Straight Talk From Top Executive Producers On What Makes A Great Director

Posted by Team Simian on Jan 21, 2016

doc-head-865x505.pngAs a video production company, wouldn’t it be great to hear straight from the leading executive producers and managing directors in the industry exactly what they are looking for when hiring new directorial talent?

Heck yeah, you say? We thought so too, so we reached out to some of the best in the video production biz for the inside scoop.

Check out what they had to say…



Marc Marrie
Managing Partner / Executive Producer
Arts & Sciences
“When we are considering signing a director to our roster, we are looking first and foremost that the director has a point of view that translates across their body of work. We are not looking for scope of ability to do different genres, etc. It’s much more important to see an inventive approach to one genre and a consistent clear execution in the work. It’s also very important to us that the directors have their hands in other creative outlets as well, whether that’s movies, writing, TV, art or other endeavors. It’s also very important to us that they have concrete goals for how they’d like to progress with their work, as well as a realistic understanding of how this business works and the time that needs to be put in to get to where they think they should be. We do prefer directors who write their own treatments but it’s not a deal-killer if they don’t. We have found that it’s a pretty good indicator as to work ethic and creative vision.

Another important aspect is the ability to kill it on conference calls. You need so many other capabilities outside of the work on your demo reel to compete in this current market. Having all of these tools sets directors apart from others.

At the end of the day though, it all comes down to having a unique voice that stands out creatively and clearly communicates the intended message.  A sick demo reel never hurts either.”



Bonnie Goldfarb
Co-Founder / Executive Producer
Harvest Films
“What I look for in a director is a POV that stands out - a perspective that is memorable.  Performances, art direction, camera motion (or lack thereof) and the execution of concept must come together in a cohesive fashion. I also look at choices directors make that can include the smallest detail to the most obvious. I want to feel the voice of the director so when I look at their work, I know there’s a driving force behind the narrative and not merely an execution. There are directors who can execute beautifully, but if the finished product feels like it could have been directed by one of twenty people. Then in my humble opinion, that director has failed.

It is the ability of a director to put their signature on the work, and that can happen in subtle ways. It is sometimes a single shot or a small look or a dolly in to emphasize a mood or a line read that stands out on a demo reel that I remember. It’s the ability to cut through the clutter with a cohesive POV that makes the work stand out.”



Laura Thoel
Managing Director
The Sweet Shop
“When looking to add a director to our roster, overall, there has to be a draw to their work. I have to get that feeling in my stomach, the "oh f**k, I WISH I did that one." Or the "oh f**k, I have to work with that director!" That feeling is paramount because to me, if you lose the passion, you lose the pitch.

If there is mutual interest, I'll have a conference call with him/her and try and get their vibe, what they're looking for and what I can do for them. Here, I am trying to get a general "gut feeling" that this person will be a good match for The Sweet Shop, and us for them.

On the practical level, I look for directors who fill a void - a genre of work not currently represented by our global roster. Also, since we have offices in six cities (Los Angeles, London, Bangkok, Auckland, Melbourne and Sydney), the other five Managing Directors and I (along with the owners Paul Prince and Sharlene George) chat about how this director would fit in as part of the global complement.

When it all lines up, you know it's right.”



Olivier Koelemij
Executive Producer
“We tend to focus on what we call a Director+ model. Great tellers of stories that have an added interest, understanding or specialty that we can relate to our broader spectrum of production. We strongly believe that integrated production is more than TV & digital, but extends across user experiences in digital, physical and virtual spaces, and having directors with an innate interest and understanding of differing mediums makes them ideally suited to fully grasp what our 400-Monk team has to offer and take full advantage. If they are not full-fledged when they join us, they certainly will be shortly after.”

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Zach Mortensen | Executive Producer
Mark De Pace | Executive Producer
Ghost Robot
“We look for directors who seem to have a clear idea of who they are and the type of work they want to do. Each director has a story and unique personality, and we want to see that come through in their demo reel. We should be able to tell who they are and what they like and easily imagine where they can go in the future. That doesn’t’t mean we want to see the same thing done multiple times, but rather a cohesive through-line and perspective on storytelling.”



Michael Ritchie
Managing Director/ Owner | Revolver / Will O'Rourke
Partner / Owner | RevLover Films
“I have always thought a good director is an arbiter of what is good and bad. I think you buy into a good director for their take on the world, in every aspect. They should not be trying to emulate others in the field, but now more than ever, they should have the courage to be true to themselves and, be confident enough to harness the truth (as much as our business allows) in the most unique way they can. If they can do all of this and be able to tell a great story over a meal or at a pub, I would be very interested to see their work.”



Jerry Solomon
Managing Partner
Persuade Content
“Since we are a talent driven model, we need to evaluate who is worth investing in and who is not. Director meetings are a bit of feeling out process, but primarily, my aim is to determine two things: 1) Is the director a talented filmmaker, as much or more than his demo reel reads and 2) Are we a good cultural fit?

As I see it there are six key qualities when it comes to measuring talent and they are smarts, taste, ambition, charisma, craft and of course the demo reel. Craft can be learned. A demo reel can be built. But, the other qualities cannot be taught. Perhaps they can be honed or improved but generally speaking, you either have them or you don’t. They are inherent traits like, well…height or eye color. Although unlike physical attributes, they are subjective. They can’t be measured. We rely upon our own experiences, our own taste and our own instincts to determine the degree a director possess these gifts.

In the end, directors are a rare breed. We want to try as best as we can to determine whether they possess the traits needed to succeed in a highly competitive and fickle industry. It's important to know about their career aspirations. The directors that they wish to emulate. Their knowledge of the business. Their set experiences. Where they came from. Their family background. What TV shows they watch. Movies they like (or hate). Websites they frequent. If they read my blog I’m always a little suspect. Whatever data we can garner to help make an informed decision.”



Bernadette Rivero
President / Film & TV
Cortez Brothers
“We gravitate towards directors who are creative, highly artistic outliers who do something stylistically and artistically like no one else can… Especially those who have a consistent, epic, cinematic edge to their work (even if they’re shooting docu-style), and a demonstrated love of telling visual stories that make audiences FEEL something. Coupled with that, they have to prove that they are dependable, never-drop-the-ball types both in and out of production. Bonus points if, like us, they’re die-hard globetrotters.“


Have a helpful story you’d like to share about your experiences?
Hit us up here, we’d love to hear from you.


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Topics: Video Production

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