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The Directors: Lisette Donkersloot

The Directors 76 Add to collection

Imposter director on finding her true calling in directing and the importance of framing and composition

The Directors: Lisette Donkersloot

Lisette Donkersloot grew up studying art direction and styling before realising that her real calling was directing. 

That initial education laid the groundwork for her raw and beautiful visual sensibility and eye for talent, with a splash of the surreal. 

Channeling her vision, Lisette created a Dr. Marten’s spec-piece that the brand loved so much that they reposted and shared on their own social feed. 

From there, Lisette has expanded her vision to more clients including Dove, Schweppes, and a particularly colourful spot for The Dutch Flower Council. With each new piece, Lisette pushes herself visually, always intent on offering a visceral cinematic experience.


Name: Lisette Donkersloot 

Location: Amsterdam 

Repped by/in: Imposter in USA, Caviar in Europe

Awards: Not in it for the awards. 


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

Lisette> It’s hard to define that by elements. You just know when you read something and see the references whether it can be really good, okay-ish, or shit. The scripts that get me most excited are the ones defined by a strong visual mood with an edgy fashion sense, but allow room for your creative interpretation of that mood into actual scenes/shots. Also scripts that allow more provocative imagery - the show of skin, and daring wardrobe appeal to me a lot. 


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

Lisette> I wish I was that disciplined that I could say I have this flawless treatment routine that I always apply and that always works. But it’s never like that. Sometimes I start with image research first. Sometimes I procrastinate like crazy and convince myself I really must see those 2 films before writing as they might give me the inspiration I need (which they never really do). My best treatments have come out of first brainstorming in silence for half a day (which means literally lying on my back, eyes closed, lights dimmed/out, no distractions) and actively visualizing things. Every idea that comes up I write down until I feel I fully have it. Then I start writing the script in full detail for the rest of the day. By that point the idea is already so clear in my mind that the rest follows easily. 

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? 

Lisette> Oh I’d say that’s paramount. I can’t come up with something solid (or wouldn’t even want to pitch for a brand) if I don’t really know what it’s for and what they are about. 


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

Lisette> Every hinge, screw, or wheel matters in order to get the vehicle running. So it’s impossible for me to say which one is the most important. As a director I spend the most time with my producer, DoP and editor. However my work usually relies heavily on Art and Styling too, so those HoD’s require the most active relationships. But I cannot place one above the other. All are equal. 


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? 

Lisette> When it comes to advertising I’d say (high) fashion, perfume or luxe lifesyle (liquor) ads or brands that are open to sensual, sexual provocative imagery like lingerie or (cool) sex toy brands.


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

Lisette> That it’s ‘just pretty’ which is the subtext for ‘that’s easy right’. It’s a very Dutch thing to be condescending towards fashion commercials or highly stylized music videos. Pieces that highly focus on imagery and ambiance - ones that don’t carry an actual ‘message’ are seen as subsidiary or lesser than and therefore don’t get made as much here (and I prefer to work elsewhere). It’s wrong because it’s definitely not easy to create a stuntastic look & feel that stands out. Take Chris Cunningham’s Gucci Flora ad or Jonathan Glazer’s Levis ad. Both ads are rooted in visual ideas that are over a decade old and yet still so impeccable, iconic and timeless. 


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

Lisette> I have, it’s kind of standard procedure nowadays isn’t it? But usually the producer has to deal with them way more than me. I hardly have to deal with them directly. But nonetheless I am absolutely not fond of them/the concept. It kind of assumes a lack of trust. 

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

Lisette> At one shoot we had the art department fully prep/redress someone’s house a day prior. On the day itself the owner went MIA and all our stuff was still inside (expensive rented props etc) and we had a whole shoot planned in there. We solved it by having the police ram the door open. It turned out the owner was actually inside, however fully drugged out and not approachable - he ended up crashing the set completely. Ultimately it’s just a matter of lying to yourself whenever you encounter crazy problems. Just keep telling yourself it’s gonna be fine for as long as you need to until it miraculously becomes the truth. Works every time. 

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

Lisette> I may find that the most difficult thing about my job. I think I’m still learning about striking that balance. The best and most pleasant jobs were the ones where all parties were very aligned creatively which really made it feel like a constructive collaboration. 


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?

Lisette> Definitely open to it. Although the thought of myself mentoring others feels odd as I still suffer from imposter syndrome every now and then... 


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?

Lisette> I feel like I haven’t changed that much in the way I work. If I have, it’s still on an unconscious level. 

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)? 

Lisette> Framing and composition is very important in my work (and I reckon to most filmmakers) and that just doesn’t simply translate to all the different sizes/formats. Especially 16:9 to 9:16. That’s just the polar opposite type of framing. So unless there’s room to shoot everything twice for the each format, I actually tend to focus on the format for the main film only and make sure that works/looks the way I envision it. Every other social media export/format feels a little bit out of my hands to be honest if it needs to come from the same footage. 


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)? 

Lisette> I really love it and really wish to incorporate it more in my own work, but I still lack some understanding of that tech in order for me to use it properly. So I have some digging in to do first. 

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Imposter, Tue, 10 Aug 2021 11:20:00 GMT