Photo courtesy of Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash
Our newly minted Twitter AMA, FTW 411, had two celebrated commercial director reps, Nikki Weiss-Goldstein and Dana Balkin, take over our account to answer all your questions about the commercial industry. Here, they go in on what reps are looking for in new talent to sign, the tips and tricks to get noticed, how to not get financially screwed over, and so much more.
Bust out that notebook and learn from the pros below.
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Q: What do reps do? Do they take part of my day rate? Or do I have to pay them separately?
A: Reps are the connectors for brands/ agencies and directors. We are on the front line making sure you get noticed for the right projects. Reps are paid by the production company a portion of the markup.
Q: What type of things would you want to see on my own reel as a DP or Director to get thru your front door? How much is enough?
A: We feel you need 3 pieces to start with. A strong, cohesive point of view is the key ingredient.
Q: What would be your advice to an independent commercial director looking to get noticed by agency reps and production companies?
A: You need a perspective and point of view on your reel as to who you are as a filmmaker.
Q: If you are an emerging creator with no commercials under their belt, what is the best way to get in the mix?
A: If you have a strong piece or two on your reel, something memorable that stands out, find a rep/pro co who believes in you and creatively can sell you.
Q: How can someone build up a directing reel while keeping a day job? Do low-budget projects look “bad” on a reel?
A: No one knows the budget if it's shot beautifully, so find a good DP and the time to devote in between your day job.
Q: Do you recommend getting an agent before seeking out representation from a production company?
A: Ask as many as you like. An agent and representation from a production company are two different areas. One will not effect the other.
Q: Should an independent commercial director wait to be approached by an agent and/or a production company or should they make contact with both as they create their body of work?
A: Definitely make contact and share new work as you complete it.
Q: I hear of stories that directors can get financially screwed when they are first starting out. What advice would you give to protect yourself?
A: Make sure you have a contract and not a handshake.
Q: Would you recommend directors putting the money they would get out of projects, into those same projects?
A: This is a tough one to answer and we feel depends on the nature of the project. If it is something that might advance your career, then yes, but it's a decision you should make carefully.
Q: What advice do you have for creators who are concerned about balancing their own voice while also trying to appeal to a broader commercial audience?
A: Art and commerce balance. We are in a client service business. You can always do a director's cut for your reel, but making the agency and client happy is the number one goal.
Q: I've heard of the word "specs" being thrown around, what it is it and are there any benefits to it?
A: Spec pieces are spots shot before sold. Always try to have your rep seek ad agency creatives for unsold scripts to shoot so you are on brand and in turn build a relationship with the agency. It's bad to slap a logo on the end of something you concept and shoot on your own
Q: What's the best type of production company when first starting out? Union vs Non-Union? One that has a MV Department?
A: These days it is less important to be with a union shop vs non-union. Find a home where they are excited about you. If you do MV's then it helps to be with a company in that world.
Q: What’s the best way to get noticed? Do you recommend cold emailing reps?
A: Absolutely! Your reel is your visual business card. Send it out to everyone and anyone. It only takes one person to believe in you to jump start your career.
Q: If you don’t have connections, who is the best cold call?
A: Research production companies you like, find their contact pages and email their listed reps and EP's. More is more!
Q: What is the one thing you SHOULD NOT do when trying to get commercial representation?
A: Make sure to give people the time to respond without checking back in too soon! We get sent a lot of material to look at which takes time.
Q: How can a director who only has experience working on music videos break into the commercial world?
A: YES! Many directors who start in videos!! Videos is a great playground for techniques and working with actors!
Q: What is the process of getting a commercial bid? Does the production company take the lead on that?
A: Yes a production company or a producer would take the lead on that.
Q: What is your advice for writers who want to transition into copywriting for commercials?
A: Take a class. Write a few pieces on spec. Maybe partner with a director to have you spec shot to build your writers reel.
Q: Are there any classes you'd recommend?
A: Check out some ad schools. Miami Ad School is one. Arts Center, Cal Arts, Chapman….
Q: As an editor, do you have any tips on how to get into commercial editing? Is there a specific process?
A: We would suggest working at an editorial company where they can help develop your reel. A lot of Agencies/Brands also have in house post departments that bring in editors.
Q: What’s the current trend in commercials? Comedy? Dark and edgy?
A: Humanity, especially with the state of our world right now.
Q: How have you noticed the commercial landscape change since COVID? How has your process for finding talent changed, if at all?
A: Definitely a change since Covid with trepidatious clients, a change in brand messaging and simplified concepts for safe execution. Talent seeking has not changed. But if you are a jack of all trades DIR/DP/Stills you're a great all-in solution.
Q: What sites do you all check out new work and talent?
A: FREE THE WORK, Shots, Vimeo, Film Festivals, Nowness