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The Directors: Simon Morehead

The Directors 29 Add to collection

13CO director on how an open script lets the imagination run wild

The Directors: Simon Morehead

Simon Morehead is a creative thinker, director and enabler. His natural curiosity and inquisitiveness inspire him to transform his experiences and learnings into film.

Simon’s vision is to craft each film and encapsulate the audience, making them see, feel, connect and hold desire. An over-stimulation of visuals creating layered films through the use of mixed media and crafting for the edit. A want for the story at hand to not feel forced, an aim for excitement or that emotional hit.

Simon’s latest films explore youth culture, fashion and sport. Simon embraces true storytelling coupled with a stylistic visual approach to bring each project to life.

Simon has directed campaigns on a global scale. Highlights include the brand film for NOCCO, Glenmorangie Signet for LVMH, his Led By None 2019 campaign for General Pants and the Australian release of Cartier’s Juste En Clou with Rita Ora. 

Outside of commercials, Simon has been on set directing 6 x 60 minute episodes for a real life crime docudrama airing in 2022 for Australia’s Seven Network.

His short films ‘We Move Forward’ and ‘Denxy’ are currently in production and also due to be released in 2022.


Name: Simon Morehead

Location: Australia

Repped by: 13CO


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

Simon> An open script that lets the imagination run wild. When I get my hands on one of these, it allows me to think about what I can bring to the table. Working with well written scripts the job is 3/4s complete, the remaining quarter should be filled by the director’s style and additions to – put the cherry on top. The most attractive scripts are those with twists and turn, and not simplistic, expected narratives. 


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

Simon> My first process is to read the script and creative multiple times over. Each time I read I play out different scenarios in execution and form ideas on how it could be brought to life. From here I generally head out on a long run to clear the head and get the focus straight. Generally mid run I’m starting to map out the grand idea and how the treatment will be formed to ‘wow’ the client and the strategy I’ll take to sell me onto the project. For me, I lean towards the more visual side in treatments. I love to use imagery and reference films to really get the client on the same brain wave that I’m on. Words are great and tell the story, but nothing quite beats putting pictures on to paper. Some treatments I’ll go even deeper and cut a guide preview reel using sourced footage and assets that show the client just how I envisage the film to be held, it’s rhythm, pace, capture and editing style.


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?

Simon> Whether I know the brand or not, I’m all about the research. Getting a connection to the brand you’re about to lay a pitch up for or direct a film with, is critical. You need to live and breathe the brand, understand its history, its direction and vision for the future, what they’ve done before, what works and what doesn’t. I’d even go as far as requesting to know what the brands strategy is in their rollout and how they will target their desired audiences. This helps to form your idea. There’s no point in selling in a grand idea if the thinking and marketing aren’t in place, it’s rare that an organically seeded film will become a hit so knowing how your idea is going to work with the push and the relevant market makes for a stronger return in the success of the campaign.


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

Simon> The need for understanding, respect, and the ability for all parties to have their voice heard. The director is one part of the cog that has many parts in bringing the ad to life. Personally, I like to form a tight connection with all members of the production from agency, to brand, to crew. This ensures that every facet of the film becomes the best it can be. I do enjoy working tightly alongside the ECD or CD in pushing the idea further and making for ads that are a little experimental. It’s always important to have a close formation with client as it’s them who are ultimately going to have the final say - therefore seeing eye to eye means that you both get to bring your vision to the table. 


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?

Simon> Having a deep etched background in documentary filmmaking for TV, I really enjoy crafting for the story. Whether across a 50-minute format or withered down to 30-60 seconds, there’s nothing greater than seeing a character on screen that you feel connected with and have allowed for them to be received. Of late I was tasked with directing six episodes of an Australian crime series and I did fall in love with the ability to create drama and build characters, traits and emotion across each episode. The work that specifically attracts me are briefs that have a challenge. Whether it be using new toys in the camera department, having to get a brand awareness across screens within 15 seconds or a tight turnaround, every job always presents a new challenge to be solved.


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

Simon> I often get pigeonholed in crafting ads for youth culture and fashion. High energy, pace, mixed formats, lots of colour and a kaleidoscope of visuals. Don’t get me wrong I thoroughly enjoy this space but where clients are yet to see my greatest work is in character drama and dialogue and drawing out scenes that bring out cinematic beauty. The recent TV series I’ve directed will strongly support my ability to execute the commercials that require characters to stand out, dialogue to be effective and cinematic tones to be present.


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

Simon> I think every project has a problem, although by problem I refer to the word ‘challenge’. All productions are built and put together for a problem to be sold – sell the brand, tell a story, connect with audiences. On every campaign I find myself putting out fires. Whether it be compacting the execution of 10 scenes into a single shooting day, dealing with every changing weather condition or having an idea flipped on you midway through a commercial shoot. I feel that one of my biggest assets as a director is that I can keep it cool, keep the production pushing forward and find ways to solve the problem without halting production or putting anyone out. There’s nothing that destroys a set more than bad vibes, attitude or an out of control director, therefore we must be professional problem solvers and work out the best way to piece the puzzle together no matter what is thrown at us.

 

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

Simon> Collaboration is key. Without a team you’re just an individual. The team is what makes the idea stronger. As a director, you always think your idea is great as you back it and put your heart into it. The hardest part is seeing that idea bought into, only to have it taken apart or your voice lost on set or in post production. I do think there needs to be more of a collaborative partnership when it comes to directors after the shoot has wrapped. The edit and post is where the story is told and the hearts are won. If the agency, brand and director are on board together from the start then combining as one force until the end will ensure that the idea is delivered and the campaign is one that all are proud of.


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?

Simon> My first boss and mentor in the film industry always taught me that ‘you’re only ever as good as the team around you’ and it’s something I live by every day. The people around you should be diverse, they should be passionate, they should give respect and they should pay it forward. I think that the industry needs more mentoring, that every set should have an intern or work experience op on set. This ensures that the craft is passed on and that new voices are heard and stories are told. 


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? 

Simon> The pandemic was an eye opener and really shifted my passion for the craft of film making. I was doing more churn and sold myself out a little too much to brands that I didn’t quite connect with therefore had lost sight of the end goal and connection to the craft. Mid pandemic I had the time to really reflect and regather my thoughts, think about the stories I wanted to tell, the people I wanted to work alongside and how I undertook productions. It also advanced my writing in treatments as I began throwing my real thoughts, my own language and my heart into pitches. I’m no longer hiding behind writing that wasn’t me, and I’ve got the confidence that I can execute any campaign thrown at me, with my own twist of course!


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)? 

Simon> Although nothing beats the 16:9 or cinemascope formats, we live in a time where producing just for that sizing is long gone. There’s too many devices, media channels and platforms for a brand to capitalise on so as a director you have to abide by the fact that your delivery is going to be widespread. Within my films, I play to the formats and make them a part of the film. Changing up the aspects can create a change in time, place, character and pace. The most challenging part of the multi-formats is ensuring that what’s in your 16:9s fit within your 9:16s so always going into shoots loaded up with crops in mind helps to set you up for success when reconversions are taking place.


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)?

Simon> Although my portfolio is quite light on integrating new tech, I’m always looking forward and staying in-tune with new trends in capture, postproduction and delivering to consumer. In my creative thinking in pre, I like to really think about how my viewer will take on what I’m crafting, how it best presents to them, and in what ways technology could enhance the final output. I’ve recently been involved in ideation and pitching for volumetric content for a brand which brings OOH billboards to life turning your usual 2D into hyper-realistic 3D elements. This space excites me as it gives more opportunity for audiences to really connect with the films your delivering to brands.


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

Cartier ‘Juste en clou’

The Australian launch film for Cartiers ‘Juste en clou’ starring Rita Ora. The film shouted movement, pace, transitional moments that helped to carry and the weave the story right through to the finale. As a director who enjoys integrating mixed formats, this film bought together five formats in Digital, Super16, Super8, VHS and photography.


Glenmorangie ‘Signet Whiskey’ 

This film explores the crafting of one of the best whiskeys in the world, the Glenmorangie Signet. Its master craftsman is one of the most revered in the world and a Willy Wonker of sorts. Filmed between Scotland and London, this film takes me deep into the emotions and dreamscape felt by Dr Bill Lumsden. 


General Pants ‘Lead by none’

Lead by None represents the youth of today who follow no rules, in place they create their own. It’s a new generation of leaders, thinkers, activators and those that own themselves. Diversity was key in this campaign as today’s society is represented by mixed gender, ethnicity, age and professions. 


Nocco

High energy, sports, action, busy streets of Hong Kong. Combine this with leading athletes, the power of nutritional support and you’ve got yourself a Global brand film for Swedish brand NOCCO. A run and gun production that saw a light on-ground team pull off a big campaign.


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13CO, Wed, 13 Apr 2022 07:35:34 GMT