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The Directors: Will Samuel

The Directors 181 Add to collection

1stAveMachine director combines animation and sophistication for brands including Google and Lego

The Directors: Will Samuel

Will Samuel is a London-based director an animator hailing from the Chelsea College of Art and Design. His design driven approach to animation became the foundation of his work to date and he champions experimentation, thoughtfulness and sophistication. Will aims to create work with a built-in discovery that will remain memorable and satisfying. He has worked with many of the world’s leading brands including Google, The Guardian, Lego and Facebook and has built a reputation for narrative driven animation and award winning work.

Name: Will Samuel

Location: London

Repped by/in: 1stAveMachine

Awards: D&AD, Information is beautiful Award



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

In my experience there are two types of scripts: The exact kind, where everything has been figured out and signed off and it’s our job to find a style and turn it into a film. And the approximate kind, which is much more open to our own interpretation. Perhaps there are broad strokes in place but it’s up to us to work out the details and come up with lots of creative solutions.

Both types of scripts have elements I love but I will always gravitate towards the latter.


How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Once we’ve read and re-read the brief, the first thing I ask myself is why. Why does this film need to exist, what’s its purpose, what does the client want and what do I want from it. It can usually be refined down to a sentence. Once I know that, we can find unexpected ways to get there. It’s in that exploration that we can find the heart and soul of the film. It’s usually in the details.


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?

This is not unusual for me, I’ll often know little about a brand at the start of the project. Perhaps I shouldn’t admit this, working in advertising, but I’m not big on consumerism. But approaching a new client with zero preconceived ideas is usually a good thing.


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

Directing an ad is really all about communication, so I suppose by extension, that means relationships with the producer, crew, agency and client. In particular, I really like getting on a level with the creatives at the agency. Involving them in the production process will give them an honest look into what's working and what's not. This holistic approach can really streamline the project.


What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Mixed media. I like combining different mediums and letting them influence each other. the line between live action and animation is easily blurred.

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

I’m from an animation background and I suppose I’m often seen as only an animation director. I love live action too!


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

I do not know what a cost consultant is.


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

This year there’s been a few logistical problems we’ve had to solve, same as everybody. But creatively, we needed to build a miniature coastal and rainforest scene for kids to appear as giants. All shot in Argentina. 


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

Honesty and communication is key. I make clear why I love what I’ve planned or designed. There will always be a logic why I put it in there. Hopeful others can see it too, and if they can’t I’m usually doing something wrong.


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?

I am very open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set and in my studio. I would also mention neurodiversity. I have had the pleasure of working with kids with very diverse brains and minds. I am currently collaborating with my friend Cressida Brotherstone, who is an Art Psychotherapist, on a project involving kids with autism.

1stAveMachine is taking steps to open up their offices to the younger generations from diverse backgrounds and local schools. Lot’s still to be done.


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? 

This year has really changed the way I work. It’s not all bad though. Before, on an animation project, I would insist that all our animators work from the studio because I like to see their techniques and decisions in real time. Of course I had to give that up and work remotely. But once we found our flow it worked great! It also expands the talent pool. I’m working with people all over the world. It’s great fun.


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)? 

It’s a case by case thing. It’s main effect is usually timing and framing which is essential to take into account. But often the story telling remains the same. Things get a little more interesting when it becomes interactive. You have to keep everything in mind.


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)?

I’m always exploring new technology and I fully embrace it. Some of the new advancements really are game changers. Especially in AI. The results we’re seeing in virtual production is super cool too - we’ve all seen The Mandalorian. 

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

They say your most recent work defines you so on that note I’m going to list my last four projects chronologically. Starting from most recent: 

‘Get Medieval With Us’

Client: Facebook

This is fresh out the oven. Made for facebook’s social campaign, it celebrates a user made content - focusing on the group ‘We Pretend It’s 1453 Internet’. The brief was simple and open - Make a looping video combining modern technology and medieval art that will sit as a cover image on the Facebook App main page. I wanted it to be authentic, funny, epic and a bit weird. It turned out better than that!

‘Lego Kicks’

Client: Lego 

This year I’ve built up a great working relationship with creatives at Lego. I was flattered when they approached me with this script. It was an announcement film for their multi-year partnership with adidas. 

For this launch film, Will set about crafting a story of creative speculation. Imagining sport themed sequences that interact with the building’s bold architecture and fun little rooftop playgrounds, while remotely directing the live action elements from London. Staying true to the LEGO values, much of the animation and effects were built by hand, frame by frame. Tied together with a final touch of digital wizardry. 

‘Build it, Break it’

Client: Duplo, Lego

This was a fun one. We were asked to make a music video of sorts, using Duplo. There were four box sets we needed to showcase so I had this idea of an interdimensional dance group traveling through different worlds. Building bits up and then breaking them down! I worked with BAMBA to make a catchy track - it’s very daft punk inspired!

‘Lego City & Friends, National Geographic’

Client: Lego and National Geographic

These global TVCs were a bit of an adventure story. My producer, Mike Capon and I flew out to Argentina for six weeks to make these. Despite the large scale production it was important to Lego that these ads retained a craftiness. I have a blast working with some of the best concept artists and matte painters in the business building these panoramic worlds where the kids appear as giants!

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1stAveMachine, Thu, 28 Jan 2021 10:20:54 GMT