Duncan Wolfe

The Art of Listening

Duncan Wolfe

1) How did you get into directing?
My path into directing was perfectly accidental but in every way serendipitous. I’ve always had an interest in photography, art, and storytelling. At some point the need to make my own images overcame everything else I had considered professionally. Then one day somebody referred to me as a director.

That felt odd, and it still does. But I’ve been rolling with it ever since.

2) What is your most recent project?
I’m currently on my way back to the states from Kenya where we shot a spot for Amazon Kindle. Many schools in Africa lack access to books, so we visited some schools who are using Kindle e-readers as a way for students to have thousands of books in the palm of their hands.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
The best part of being a director is the thrill of collaborating with new creatives, new stories, new locations, and new crews. No project is ever routine and every story is unique. Also when craft services is a local foodtruck. That’s the best, too.

4) What is the worst part of being a director?
It’s a trap!

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.?
I’ve always been interested in shooting live-action real people and real stories. There’s so much latent emotion and energy in shooting real stories—the trick is figuring out how to tease that out on the screen.

It’s something I think about every day. Branded documentary content and lifestyle commercial work is where I’m most comfortable and I look forward to refining that with every new project.

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 with you?
I can’t say I have one specific mentor. I try to look at every project I work on as a unique problem with equally unique solutions and lessons to be learned. I’ve been lucky with the amazing creatives and crew I’ve worked with and I’m always learning from them.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

My favorites change by the week, and I’m tempted to dodge the question, but there’s a few things that stick with me. The Duracell “Trust Your Power” series is a phenomenal example of the power and emotionality of the soft-sell. It’s a battery commercial—but there’s no batteries. Crazy! It takes really strong creatives to make that kind of work.

Also: anything that Matthew Frost makes.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I am a product of the Midwest—grew up in Missouri, went to school in Indiana, and now I live in Illinois. I guess I love really cold winters and awful humid summers? Before film or photography entered my life I was a political junkie, working on a Senate campaign, two (winning) presidential campaigns, and eventually ending up in the Obama White House working for the very talented White House photographers and the first ever White House videographer Arun Chaudhary. This is where my old interest in politics intersected with my new interest in image crafting and the importance of emotional but efficient storytelling. Working in politics can be obviously be brutal, so I decided to take a breather and I’ve never really looked back.


Lisa Masseur
EP/Managing Director
312 276 2678

Sarah Wien
Executive Producer
312 276 2682