Dennis Liu

Office 2010

Dennis Liu

How did you get into directing?
I went to this boarding school called the Taft School, and every year they pick a couple of town kids to go. I don’t come from deep pockets, so some studying got me in, and they had this tech’d out video room called the Treehouse. So, I was lucky to be working with non-linear editing systems just when I was 13. We had Final Cut Pro Version 1, and the XL1. I’ve been writing, shooting, directing, and editing ever since. I’ve been concentrating on writing the most innovative ideas that I can think of. I can shoot beautiful looking film, but in five years, I know everyone will be able to that. So I’ve been trying to take it a step further with writing. That’s all anyone is going to have over anyone else when everyone learns the 7D. Great writing and phenomenal ideas.

What is your most recent project?
I just shot a scooter spot with the Phantom. Before that was a one-take music video for Diane Birch. I’m working on writing features and treatments for TV. But it’s hard. Lots of things fall through. It’s up and down. There’s so much competition, you have to give up a lot and outwork everyone else. I had five original scripts die with Microsoft over a year. Hopefully the one I just gave them works out.

What is the best part of being a director?
My day rate is in the ten thousands. Beautiful actresses flock to my feet. I get to boss around crews of hundreds. All I do is eat craftie and sit in the Winnebago. I get to point a lot. Wait, what? Isn’t this like, your first year doing this? You’re right. It’s pretty much the exact opposite. Except the pointing. I’m 25, and people still think I’m a PA and ask me where the bathrooms are.

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?

I assisted Brian Dilorenzo at BBDO. He’s been a great supporter and helped me realize what great work actually was. Hafeez Saheed, at Nick Advertising, gave me my first big full-up. He took the chance. That’s what you need starting out, people that believe in you. So, I work my ass off when that happens. I do director’s cuts on nearly every spot I shoot to try and help the work. I don’t want to let them down.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Peter Berg. His films are epic. He’s an actor. He camera operates. He does everything. He’s got this cool swagger. He shoots the movies I’d love to shoot one day. And he’s a really nice guy. I sent him my Office movie trailer and he wrote me back. And, for a couple hours one morning, he showed me his epic Battleship movie at his office. That’s the qualities of a classy, A-List, Hollywood director. He’s the man.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial?
My favorite movie is Finding Nemo. Lee Unkrich and Andrew Stanton are geniuses. I can’t wait to see Toy Story 3. Their storytelling is powerful and they come up with the most ridiculous, cinematic shots. My favorite commercial is one that took a risk. If it works, great. If not, well at least you tried something different. I know it’s hard approving this stuff. I’d rather fail in fantastic fashion than shoot for mediocre.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I graduated from NYU a few years ago. I was an assistant producer at Saatchi & Saatchi, and then BBDO. I made a lot of great friends there. All the producers work their tails off. So I learned what the agency production world is like. It’s not easy to satisfy demanding creatives, a ridiculous schedule, a microscopic budget, and still do good work. So that knowledge helps I have some innovative ideas too. I think.