Josh Franer

Ford’s “This Built America” (online series)

Josh Franer


1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
This Built America was my first officially directed (and co-created series) for Ford Trucks via AOL. I directed 13 episodes…shot all over America, showcasing companies like Airstream, Shinola, and Tabasco. It was a high learning curve because it involved pitching and developing with multiple companies and corporations, as well as working on a long term project.  The series was up an airing early 2016.

2) How did you get into directing? 
Growing up I was always filming things around the house with the VHS camera and a Walkman duct-taped to it’s microphone (for the soundtrack, of course) and in high school I played drums and was in bands. I combined my love for music and photography by shooting music videos, and inadvertently fell into directing when I began to create tour documentaries.  My directing style now combines highly visual and visceral elements in a docu-narrative way and underscores emotionality with original music.

3) What is your most recent project? 
Most recent project has been with Visit California through CoMPANY Films. We shot a mini docu-narrative piece about a very cool British fashion designer who uses old school Hollywood and California as inspirations for his clothing design. We filmed in LA at the Chateau Marmont, Hotel Cafe, and then took a road trip out to Palm Springs. Quite an action-packed week but caught a lot of really cool authentic moments in a very Rat-Packy way. We’re composing live jazz music with musicians too.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 
Orchestrating a sea of talent. It really is like being a conductor and composer combined into one. My favorite part is seeing what emerges from idea to reality. Coaxing something into existence. And then celebrating others unique gifting and talent that all combines into a living piece of art.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 
That’s funny. Well, I’m naturally introverted and pretty laid back. So, I think the worst part of directing is always having to talk. I literally have to re-charge my introverted-ness alone for few days after each shoot. I like hiring extroverted producers and assistant directors that do most of the loud talking on set, so I don’t have to.

6) 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.? 
The current career focus right now is commercials and branded content.  I’m in the docu-narrative corner of that world. I like blending true story documentary elements with narrative/cinematic storytelling. My plan (we’ll see how it goes) is to use this realm much like a science lab to try a bunch of things out and further develop my style in the process. I’d like to eventually transition into doing scripted streaming series much like Mr. Robot, Black Mirror, The Knick, and True Detective that fictionalize socially relevant issues or real events into content. Really any story that makes you think differently or see a world in a way that hasn’t seen is my jam.

7) 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 really haven’t had a true mentor yet. I’m not opposed to shadowing a seasoned director either. I started out working for Ridley and Tony Scott. I used to pick up Ridley’s dry cleaning over at Scott Free. Growing up I never imagined coming out to LA or even living out here. It seemed way outside my comfort zone. I think the biggest lesson I learned was to not doubt what you are capable of…or what’s possible. Ridley and Tony influenced my visual capabilities and getting to meet them was a reality check for me; that it’s possible to do what you love…and to operate at the best of your capabilities. And to be around people that are the best in the world at what they do.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 
How about the top ten?
Hitchcock, Kubrick, Coppola. PT Anderson, Terrence Malick, Ridley Scott, The Coen Brothers, Sam  Mendes, Chris Nolan. And one more recent favorite: Dennis Villeneuve All these guys are filmmakers as master film craftsmen in their own genre.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
Movie: Blade Runner.
TV Series: The Wire (cliche, I know, but amazing).
Commercial / Advertising: Across the board recently would be Lincoln’s campaigns. Love the Matthew McConaughey spots especially. Classic would be Ridley Scott’s “1984.” Also anything Mark Romanek.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Grew up in Houston, Texas. I was a creative kid and always making forts, light shows, and things out of K-Nex. Always have had some entrepreneur in me as I had my own lawn business and frequent lemonade stands. I’ve always been doing film and even started shooting weddings in high school which I quickly learned was stressful because of dealing with mothers of the brides. Worked a lot in church environments growing up doing camp videos and learned that it was fun to watch people react to your stories. Went to Baylor for school and then unofficially sat in a few courses at USC  when I moved to LA. It’s been a crash-course in career and life in LA since I’ve moved,  arrived with nothing and I’ve been building upwards from there. 


Robin Benson
Executive Producer
Contact via email