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The Directors: Antony Hoffman


Wild Gift director on asking a lot of questions, working with intimate crews and why quality is quality

The Directors: Antony Hoffman

Award-winning director/DP Antony Hoffman’s prolific body of work stands apart for its storytelling, performance and film craft, including recent campaigns for Vodafone, Lamborghini, Audi, adidas and Peroni. Whether an epic large-scale production or run and gun with a small crew during lock-down, all of Hoffman’s work evokes a sense of humanity and emotional truth that translates to screens big and small. Represented for commercials in the US by Wild Gift, Hoffman got his start as a journalist for AP and BBC, documenting anti-apartheid uprisings around his native Cape Town while also getting experience in production on commercial sets. Among his credits are high-profile Super Bowl commercials, including the iconic Budweiser 'Clydesdales,' now part of the MoMA’s permanent collection.

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them? 

Antony> The first thing is a coherent single idea, if a script has a sometimes small but unexpected element that we can build a story around, a nugget that makes the idea breath.

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

Antony> I often research the brand's heritage and its positioning, then build a structure on how I can bring a specific vision to that.

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? 

Antony> I ask a lot of questions of the agency, and there is a plethora of intel that is deep and amazing on so many platforms, it's really important for the director to understand the message and the desires of each client. It can be so hyper specific. From there I build a familiarity. 

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

Antony> Frankly, I am well versed and I fully grasp the concept by the time the agency comes to me. The idea has already been story boarded and gone through a rigorous path to reality. So, really recognising there is a team and never one person is key.

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? 

Antony> I always really feel that my skill set is well served by a story, regardless of genre. I think the best ads are targeted to elicit a reaction to stir the imagination. They make you feel something and make you feel that the brand speaks to you. Of course, I love movement and action, whether big or small, but I'm just as engaged making an intimate story.

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong? 

Antony> Way too often because I like scale and I like world building the impression is most of what I do is very expensive. Not true! Some of my most successful campaigns I have done with small crews. As a director I actually prefer the more intimate crews and ad teams. 

LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been? 

Antony> Not too often, but sometimes a cost consultant really can be a true ally for what is needed and for culling the fat, so to speak. In Europe where I work frequently, they are the cog or the spanner that makes all the difference.

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

Antony> I have seen a lot and been exposed to lots of problems and have huge confidence that I can lead the way out of any of them as long as people work to a common goal with resilience and fearlessness. One shoot does come to mind. In an action car commercial, we had a movie star who was contracted for two eight-hour days. He decided he could only give us four hours on one day. In order to finish the shoot, I hired three separate camera crews and put them at strategic locations and gave them precise storyboard frames. We had the actor move from one location to another as he was chased by several other cars, and I had iPhones live streaming all the cameras to my A camera. It was just like shooting a live sporting event. We wrapped an hour early and we went home without a scratch.

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea? 

Antony> Well, that really comes down to experience and understanding what to fight for and what really doesn't matter. Often the best compromise, as I work very efficiently, is to shoot it in different ways, and if you offer that as an option most people see that value and we can get it all.

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? 

Antony> That has always been a normal part of my set going way back. We hire many young filmmakers and challenge them to see where they fit in and where they want to be on a film set. I feel the more responsibility we give them the more they learn. Some may stumble, but most are hungry and that's the way we all learn.

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?  

Antony> I'm kinda happy with the post covid reality, from the prep to seeing the agency. It's much more natural and efficient now. Casting and scouting can be done using every available tech, from zoom live sessions to google maps scouting, so you know where everything is before you go, to chatGPT with ideas that can help generate deeper creativity.

LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?  

Antony> Always on my mind. I have long been pushing for much easier and less cumbersome ways to work. The variety of delivery mediums is only growing, so the more versatility the more innovative we are, be it long or short formats, 4x4 IG or wide screen for projection. Quality is quality. People know the difference regardless of the format. 

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work? 

Antony> I have done some work of volume stages, it's a brilliant tool in the right hands for the right project, but let's be clear we are at the forefront of real AI and some yet undiscovered new ways to create. The good news is that the human face and how we engage will always be the acid test for stories.

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why? 

Antony> NYU Langone campaign, Audi e-tron, Peugeot and Fiat 500. I like stories that move, that generate a feeling of visceral experience. They are an extension of my restless soul, and I feel I'm far from being done.

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Wild Gift, Fri, 17 Mar 2023 16:37:11 GMT