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The Directors: SAVA


Common People Films' Salvador Alvarado on being true to himself and selling his vision

The Directors: SAVA

Director Sava has always been attracted to geometry and art. This led to studying graphic design and photography in Mexico, wanting to become an art director. But cinema then won a place in his heart. A move to Los Angeles to study film production quickly followed and a career started in music videos which in turn led to advertising.   

As a commercial director - even though he started directing car brands like Nissan and Chevrolet - his professional life took a turn to football after directing The Mexico National Museum of football welcoming video. This allowed Sava to work for Samsung and the main football players from Mexico´s National team such as Rafa Márquez and players from Arsenal, Tottenham and Queens Park Rangers, to shooting the Oreedo's Emiri Football Cup spot.  

Other brands that he has worked with are Tequila Herradura, Mastercard, Renault Bank, Thinkful, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Dominos Pizza, Palacio de Hierro, Nokia, Heineken, XX beer, etc.

Sava is a multi-award winning director from Mexico who now lives in Spain.   

Name: SAVA  (Salvador Alvarado).

Location: London/Madrid//Mexico

Repped by/in: Common People Films  CMN PPL / London 

Awards: Círculo de Oro México

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

Sava> When a script has been really well thought out. I can easily notice this from the outset as it reads really well.  Amazing shots come into my mind in a second; like the words from the script flow in my mind and I recognise it and oh! a smile comes easily. It becomes instinctive when I get in front of one of those scripts, and I love the feeling; it's what keeps me motivated in life and in my job.

I usually try to make all scripts motivate me starting from my treatment; as I said before if the script is amazing from the beginning, the motivation is organic and I don’t even have to try to feel it. 

On the other hand when a script needs help, I always try to make it more complex. As my teacher always said: let’s use lateral thinking - and that also excites me. But specifically the spots that challenge me the most, excite me the most. 

And most importantly, it has to feel true to me, to be able to sell my vision.

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

Sava> I love taking a day when possible, just by reading and processing all the different ramifications on a creative idea, deconstructing the concept of what the creatives want for their spot. Then I see if I can give a different perspective within the concept or how to approach it in a unique way. All the while doing research, looking for pictures, videos, art installations, conceptual designs, movies or any other type of format that will help grow the piece into something better.

At some point something clicks and I go "this is it!"

Then I bring together all the ideas that clicked and separate the ones that didn't work. And start writing and putting the treatment together.

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?

Sava> Oh! I started my career doing research, and I have been doing research since I was a kid; to give you context, my teachers in 2nd grade thought that my parents were the ones doing my homework, but it was me at the library, with my mom pushing me to do my best, then I had the best presentation at school for Abysall Fish for natural science. 

So, believe me, I do research for all the above and thank god I have the Internet now; I would call myself a nerd for research. So, even if I know the brand I look into it, from head to toe. So imagine the ones I am not familiar with! 

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

Sava> I always try to become friends with the people I work with in a very truthful way, that is essential in my process. That’s how I get the best out of people's creativity. Why? Well, I am positive that if we give the best work environment to the people we are surrounded with, we as directors will have our best work.

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?

Sava> I love art direction, cars, technology and conceptual art, so I enjoy mixing those the most, but I’m also a very sensitive guy that loves an acting piece, even though I have had only a few chances to portray that in my reel.

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

Sava> People think that since my reel has different styles, I don’t have an identity, but that's not the case. I think a piece is a piece on its own, and I love to adapt myself to what that piece is asking me to do with it. I don’t like to give a piece a certain style to fit just what I am comfortable doing; I like to take myself to a place that the piece needs or where I think it should go to, to make it better.

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

Sava> I have worked with them for a while, in different projects. To be truthful, I get to help with the budget, and I will most of the time have every piece of the budget resolved from treatment, but usually my producer is the one that deals with that.

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

Sava> Since I am very nerdy within my pre production process, I don’t have an amazing story to tell you; I have only once lost a location the night before the shoot and had to adapt to a location I had as a backup. But since I kind of go through the shooting board within all my chosen locations - even back ups - it was not too hard to figure out how to adapt the board to it.

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

Sava> I always try to tell the agency and client that I am there to do the best for their idea and their product; that’s why they hired me in the first place. I don’t like to fight, but I direct what I really think the product and idea needs. If I am heard, well great, but when I have to go the length of fighting for something when I know I am right, then I would shoot my take with the monitors off - and of course make sure I have the clients take. Then we have the one that works the best in the editing room.  At the end, it's their money and product. They might see things that I don’t and vice versa: We are all a team. 

The funniest ones are when I have had to do a re-edit, re-colour, re-CGI in my own time to get what I wanted for my demo; then clients have asked me again to work with them with my perspective after watching the spot I intended.  

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?

Sava> As a Mexican that studied and worked in the US and has worked in West/East Europe, Asia and Africa, I am very used to that and I think we as minorities in the UK can give a different perspective to what we can do creatively. I love helping people in their careers and of course I would love to mentor anyone with a real drive and passion to work in this career.

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? 

Sava> The pandemic made me work harder on my patience. I had been struggling with that and it really hit me, so I had to work on myself a lot to relax and take a different pace. This has now made me enjoy the process even more, giving me a chance to get even better results within my projects. This is for sure staying with me from now on!

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)? 

Sava> It's so hard to focus on every format when we have so little time to do treatments, especially when one wants to give the best. So what I do is check the main concept for social media and what the campaign is aligned to. Then I see which other ones go with it; then for the rest I might get help to develop them if I am not as savvy on that matter.

I am very much involved in at least the main platforms in social media, at least to know what is trending and how they work, I mean if I don’t do that,  one turns outdated in no time.

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)?

Sava> I love the new stuff so very much! I just went to a seminar for using the LED projection mixed on Unreal engine, to generate backgrounds and I think is an amazing tool, which I am eager to explore deeper into it; also the way video games have developed with a faster pace will push filmmaking into a broader spectrum of how to tell stories.  

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

THINKFUL. I had to develop a piece for this online University and they wanted more like a 'come join us' type corporate video. I knew if this was targeted to a younger crowd it had to be done totally different. I only had the budget for a day shoot, so I took different formats to be very efficient, animation to help making it more attractive and stock footage to get the shots I could not shoot within my budget and schedule. Nobody believes that I did it in a day.

RENAULT BANK. Such a small budget but with a beautiful story, same one day shoot. I mixed some stock footage of a girl jumping and made my actress jump from the back of a production van to have the shot the creatives wanted of her parachuting.

XX LAGER. This is a spot where I really had to fight to have the spot that I sold to the client. What aired is not what I wanted and it took me a good five months developing my piece for my reel. I am proud of it for personal reasons.

DOMINOS PIZZA. I really like developing art direction pieces, so this is the one where I really had chance to portray that on a pizza spot, which is awkward because who would do that for a pizza spot!

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Common People, Tue, 04 Jan 2022 15:09:00 GMT