Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
Contemplative Reptile
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Directors: Plummer|Strauss



Kaboom Production director duo on building creative executions, building elements of energy and becoming more agile as filmmakers

The Directors: Plummer|Strauss

Justin (the Plummer) and Martin (the Strauss) are directing partners that use classic cinematic techniques to create stylised imagery for films and branded content. They met studying film production at San Francisco State University, where they discovered their mutual interest in narrative visual storytelling and ultimately joined forces to become Plummer/Strauss. The duo’s filmmaking career was officially launched when they were shortlisted for the Young Director Award and appeared in SHOOT Magazine’s New Director Showcase. Since then they have directed numerous spots that blend captivating imagery and cinematic aesthetics to deliver playful, intense, seductive, intricate, and unexpected narratives. That’s the playground of Plummer/Strauss. As a BIPOC director, Justin Plummer is heartened to see changes in the industry - and society at large - that support underrepresented voices; and he and Martin Strauss are proud to be represented by a production company that is a certified Woman-Owned Business (WBENC).

Name: Plummer|Strauss

Location: California

Repped by/in: kaboom productions 


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

Martin> We get a lot of scripts that don't have storylines. And so the answer for us is, we get excited by scripts that give us a steep narrative arc or a specific creative challenge we can really latch onto like the north star or like the guiding principle to the way that we approach it creatively. 

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

Justin (Plummer)> One of our defining characteristics is that we put a lot of effort into the concept during the treatment. We will brainstorm for days to take the project into an interesting direction. The initial kick off call is super important to understanding parameters, what aspects of the script are locked in, and the areas that are flexible that we can riff off of.  

Martin (Strauss)> Talking to the agency provides so much more than what’s on the page, and often reveals the thing that will set it apart, isn't necessarily written in there. They know the brands intimately; our role is to build a creative execution that honours the massive intelligence they have about their client while adding fresh eyes and another filter through which to envision a concept. 

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

Justin> In terms of our style, the DP is a very important collaborator because we have a very clear idea of what we want and put time into producing our 'crap-o-matics' (lo-fi animatics that we act out or create to test the approach and shots) and want someone to develop our ideas further from a cinematic perspective. 

Martin> While one of our chief creative collaborators is our DP, the other vital working relationship, from a logistical perspective, is the producer. The producer can obviously be creative as well, but the relationship to getting the work done, to supporting everything we want to do - which is often very ambitious - relies on an experienced producer. 


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?

Martin> It's not necessarily a genre, but it’s about ideas that inspire exciting visuals and aesthetic approaches that we are most passionate about.. We love creating different visual languages for each spot. And there are some stories and scripts and spots that lend themselves more to visual storytelling. So whenever we come across something that immediately sparks ideas about shots or location or a stylistic approach - that excites us. 

Justin> We like spots that have an element of energy to them, and, if there isn't yet one, what can we do to create a feeling of energy? When there's a project and you can see or feel the energy when you're thinking about it - the ideas come fast from there. 

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

Martin> The agency knows their client the best. And if the idea is not best for the client, then it clearly isn't good for our commercial. In general, we try to be as collaborative as possible, understanding that a great production idea that doesn’t connect well with a brand is still a good idea but shouldn’t be in the mix. Sometimes a subtle update can make the project significantly more impactful where the brand voice or marketing is concerned but doesn’t radically upend the way we are designing the film. But understanding the likes and aversions up front, we can create something that we can still get excited about but that fits within their bigger goals. In our kick off meeting we test the waters and see how comfortable everyone is with expanding or bringing in new ideas. We bring a bunch of high-level ideas so that we start the collaboration at the early stages and know where we can stretch. 

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?

Justin> As a black filmmaker I think diversity is super important, and we also are very into mentoring. We were a part of a film club in college at San Francisco state and we still go back and give lectures about commercial making and filmmaking, and invite the students to email us with any questions, like what treatments should look like, what it is like on a commercial set, and so on.  

Martin> If someone reaches out to us, we are happy to have them come to our shoot. My advice would be to ask people questions, see if you can shadow them. Everyone loves mentoring people. 

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? 

Martin>  Not sure if we have picked up new habits but it certainly reinforced how much we like having agency people on set. Filmmaking is collaborative and while remote is possible, we like having at least someone from the agency there - it’s just a better experience and results in a better final product. That being said, it is good to know that we can be agile in ways we hadn’t considered in past times, including remote. 

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)? 

Justin> Of course, we make sure we execute with each format in mind, technically speaking. But it’s important to understand the relative weight of each one of these formats in the campaign. Is there one that's a hero? If so, that’s the one you design for because it will be the piece with the highest visibility, and not every creative idea works brilliantly for each format. 

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

Salesforce ‘This Is A Mask’

Since the creative was fast paced, we used a 'crap-o-matic'—a rough draft of the film shot on our phones—to ensure our shots were timed properly. We knew our shots were going to flow together perfectly because of the crap-o-matic, so our time on set was spent on our execution rather than creative choices and coverage.

Dr. Scholl’s ‘Hotel Lobby’

The concept of a completely frozen world naturally spurred a lot of ideas and we collaborated heavily with the creatives to create a script that took advantage of the premise. Once the rough script was locked, we let the layout and architecture of the location inspire our shot choices.

Raley’s ‘Food For Families’

With only two shoot days and a handful of locations, the main challenge going into this shoot was time. We did extensive director scouting to help keep our shoot on schedule—down to the minute for the sunset shots.

Zepp ‘Designed For Any Era’

We love working on creative that allow us to build sets. We had a lot of fun with our Production Designer & DP to create a space that evolves with the characters through each era. We built three identical sets that could be built around the same camera move and swapped the sets around our motion control rig over the course of the shoot.

view more - The Directors
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Kaboom Productions, Wed, 29 Sep 2021 08:36:35 GMT