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Evan Ari Kelman | SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event
Evan Ari Kelman

Vinted’s “Lucy” (commercial)

Evan Ari Kelman

Wild/Factory; Good Brother


What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 
My first professionally directed commercial work was in November of 2019. It was for Biotine mouthwash. Just two months earlier in September, I had shot a spec comedy commercial for Gigslad in order to really get my career going, which I then sent out to a number of production companies around New York, hoping to bring in legitmate work. I met with Good Brother Films, and almost as a test, they submitted me for the Biotine job–and I think much to all of our pleasant surprise, the client decided to hire me.

How did you get into directing? 
In a way I’ve been directing my whole life — first as a child with action figures and Playmobile sets. Soon that becomes home videos with middle school friends, re-enacting scenes from gangster movies. I had so much fun that in high school, I decided to attended New York Film Academy to learn the basics of craft and determine if this was a path I wanted to pursue professionally in a serious way. I learned that it was. For college, I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which is where my first ‘good’ shorts finally came together, culminating in my undergrad thesis film Bandito premiering at Tribeca Film Festival in 2015.

What is your most recent project? 
My most recent commercial was for Discover Credit Card, in March of 2022. Since then, I have been mainly focusing on the development of my first feature film, Barron’s Cove, which was featured on the 2021 Black List.

What is the best part of being a director? 
There are so many wonderful parts of being a director, but the best part has to be that feeling of strong collaboration with talented, passionate creatives. Building towards a shared vision with people you admire is as rewarding as it gets. There’s a sense of improv to it, working with each other’s ideas to finally arrive at the best possible result. That can happen with actors, in discovering some key insight to a character, or with a set dresser, perfectly placing some element in camera. It happens often with your DP, producer, and department heads. Those moments, big and small, make this job feel so much bigger than oneself, so rewarding. Also, having a vision in your mind for weeks or months or even years, and then seeing it come together on the monitor on-set, is truly a magical feeling.

What is the worst part of being a director? 
The worst part of being a director is the regular disappointment in not getting a job, or an actor, or a set, or a shot you really wanted. That’s the pain of caring about something so much, but you can’t lose that passion. You have to find a stoic’s path through it, otherwise it will eat you up and you won’t be able to go on. Rejection is inescapable, always lurking right around the corner. You have to be at peace with it, prepared for it, and able to soldier on with a positive mindset.

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 split my attention between commercial work and narrative work. At times, one becomes more of the focus but I enjoy a balance. Making my first feature film is a huge priority, and as we get further into development and casting, its becoming increasingly front of mind. But I’m always ready to pitch on a commercial, or send out my newest work, or take a meeting at a production company. These two fields compliment each other really well. Often my commercial work leans comedy, and my narrative work leans drama. Yin and yang, there’s a need for both in our lives.

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 have no specific mentor, although there have been NYU professors and production company EPs I have learned so much from. Truly, my mentors are my friends and peers in the industry–we all learn from each other.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Steven Speilberg for opening up my imagination when I was young. His films, specifically the Indiana Jones series, changed my entire perspective and my entire life. More recently, David Fincher, Chris Nolan, Cary Fukunaga, Denis Villeneuve — the usual lot. Recently, I’ve really been enjoying work from JC Chandor, Reinaldo Marcus Green, Ron Howard, David Mackenzie, David Michod, Jeremy Saulnier, and others. Tony Gilroy for Michael Clayton and Dan Gilroy for Nightcrawler also deserve a shoutout.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
Michael Clayton is my favorite movie. It’s a perfect film. Everything about it sublime. I especially love the writing; how Tony Gilroy took Michael Clayton on this epic journey from a cynical legal “janitor” to a more ethical, more selfless whistleblower. Favorite TV is True Detective S1, Band of Brothers, Sopranos, Breaking Bad, Mad Men. I’ve recently been enjoying Black Bird, Mare of Eastown and White Lotus. Favorite commercials include Halo: ODST, and Epuron’s “Mr. Wind”. Special shoutout to the 2006 UBS “You and Us” campaign for first getting me interested in commercials. I was 14 when I saw those air and I fell in love with the simplicity and cinematography. It showed me the thoughtful, artful side of advertising.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up between Manhattan, New York, and Boca Raton, Florida. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor so I started doing community theater and going to acting camps. My parents ignited within me an appreciation for the arts, and I just fell in love with storytelling of all mediums. I read as much as I could, saw every film I could get my hands on, created my own stories as best I knew how. I was obsessed with Indiana Jones, and then mobster movies, and then war movies, and so on and so on. I received a video camera as a birthday gift and made little shorts with my friends. Collaborating with them “on set” as it were, gave me so much joy. I knew pretty soon I had to do everything I could to make a living doing that. NYU gave me a place to practice narrative work, and then through specs and small jobs I maneuvered into commercials.

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 the pandemic really showed a lot of people, including myself, what’s truly important. It snapped us all out of the rat race and gave us incredible perspective we might never have gotten otherwise. With a better grasp on what’s meaningful — friends, family, inner-peace, self-awareness, fulfilling hobbies, time in nature–I think as storytellers we’re better equipped to tap into the deepest core of the human experience. I think it also put an emphasis on doing work in a healthy way, with a focus on relationships and collaboration. Life is too short to be miserable in your job, or to exist in a toxic work environment. Compassion is key


Contact Yura Liamin: yura@thewildfactory.com
Contact Jake Russell: jake@goodbrother.co

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