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The Directors: Alex Dickinson



Curly director on thinking in images, the future of technology and AI

The Directors: Alex Dickinson

Ever since he hijacked his father’s treasured 8mm camcorder in the early ’90s, Alex has been obsessed with telling stories through film. With a background in graphic design and advertising Alex has a talent for maintaining a keen eye for detail in every piece of work that he tackles. Over a wide variety of different genres he’s worked with pretty much every face on British TV.

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Alex> The most important thing for me is to make the treatment as visually engaging as possible – photography, video references, doodles, stick men, I like to throw everything humanly possible at it. There’s so much going on in my head and I think it’s paramount to get the client as excited as I am in as few pages. I could write one million words of how I intend the film to look but I always strive to have the idea jump out at the client and attack all their senses. I spend my day-to-day life thinking in images, I’m always conscious that not everybody else operates this way. 

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Alex> Research is paramount to everything I do. I’m never happy until I know every little detail about the project that I’m working on. I have recurring nightmares about being underprepared on set – it terrifies me. I will always make sure that I’m clued up on every little detail regardless of whether I’m already familiar with a brand or not. That said, I’m usually way more excited when a script for a brand I’m not familiar with lands on my lap. For me it feels like a blank canvas. I have no preconceptions about the brand and I can learn everything from a fresh, impartial perspective. Some of my best work has come from this space and I think it shines through in the end product.


LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Alex> I always see myself as a collaborator of talent. I pick the best people that possess skill-sets far greater than my own in a wide array of different fields. When creating a piece of work every single relationship is as vital as the next. Everyone is on the same chaotic journey with you, as a director you need to make sure everyone is travelling in the same direction and feels respected for what they bring. From the client to the art department, everyone wants the project to be the absolute best that it can possibly be, so you have to make sure that you are building a collaborative relationship with the whole team. Of course, my name is on the slate, but getting an advert successfully made is a team effort and I think you have to maintain an equally strong relationship with every single person involved, it also makes the project a much more enjoyable thing to be a part of.

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Alex> In this country there are so many people busting their balls or risking their lives (such as front-line workers) to pay the bills, I feel it would be wrong for me not to be passionate about every little aspect of the industry that I get to work in. Any genre, any style, any subject, I’m drawn to all of it. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t appreciate how lucky I am to get to do this for a living.


LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Alex> I can’t give specifics but I’ve worked with a hell of a lot of different talent. You just never know what you’re going to come up against. I always make sure to have a plan B, C, D (and even E) in my back pocket ready for every possible scenario. What’s funny is that when things have taken a turn for the worse (because of a diva strop or meltdown) I could never have cooked up in my wildest imagination the particular thing that was thrown at me. I usually try to involve the talent in the exploration of the solution. I think it adds more trust to the working relationship and nine times out of 10 they feel more invested for the rest of the day - which in turn gives you a much better performance.

LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Alex> It really angers me that we’re not at that point already. Modern Britain is abundant with amazing people from all walks of life and cultures that could bring so many fresh perspectives to the production world. I was born and grew up in one of the most deprived areas in the UK and I know first-hand that the idea of working in the production world seems like some sort of distant fairy-tale for so many people - especially those that don’t see people who look like them representing at the top tables of the industry. I don’t feel like I had a conventional route, nor did I have an easy one getting into the industry but I know my struggles were not even a fraction as bad as people trying to break through from diverse backgrounds. I would love to be able to help make our industry a more inclusive industry to work in and I’m always keen for people to reach out if they think I could be of some sort of help.


LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?

Alex> The future of technology in our industry excites me and also terrifies me in equal measures. When you see some of the things now being generated through A.I you start to question your own career (and will you even have one in five to 10 years). That said, with every new trend or technological breakthrough in our industry, I always believe it’s best to lean into it and see how you can use it to better yourself rather than pushing back against it. I’ve been experimenting with A.I quite a lot recently and I’ve actually found it to be an amazing springboard to bounce ideas back and forth. As a collaborative tool it helps you visualise your work in an endless number of ways that have never been humanly possible up until now. I enjoy the endless possibilities and I’m keen to see how far it can help me push my creative output going forward.

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Curly, Fri, 17 Mar 2023 11:23:00 GMT