be a hindrance and advocate for cutting things that are ultimately going to be against the clients best interests– even if it saves a few bucks.

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

Jonathan> I started directing when I was 24 years old, so super young. Early in my career I had just booked the biggest job of my life, it was over a million dollars. We went to Mexico City and transformed an entire city block to look like Manhattan. The art department did an amazing job, we got there on the day and started shooting. Within an hour of cameras rolling we started to hear some commotion in the distance. Thousands of farmers had come into the city to protest and we were filming directly in front of the building of the agency they were protesting. I started freaking out, we tried to do lockups but it was pointless. To make matters even more surreal, there was a child beauty pageant happening down the block, so through this crowd of thousands of farmers you’d see swarms of 5 and 6 year old beauty queens in their sequined dresses making their way to a theater. 

The crowds dissipated in the afternoon, and we were able to salvage the day enough to get a usable spot out of it. It taught me though that sometimes you can have everything dialed in perfectly and things still don’t go to plan. Sometimes you’re the hammer and sometimes you’re the nail, and I guess that’s just life. 

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

Jonathan> If I disagree with a creative decision I try to check my ego. Am I pushing for something because it’s the best idea or because it’s my idea? Sometimes I have to recalibrate creatively after that. But if I feel really strongly that a mistake is being made, I will do everything in my power to advocate for what I feel is best for the project.

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?

Jonathan> I think it’s amazing and ultimately will make our industry better. There are so many great voices out there and it’s awesome there are more opportunities for everyone. 

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work in the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time? 

Jonathan> The pandemic gave me an opportunity to slow down and focus on what’s important to me. I spent so much of my career just chasing the next job, I felt this crazy competition and always looked at things in terms of winning and losing. I learned over the last two years that what I do isn’t a zero sum game, there are so many opportunities I just need to keep my head down and focus on what’s in front of me, the results will follow.  

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)? 

Jonathan> When I first started we had to frame for SD and HD. I remember going to video village and seeing an account executive taping the monitor to make sure their logo wasn’t cut off in SD and it would drive me crazy. Now things are even more bananas, 16x9, 9x6, square, a 5 minute cut with 60/30/15 cutdown, ten 5 second lifts for social + boomerangs, oh “can you also shoot stills?”. I am happy to do ALL of it, but it takes more time, one size does not fit all, it just doesn’t. 

LBB> 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)?

Jonathan> I love seeing how tech is changing the business, it’s so exciting. Whether it’s having a live stream from set, or online collaboration tools to incorporate post earlier into the process, I think it’s all amazing. 

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

Jonathan> I really liked the Peloton campaign I did, I really liked the Mae and Danica cuts, it shows the kind of human storytelling I enjoy. The Samsung piece was really fun to shoot and shows some really nice visual storytelling. Finally the trailer for my Amazon series “Always Jane”, it was my first long form project and I’m super proud of that accomplishment in my career.