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The Directors: Kiran Koshy

The Directors 94 Add to collection

Never Ending Story's director on covering every opportunity, marinating scripts and dealing with a wild leopard on set

The Directors: Kiran Koshy

Kiran’s work has a distinct flavour to it. Subtle comedy driven by finely nuanced performances, impeccable art direction, and clever visual storytelling—often with a critter involved.

Before becoming a director, Kiran spent more than a decade as an agency art director in US, working on some of the biggest brands in the world. A truly global soul, at home in the East and the West, Kiran has an innate and deep understanding of people, consumer behaviour, culture, brands, humour, and advertising. A breakout commercial directing talent, he made the new director shortlists at Shoot, LIA and the Kinsale Sharks, and won multiple Clios and Epicas while still on the agency side. He was included in the Top 10 Global Directors list on BestAdsOnTV.com in his first year as a director. Represented world wide, Kiran pursues the creation of great advertising in the farthest corners of the globe. 

Kiran lives in Long Beach California with his wife—a Sociology and Gender Studies professor at Cal State—their two kids, and a Mini Aussie named Nigel.

Name: KIRAN KOSHY

Location: LOS ANGELES, USA

Repped by/in: SLASH DYNAMIC (US), NEVER ENDING STORY (INDIA), DIRECTORS THINK TANK (SE ASIA), TO THE MOON AND BACK (EU), FINGERPRINT (ME & AFRICA), BLACKBALL (Italy)

Awards: CLIOS, LIA, EPICAS, COMM ARTS, ADSTARS

 

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

Kiran> The core advertising idea, and executional approach. Is it fresh? Or is it familiar? Can it become a great and memorable ad? I look at every opportunity as one to add to the visual vocabulary of the world, so scripts with the potential to do so get me excited.

 

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

Kiran> I let the script marinate in my head for a day or two after the agency creative call and then hunker down and write it. I start with the inarguable human truth behind the idea and dig into how I relate to it. Defining the perfect executional tone is very important to me as the wrong one can kill a concept and aligning on this, and the casting, with the agency is the next critical part. After diving in depth into all the other elements of my vision, I rewrite the script in my voice, with all the details, changes (if any), tweaks, deliberate subtleties, and performance nuances in place to paint a very complete picture for the agency and client.

Finding the right visual references for the cinematography and how I see the spot coming to life follows, and it’s an incredibly time-consuming affair. Being an art director, I’m very finicky about my pieces of visual scrap. Finally, I dive into the design and layout, to create what I think are unique pieces of expression, and true reflections of my voice. 

My treatments are entirely my own, and I’ve never hired anyone to help, and never will. I pour my soul into each one, which makes losing a gig even more painful. I usually take my dog for an extra-long walk whilst consoling myself that it wasn’t my loss, but theirs. Wankers.

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?

Kiran> I understand I’m being hired to solve a business problem via a piece of commercial art, so it’s very important. It’s not art for art’s sake. I look up historical brand work, and competitive work, to understand the tone and voice of the brand, and the cultural nuances of the market. I might go to a local store that sells it or something similar, watch a feature film from that market, definitely read up stuff…it all depends. My agency background in both Asia and the US really helps here. Human beings aren’t that different from each other. They have the same buttons, and you just need to have a sense for which ones to push.


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

Kiran> Can the voice in your head, your gut instincts, count as another person? I find myself listening to it a lot during the process—especially on shoot days when I tend to operate by pure instinct—and it’s the one that tells everyone else what to do.

It’s such a collaborative process it’s impossible to narrow it down to a single relationship. It changes from project to project, from moment to moment…could be the creative director, your line producer, the DOP, the production designer…heck, the craft service person that manages to calm a nervous client with the right kind of berry parfait? 

But it’d be safe to say every director absolutely needs to have a close bond with their EP. All roads begin and end there. You need complete trust and faith in each other as your fortunes are bound 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?

Kiran> I’m passionate about great advertising, especially the kind that believes we owe viewers and consumers something artistic, entertaining, and memorable for being uninvited intruders in their lives. 

I’m partial to comedic and visual storytelling, the entire spectrum of it. 

I have a strong aversion to ads that are beautiful montages with patronising and pedantic voice overs from soul sucking corporations that tell you to live an inspired life. Fuck. Off.

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

Kiran> As most of my work is comedic, and visual, with varying doses of wit and dialogue, some might assume that emotional stories aren’t in my wheelhouse. Not true. As a storyteller, and a humanist, I’m drawn to the entire spectrum of emotions, truths, insights, and stories that make for great advertising. 

 

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

Kiran> Umm…I’ll have to ask my EPs about this. I’m sure it’s not fun.

 

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

Kiran> Recently, we had an amazing script that required a giant buffalo chicken wing that could hold an adult male rider, on a saddle. And it had to look scrumptious. Crazy. We overcame it by finding an incredible production designer, JT Camp. He built 4 prototypes from wood and foam before nailing the final piece, which was then attached to a metal frame with a bungee cord cluster that gave the rider some bounce, like a real buffalo would. Duh. Of course.

A close second was having to replace a consistently tardy DOP a day before a major 3-day auto shoot in Mumbai. My EP at Never Ending Story, Amitabh, was on the phone till the wee hours finding a replacement of a higher calibre (not easy to pull off in the hyper busy Indian film industry), which he did in the very talented Sylvester Fonseca (Of Sacred Games fame). It all worked out, despite a wild leopard showing up during our night shoot. No solution to that problem…everyone just ran for cover.

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

Kiran> I start early, from the first call. Usually, by the time we’re on set and about to shoot we’ve been through many detailed pre pros and conversations about the project and are aligned in our collective vision for it. During the shoot, I’m always aware of the critical pieces we need to keep the core of the idea intact and I make sure we aren’t compromising on time for those. I’m always open to trying stuff that the agency or client may think of, as I do believe in the magic and spontaneity of the process. I’d rather go for another take than waste time arguing over something that may or may not make the edit. I’m well aware that it was the creative team’s baby before it was mine, and they’re as passionate about protecting the idea as I am. 

 

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?

Kiran> I think it’s an absolute necessity and our moral obligation to our craft. The staggering lack of diversity in the business is to blame for the general public’s opinion that most advertising sucks. 

Yes, of course I’d love to mentor on set.


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? 

Kiran> The pandemic has made us value every opportunity even more, and our relationships. I think we’ll stop putting up with people who aren’t respectful or fun to work with. It’s just not worth it. Life is short. Travel will be cherished and for the fortunate few, while a lot of our virtual processes will stay intact, especially casting, pre pros, etc. well past the pandemic. I think I’ll always have a mask on me, and some sanitiser, for the next decade at least. And I’ve made a habit of calling people I care about whenever they come to mind instead of punting for a more perfect moment.


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)? 

Kiran> I don’t worry too much about this stuff unless it’s specifically for a vertical format. 

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

Kiran> I’m not enamoured or enslaved by new tech and approach it on a case-by-case basis. If a script demands it, or I feel the project does, I’ll dive right in.


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

Kiran> ZAXBY’S - Guy On A Buffalo Wing (2:20)

Easily the craziest thing I might ever do. Funny AF, entertaining, visual, musical…it has everything you want from advertising. I collaborated a great deal with the creative team to do this right and stitch a linear story with many moving parts that could be cut multiple ways in multiple lengths. I was able to flex my sensibilities for production design, art direction and campiness on this one.

HEB Favor – Reality TV (0:30)

This was very tightly scripted comedy dialogue that demanded great performances from actors who weren’t going to be interacting with each other as they were going to shot separately. I had to cast and direct them perfectly, or the pieces just wouldn’t fit, and it’d all fall flat.

Cut Golf – The Mix Up (0:60)

I directed this for a very small client with a tiny budget while still at an agency. I flew to Iceland with just the DP and actor, without a crew or permits of any sort, and shot all the pieces we needed to weave an epic tale, in the middle of a blizzard. We found our locations using Google Maps images, and I used an old Ikea lamp with a ball I painted grey on top, for the CG penguin stand in. It’s the kind of visual storytelling— beautiful, unexpected, and charming—that I really have a passion for. It shows how resourceful I can be, and how I won’t compromise the aesthetic value, the integrity of a story arc, or idea, no matter the odds.

McDonald’s Indonesia – Taste Of Japan Menu (0:30)

Remote directed for an agency and client in Indonesia, with a stellar crew in Bangkok, at the height of the Delta surge lockdown. I was a bit nervous about pulling off physical and verbal comedy halfway around the world, but once we got rolling, I calmed down. Hooray for my internet provider and ethernet cable. Loads of fun.

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Never Ending Story, Thu, 10 Feb 2022 11:43:56 GMT