The process of getting a director to shoot your TV spot, online film, long-format video, etc. isn’t something you can really teach in portfolio school. But here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
- After a client as okayed a script, you’ll work with a producer to find a director. Sometimes the producer works for the agency, sometimes he or she is freelance. That usually depends on the size of the agency.
- Typically, the producer will have some ideas of which directors will work best for your concept. But you should have some ideas, too. If it’s a dialogue-driven spot, you should look for directors who handle dialogue well. If it’s a car spot, you want someone with a proven track record of making sheet metal gorgeous. Don’t just focus on the concept. Look at the acting, lighting, film quality, and camera angles. It’s a much harder job than just saying, “That spot was cool.” I recommend keeping notes.
- You will usually narrow down your list to three to five directors, and then jump on the phone with them. You’ll walk them through your spot, and they’ll throw out different ideas of how they’ll treat it. This will also give you an idea of which director you think you can work best with. Again, I recommend keeping notes.
- After that call, you’ll receive what’s called a “director’s treatment.” It’s usually a pdf that goes through their vision. They’ll talk about casting, music, lighting, etc. I always look for directors who can take my ideas and make them better, not just regurgitate what they think I want.
- The producer and the account executive will submit the bid from each director to the client. As a creative, you can easily go your entire career without knowing what it costs to produce a commercial. But I’d encourage you to find out. It helps your concepting if you know that client has $2 million to spend vs. $500,000.
- You’ll present the director reels and estimates to the client (probably won’t present their treatments), and make your recommendation. The client will have the final say, so you should be happy with all three directors. Your second choice may be $100,000 cheaper than your first choice. Or your third choice could have a spot that the client likes more than any other. Best case scenario is having three directors you love so much, you want the client to make the decision for you.
- Your producer calls one director to award the job, and the other directors to deliver the bad news.
One thought on “Things Portfolio School Didn’t Teach Me: Awarding A Director”
Depending on the agency you work for, the process may be slightly different. Greg, I noticed that you didn't include a step where you create a treatment of your own. We always put together a treatment that sets up the idea, describes the tone, includes the script and any reference, as a starting point to send out to directors. Then if there's interest from any, we hop on the phone.
I'd also say that, depending on the client, you may or may not need to share director options. With most of our clients, we share our top director pick with rationale/reel/treatment (usually an abridged version). Usually the client is cool with our pick.