The PEN: Brad Dworkin - Director

I met Brad a couple years ago at an Oscar party through a mutual friend of ours. We weren’t able to speak too much at that time but what I could tell instantly was Brad’s passion for film and his love of the industry. Since then Brad has become a good friend and I have seen him take that passion and apply to a successful directing career. HIs attention detail, hard work and general love of what he does makes it easy to see why he is so successful. I know Brad is just in the beginning part of his career and you will see much more work by him over many years to come. Enjoy. 

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to start an article by quoting a movie. Now that we’ve sorted that, let’s talk about what I do and how it happened. I’m a director and I work mostly in commercials in Toronto. My wife is a teacher, so I sometimes tell people that she shapes young minds while I try to sell them stuff they don’t need. I figure between the two of us, we break even. Net zero gain. My path to directing was through post-production, something I’d recommend to anyone.

First of all, I did graduate from film school and it introduced me to some great and talented people that I continue to work with today. But I’ve never been in a position where anyone has asked about my degree. What film school did offer was a chance to make bad films in a consequence-free environment. You can put that terrible student film in a box and no one in the industry ever has to know it existed. These were mistakes I needed to make to get to where I am today, but I didn’t have to worry about it sullying my reputation. More important than any education is your reel. Get your reel together and keep it updated. And don’t ever lie and include work you haven’t done. The industry is small and most of us, when we’re not making ads, are watching them online (It’s fun to put Youtube on a timesheet).

After film school I worked as a freelancer on a few shows. (Including one that aired in Pizza Pizza restaurants exclusively #humblebrag) until I landed my first full time gig at an advertising agency, as an in-house editor. This is a great job for any director because suddenly you can watch all the raw footage of the top commercial directors in North America. You see what they did right and more importantly, what they did wrong. You learn which directors shoot for the edit and which ones just roll off the entire card with 30 minute takes and then find the concept in post.

While working at my second agency editing job, I started to get requests to shoot extra content for the agency when they didn’t have the budget to hire someone externally. I jumped at the chance and ended up producing a lot of content for national brands. My big break was a spot for Boston Pizza. It was intended to be a web spot only but did so well, it ended up airing in broadcast as a 60 second spot during the US Open (the golf one). This rounded out my demo reel nicely and led me to where I am now. Last year I signed with a commercial production company called Frank Content. They represent me for commercial work across Canada. I’m in my first year of full-time commercial directing, but because of my past experiences I didn’t have to start from scratch to cultivate new creative relationships.I already know a lot of people in the industry through my time working in-house.

The best thing about working full time as a director is that my time can be very flexible. Sometimes I’m in the edit suite every night or in pre-pro meetings all day long. Then sometimes I have time to myself to work on personal development, my own short film projects, or just binge watch House of Cards. The trick is careful financial planning to make sure you’re still good during those times when work is slow.  It’s a balancing act, especially in that first year, but so far I’ve been making it work.

There’s a lot of advice given to young filmmakers and a lot of it is contradictory. There isn’t one piece of advice I can offer that will be the sure path. The best thing I can say is this. Don’t be precious. If you are waiting until your reel is absolutely perfect before putting yourself out there, you never will. There is never a time that there isn’t a risk in going after your dreams. Just send your work out and see what the universe sends back.

Brad Dworkin is represented for commercial work in Canada by Frank Content.http://www.frankcontent.com/

You can also follow him here www.BradDworkin.com and here twitter.com/braddworkin

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The PEN: John McGovarin - Producer/Editor

John has done some editing and graphic work for us in the past here is his thoughts about how to he began in the industry as an editor and videographer. 

If I were to pass along anything, I’d say that the fun of doing video should easily trick you into doing any of the hard work. I only started editing when I started shooting and finally realized I had way too much footage without any real purpose. 

I had finally found a reason to buy a laptop and camcorder; a couple semesters abroad doing the backpacker and exchange thing. I filmed typical things you’d see while living in a new place; airports, street performers and any building or bit of nature that seemed unique. I found out about a music video contest for Matt Good, and that gave me an excuse to cut all my footage together. I decided to take video editing seriously when I found myself glued to the laptop to cut every clip together through weeks of multiple re-edits, exporting through the nights without a break for hours at a time. I thought, hey could be a career, since to some this was likely mind-numbing, and this must be how accountants feel (no disrespect meant towards accountants).

I started with a tape camcorder, a white Macbook and I edited on iMovie software it came with. I had to hide the poor quality of the camera, so I tried some tricks that hid the low budget I was working with. For one early project I went for a silhouette look with cardboard cutout figures and a backlit sheet; the simple and sharp colours would’ve fooled me. I added a Hot Chip song for the soundtrack, and it ended up getting posted on the band’s website and blogged about in a few languages on some music blogs. It didn’t get a crazy amount of hits, but the experience was pretty great.

The advice I took when I started was to make videos for myself and friends; bands, comedians, small business owners- anyone who could remotely use a video. Then just make more. Ideally after a while you can put a demo reel together, and then a couple years later this demo reel looks so boring or amateur to you that you can’t wait to make a new one. 

I had a nice winter break before most of my online stuff was made, and started learning Wordpress and Photoshop. It was pretty frustrating and over my head, and I wouldn’t have ben able to finish it without Woo themes. I’d recommend one of their templates if you don’t know how to built a site from scratch (wix.com is 400 babillion times easier). To design your own business cards I like moo.com. Customized visuals on a CV helps. I made mine match my cards, demo reel and website.

Finding new looks and techniques as they happen is a top priority. It’s pretty overwhelming when you take a look at what’s uploaded to Vimeo on a daily basis. Since it’s impossible to sort through every new amazing video, I rely on the A/V blog iso50 to curate what’s out there. It’s pretty easy now to get a start shooting decent footage.

Cheesycam.com vets all sorts of production equipment from China. Some of it breaks in two seconds, some of it is a good substitute for the pricey stuff you’d otherwise buy retail. If you started from scratch you could still spend $500 and shoot good things. A used 50mm lens on a T1i duct taped to a broom handle? It’s not a bad start.

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What is The PEN?

The PEN is a new weekly creative series where we will feature a small article written by someone Big Pig Co. has either have worked with in the past, would like to work with or admire. It is designed to give you a small glimpse into what exactly it takes for that person to do their job in the commercial, film, and television industry. 

When people ask me how did you get to where you are, I always find it interesting explaining it to them. The goal is to give people a first hand account as to how to do a particular job and what it took to get them to their particular place in their life. We hope you enjoy. 

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