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The Directors: Nick Jay

The Directors 331 Add to collection

Recalcati Multimedia director on the importance of research, script breakdown and the future of technology

The Directors: Nick Jay

Nick is an award-winning Irish film director based in London. He grew up on film sets. Starting out at a very young age his love for the industry became ingrained into his blood. He was fortunate enough that he had a dad that also worked in the industry which gave him a leg in the door as a runner onto big tv shows and feature films including The Vikings, The Tudors and King Arthur.

Nick Started directing content in his early 20’s. This allowed him to develop and shape his own style. Over the years he has collaborated with some incredible creative talent across the world directing tvc’s on almost every continent with some of the biggest advertising agencies. JWT, Havas Lynx, Wunderman & Hakuhodo Asia to name a few.

Nicks approach to film directing is done on instinct. He thrives on positivity, pushing creativity and stories of adversity. With respect to narrative, he has a real passion for all things visual, iconic, body movement, originality, and sharp humour. He is meticulous about attention to detail. He likes action and he’s got a real affinity for VFX.  

With all that said its guys like Billy Wilder, John Huston & Martin Scorsese who inspired him to be the artist he is today. In short, his creative process is to dig deep, raise the bar and bring a fresh perspective. He operates only on good energy, emotively driven ideas and he firmly believes teamwork is dream work. Fast cars, classic movies, music, the sunshine, and Liverpool fc are a few of his favourite things.  

Ultimately, it’s his love for film, storytelling and creating which drives him on every single project. 


Name: Nick Jay 


Repped by/in: Recalcati Multimedia

Awards: Gold at the Creative Floor awards 2019, best film at The Lisbon Health 2019, nominated at The British Arrows 2021, shortlists at The European Shots, PM Live and Clios.


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

It depends what kind of script I’m shooting – if it’s a car, sports, beverage etc – ultimately its originality in the idea and how far you want to push it. 

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot? 

You have the break the script down into all the different elements that make it up and speak on it. I feel to paint a really clear picture about what I will bring to the spot and give the agency a real sense and flavour through the use of imagery and wording is always the best approach. A lot of the time when it comes to writing treatments I feel simplicity is the sophistication. There is no need to overcomplicate anything or try be to smart or unnecessarily complex. Put faith in the reader and know exactly what you want to convey. 


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? 

I will always research the brand and its previous campaigns and get a sense of who they are and understand their identity. Every detail is essential when it comes to advertising. Creatively there is always a reason why brands have chosen to create campaigns and editorials in a certain way. So, for me - I do my homework. I look at all the previous ads they shot in the past & I look at the directors and creatives they worked with. I take into account everything from music, to colour palettes, the locations, the casting, the look, the style, the feel and of course the tone. Obviously, you have to take into account what brand you’re working for, some are more iconic than others. It takes years for brands to create identities and for me as a director being a part of that and executing films that have longevity, depth and substance is a big part to my process in advertising. 

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

For me its communication. I feel it’s such an integral part of film making for a director to be able to communicate exactly what you want. Sometimes this can be difficult especially when you’re dealing with a complex script with lots of shots, cast, locations, crew etc but like anything that is human made there is always a start point and finish. You build from the ground up. That’s where communication is absolutely essential within every part of the process in making ads and if it’s done right - skys the limit. 

What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to? 

I have quite a lot of passions in my life. From cars, sport, music, fashion, action to lifestyle, VFX and real human stories. I’d like to think my work inspires people. I always root for the underdog. I like stories of adversity. Life is a rollercoaster and I think most creatives would agree it’s what you go through in life that shapes who you are as an artist. I’ve been lucky enough to work all over the world. I’ve experienced all walks of life. This is something I really am passionate about - people and the planet. In terms of film makers that inspired me – I grew up on The Scotts, Scorsese, Tarantino, Mann and some the earlier directors like Wilder, Hitchcock & Coppola. They had a big influence on me combined with my own life experiences which all shaped who I am as a director and the work that I’m drawn towards. 

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

I shoot a campaign out in Asia for Dunhill. Both agency and production company were based in Jakarta, Indonesia. The creative in the script required a shot of a guy doing a 360-degree loop on a skateboard in a tunnel pipe. Not many people have actually ever successfully done this in the world !! So we had a big challenge at hand from the very beginning. Also finding a tunnel that was big enough to fit a film crew in was almost impossible !! So, I came up with an idea to shoot the shot in skate park but especially built for loops - what is known as a bowl park. I ended up scouting tons of different bowls all over south east Asia to see if I could find one that would fit the bill. I came across this park in Malaysia which had an almost 360-degree cement loop in the skatepark which looked incredible but I also had to keep in mind logistically could this work with a film crew. We ended flying to Kuala Lumpur, I did a recce and I knew I could make this work. The next task was finding someone that would actually be able skate the loop. I went through tons of reels and I found this incredibly talented skater from Bali, I had seen a couple of his videos, he looked amazing but I knew I had to see him skate the loop in real life and see if he could actually do it. We flew him for a couple days and he pulled the whole thing off. So, we went ahead and shot the campaign out in Malaysia. It was an intense couple weeks but a joy shooting this project and we got a really nice spot from it without ever compromising to much from the original idea! 


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

Ultimately everyone involved wants the very best for the film. For me communication and clarity is the absolute key. If I can show you exactly why I make certain decisions or why I chose to use a certain shots, set dressing, camera angle whatever the case may be - If I can communicate this to agency and client without any doubts or second guesses, I feel this is a great tool to exercise for collaboration and being transparent in the process of working together. I will always fight hard for ideas or something I feel will work well for the film but as a director you have to exercise compromise, it’s a key component in advertising, that and clever thinking for alternative ideas. 

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? 

Absolutely, being opened minded for diversity, new talent and progressive thinking is essential. I’m all for it. 


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? 

Obviously adhering to the guidelines is something we all have to do now as filmmakers. This can be a little tedious at times but safety is an absolute priority and we just have to adapt to that in the current world. 


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)? 

For any director it’s obviously important to always know at the beginning stages on a project – what platform the advertisement intends to be used on. TV, internet, mobile etc? Once you have that in mind, I’ll always shoot for it and then if needs be and the client wants multiple platforms you just have to be smart in how you shoot and be conscious of what will work best for that device. 

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

Technology is definitely the future. That said with respect to tv commercials and films the essence of the project will always be in the script. I feel you can have all the technology in the world but if you have a week script you can’t ever hide from that. Me personally I’m fascinated by visual effects. I feel Ideas and possibilities on software like cinema 4d are infinite which is something that really gets me fired up. Then of course the new cameras and equipment that arrives on the market every year as a film director it’s an exciting time to be a part of the industry.   

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

Novartis ‘Migraines’: This was a big campaign to be a part of. The job was produced by Brad Logan from MTP Scotland, the agency was Havas Lynx UK from Manchester and the creative team was Lou Shipley and Rob Jenkins. We travelled to South Africa for the principal shooting and Earl Redcliffe from McKenzie Rudolphe serviced the project. One the big elements of this script was always going to be the VFX and creating the migraine monster. This is something the agency and I put a lot of thought into, especially the artwork. It was a big process, lots of R&D, crazy ideas, but a lot of fun and something I feel really paid off in the end. 

I worked with an incredible post production team at The Quarry with Gary Coogan who smashed the Edit and Machine Sound with Alex Bingham who did the epic sound design. Notably it was Absolute Post & Bling Pig in London with Belinda Grew Production Director & Ric Comline who was the VFX creative director who did a fantastic job bringing to life what myself and the creatives from Havas had in mind. The whole project really was a journey and took a lot of creative energy to get it right. It’s an ad I’m proud of and to date we have won a whole bunch of awards for.

Mercedes Benz ‘Karl Benz’: My passion for cars and visual story telling. It’s one of those commercials that I feel has a lot of energy in it. It’s cool and edgy. It’s definitely something I feel hopefully inspires people to go out and be creators. The end board executes the story ‘inspired by Karl Benz’. Benz was an inventor, pioneer, innovator, and by all accounts a truly incredible man. If I can give you even a fraction of what he did in his life on film I feel I’ve done a good job. 

Adidas Originals ‘Celebrate Originality’: The essence in that film is about originality and what it takes to be original. To do this we used a whole range of artists, musicians and athletes to execute the story. For me it’s a powerful, honest, raw piece of film with an incredibly talented cast that was an absolute joy to work with. 

Steel Warriors:  
Anywhere from 20,000 to 40,000 knife offences were committed in the UK each year over the last 5 years. In response to that Steel Warriors was born A Charity that was created by a good friend of mine Ben Wintour and his partner Pia Fontesto. The concept for Steel Warriors is to melt down confiscated knives taken off the streets and recycle the steel into outdoor community gyms. To date they have built three around London and have more to come around the UK.  

I felt really compelled to shoot a piece of content for them after learning about who they are and what they do. Ben and I had spoken about this for a while and finally the timing worked. The project was directed, edited, and shot by me and it takes me back to my grassroots of shooting a story with just me and a camera. As a storyteller it's all about the script and idea and how well can you execute that. For me on this project I wanted to bring you into a world that you may not know about and give you a sense of what Steel Warriors has created which is a powerful concept. I knew I would have to dig deep on this project and really work hard to bring all that energy to life, focus on all the intricacies of the art in the sport, the craft, the stories, the people, stay true to their environment and hopefully end up with a f'ing cool inspiring film. 

I had some incredible help a long way with my friends Frederic van Strydonck, Tom Kral and Ben Fyfield shooting the film, Denis Kilty on sound design, Will Douglas on photography and there was an amazing team day to day running Steel Warriors carried out by Juan Lopez (Community Manager) and Elly Dymond (Managing Director at Steel Warriors) with support from Lucky Generals advertising agency here in London who are a Steel Warriors partner. 

Overall, I'm proud of this one. It's a raw, honest film and I hope it motivates a few people to go out a do some positive things with their life no matter how big or small that change may be. 

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Recalcati Multimedia, Tue, 09 Mar 2021 13:53:46 GMT