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The Directors: Sophia Ray

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Partizan director on powerful cultural contribution, throwing herself into projects and some of her favourite work so far

The Directors: Sophia Ray

Starting her career as a graphic designer, Sophia Ray carved herself a strong aesthetic direction when it came to moving image, through a mix of live action and animated projects, working with artists such as Lily Allen and 5SOS, before landing herself a VMA at the very start of her career. From here, Sophia quickly progressed into the world of branded content and pop promos, working with artists such as Ella Eyre, Ty Dolla $ign and Amber Mark. Sophia’s work is recognised for its dreamy and playful nature with slight nods to more dark, surreal undertones.


Name: Sophia Ray 

Location: London

Repped by/in: Partizan 

Awards: MTV MVA 


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

Sophia> Anything with something I can creatively latch on to and have a bit of fun with - whether it be darkly humorous, odd and whimsical, or something with a bit of a deeper message behind it. Something that allows me to bring in a fusion of elements. A great commercial is a powerful cultural contribution.


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

Sophia> I do all of my own treatments - from image research, layout design to copywriting. I used to be a graphic designer so I find it hard to let go of the layout - that’s the fun bit! haha! It also means the process is sped up as I know what I like and how I want the treatment to flow. The approach really depends on each job - generally I start off with a rough idea in my head on the approach / aesthetic / meaning I want to get across, and then start just researching, looking for inspiration and gathering images while I ruminate over the creative approach in my head over and over - and it develops from there. 


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?

Sophia> I guess it depends on the brief itself - but I do think generally it is always good practice to familiarise yourself with a new brand or a brand you aren’t as familiar with. Take in their previous campaigns etc. I like to ask questions to the creatives working on the project too, to get their input when it comes to the strategy they had in mind when coming up with the idea, for me it’s a good practice to ruminate over that together as a wider team - to make sure when I bring my ideas to the table, the right tone and intention is hit. I recently worked on a campaign with Mother and decided to write a backstory / narrative for the characters for the different spots as a fun exercise. So we could collectively agree on a tone of performance for each character in the spot. 


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

Sophia> This is a tough one as I think it is so important to have a solid working relationship with all your HOD’s on a job - all their roles are so integral to the job's success. But I do think the most important thing has to be the Director's relationship with the Producer. Having that support and input from a good producer is key. As a director you really notice the difference when you work with a producer who cares about the end result as much as you do - this is where clever, problem-solving, creative thinking comes into play. Some of my favourite moments are overcoming obstacles with a producer as we bounce ideas together to push the idea and creative to be the best it can be - this support and level of care is integral.  

 

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?

Sophia> I know this is going to sound painfully boring but I do really love all genres if there is a good idea attached to them. That’s also the fun part of being a director, throwing yourself into one project that explores a certain theme and then getting into the next one that is totally different. It keeps things fresh. Keeps me on my toes and means I am constantly learning. That being said I do tend to lean a lot towards the surreal briefs that have a bit of a nuanced or dark underlying humour to them. But I am really open to everything really - as long as the idea resonates with me. 


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

Sophia> I work a lot with female artists / female centric brands that have a pop edge which I obviously adore, but that’s not all I have in my wheelhouse. Obviously coming from a pop promo world it makes sense for my work to resonate with these types of briefs. A part of me is really keen to explore a darker part of myself, and delve even deeper into the narrative world. The idea of doing more of this really excites me.


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

Sophia> I am always super collaborative in whatever I do, and always open to shaping the idea with the other creatives around me. I think the important thing is to try and be authentic to yourself and honest when something feels off-kilter, a big part of the agency and director partnership is being able to bounce off each other freely as well as being able to be honest with each other when it comes to making the piece the strongest it can be. And if the client doesn’t agree then at least you have flagged how you felt and put it to them. That is the least you can do. Solid communication throughout the process I believe is key to this. 


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?

Sophia> Yes - one hundred percent. It’s so important to have diversity on set and open up those creative channels for new talent, so the opportunities are a level playing field for everyone. I think mentoring on set is a great way to do this and a way I know I can personally contribute to help this happen. I am talking to a few young creatives at the moment who I’m looking to have them work with me, both in prep and on set. 


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?

Sophia> I think it already has! The first few jobs I did in lockdown I learnt to try and chill out - I really loved the discipline of simplifying things as the first few shoots we did after needed to be stripped back. It’s made me more keen to try things I wouldn’t usually be comfortable doing. 

 

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

Sophia> Bad Cinderella - I loved working on the trailers for Andrew Lloyd Webbers ‘Cinderella’. Getting to work closely with the amazing writer/director Emerald Fennel was such a pleasure. Massive congrats to Emerald on her Oscar for best screenplay at this years academy awards! I just loved the period aspect to these films, and working alongside Emerald bringing her ‘dark fairy tale’ one liners of dialogue to life. 

Mae Muller - Dependent. Was another that I had a lot of fun telling the story through playful and surreal choreography and integrated set design. 

Little Mix - Holiday - First Job post Lockdown 1.0 - I had to rely a lot on post so this job taught me a lot in that respect. 

Ella Eyre - New Me

I also have some exciting, bigger projects coming out in the next couple of months that I’m really excited about!

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Partizan London, Thu, 10 Feb 2022 12:24:16 GMT