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The Directors: Katharina Baron

The Directors 264 Add to collection

Durable Goods director on working backwards, the dance between art and commerce and working with TikTok and Instagram

The Directors: Katharina Baron

LA-based Katharina Baron has directed and produced award-winning commercials and branded content for clients such as Mercedes, VW, Swarovski, and Condé Nast. She graduated from CELSA Sorbonne and FU Berlin with an MBA and made her start with documentaries for French TV and moved later on to fashion, automotive, and lifestyle. A sought-after creative director, writer, and digital storytelling expert, she has spoken at Digital Hollywood, Media Summit, Soho House on women empowerment and original content. She recently co-produced the movie Berlin, I Love You starring Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley.

Katharina has directed and written a number of short films that have been featured at Cannes, Hofer Filmfestspiele, and the Rome Independent Film Festival.

Katharina speaks German, French, English, Polish, and Spanish. She is a published academic writer of the book “Prime-Time for Science,” served as the editor of Swarovski Magazine, and is a columnist for She’s Mercedes. Katharina is passionate about using her creativity for a good cause and purpose.


Name: Katharina Baron

Location: Los Angeles

Repped by/in: Durable Goods


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

Katharina> I get excited when I can see and feel the finished film in my head and I can’t wait to make it happen. My feelings get triggered and my imagination and ideas start flowing. I’m inspired by scripts that evoke a certain beauty, a feeling, a mood and leave room for creativity. I am also excited to see that the storytelling is more inclusive now and takes a more innovative approach to our modern society. I think it is a moment to use advertising for 'good' and to start shifting the narratives.


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

Katharina> It starts by seeing the finished film in my head, then I work backwards by letting the words flow. I particularly enjoy finding the right references and mood and it can be a back and forth until everything feels right. Something about the treatment process makes it real -- almost as if you are out there shooting. I am a writer and creative so, to me, working on treatments is fun. You are already in the process of creating. I sometimes wish they would be in a different format than PDF as I love to illustrate my thoughts with video and movement.  


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?

Katharina> I like to look at the past ads, the brand’s social media, and read the latest articles about them to understand the audience, tone, and the overall feeling of the brand and products, and to learn what their core values and mission are. I think that it’s crucial to be aware of all this and see the creative heritage and direction of a brand. My goal is to understand where the brand is going and how I can help add some art to it and elevate it by still staying true to the core 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?

Katharina> I like to think of everyone involved as important, from the producers, to the client, agency, cast, hair and makeup, styling, to the PAs and, of course, my DP. I think it’s so important that a set is in harmony and everyone is part of a family for a day (or more). I definitely think that I interact most with the DP and need to have a level of trust and the same sensibility. It is the most crucial relationship as the camera is an extension of you and you need to have someone who understands what you mean and want and is open to be in the creative flow with you. 

I also think that having the right producer gives you the freedom to be fully creative. I love working with Durable Goods as they really support me and I feel that I found the right home to build and grow together. 


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? 

Katharina> I think my work is often described as 'style in motion' so I will bring a certain aesthetic with me no matter if it is fashion, beauty, lifestyle or even automotive, which are all the genres that I feel most at home. I like when things feel real and stylised at the same time. In the end, it is all leading towards the search for beauty and a form of truth. Ultimately, I think that how you evoke emotions in an audience or a consumer, especially in commercials, is a chance to create a universe for a brand - like mini parallel worlds that make us dream. 


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

Katharina> That I only do fashion. I come from science. I wrote on TV and science and I worked on nature documentaries in the beginning of my career. The only reason that I switched to fashion was because I was taken seriously by fashion companies who wanted to do real creative exploration. I felt that the advertising and TV world were very set in their ways. I wanted the freedom to create and do my own thing.


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

Katharina> You always have crazy problems, and I think the way of solving them is just keeping at it and not giving up. At my last shoot in NYC, the location fell through, the main actor backed out at the last minute, and I had to replace everything within 24 hours. In the end, it was a much better choice and result for the project. I try to embrace problems with the belief that maybe it is meant to be and the outcome will be better like that. What if the craziest problem could lead to a crazy solution and make your work better? I feel the same way about life. We never know if something that we label a problem can lead to something better. 


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

Katharina> It is always a dance between art and commerce, but I have learned to put my ego aside and really be part of the bigger picture. Ultimately, it is a collaborative effort and, of course, I can defend any idea to a certain point, but only if it makes sense for everyone and really serves the particular project. There are so many other ways to experiment and I find it important to cover the common ground first and then maybe add that bit of jazz to the project that might be a welcomed surprise to everyone else.


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?

Katharina> I love that there is more opportunity for new voices right now. Diversity works when it becomes a real possibility and minorities see themselves represented without a glass ceiling. I think mentoring can be an option, but I also think we need to show better and more role models to break the stereotypes. I think there is enough room for everyone and it should always be a reflection of our diverse society. 

In general, I think many women or other minorities do not get into directing because it is not something we see examples of. I never even knew that this was an option when I grew up and it certainly took me longer than necessary to assume that this is what I wanted to do. It seemed a little lonely and I didn’t know any commercial directors for a long time. I think diversity needs to start at the school level. Not everyone who is creative grows up in a big city with resources or with access to possibility, imagination, and dreams. Our school system does not encourage creative thinking or writing, our culture often glorifies superficiality, and creative professions like directing often only seem attainable to the most privileged.


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? 

Katharina> I think getting on a Zoom with people instead of flying to a meeting is a pretty good habit. Overall, it’s been good to put the camera on more often during calls. I also think that it shows that we can get a lot done when we are apart and still be productive. In general, the pandemic has been a huge change for so many people, that a certain level of depth has entered our awareness. 


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)? 

Katharina> I just did the first reels for a campaign for TikTok and Instagram that I had to shoot differently. This meant having to adapt my filming styles for different social platforms, the audience, length, and the demographic - in addition to content that works for the platform we cater to. It is interesting to see how things change and I think it’s a fun exercise to play with it. Having a high production value even for socials that is aligned with the overall campaign makes the difference in the end for a brand. 


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

Katharina> I try to stay up to date with technology and with the new generation. I work with Gen Z creatives on some artistic projects and love to see what they come up with. I like thinking about adding art, AI or interactive elements to my work, but I have not gone into VR yet - probably because I personally cannot wear those glasses for too long...


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

Katharina> Vogue Business 

Marie is a stunt woman and the way I approached this new series for Vogue Business was to show her as a fierce warrior and role model for other women. I really wanted to capture her at her most confident, empowered self and set the tone for the next generation. This has a feel somewhere between a beauty campaign or Nike commercial - and the locations, compositions, colour grading, and quality of images really represent what I stand for as a director. 


IZOTTI CAMPAIGN 

This campaign just came out and it was fun to do the creative concept and direct it. It represents the energy we all need now and the California-cool vibes. The task was to make tailored suits more cool for the next generation and after two days of shooting, I even wanted to wear one. 


Schildkroet 

I loved working with kids and animals in this spot. It was a challenge, but also super fun and I am proud we made it all happen. There was so much magic in front of the camera and it was such a joy to capture it.


JULISIS 

Campaigns 

I think the videos for the clean brand Julisis are showcasing a more relaxed approach to beauty campaigns. From the cast to the location and music - the choices for a conscious sustainable brand need to feel more real and authentic. These are technically two videos but they belong together. I like to cast artists as models; I think their creativity and talent somehow can be picked up by the camera. 


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Durable Goods, Fri, 29 Oct 2021 10:51:56 GMT