The Directors in association withLBB Pro User

The Directors: Tom Wakeling

Production Company
London, UK
Irresistible Studios director on moody pieces, scripts with excellent clarity and the human experience

Known for playful, offbeat, visual humour, Tom has a knack for staging the outlandish in otherwise ordinary settings. The results are often heightened comic situations that are at once unexpected, delightfully absurd, and yet believable. 

A design graduate, Tom learned his advertising craft at The Outfit and Publicis, while simultaneously honing his visual storytelling in sketch comedy and music videos. He has a keen eye for relatable casting and elicits warm and witty performances that are infused with positivity. 

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there one or multiple genres or subject matters you are most drawn to?

Tom> Anything with joy in it! I'm having an absolute ball when I'm directing, so I guess I'm drawn to scripts that are having a ball too… anything with a cheeky wink, a wide-eyed reaction, or a spicy camera flourish.

Even with my personal projects, though there's a lot of seriousness there, there's a lot of delight and wonder too. Like in my short, Pattern, it's quite the moody piece, but the creature we created is a full-bore wonder machine.

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

Tom> You always want a script with excellent clarity; it knows what it's saying and how it wants to be said. But I get excited when I can see little gaps in the script, little spaces where I can move. Where I can add something or colour something in and just make the parts even better.

In my spot for Yakult, I felt like the audience needed to see a third party react to the meme dance... to let them know that we know that this is ridiculous… so I added a dog with very expressive eyebrows. It provided a cute and judgey combo that gave the film a relief.

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

Tom> The creatives, it's their voice you're bringing to life. That director-creative relationship is suuuper crucial. I love the initial conversations where we're drilling into the script, working out the meaning, finding the laughs and discovering the tone… It's just the best playtime.

They're also the best allies when you come up against a creative problem. They've probably sweated and laboured over this idea baby for monnnths. They'll generally know what it needs.

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

Tom> Mostly from people outside the ad world not understanding why it takes so much to produce something so short… maybe they're right.

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?

Tom> Absolutely, those doors should be flung the feck open. 

Hearing more voices from all parts of the human experience is an excellent way of shattering echo chambers. And ad land can feel like a big echo chamber sometimes.

I'd love to do on-set mentoring, but I think the real mystery for many people starting out is all the fun and games before the shoot. Like, what does a director do in a PPM, how does a director win jobs, how does a director recover from not winning jobs… I'd love to help people with all that.

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)? 

Tom> The simple solution is to shoot open gate and centre frame the action. This covers most formats and the old social slice and dice… 

But this can make for more middle-of-the-road photography… so I always try to get clients to think about which format is their hero, which will get the most cut-through. So we can focus on crafting the most luscious frame for that shape.

Also, it's about learning to love 9:16 and not to fear it :)

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)?

Tom> Well, I've been using ChatGPT for this whole interview… nah, I wish! 

I've been desperately trying to incorporate AI into my filmmaking... From treatment writing to storyboarding, but unfortunately, the results are the same… it all gets just a bit beige.

The controls and the unique-ness just aren't there yet. You can't be specific enough, and it can't generate a personality… Harsh… but it will take all of our jobs one day....soooo….

For my latest piece for Duschdas, which involved a man surfing down German streets on a wave of freshness, I tried to use mid-journey to generate concept art... again, it was close, but it just wasn't close enough to be useful. At the moment, the best AI gives me is a vision of what a thing shouldn't be.

Work from Irresistible Studios
Discovery Sport - Pet Pack
Land Rover
McDonald's x Coca-Cola