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The Directors: Slim



Darling Films director on working with the right people, the pull of a meaningful story and a love for directing comedy

The Directors: Slim

Slim (Paolo Grippa) is a director, artist and storyteller. 

People watching is one of Slim’s fascinations. Hence his amazing ability to tell evocative, character-driven stories - across a diverse range of genres - whether absurd comedy or poignant empathy. 

Coming from a design and art direction background, the concept is always key to his filmmaking - resulting in both beautiful and memorable work. Film allows Slim’s passion for the arts; people watching; storytelling and music to come together in one happy place.

(In his spare time) He pours his excess energy into his artwork and is experimenting with learning to tattoo (on himself - so be warned about the weird scratches).

Name: Slim (Paolo Grippa)

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Repped by/in: Darling Films, Johannesburg

Awards: 1st and 3rd place at Cannes CFP-Shots Young Directors Award – 2005.

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

Slim> Every script we see is so different and the ideas or stories so varied that I immediately look for the singular, unique concept of that specific script – that core idea on which you can hinge all the narrative elements. It’s that specific idea that must lead the treatment rather than trying to fit some personal style or technical device to the script. It’s not about my taste but always about what the script requires. 

I get really excited about a script when the process of understanding it’s concept leads me to a unique approach that I would not necessarily have thought of, as it then becomes a new challenge for me to execute.

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

Slim> By coming to grips with, and having a clear idea of what the idea of the story is – in as few words as possible, kinda like the elevator pitch version of the script. This immediately defines (for me) the tone and narrative approach – from visuals to casting, edit style and soundtrack, etc. At every stage of the treatment I question the validity of narrative elements against this single-minded idea and how they work toward supporting and enhancing the concept we are setting out to achieve.

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?

Slim> Fully understanding the brand and its market always holds key insights into the execution of the script. Every script and brand comes with its own requirements in this area and most often it is in the first-hand briefing with the creative team that we interrogate where a brand has come from, what it stands for and what it’s trying achieve - even it’s past marketing successes or failures inform our understanding of the current project and its specific strategy. From here it becomes a balancing act of choosing or deciding how much of that information is relevant and beneficial to the specific story you are tasked to treat on and eventually deliver. 

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

Slim> There is no one relationship for me that is the most important – every interaction with any person on a job is relevant and necessary – it’s all in the collaboration for me. What is key for me is that we have chosen the right people for the project (production, crew, H.O.D’s, editor, musician, etc.) and that the communication between myself and everyone involved, is clear and open to accepting ideas that better the script. My successful execution of the story is impossible without the right people surrounding me.

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?

Slim> I am most drawn to any job that has a meaningful story based on a strong, simple idea. I don’t mind the genre or subject matter as long as it captures a human story – big or small, dramatic or comedic – as long as it’s a narrative that any audience can relate to or form an emotional bond with.

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

Slim> A misconception is that I’m genre-specific – like I only direct comedy. And it’s an odd situation, as creatives within different agencies seem to each have a different understanding on what my narrative “strength” is. I have always been about putting the idea first and letting it dictate the genre or style of the story – without my own personal taste influencing the story. It has never made sense to me to try to fit into just one category, as advertising requires a director to have a solid understanding of all genres, to utilise any, and all narrative styles at their disposal to convey a specific idea. 

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

Slim> Yes, indirectly through my producer and execs. Our experiences have always been straightforward with them as our quoting and the approach to every job is completely transparent and ensures that the production requirements to achieve the promised treatment are all that count. 

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

Slim> There’s been a few. One that sticks out as being just weird was on a job in Poland where the story completely relied on a specific character to deliver the comedic “punchline” – this character being a seagull. The client weren’t sold on using just any old seagull and so production sourced a rare variety of the species - the only one in captivity in the country. The day before shooting the seagull was to be transported from a farm on the opposite side of the country to our location, but the owner woke up to find that a fox had broken into the enclosure in the evening and eaten the poor seagull that he had kept for years. Production went into a panicked meltdown in a frantic search for another seagull hours before shooting. We ended up using just a regular seagull from the local area that was amazing in front of camera and way more realistic to the story anyway. 

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

Slim> There’s no one way to deal with this but generally, keeping the creatives and brand client completely involved throughout - really making them an honest part of the process - usually helps. In this way they are naturally part of the decisions and choices made, having a full understanding of the reasoning and constantly reminded what the key concept is that we are all striving for, together. Usually works, but not always.

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?

Slim> It is a definite necessity to broaden the diversity of talent as it can only serve to strengthen the entire industry by introducing new ideas and differing thought processes that are often hindered by a long history of out-dated mentalities. The world is changing dramatically and we all need to keep up with it by sharing our knowledge and accepting new, diverse approaches in a mutual symbiosis. Especially in South Africa, we are completely aware of this necessity and are continually looking at various methods that will allow diversity to flourish. Routes like mentoring and apprenticeships have really been embraced in our industry with the understanding that everyone really benefits. But we can always do more and try harder.

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? 

Slim> It honestly feels like the same process, just with less personal interactions via online meetings and remote viewing. This has been the hardest element for me to overcome so far as you can’t “read” a room or gauge peoples reactions as well anymore, especially when their video is disabled in a Zoom meeting. Even briefing H.O.D’s loses something visceral when online, as the subtlety and details are often hard to communicate without the personal touch. But hopefully we can overcome these pitfalls with more awareness and paying attention to the necessary “human” communication element.

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)? 

Slim> I find the variety of formats really exciting, as they have become another device to utilise in our narrative arsenal. Dependent on the brand or project requirements, it has become necessary to really involve these formats into the planning and preproduction – not treating them as an “afterthought”. Often the extreme nature of composition (16:9 versus 9:16) requires multiple setups when shooting which all affects schedule timings and even edit/post schedules. This obviously affects the overall project timings and budgets and is something I feel brand and agency often need to be made more aware of if the online content is to have the required impact – rather than being rushed or just “quickly” shooting some digital elements on the side. It’s all in the planning. 

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

Slim> Tech is amazing and exciting. But again, only if the idea requires it - it can never just be for the sake of it. This is so brand/product/script based and we have an amazing wealth of specialists in the country who are testing and pushing new forms of tech and constantly involving us so that we have readily available access to what’s available, if and when we need it for a project. 

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

Slim> 1 Life “One”

Starsat “View” 

Garmin “War” 

Aware!org “If you drink, Don’t Drive” 

These spots are ones where I feel like we really achieved what we set out to - for the idea, myself, the agency and the brand. There’s an honesty that you rarely experience when everything just falls into place on a job, where it’s a natural, fluid collaboration and everyone’s expectations are met (and sometimes even superseded). These spots are quite diverse in genre, but are the closest I’ve come to feeling the most content with the outcome. 

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Darling Films, Tue, 14 Sep 2021 09:58:55 GMT