The Last Advertising Agency on Earth

Jason Zada

How did you get into directing?
When I was a kid, I used to make short films using all the kids in the neighborhood. Westerns, music videos, anything I could dream up. I was also really into alternative forms of storytelling that included technology. I wrote choose-your-adventure games in Basic on my Commodore 64. I spent 13 years as a creative director in the digital and advertising worlds, so creatively, telling a story in 30 seconds or 30 minutes became my specialty. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that I was much happier being on set everyday of my life.

What is your most recent project?
I have been shooting non-stop for the past few months and have eight projects in various stages of postproduction. One is an animated augmented reality website, a few TV spots, a huge online interactive video experience, a few viral films and an interactive storytelling project for the iPad.

What is the best part of being a director?
Being able to emotionally move someone with laughter, surprise, fear, or whatever makes people feel something. I am a very visual director, so I enjoy creating a world in which interesting characters can live. Being able to tell stories for a living is what makes me think that I have the best job in the world.

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?

When I was in high school, I was lucky enough to have a Communication Arts class that really allowed me to shoot and film, develop a radio play, edit 3/4” tape and write. My teacher, John Connelly, was a big influence on me. I had access to so many different ways of expressing my creativity. I felt constantly challenged.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Alfred Hitchcock is, most likely, my most favorite director, although it’s hard to choose. His films had a great impact on me when I was younger. I must have seen Rear Window, Vertigo and North By Northwest a hundred times. Almost every frame of every movie is a work of art. Beautifully art directed, brilliantly conceived and masterfully executed.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial?
Picking one favorite is always hard. I have so many different things that I find interesting. Blue Velvet, E.T., Goodfellas and Apocalypse Now. Random, yet all very powerful, beautifully shot films. Favorite commercials include: some iconic classics from the ‘80s, jingles, “Where’s The Beef”… I also loved the surrealism in a lot of commercial work from the ‘80s. Gum, candy bars, soft drinks. The Nike work from the 80s, specifically memorable, the “Mars Blackmon” commercials.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
In 2000, I started an agency called evolution bureau, or EVB for short. During the eight years that I was leading the agency, we worked with Goodby, BBDO, Crispin… and some very talented ad agency creatives.  I feel fortunate to have worked on a variety of interesting projects—both digital and traditional “experiences.” Some of the biggest brands, like adidas… and Old Spice… and MTV really let us do work that I’m proud of.