Amazon Echo - Worst Day Ever

Justin Leyba

unaffiliated

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
My first professionally directed work is an online spot for Embassy Suites Hotels celebrating awesome moms on Mother’s Day. This was when I was at Y&R Chicago in 2016.

2) How did you get into directing? 
I got into filmmaking in general when I was a freshman in high school. I made this really cheesy slideshow video for my friends about friendship (duh) and after seeing their reaction to my work, I realized how powerful the medium is and how satisfying it is to tell a story. It was then that I started making skits and short films with my family / friends and really immersing myself in the world of cinema.

3) What is your most recent project? 
I recently just wrapped up a spec spot for Spotify about embracing your feelings (and your guilty pleasures), and a music video for Chicago rapper, Melo Makes Music. That said, I’m always in development / pre-production on various projects I have coming up, whether personal short films, mini-docs, or music videos.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 
I love the collaboration. From working with my DP and nailing down a visual style, to crafting the characters with my actors, to setting an emotional mood with my composer, I’m very much inspired by the talent that I get to work with every day in telling the stories that are important to me (and hopefully, are important to others as well).

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 
The worst part of being a director is knowing that you could have done better. But for me, that’s also the exciting part. To know that not one project is going to be perfect gives me motivation and the drive to keep creating until I finally get it right.

6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
Being in the world of advertising right now, I’m very much focused on directing commercials and branded content. That said, I’m hoping to take a crack at my first feature film soon (fingers crossed).

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? 
No particular mentor - just a bunch of really smart people who have taught me how to do my job well (film professors, agency producers and creatives I get to work with) and to live life with a good heart (my parents).

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 
This is a tough one because there’s a lot of directors I look up to and take inspiration from. But if I had to choose one, it would have to be Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa didn’t stray away from the ugly realities of life but he did it in such a way that beautifully balances pessimism with hope. His films can be grandiose but they can also be small, human, and elemental. It’s this versatility in his work, mastery of the craft, and the ability to tap into our very core as human beings that inspire me as a storyteller.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
Ikiru, City Lights, Singin’ In The Rain, Notorious, The Apartment. All of them are very different films but they all share the same heart. And as far as my favorite commercial / branded content, I really love Spike Jonze’s latest work for the Apple HomePod. My God, the electrifying performance by FKA Twigs and the wizardry of the production design really cements Jonze as one of our greatest living visual directors with his ability to capture mood through magical realism and just pure imagination.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 
I was born and raised in the Philippines. My siblings and I then moved to the states in 2008. I was a shy kid whose first love was music (I wanted to be a rockstar) then fell in love with film as a teenager. I went to Columbia College Chicago for film and cold called every single ad agency in the city to get myself a job after college. I’ve been living in the Chicagoland area, braving the ridiculous weather, for almost a decade now. I have a huge crush on Kristen Wiig and I don’t like roller coasters.

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Justin Leyba

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