The Directors in association withPeople on LBB
The Directors: Mark Dymond
London, UK
Johnny Foreigner director on the hidden wonders in scripts, striving to surprise and delight and hybrid genres

Mark started his professional life many years ago in the Theatre. His subsequent career has taken him through pretty much every other medium from acting, through writing, creative and creative direction into directing. This broad base allowed him to collect a wealth of experience to draw from technically and creatively, which led to successfully creating many different genres and categories – from fintech to food, and kids to cosmetics. His acting background gives him a great eye for a truthful, natural performance (if required) and his very developed inner child (and clown) make him very good with kids. (And some adults).

Name: Mark Dymond

Location: London

Repped by/in: Johnny Foreigner, Driven by Creatives

Awards: Nominated Best Director and Winner Best Short -  International Film Awards, Berlin. Award of Excellence - Best shorts California. Best Short - SAFTAs. Audience Choice Award - Silwerskermfees. 

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

Mark> Some scripts arrive wearing excitement on their sleeve, and that is immediately exhilarating. That element could come from so many places. A great story, some comedy gold, interesting visual opportunity, an alpaca. Others have that ‘wonder’ a little hidden, and it may come out some time into the job, or after some research, or like a flash of lighting. I think the point is that there is always something to learn. Something to try. Something to unlock. It’s a bit like dialogue. Sometimes the meaning is in the line. Sometimes it's in the silent bits between… There are lots of different types of scripts, and I guess they are all exciting in some way or the other. I also love fence-sitting!

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

Mark> I’m not sure there is a one size fits all approach to any treatment, but I tend to start with gut reactions, which I then try to add value to as I pad those reactions out, and try to stay open to any ‘impulse tributaries’ or batshit crazy epiphanies.

I tend to start a deck from scratch, and watch as it evolves, drawing from as many places as possible.


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?

Mark> Depending on when you are coming into the process, that information can be absolutely vital, and help you, and them, to either assimilate your choices or justify them! Different sectors can also have rules which are useful to know, to either follow or break them. Marketing history, again, can either help you continue a brand’s path, or give you ammunition to set it on a different path. I am often the Creative on projects I direct, and in that case this sort of knowledge is essential.

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

Mark> I think it might be quite clever and philosophical to say ‘with one’s self’. That your own inner conflict can be a great stumbling block in the process. That your own confidence and vision can be a superpower, and self doubt your kryptonite… but in actuality it is probably… creative, producer, DOP, 1st. Can I have four? Oh and art director. And the on screen talent… Having a good relationship with the client can make or break the process, actually. I guess it changes throughout the journey, and is ultimately everyone. When I was acting, I was once told that the most important person in a scene is the other person… Does that make sense?

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?

Mark> I have always admired the artists that seem to naturally draw the technical side together with the artistry, and make it seem effortless, regardless of the genre. I do like a hybrid genre, and a catchy portmanteau is a bonus. Dramedy? 

We all strive to surprise and delight, and undermine expectations, and the subversion of any genre is a really fun thing to do. We did an Insurance ad with a dog in a shower as a homage to a rather well known horror. That poor dog…

(Disclaimer: no animals harmed)

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

Mark> Like most directors, I guess it's that my skills are not transferable. There can be that attitude that if you haven’t shot a car ad, then you can’t shoot a car ad. I have worked with a million kids, and believe me some of those skills are transferable to adults!

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

Mark> Not that I know of!

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

Mark> I think that the job description of everyone on a film set should just be ‘Problem-solver’. It seems like it is just a stream of things to solve. When you work with kids, especially young ones, it can be a minefield. Amazingly enough, they seem to care less about your film than you do! I have a long list of strategies to get a performance out of a four year old… I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that I have been known to sing ‘I am a Poopy pants’ on a busy set. Oh the dignity!


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

Mark> If I was asked to choreograph the dance of my working life, it would be based on that exact relationship. It would lurch between an intimate Pas de deux, the fight scene from West side story and a rap battle.

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?

Mark> Yes. This is absolutely vital. 

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? 

Mark> I have been lucky enough to do loads of remote shooting this pandemic. From London to China, US, Cape Town - once from Greece! We have been saying that we have been very privileged to have been able to work at all through this pandemic thanks to remote technology, and what a journey it’s been working it all out. It’s a game changer for so many reasons, and I think that its effect on budgets means that aspects of it are going to be here to stay, but I pray that we are able to get back on sets as we used to, because there is nothing quite like being there in person. I think certain peoples’ presence has a palpable effect on the end product. Habits I have picked up - 10 second turnarounds between meetings on different continents! Fried chicken for breakfast. (When on China time!)


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)? 

Mark> A lot of my work is across many territories, so different formats/aspect ratios is just one of a myriad of considerations when considering a frame. Turning a 2:39 frame in a 9:16 frame has its challenges, but it’s always possible. Like most things on any set, you just need to plan. We often stick up various frame size overlays, and title safe overlays, and action safe, etc and keep them in mind. It can be frustrating if you are trying to be spontaneous, but otherwise it's okay.

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

Mark> Sometimes offering up something new and exciting that doesn’t have a properly evolved audience/platform can be a little ‘cart-before-horse’ and just has novelty value, but it is fun to play with new toys! 

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

Mark> Waggel - Pet Insurance

We were given some freedom on an Insurance ad, and the word ‘disruptive’ was mentioned, so we got to make a pet horror shower scene. Funny and filmic…! (Hopefully!) 

LYNX - Prowler

This new club launch was a nice opportunity to throw a lot at what could have been a fairly straight forward spot.  

Ryobi - The Race

This is just a nice example of a bit of cute Creative that landed unexpectedly in a Mower spot. 

Decathlon - The Real Awards

For this spot I got to write a song for a Barbershop Quartet with the lines “You got off your arse.” Enough said.

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