The Gift

Andrew Madsen Jasperson

Imperial Woodpecker

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

I did a Wieden + Kennedy/Old Spice Campaign for the 2019 NFL Season that featured NFL players Montez Sweat and Von Miller. The concept was wonderfully dumb, which is my wheelhouse--it was Old Spice running negative political style ads against Montez Sweat because as the NFL’s official deodorant/antiperspirant they didn’t want any Sweat in the NFL. We shot all five ads in one day on one sound stage. The schedule was nuts but the creative team on it were wonderful to work with.

2) How did you get into directing? 

During my 10 years of being a copywriter in advertising for agencies like Wieden + Kennedy and Crispin Porter Bogusky, I always tried to convince my agencies to let me direct things. And after 10 years of first hand experience working with directors, on sets, with editors etc. I really felt it’s where I wanted to be, but the agencies wouldn’t let me direct so I struck out on my own and directed a bunch of weird self financed shorts, a music video and some made up commercials for fake products that got the attention of a few production companies.

3) What is your most recent project? 

After signing with Imperial Woodpecker, I shot a darkly comedic campaign for a life insurance brand that has yet to be released due to a worldwide pandemic that hasn’t made it the most sensitive time to make jokes about that kind of stuff. And just before that I did a commercial for a hotel chain based around the NCAA Mens Basketball tourney, but once that got canceled there was no place to run that ad.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

I love the conceptual stage. I love getting boards, reading them and then setting to work my imagination on how to best bring to life what’s on the page, which sometimes means suggesting something that wasn’t on the page. At this stage in the process, the possibility of what each project can be is what excites me most.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

Compromise. And that doesn’t mean compromising with clients or agencies. It means compromising with time, budgets, locations, talent, resources, they all impose their realities on your ideas. But to be clear, I’m not talking about constraints here, constraints are actually important and often positive, usually these limitations spark new solutions that take you to new ideas that are even better than where you started- that’s not a compromise. You feel a compromise. It never feels good.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 

I’m a big believer that there aren’t real delineations between formats. Serialized TV shows are long movies and movie franchises are hugely budgeted TV series. I just want to make great stories, whatever the format. And while there’s a pretty heavy curtain between the commercial world and the narrative, I think the ability to tell stories in a :30 second format is just as worthy and as technically challenging as a two-hour movie. My tastes are always going to have at least sense of the comedic if not just straight up comedy, but action and drama hold plenty of room for that. Just like formats have blended their boundaries, genres have too. I think more in the line of tone than I do genre. A horror movie can be gorgeous, subdued and disquieting or it can be hilarious, the only thing that makes it a horror picture are the narrative beats that adhere to the audience’s genre expectations.

7) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you? 

They may not think of them as such, but Matt Aselton, Stacy Wall, and Aza Jacobs have all been hugely supportive and have provided me with role models in the commercial directing space on how to go about the business of it all. From Matt I have learned perspective, when to fight and when not to fight for ideas, and which ideas are worth the fight. From Stacy I have learned the importance of command--that is having not just the confidence that you’re right, but the knowledge and foresight of how to accomplish what you believe in. And from Aza I have witnessed a person navigate an incredibly difficult industry while still holding true to exactly who he his and what he loves to make.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

The Coen Brothers are definitely the most influential directors for me. Being from Minnesota, the Twin Cities specifically, I think I’m predisposed to liking them. But their absolute mastery of the crafts of both directing and screenwriting constantly impresses me. The Big Lebowski is a movie I’ve seen by far more times than any other, and I thought The Ballad of Buster Scruggs was a mind blowing flex of their absolute mastery of tone, storytelling and director’s craft (except for maybe Pure Luck which I rented every week from Blockbuster from the ages of 6-10; why my mom never just bought me a copy I don’t know, maybe she thought I’d stop watching it as soon as I owned it).

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

I do love the Coens, but Force Majeure or The Square by Ruben Ostlund are my favorite movies. For TV I always go back to 30 Rock. The writing is incredible on that show and the ability to shift its tone in terms of comedic style is amazing. As for favorite commercial, that’s tough. I’m jealous of all the classic Jonathan Glazer spots and getting to make one with him, a Superbowl spot with Keanu Reeves no less, was a career dream come true. One of my all time favorites though is The VH1 Rock Star/ Anti Rockstar spot that my old bosses Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone did. The copywriting is perfect and the absolute important nonsense of it all is what I love.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 

As I mentioned I grew up in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis to be exact, playing a lot of basketball and working in overheated warehouses all summer dumping expired slushy syrup down a utility drain. (This was my dad’s version of Scared Straight for me) I then went to college at Boston University for Advertising and started right out of school as a copywriter for a tiny agency of five people. From there I went to L.A. and Seattle, working my way up to a job offer from Wieden+Kennedy, which I did for five years, followed by a couple years back in L.A. at Crispin Porter Bogusky’s office.

11) How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?

I think like all of us it’s given me space and time to really think about what’s actually important and what it is I want to do with my days on this planet. I’ve used the time to improve my knowledge of the directing craft over this time by doing a lot of film study and reading, since being on set isn’t happening very much these days. For me, the knowledge that in the face of all this, I still want to get behind the camera and make things, tells me I’m doing something right.

Contact

Imperial Woodpecker
EPs:
Contact Doug Halbert via email
Contact Stephanie Hodge via email