The Directors in association withLBB Pro

The Directors: Joseph Mann

Production Company
Brussels, Belgium
The Hamlet director on his background in puppetry, the importance of his crew and who he's inviting to his 40th birthday party
Joseph Mann is an award-winning director with a style born from a love of craft. Working in camera as much as possible, Joseph has an unmatched eye for design, character-focused storytelling, and comedy performance, allowing him to combine slick cinematic visuals with genuine wit and charm.

Name: Joseph Mann
Location: London
Repped by/in:
Blink 🇬🇧
Hamlet 🇫🇷 🇯🇵 🇧🇪
Hunky Dory 🇺🇸 (East Coast)
Bueno 🇺🇸 (West Coast)
Rowley Samuel 🇺🇸(Mid West)
Spy 🇨🇦

O2 'The Snowgran'
Creative Circle - Animation - Best Animation Story: Gold
Sainsbury's x GBBO 'Cake or Not Cake?'
British Arrows - Sponsorship Campaign: Arrows Gold
Cravendale 'Barry The Biscuit Boy'
British Arrows - Craft: Silver
British Arrows - Best 30 second TV commercial: Shortlisted
Shots - Best Animation in a Commercial: Shortlisted
Cannes Lions - Young Director Award: Shortlisted
Keaton Henson 'Small Hands'
Winner Rushes Soho Shorts
MVA - Best Budget Video: Shortlisted
Cameraimage Fetival - Best Music Video: Shortlisted
Anchor 'The Caf'
British Arrows - Best Over 15 And Up To & Including 30 Second: Shortlisted

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

Joseph> Story and character are everything for me. Without either of these ingredients a script falls onto the ‘visual spectacle’ pile which I usually struggle to relate to.

That said if a script is allowing me to try something very new then I’d certainly give it good thought. Before moving into live action my background was stop frame animation so I love to shoot as much practically as I physically can! So for me I’m excited to work on something if it involves real world fun and games…I want talent, crew, agency, client to have fun whilst shooting with me and be able to resonate with what's happening on set!

For that reason I love crew and agencies to be literally surrounded by the unique worlds we are creating no matter how mad. For me it’s in these playful spaces that the best ideas feed into the process…it’s where the stuff that you literally can’t script just bubbles to the surface.

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

Joseph> In short I suppose my approach is to dissect the most important aspects of the script and then try to hit this from the angle that excites me most! Every job is different but I usually include drawings or concept art to bring my ideas to life. You can show visual references all day long, but quite literally showing someone how it will come to life in a singularly unique way is for me the crux of a good treatment.

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?

Joseph> Strategy is everything to a client so I always do plenty of research. If I can underpin all of my weird ideas on their strategy then it’s a win win. Generally for me I try to pinpoint the right tone, appropriate trajectory for the brand and then my unique slant on the idea with the aim to elevate a script into a unique space. I triangulate carefully between agency, client and then what I hope to get out of a project. 

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

Joseph> It takes many brilliant minds. First off it’s my producer for wrangling me in a straight line. I’m crap with a diary so I lean heavily on their coordination skills, every hour of the day! I rarely look at a calendar, like a cat and water…they just freak me out.

Beyond this for me personally it's my DOP. Helping to somehow capture all the wild creative ideas that are wafting around, never with enough time. Most DOPs I work with switch to running trainers after the first shoot day. 

For me, a good DOP is not just skilled at their art form, but also highly sociable and fun to be with!!! Creating the work…’the process’ is as important as the final thing without a doubt. If my DOP can help build trust with a nervous client and make them feel involved and at ease, the job runs much more smoothly.

And finally my art director, because a story or bunch of random ideas are only as original and impactful as they appear on screen, the right art director helps me realize complex and intricate worlds in the most brilliant ways possible, they are often far more imaginative than me and I love spending as much time as I possibly can with them on a job. I absolutely love the ones who hang out with me at my monitor keeping an eye on all the details, it means they really care. Those on the phone working five other jobs…not for me.

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?

Joseph> All of it. Anything that I can relate to, anything I feel a personal connection with generally excites me. Forget genre, I just want to learn something new on every single job and work with like minded people to make work we can all feel proud to call our own. For me this helps me see the world differently, helps to keep me excited and passionate and ultimately makes me feel really happy! 

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

Joseph> None, it’s all true.

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

Joseph> Provocative question for a director. They are the voice of reason and set parameters which is very much required to keep us daydreamers in check. I love them and plan to invite them all to my 40th birthday party. 

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

Joseph> This is not that ‘crazy’ or wacky…sorry… but it was certainly VERY ugly and creepy! It was a 3D animatic made for research purposes (vomit) that had nothing to do with me, it was so real yet ghastly looking that it failed at testing and almost got the job canned the day before we were due to shoot.

We had already spent 60% of the budget so it was agreed we would shoot it and then put the offline into testing. The spot went on to be perform really well and has since racked up over 4m views on Youtube which for a butter ad, is not to be sniffed at. 

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

Joseph> I try to understand the parameters on a first call before bidding. If those restraints are too much for me, I gracefully bow out. If I feel comfortable within the framework then I commit. I then make a conscious effort to remain curious throughout production, and push my luck where I can to see what sticks…and I encourage everyone else to do the same. I feel like once a client and agency trust that you understand what aspects are sacred, you get more wriggle room to play. Well that's been my experience anyway.

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?

Joseph> 100% yes to all of the above. I love it when people reach out and connect, students or just anyone that has nothing to do with advertising in particular is always of great inspiration to me. Fresh perspectives and a unique point of view, it’s what we need more of in production. So yes for sure I love bringing work experience, runners (or anyone who wants to just hang out) into my orbit as much as I possibly can.

People like this help me out literally all the time so it’s a joy and a privilege to hang out and hear what they all want to do with their own careers and what they are excited by, it gives me energy and drives me also to be more aware of the incredible range of diverse talent out there!

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? 

Joseph> The balance shifts. More time working from home means more time around family, which when you shoot away a lot is everything. I’m currently trying to get back into the office more, for me it’s swung too far the other way. Hoping to find myself in the middle in the not so distant future.

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)? 

Joseph> It’s impossible to keep it all in mind, and I don't think asking a director to try and do so is beneficial to any project. Because if you do, you are probably going to end up making something crap because you simply cant tick a million boxes and make something unique and stand out at the same time! Aspect ratio is one thing sure, but being asked to shoot things with different cast for different territories…that is not what any of us got into this for let’s be honest.

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)?

Joseph> A nice chap from Pixar once told me ‘no rules just tools’ ! BUT…I always question very carefully what tools I’m using and why! For sure this needs to be the case with A.I. That stuff needs to be super carefully deployed. Is it actually the right tool for what we are trying to achieve? I will be considering very carefully what I say yes to, more than ever before.

BIG subject, beyond A.I for me personally, new tech merged with old school practical filmmaking techniques are what I’ve built my entire career on….for me it’s just always been what is the right tool to tell this particular story.

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

Joseph> Anchor - The Cafe: This one for me was a very satisfying moment when many great people, dogs and slippers included came together to achieve something unique. Casting that feels grounded in the real world whilst elsewhere things go bonkers was a mix of worlds I was always excited to capture. tricky act to balance. This job was that chance.

Cravendale - Barry The Biscuit Boy: Proof that advertising still works even when things get a little weird! This is the piece of work I remain the most proud of. It was co-directed with the brilliant Andrew Thomas Huang from who I learned massively. I was in Tesco a month after it came out and I heard someone singing the song across the aisle, I felt like I’d made it. It’s the project people always mention when they get in touch, thanks Barry boy.

Deliveroo - Decision Time: I see lots of food scripts, but for me personally they often lack a sense of story or character. This project for me was proof that story elevates food to new heights. Things can be playful and story driven and the food sells just as well. It was a fun step in a direction I continue to travel.

Candy Crush - Spin: I love the craft involved with CGI. I hate it when it’s heavy handed, or used for the sake of it. This campaign which comprised of three spots in total felt like a chance to build a world in which CGI could retain genuine warmth and humanity. I’m very precious over post production because what I shoot requires a lot of prep, planning and brain space to get right. On this job I felt the CGI served the story perfectly, and it looked just as tactile and physical as everything else helping keep you in the story at all times.

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