Mariana Ruiz
April 27, 2023
3 min read

Producing a TV Commercial: Perspective from our Film Director, Dana

Today, we’re excited to share some insights from our talented film director, Dana. She brings a unique perspective to the table, and we’re thrilled to have her on board. Let’s dive into her thoughts and see what she has to say.

“As a Live Action Director at Creativa, I am fortunate to direct many different genres of content. I often find myself directing interviews and testimonies, pre-scripted pieces to camera with a teleprompter, narrative dramas with actors, and high-end television commercials. While these all have one thing in common, the use of a video camera, the directorial approach for each of these is very different.

You may assume that a 30 second television commercial costs less and takes less time to produce than a 5 min interview/documentary video, but you might be surprised, and here is why.

A television commercial or a web-based commercial is viewed many times, therefore, it does require a higher level of production value and story development to keep the viewer’s attention.

With production value, you generally get what you pay for. A beautiful setting or location in a well-lit environment shot on a high-end cinema camera will ultimately look a whole lot better than relying on natural lighting on a cheaper camera with lower image quality.
If you’ve ever been married, you’ll know that the moment you tell a supplier, ‘it’s for a wedding,’ the price doubles. This, I believe, is due to an increase in our expectations. It’s similar to filming a commercial instead of a testimony video. Our client’s expectations go up for production value. This means, we need more man/woman power on set, better actors, and more time spent to develop the story.

If you are going to shoot on a high-end camera, you also need a team of skilled camera operators and a Cinematographer that knows how to use it.

For this particular television commercial, Senior Helpers, I chose the Cinematographer, Brendan Cherry and his team. I chose Brendan, not just because we work well together and have a good vibe, but because he is also very experienced in lighting and filming actors in high-pressure shoot environments.  After careful consideration, we chose to shoot the commercial on the ARRI Alexa Mini Kit with Tiffen Glimmer Glass. This gives us a lot of dynamic range in post-production to play with grading the
image. The Glimmer Glass removes the sensors’ digital edge to give them a more organic feel. This approach is more visually appealing to the audience and more in line with how we experience life.

Unless you happen to know a mate with ‘just the right house’, a location fee and a location scout are required. A location scout has access to all the cool places around town and can virtually show you a stack of appropriate places for you to choose from in one swift click while you sit at your computer. Steve Jablonski, Senior Creative Producer at Creativa, arranged for us to visit a few homes in person so we could check the amount before committing to a location.

For this particular commercial, we needed a very specific home. I was looking for one location to look like 3 separate homes. It needed to have a large kitchen / loungeroom space, an outdoor pool that gets lots of sun, and a drive way with a nice garage. When Steve and I checked out the location we were looking for things such as, where does the sun rise and set, what noise elements are in the area, is there room for the gear to be set up, is there a space that the actors can rest in.

Hiring actors is the most important element in the production of a commercial in my opinion. The audience needs to relate to them, be intrigued by them, and be interested in what they are experiencing. Working alongside actors is also my favourite part of directing commercials. As an actor myself, I can relate to the actor and how they work in our own secret language. I personally like to build a rapport with my actors in the lead-up to the shoot day so we can come up with a workflow before the shoot. This helps me with my direction strategy on the day. I like to have a lot of personal material tailored to each actor up my sleeve to draw from. It’s also helpful to have an understanding of their on-camera and acting experience so I can adjust my direction accordingly.

As the Director of a TV commercial, I have so many things to consider and keep track of on the day. It’s important that I have a team I trust behind me, that everyone knows their roles, and that I give them space to shine in their role.

The team behind this Senior Helper’s TVC was amazing. We laughed, ate well, we gave swimming and dancing lessons, and we even learnt how to change oil the in a classic car. Oh.. and we also filmed it over and over again on some pretty cool camera equipment.

Dana Newell, Film Director at Creativa

Recent Blogs

Contact us background image

For your burning questions, queries or a project you want to chat through.