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: Sean Wainsteim - Writer/Director

When the topic of talented writers/directors comes up, Sean’s name is always mentioned. I have worked with Sean in the past, and his leadership, dedication, and calmness on set inspires and influences his crew to produce great work. When people work with Sean, they know that the end result will be something they will be proud to showcase. His amicable personality means he is a pleasure to work with, and I cannot recommend him more not only as a writer/director, but also as a good person. Look out for more of Sean’s work in the future and check out what he has to say about the film/commercial industry below. Enjoy.  Sean is represented in Canada by OPC / Family Style.

I’m Sean and I’m a filmmaker (“Hi, Sean”). I love film. I love watching film and I’m absolutely the happiest and most confident when I’m on a film set. Unless I’m making an omelette. I make a damn good omelette. 

A bit about me. My grandparents fled from Eastern Europe before, during and after the war. My father was born in Brazil. My mother was born in France. They met in Israel. I was born in Canada. My biggest fear as a boy in 1980s suburban Toronto was Nazi stormtroopers. I went to art school to make interactive robot art that chased people around galleries. By the time I graduated art school I was making films. A few years later I founded an award-winning boutique design and animation studio. Years later I left my company while it was a rising success. I survived an airplane crash in New Zealand. I filmed my airplane crash. I missed filming elephants at a market in India because the cameras were three hours late. I lost a Juno to Drake. I’ve done many things though it often feels as if I haven’t achieved anything at all. Everything in my life has made me the filmmaker I am today. I’m only beginning to understand that.

It’s really difficult to narrow down advice for aspiring filmmakers. A filmmaker’s job description is very broad job and can include a psychologist’s insight, a poet’s heart, a technical scientist’s mind, the calm patience of a monk, the humour of a Bill Murray™, the quick response of an athlete and the clarity of a traffic signal. Conversely, a filmmaker can encompass none of those things and still be a success. I know filmmakers from all backgrounds and temperament. Every filmmaker took a different path to get where they are. Every filmmaker feels like they’re still on their journey. This is empowering. Anyone can be a filmmaker. Being a good and true filmmaker is the hard part.

Let’s assume you want to be a filmmaker who tells stories or communicatessomething. Here are four simple things to keep in mind. These are things you already know. If you practice these ideas fully, you’ll attract like minded collaborators. Collaborating with individuals who are all after the same goal is invaluable. It’s the fucking best.

BE HONEST. 

It’s probably the easiest thing to say and the hardest to do. Being honest with yourself is difficult enough. Being honest in your work exposes you to the world. It’s a brave move but it’s the most important thing there is. Understanding deeply and truly what it is you want to say, to whom and why is not easy. Knowing your strengths & weaknesses and likes & dislikes is key. Sometimes making a film is the process towards discovering and revealing that honesty. Try to do work from an honest place. That’s not to say that every film should be a personal story. Die Hard is as honest a film as Barton Fink. It’s about communicating something from a truthful place within (to others and yourself). You should have a reason for doing every project and honestly connect with that reason. That reason could be that you’re trying to recreate a feeling you had when you were six, that you really want to shoot with a crane because it’s a totally new shot or you really need the money to pay rent. As long as you recognize the honest reason and acknowledge it, that’s a great place to start.

GIVE A SHIT

If you’re starting from an honest place, it’s easier to give a shit. Care about each project you work on. Care about each shot you work on. Care about every part of every shot. The framing. The wardrobe. The lighting. The acting. How it fits into the whole. Care about it all. If you’re starting from an honest place there’s always a way in to caring.

WORK HARD

Being honest and giving a shit means you’ll want to work hard. The harder you work, the better your work will be. Do the time. Rewrite that script. Do it again. Prep as much as possible. But…!

One of the best pieces of advice I got was from my friend Jean. Years ago she said “Sean, you always work hard, but you don’t always work smart”. She was right. It’s important to step back from your hard work. To see the forest AND the trees. Perhaps you’ll realize that you’re not in a forest at all. Work hard but don’t get so caught up in what you’re doing that you neglect to look at the project from multiple angles and from fresh perspectives. Lift your head up and look around every now and then. 

MAKE STUFF

Make stuff. Make stuff that matters. Make stuff that doesn’t. Care about all of it. Talk and planning are good but we learn by doing. We get better through practice. It’s part of the hard work. We often forget how easy it is to borrow a camera and ask friends to help make something. Technology is accessible and people are interested in helping people who are honest, give a shit and work hard. Making stuff means that you get to see results, good and bad. Learn from success and failure. Then go make more stuff.

These are basic goals, but they are a good place to start and great things to remind yourself of often. Of course you should also watch films, read, eat, look at art, listen to music, listen to people, fall in love, get angry and see new places. But that’s another column for another blog. In that one I’ll write about storytelling and making eggs. Now get outta here and go work hard as you make honest stuff that you give a shit about.

You can follow Sean on his website http://www.seanwainsteim.com/

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