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The Directors: Jordan Findlay

The Directors 88 Add to collection

Boldly director on being as collaborative as possible and how other directors inspired him

The Directors: Jordan Findlay

Jordan’s storytelling focus is around the act of human connection, consciousness, and highly energized emotion. His technical focus is on the use of film as a medium, the interplay between light and dark, and colour theory. Jordan seeks the beauty in the great outdoors, yet still stays attentive to the most minuscule technical details of a product, a camera, or a piece of clothing. Jordan taps into authentic human performances, as this is a critical component of his casting process.

Jordan was born and raised in British Columbia and began creating films at a young age. He has worked in the lighting department alongside some of North America’s most highly regarded directors and DP’s on ambitious commercial and narrative projects. Jordan brings a unique mix of intuitive creative ability and technical experience to his work.


Name: Jordan Findlay

Location: Vancouver

Repped by: Boldly

Awards: Vimeo Staff Pick, Berlin Commercial Awards, 1.4 Awards


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

Jordan> I’ll feel a general sense of excitement when I’m reading a script for the first time and can visualise it harmonising with my style. I’ll start to pick out scenes or moments and get excited about how I would approach them. 

Specifically, I usually gravitate towards scripts that offer the opportunity to be image forward in tandem with focused performances. I enjoy the chance to lean into moments of emotion while trying to avoid making them feel overly sentimental or forced. 

When these elements are present in a script, or I feel that there is space to suggest a way of creating them while still maintaining the integrity and message of the original brief, then I’ll know that the project might be a good fit for me as a director.

 

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

Jordan> After I’ve taken the time to ingest the brief and clear up any initial questions with the agency, I’ll spend some more time thinking about the concept and trying to clearly visualise pieces or moments from the script. I’ll often try to find some music that I think fits well with the idea and take a walk while I try to piece it all together. I focus on imagining a version of the film that I can play out in my mind, from front to back, and feel myself connecting with the potential words and images as I can see them appearing.

From here, I’ll focus on the treatment’s copy. I’ll usually start with higher level slides explaining my thinking on the themes and goals of the project while also starting to work on my own version of the film’s script. After these pieces are done, I will work to flesh-out more technically focused components of the treatment alongside image pulls.


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?

Jordan> It’s quite important. On one hand, I think that having some separation from the product and brand and being able to interpret a brief or idea into something impactful for a general audience is where a brand and agency benefit most from having a director involved. They can approach a piece with a new perspective and look to make it connect with people who also might not necessarily have a history or affinity to what is being advertised.

I’ve spent some time working in a few different marketing departments. These experiences taught me a lot about the level of depth and understanding that successful companies have about their products and their customers. I learned that there are aspects to any business that can only be appreciated or understood with time.

Any piece of work which hopes to reflect the values or the larger direction of a company must be made with as much understanding and respect as possible. As someone just walking into a new world, I think that you have to be very open to listening and learning.

When I’m writing a brief, I’ll always put the time in to research the brand that I’m working with. This process will usually be informative when it comes to creating the treatment and the concept. When a commercial achieves a balance between being something that can resonate with people who don’t have a previous association with the product while also being appreciated by the part of the audience who knows the brand well then I think you’ve done well in marrying your own ideas with the client’s existing values.

 

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

Jordan> This is a tough question! I think that it is hard to value one particular relationship over another. The final project is, in a sense, the product of your communication with people in every department and position along the way. Of your collective decisions together.

In my approach, the agency works as this incredibly important nodal point between the client and the film. Ideally, they are bringing hours of conversations and a specific understanding about the project and the client. As a director, due to the nature of the entire process, you just can never hope to have that same level of information. I always take a perspective of trusting in the agency; of valuing their input with the recognition that it is often coming from a place of comprehending what is important to the specific audience of the project.

So, I don’t think that any working relationship between departments is necessarily more or less important but I do think that the relationship between a director and the agency, both on and off set, will be more of a balanced exercise in giving and receiving information. You always want it to be as collaborative as possible and to elevate the project into a place which is the sum of all parties working together as a team.


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?

Jordan> I’m drawn to a wide variety of work. Lately, I’ve been quite focused on shorter format films, whether they be passion projects, commercials, or music videos. I’m always interested in how people deliver a message or can create emotional resonance in a succinct way. There are a few short form directors who I really admire. I really like Anton Tammi. He's got this amazing visual style which he has been able to apply across different projects. I also really admire Philippe Tempelman, Stefanie Soho, Diane Kunst, Daniel Wolfe and Jonathan Alric. They always put out work that I think kind of blurs the line between commercial and art.

 

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

Jordan> I don’t know! I’m not sure that I have a good answer for this. Maybe come back at me with this question in a few years and we can see.


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

Jordan> I was once involved in directing a really insane and intense music video for quite a big star out of Asia. It was kind of just mental from the jump, with a lot of crazy demands. I definitely didn’t know at the time how to stick up for myself and the production and things just kind of spiraled out of control.

There was a moment that really epitomized the whole experience at the end of our first day of production. We had a massive crane out, doing a sweeping top down shot in the exterior of a large industrial park. We had planned for this shot to happen during the day but we lost the light and we didn’t have lighting gear close-by in order to get things lit. In a massive panic, we ended up driving a crew member's car and using the car headlights to illuminate this superstar. In hindsight, it was kind of embarrassing but at the time it was out of total necessity. I learned a lot during that shoot. About how to say no and to be realistic as to the constraints of different productions.

 

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

Jordan> As I mentioned in the answers to some previous questions, I always try to approach the relationship between myself and the agency and client as one of collaboration. You’ve been brought into the fold because they believe in you and the way that you’ve presented your vision of the piece. In turn, I think that it is fair that you trust in them and listen earnestly to their input.

A few years ago, I was talking to a director who I really admire about their approach to this exact question. This person has quite a strong artistic voice, and I think that in my mind I expected them to give some piece of advice about forging ahead with your own ideas. To ask for forgiveness instead of permission kind of thing.

That isn’t what they said at all. They told me that they approached every job as a joint effort together with the agency and client. That, if done right, you could create relationships where all parties were putting their trust in one another and eliciting the best out of their collective abilities to make the best film possible. I really believe in this approach. I think that if you’ve done your job in communicating your ideas to the agency and client and are working with a team who can help you realize them then there shouldn’t be a lot of surprises. It’s your job as a director to communicate your vision.

Changes always happen throughout the entire production process but I think that if you’ve prepared well then they are usually minor variations or different options to try out instead of massive pivots. I have been lucky in working with great agency partners so far in my career and hope that this continues into upcoming projects.


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?

Jordan> I think that it is very important to open the world of film and production to the most people possible. The opportunities presented by the industries shouldn’t be controlled by a small group and we can all benefit by having the largest amount of perspectives and experiences possible represented through the medium.

I think that mentorship has an important role to play in fostering a more diverse group of emerging talent and one that I am certainly open to. Film is very hard to teach in a classroom environment and learning directly under someone actively working in the field is an amazing opportunity. Boldly has made a point of pushing for diversity and inclusivity and I’m proud to be working alongside them to help in any way possible.


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? 

Jordan> I think that the act of being able to work remotely through prep and post production will have a lasting impact. As a new director, most of my career has happened through the pandemic so it is a bit hard for me to comment on the precise gains and losses through doing much of the production process over zoom and video calls.

I would actually enjoy more of an opportunity to meet the rest of the creative team in person during the pitch process. I just think that there is something about the dynamic of actually being in a room with a group of people, about the way that people communicate in person, which is really important to the process of film production and can get lost through talking on the computer.

Ideally, there would be certain things that the pandemic has rushed into popularity which would be expanded on. I think that there is amazing potential in VR for location scouting, shot listing, and doing pre-visualization work. I hope that this can be expanded on as it could be a much more efficient way of working.


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)? 

Jordan> It depends on the project - I think that it is always something that you need to keep in mind. I will usually try to address these challenges through my treatment process. Until recently, most of the challenges of shooting for different formats came down to different aspect ratios and reframing shots and supers in post production accordingly. 

I think that there is now more demand from new forms of social media to have content playing with a drastically different look and feel as compared to other avenues. In these cases, I would push for the client and agency to treat these edits or pieces of the campaign almost as separate mini projects. They often require really different editorial approaches and sometimes totally different formats to fit with the look and feel of these new platforms. I expect that it will become more and more normal to have a “social media shooter” or something of the sort working alongside the main unit during productions. Kind of like a stills unit. I’m not sure exactly how I feel about these changes, but I think that they are a reality and will be progressively harder to exclude from shoots completely.


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)?

Jordan> I think that technology and film are certainly joined at the hip. It’s kind of one of the things that I really enjoy about the medium. In order to have a degree of control over what it is that you are making, you have to be willing to embrace the process and, increasingly, that means embracing and understanding the technology behind it. Even though I prefer more grounded and traditional images and performances, I try to leverage technology through my process wherever it makes sense.

One good example is through the creation of pre-visualization videos. I do this for every project. I will actually map out a real time edit of the project, before it is shot, so that I can see and feel how it is playing out. I imagine that even 15 years ago it would never have been much harder to use tools like this when working on smaller budget projects. I think that you can cherry pick parts of technology that work for your process. Ultimately, your goal is always to be able to take what is in your head and realize it to its maximum potential. Technology can be really helpful in communicating your ideas clearly and easily.

 

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

Limbic

A piece that I released last year which I’m really proud of. I think that it encapsulates a lot of what excites me about film: the ability to compare the stories and lives of people while finding the common ground in our experiences.


Arc’teryx - System_A

Getting the chance to work with Arc’teryx on a global launch campaign was a pretty cool opportunity. Arc’teryx is a brand that we are really proud of here in Vancouver and it really feels like they are having their moment right now, putting Vancouver and a lot of what is culturally special about the city front and center for the world to appreciate. Their team’s vision for this project really aligned with me and DP Cole Graham’s. It made for a really seamless and rewarding process, getting to shoot environments around the Sea to Sky highway here in Vancouver on 16mm film in ways that I’ve always dreamed of. To see the campaign screened and appreciated around the world was really cool.


Tarka - Love the Rain

I shot this piece last year together with DP Jeremy Cox. I’m proud of both the visuals and the tempo of the piece, as well as the simplicity of the message.


HSA BC

We made this commercial at the end of last year for HSA BC, a union for healthcare workers here in British Columbia. I was really happy with the collaboration between the agency and client. In particular, their willingness to allow us to create a world that sought to display how difficult and desperate the current situation is for health care workers across the province.

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Boldly, Wed, 20 Apr 2022 11:52:00 GMT