Peach
dlmdd
Gear Seven/Arc Studios/Shift
I Like Music
mo-sys
liahome
Contemplative Reptile
Editions
  • International Edition
  • USA Edition
  • UK Edition
  • Australian Edition
  • Canadian Edition
  • Irish Edition
  • German Edition
  • French Edition
  • Singapore Edition
  • Spanish edition
  • Polish edition
  • Indian Edition
  • Middle East edition
  • South African Edition

The Directors: Connor Hurley

139

ADD TO COLLECTION

Bindery director on making the mundane fascinating and earning the trust of the talent

The Directors: Connor Hurley

Connor Hurley is a filmmaker whose work spans documentary, narrative, music videos, and commercials. Last year he directed a documentary series for No Kid Hungry profiling essential workers nationwide who fought childhood hunger during the pandemic, which was shortlisted for the Brand FIlm Awards. His work has been screened at festivals around the world, including the Cannes New Directors’ Showcase and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Online, his work has racked up millions of views and four Vimeo Staff picks. Throughout his career, Connor has directed for brands like Vice, Amex, and LVMH. With a background in painting, he currently lives in LA and is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Name: Connor Hurley

Location: NY & LA

Repped by/in: Bindery (NYC)

Awards: 2022 Brand film award shortlist, 2018 Opening Night Film Maryland Film Festival, 2016 Cannes New Directors Showcase, 2013 Best Narrative New Orleans Film Festival, 2013 Narrative Short Audience Brooklyn Film Festival


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

Connor> What gets me the most excited about a script is the chance to get in a bit over my head and do things I haven’t done before – it’s almost like I need to prove myself in some way and level up. Of course, in the middle of all that it’s hell – but the feeling after wrap is so rewarding that doing the same thing again feels stagnant.


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

Connor> I channel what I’m working through with the passion projects I’m balancing, along with lessons learned from previous projects – all of this informs my approach. For example: I’ve been collecting images from the internet for over a decade, and I try to keep them organised. I pull a lot from those when making treatments – it’s really valuable to have this archive of things that have been meaningful to me, and sometimes they help me identify what I can bring to the project. 


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?

Connor> Finding what makes something seemingly mundane fascinating can be the point of tension to approach the piece with. Even when you get to work with organisations with missions you respect like No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit I worked with last year on a doc series about the efforts of school districts and nonprofits to feed kids during school closures, digging beneath my assumptions led to breakthroughs. When crafting our pitch, I learned the hunger crisis in America isn’t due to, for example, lacking the means of distribution — it’s a lack of awareness and stigma that act as barriers to accessing that distribution. That insight became a throughline for all the stories, and reminded me what our role was in telling the stories. 


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

Connor> I try to work with smaller crews and in a somewhat improvised/exploratory way, so it’s natural to cling to my DP. There’s nothing like seeing a good producer at work. And as far as working with creative directors, I always value having that trust to let me take something and run with it. But my priority is to earn the trust of the talent.

Working with higher profile talent like Issa Rae or Henry Golding was intimidating, and I realised they have so much on their plate that they’re grateful to have someone with a plan, and I’m grateful they’d go along with my plan not always knowing how it fits into the bigger piece. 

It’s maybe even more important to earn the trust of your talent when they’re not working actors. During the No Kid Hungry series, one of our main storytellers was shaking with anxiety ahead of her interview. She could dance in platform heels in the California sun when it came to feeding kids, but English was her second language and she had a speech impediment form her childhood, which caused her to not speak for many years. I sat with her before the interview and even sat next to her during breaks in the interview. Over time, she got comfortable and let that charisma come through on camera. 


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?

Connor> I think I’ve always been drawn toward empowering people to act out their own stories – even if those people are professional actors. I did some acting of my own back in the day, and those are some of my favorite projects, I guess because I brought it all close to home and didn’t expect too much from it. Oddly enough, it got the ball rolling in my career. I guess you could call it a sort of “creative nonfiction.” Even when I do narrative casting, I’ll change the characters to meet an actor I like and want to cast – I want to straddle that line between who they are naturally and who the script calls for. 


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

Connor> I don’t know if this is imagined or not, but I put a lot of emphasis on visuals & craft, and sometimes that can just read as “production value” or money. The truth is it happens with small crews on often small budgets, especially for non-branded work, and it’s a lot of passion and careful decisions that get made. I don’t work with huge crews or big toys, but I do put in the extra time to make sure that the visuals are rewarding for people watching. People typically chalk the aesthetic up to the cinematography, but it’s really in the editing too. I’ve been editing since I was a kid, and came up in the industry through editing – so those skills are especially important to the freer approach I take on set. 


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

Connor> I’ve definitely had disasters like principal talent being horribly ill and going to the ER mid-shoot, a hail storm & power outage on day 1, a producer stealing money from a project and leaving the country. Those are such huge disasters they’re easy to be rational about. 

My favorite though is this interactive short film I was doing for a tech company. I was pretty in over my head, not enough time or money – the usual. I’d built the story around an actor who I thought was hilarious and original. A day and a half before our first call time, the project had the plug pulled. This was a first for me – and hasn’t happened since. Pretty sure it was something higher up / political. I was so thrown off, and then the actor called to tell me in a panic that she’d been hot-gluing some outfits and got the hot glue in her eye and had to go to the ER and couldn’t do the shoot unless we worked in an eye patch (which I would have done). I guess I didn’t really solve that one, but it was for the best. And she’s fine, of course. 


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

Connor> Establishing that trust upfront is important to me, especially because how I shoot can be improvised and change gears on the spot. So the best relationships for me are when trust is established and we’re able to have the freedom to make it happen. And I welcome anyone on the team to challenge an idea – defending it can be valuable all around. 


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?

Connor> We’re at a point where advocating to have a range of identities represented both on screen and on set is not seen as a task but something essential. Clients better understand the essential role of casting and how that may require more time and investment to get it right. I never had a mentor myself, so I’m especially interested in mentoring/apprenticeships. I make an effort to respond to filmmakers who reach out, especially if they’re just starting out or trying to break in. 


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)? 

Connor> I’m trying to take more stock of what stops me scrolling, because I know everything will probably end up on social. Formats, it really depends – I shoot anamorphic a lot, and widescreen is not ideal for social. But personally, I’m trying to slow the work down a bit and take a more photographic style, as opposed to going for more distraction and cognitive overload, which these mediums are built for. 


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)?

Connor> I do like to play around with subtle visual effects, like blending two takes together when I like the performance in one or the movement of the other. Being able to “paint” a bit with images, borrowing parts from other shots or compositing effects in, but in a way that doesn’t call attention to itself. I played around with that a bit myself on music videos. Takes a ton of time, but now I have a better idea of what can be done. 

I mentioned it earlier, but I have a huge archive of images from the internet, things that have inspired me, so I can pull up meaningful images when writing or building a look. It would be cool to develop an AI that can scan the internet for more images with common themes that it thinks I’d like, but I can’t code…..yet?


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

Connor> NO KID HUNGRY - SERIES TRAILER

This project channeled a lot of pent up pandemic energy and desire to get back out in the field and work with people. Really appreciated the creative support from No Kid Hungry, and met so many awesome people along the way. 



HENRY GOLDING X HENNESSY - A 3 PART SERIES

This was my first time working with high profile talent and I learned a ton. We were dropped in Singapore with less than a week to prep and scout. I like doing series because you get to work with collaborators over time and I walked off that project with great friends.


ISSA RAE’S SOUTH LA

I was really inspired by Issa’s love of community and emphasis on supporting local businesses. I’m grateful she let us have this access with everything else she has on her plate.


IN THE WOODS - EL PERRO DEL MAR

This project got the ball rolling for me in the commercial realm. I self-funded it because I had an equipment grant from the New Orleans Film Festival that I had to use before it expired. It was a leap of faith -- not just financially but because I also acted in it - and I’m really glad I just went for it. 


view more - The Directors
Sign up to our newsletters and stay up to date with the best work and breaking ad news from around the world.
Bindery, Tue, 30 Aug 2022 09:29:00 GMT