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The Directors: Tucker Bliss


Hamlet director on humanistic pieces, creating Spotify playlists and exploring genres

The Directors: Tucker Bliss

Tucker Bliss is a director. New York born, New York based. Characterised by his unique ability to tell relatable human stories, with a little wink.

He has made his name in commercials and short films winning awards at Cannes, Young Guns and The One Show to name a few. His short film, ‘Monster Factory’, showed at Tribeca and SXSW and is currently in series production at AppleTV+. His background includes studying cinematography at Boston University and creative directing at SpecialGuest, a boutique agency in NY/LA, working with Google, Facebook, Apple and some of the other big ones. He is not a serious person, and doesn’t take anything too seriously. He just wants to make you laugh or cry or both. He is represented by Reset in the US and Soft Citizen in CA.

Name: Tucker Bliss

Location: NYC, NY

Repped by/in: RESET in USA/UK/Amsterdam, Soft Citizen in Canada, Hamlet FR/CN/Belgium  


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

Tucker> My ears always perk up when I hear cheeky or charming in a brief. I love an opportunity to be a little playful in any genre. Even in more humanistic, authentic pieces I always try to put a few funny-cuz-it's-true-isms in wherever I can. So I suppose I get most excited about scripts that are open to humour through authenticity. 


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

Tucker> Well first I read the script…can’t forget that. Then I usually find a tone through music that feels right for that initial read. I’ll create a playlist on Spotify (God bless the Spotify algorithm for finding more tracks in the same realm). Then with that music, it usually informs my tone and feeling while I write. I start with the style first based on that initial gut feeling, then I'll tackle the script. With the script I usually do some subtle re-arrangements of the brief, and add bits of recognisable humour where I can. I find it most important to envision the version of the script I’d be most excited to make. 


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?

Tucker> I like to do my research before the briefing call, what they’ve done in the past, what was the last campaign, did they love it? Hate it? Also I think it’s huge to have some interest and ideas for that initial call, everyone worked their asses off for months on that initial brief, so the least I can do is come up with some thoughts to see what direction we can push that initial vision in. I’d say for me the brand is less important than current strategy and tone, as those are what can change on a dime. 


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

Tucker> This is hard…I think with ads we’re in an obvious visual medium, so my first thought would be to say the DOP or set designer. I think that’s a tie honestly. Don’t make me choose. But, I also need to give a shout out to the line producer. They’re the backbone, and if you have a bad one, the whole skeleton is loose and wobbly. Three way tie. 


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?

Tucker> I like to explore genre, and straddle styles. To me I’m most attracted to little stories, dialogue and pieces that feel like micro movies. Tonally and stylistically though, I try to live in the valley between cinematic and comedic. I find that a lot of folks do one or the other, and I love to make people smile in a world that looks like a film. 


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

Tucker> Forever I was stuck in the doc-style world. I could not get out for the life of me. It was one of those things when I was starting out we had no money and no reel, so those were the jobs you could get. Then a few years later, because that’s all you could make, that’s all you were known for making. So I had to write myself out of that hole by creative directing and narrative work, writing scripts I could then direct in the realm I wanted to be in. 

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

Tucker> Not directly, but on just about every job. Sometimes it’s been fine, other times we lost some equipment/crew that seemed pretty essential to doing a good job. But as always with filmmaking, we problem solve and we manage. 


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

Tucker> I was on a road-trip job in the backwoods of Pennsylvania for a University I shall not name the week before covid hit. We were off the grid so had no idea what was happening. Our crew started dropping like flies, and we just kept on going. It was pandemonium, we had no AD, so our EP had to step in and AD (luckily that was his background) but we ended up in Philly, had our lunch break at a Whole Foods, and looked around and it was truly like the film Contagion. No food, masks, running, panicked everyone. We pulled the plug and drove like 90 mph back to NY on completely empty roads. I’m not sure we solved it…the edit turned out fine though. 


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

Tucker> I think it's important to realise that we are all making something together and we all want it to be the best it can be. I’m not making my magnum opus feature film, but I am trying my hardest to make what I think is the best version of what I was pitched. I like to be opinionated and have a clear purpose. I find that things are much easier to defend and fight for if the reason is really simple to understand. Versus fighting for something because it is cool or looks good. I’m a big fan of reason and storytelling with purpose, so I think that gives clients and agencies a chance to be a part of understanding the process at a deeper level so we brainstorm together, collaborate and protect the idea as a team.


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?

Tucker> It’s been amazing to see the production world making efforts to be more inclusive, with crews, cast, etc. Obviously it can go farther, and should, so apprenticeships and mentoring is an incredible way to get some exposure to the world of production. Especially for younger kids and students who might not have access or knowledge that production is even a job possibility. As soon as you step on set, it’s like this crazy magical weird world, and it’s so so cool to bring folks into that, who can now see it as not only an incredible place to be, but a viable and lucrative career. I’m always looking for more mentees and apprentices, so feel free to email me! 

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? 

Tucker> Yes I think it’s changed the casting the most. The way we cast, who we cast, etc. Virtual call backs and self tapes have been a godsend. But I think most of all, casting changed how we find people. I’ve been working with a lot of families and friends of actors since the pandemic. If we need a group of friends for a scene, it’s been so amazing to cast a single actor, then have them cast their own friend group. Change the direction “act like you’re having fun with your friends” to “have fun with your friends…” it’s just real. 


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)? 

Tucker> Thank God for the higher K’s. I love to shoot widescreen, and cropping anamorphic for 9:16 was just about impossible in the olden days. Now we have the Venice, Alexa 35, and LF, plus a slew of 35mm cam options with 4-8k scans, it’s much easier to get all formats in one. Nothing needs to be lower priority, we just focus on the storytelling, and technology can sort out the rest. 


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)?

Tucker> We’ve been exploring a bit, but the world is still fresh and developing. I’ve done virtual production, and it’s cool for certain things, but I still find that unless you need to shoot somewhere impossible, or have insane Star Wars sets in space, it’s just more fun to be on location. But we shall see where it goes, I'm open to evolution.

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

Tucker> I feel like these films teeter that line of charming, yet cinematic. After I wrote and directed the Keynote film for the Google Pixel 6, a good deal of my jobs coming in have taken that tonal shift into a sort of relatably-charming-script-based storytelling style, versus mostly vignette work. I totally enjoy doing both, but when there is a narrative arc and a reason for everything happening on screen, I find my job to be so much fun. It’s just like making a little film,that comes with its own really exciting challenges. 

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Hamlet, Mon, 06 Feb 2023 12:06:00 GMT