Jane

Ari Merkin

1) How did you get into directing?
I’ve been a CW, AD, ACD, ECD, CCO and agency founder. Over the years, I’ve worked with some of the very best directors in our business. Guys like Tony Kaye, Spike Jonze, Noam Murro, Tom Kuntz, Rupert Sanders, Gerard de Thame. My first spot was one of the last shot by Henry Sandbank. These guys were my film school. They taught me the value of having your own point of view, and I’d never want to let an education like that go to waste.

2) What is your most recent project?
I’m about half way through an auto-biographical screenplay (which is something film schools tell you never to do). I just finished some work for the Adam Levine fashion line, and I’m about to direct a couple of spots I can’t talk about, yet. Sorry.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
There are three best parts. 1) Working with talent. I’ve had several “Ah, this is what I was meant to do” moments working with actors. 2) I love the conceptual math and the way each project becomes a product of your own intuition. 3) Being surrounded by passionate film people.

4) What is the worst part of being a director?
It’s too soon to tell.

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
Yes.

6) 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 most with you?
Diane Rothschild, may she rest in peace, who taught me how to write ads. My former business partner, Anne Bologna, taught me how being a businessman and a good human don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And Tim Case, who was the first person to encourage me to direct. I’m glad I finally took him up on the offer.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
My favorite director is anyone who can figure out how to be paid to write and direct every day until they die. Woody Allen is a contender, but again, it’s too soon to tell.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I have four children. Trust me, there’s nothing good that comes from picking favorites. But if you have to twist my arm, I’ll tell you. When I was a young teen, I swore to myself that Karate Kid would always be my favorite movie. Tease me all you want, but I made myself a promise, and I’m sticking to it. That said, Annie Hall and Raiders of the Lost Ark are a close 2nd. As for commercials, the Alan and Jerome spots Eric Silver wrote for Fox Sports still rank at the top of my list and I loved the original “Imported From Detroit” spot with Eminem. Make ‘em feel something. Always make ‘em feel.

9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
As an orthodox Jew from Monsey NY, I was warned at my first job that I would never amount to anything in the agency world and write small newspaper ads in a little office. I thought, “Wow, I get write to newspaper ads!” Now I feel that way about directing.