Director Peri vP Answers Advertising Anonymous.
Over the years we’ve been inundated with questions from creatives in the advertising industry curious about making the move to directing, but not knowing how. Instead of answering these questions ourselves (not that we couldn’t #Omnipotent), we approached director Peri vP from Giant Films. After ten years as a creative, Peri made the leap into directing…5 years and 50 commercials later, we think he’s the man for the job.
‘Being on set as a creative, being with the directors filming the stuff I wrote, I always thought – I want that job! But it felt so far away, I didn’t know how to get there.’
Caught In a Gif
The exact moment Peri made the jump from advertising to directing.
iDidTht: ‘Peri, for the sake of #JobSecurity, the below questions are all from Anonymous.’
Peri: ‘1. The first thing you’ll get asked is: “What have you shot?” So shoot as much as you can; music vids, little films, spec spots, whatever. Do it on your own terms and in your own time, but if your focus is TVC’s and brand content, try pushing as much as you can in your own agency to shoot any little thing. Always better and more legit if you’ve shot for an actual client. I just started nagging every client and creative team in my agency to let me shoot their pro-active piece… Suspicious behaviour for sure.
2. Have enough money to support yourself for a minimum of 6 months. I gave myself a year. As a director you only earn if you shoot. There’s no salary and it’s months between taking a brief and finishing a job.
3. Coming from advertising, where you work non-stop, to now sometimes having months of time between shoots – you lose your mind. Creative people need to create. You gotta have side projects going.
3. Network hard.
4. Have a production company or producer who believes in you and is willing to invest in you.’
Peri: ‘1. Definitely the people. The culture of an agency, the vibe. In production you spend most of your time with your producer and researchers, or just writing alone. So there are a lot fewer humans around you. I miss some of those humans.
2. In agencies, everyone is a soundboard. Lots of feedback from every direction, which I think is mostly a good thing. As a director you’re a bit more insular with fewer people to spitball with. Thankfully, Giant is a collaborative and supportive place, but you have to be more pro-active about getting feedback on your ideas. Buying lunch helps.
3. When you pitch as an agency team and you lose, you lose with a team. It doesn’t affect you, your porti and your finances directly. When you lose a pitch as a director, it’s gut-wrenching, a five finger death punch to the heart. You take it more personally.’
Peri’s first two ads he ever directed were done in-house with Ogilvy Cape Town, but it made Giant Films sit up and take notice. The fact that the spots won a Silver and Grand Prix at the Loeries, respectively, didn’t hurt either and soon Peri swapped industries and is now a fully fledged Giant.
Peri: ‘Haha, no! That’s probably a good enough reason to make the jump.’
Peri: ‘Probably not. More uncertainty, more insecurity. With directing each job is so important, so key, you’re so invested. Each one could be the job that gets you to that next level or gets you that dream brief. I definitely lie awake more now enjoying mild background anxiety.’
Peri: ‘1. I’m super into film and excited about film-making.✔
2. I believe in myself. ✔
3. I can present my ideas well and am eloquent when fielding questions.✔
4. I’m totally clear about my vision, but can also pivot and problem-solve.✔
5. I can communicate well with agency, client, crew and actors.✔
6. I can handle some crazy pressure.✔
7. I can resist the craft table in between takes.✔’
Peri: ‘Sure, but you gotta have good reason. When creatives brief me I can hear what they care about in scripts and I’m not going to change that unless I strongly feel it needs it, because I know what it was like. When there were things I cared about as a creative, I would speak to those things, and there’s nothing worse than a director changing parts you love without good reason. I think you need to respect the script, and respect the process, because I know they had to draw blood to get that approved. But you know, it’s a collaboration, we’re all trying to make something kiff together. And I love that part of it. Every director will have their own spin on something, so if I think big changes or new ideas will make it shinier, I share them.
There are distinct similarities between the work Peri was creating in advertising and the boards he is directing now, he has a clear idea of the type of commercials he wants to direct. His spots are often performance and character-driven, and although his style is quirky and slightly off centre, his work is also adept with some gentle emotional boards. Here are some of iDidTht’s top picks from Peri’s portfolio.
Virgin Active ‘Night Ride’
SABC ‘Clown Love’
Pick ‘n Pay ‘Smart Shopper Campaign’
iDidTht: ‘Anonymous, may we interject briefly?
Anonymous: ‘Ugh, fine.’
iDidTht: ‘Peri, would you say one of your biggest strengths, because of your background, is that you know what questions to ask in the boardroom?’
Peri: ‘Being a writer with a conceptual background certainly helps. So much of this job happens in the boardroom so having been on both sides of that table makes a big difference. I think it helps me focus on the important stuff and have better conversations with the right people. Where to push, where to concede, it’s definitely a bit of a dance in there. I think it’s important to remember that this project isn’t suddenly just yours. It may be your show on set, but there are still other players involved. Other people birthed this. So I’m trying to make something that’s kick-ass, but I’m doing it within a framework.’
iDidTht: ‘So in the end, it’s a major advantage coming from the advertising industry?’
Peri: ‘If I had entered the film industry without the ad experience I don’t know if I would have broken in. Knowing how to conceptualise, understanding the process, making the contacts – I wouldn’t have any of that. You land running, cause you’ve been on set, you’ve been through treatments, pre-prods, etc. The big part then is learning the technical side.
Music vids and shorts are a different hustle. But advertising has an existing model – creatives and clients. And you’re making the best work you can inside that model. Agency experience was totally invaluable. Full-on training ground.’
iDidTht: ‘Okay, back to you Anonymous…’
Anonymous: ‘Thank you and by the way, you’re looking so sexy today!’
iDidTht: ‘Bless you!’
Peri: ‘There are a lot of good things about working in agencies. But my professional life is so different now, I don’t know if I could. When you’re in an agency, you’re brainstorming and coming up with genius every single day and you sell perhaps, like, 5%, and then make even less. Nothing happens to the rest. It’s heartbreaking. By the time I get a script now it’s gone so far down the road, it’s so close to getting made. So in one year I’ll shoot like 8 or 10 jobs, whereas in an agency I would have only got to make maybe 2. And when making film is all you wanna do, it gets frustrating quick. But… I do miss those agency christmas parties.’
Anonymous: ‘Thanks so much. Back to you iDidTht!’
iDidTht: ‘Finally! Yoh, Anonymous is chatty. Okay Peri, let’s resolve this once and for all…’
Q: Who has the best Friday drinks?
Q: Who watches more series?
Q: Who ‘loves’ seeing clients the most?
Q: Who will pay their bond off first?
Well Anonymous, we hope that helped. Let the record show that iDidTht in no way encourages those gainfully employed within the advertising industry to abandon the safety, security and awesomeness of their jobs in the hopes of becoming the next Peri vP. But hey, if you’re gonna do it, do it like Peri!
Anonymous: ‘Hear, hear!’
iDidTht: ‘Shht, that’s enough now!’
Produced by the iDidTht Content Studio
Credits: Anne Hirsch (Writer) / Julie Maunder
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