Amazon - Recruitment - Director's Cut

Lacey Elizabeth Uhlemeyer

Wondros Collective

1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it? 

It is crazy to think back on my first commercial spot and how it really propelled me to where I’m at today. An old colleague of mine was working as an EP at Media Monks and reached out to me with an opportunity to direct a Nike spot for International Women’s Day. My personal work, creating content around women and international storytelling, was a perfect fit. I was really intimidated, not only to be working with Nike but also Wieden+Kennedy. At the time I had a four-month-old daughter and this was my first job since maternity leave. The turnaround time was tight so before I knew it, I was flying to Mexico City to direct my first commercial spot. It was so fulfilling, both as a storytelling and a mother, to step into my first role as a commercial director and work on such a meaningful project. As well as set an example for my daughter that you can accomplish anything—even direct for Nike!

2) How did you get into directing? 

Growing up in St. Louis, both of my parents were accountants and I followed right in their footsteps, getting a degree in Business. My first job was in the nonprofit sector, where I spent a majority of my time in Africa and started dabbling in photography. I fell in love with portrait photography—drawing out a person’s story within a single image. I was excited to use my photos for marketing and storytelling at the nonprofit. But when I saw a documentary about child soldiers in Uganda, everything changed. It was so moving that I realized film was the tool to convey the truth as well as create empathy and understanding for what was really happening in these far reaching parts of the world. I quit my job to produce my first doc in Haiti. After that project, I spent years producing and only recently stepped into having more creative control of my stories as a director.

3) What is your most recent project? 

I’ve been working with Bristol Myers Squibb on their Survivorship campaign for the past year and recently completed another film within this series. The campaign sheds light on cancer survivors and life after treatment. It’s a subject close to my heart and content that I feel is missing within the cancer community. I feel extremely grateful to be directing such meaningful stories. We’ve been having remote productions for the greater part of this year. I really look forward to seeing the team and meeting our subjects in person again soon.

4) What is the best part of being a director? 

I am most alive when I’m connecting with people and learning about their lives. It feels expansive to step outside of my everyday life and learn about new cultures, industries, issues and solutions. This has been the thread throughout my career, from my first work in Africa to today. A majority of my projects focus on real people so my main goal, as a director, is to connect with these individuals and bring their stories to life in a beautiful, meaningful way—I couldn’t think of a better job. Lately, I’ve taken my documentary expertise and merged it into a narrative approach, developing scripted films based off of true stories and situations. As a director, I am constantly experimenting with the best way to tell a story and pushing the boundaries of what documentary and narrative filmmaking can be.

5) What is the worst part of being a director? 

The hardest part is editing! You become so attached to story points, characters, scenes and the smallest finite moments. It can be extremely difficult to trim a person’s life down to a final cut—losing those details you love but that ultimately don’t serve the purpose of the piece.

6) 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 love directing commercials especially when I get the opportunity to work with real people, elevating their own story within a brand campaign. Over the past year, I’ve been doing more narrative work which I am really excited about. Next year—or as soon as COVID allows—I have a short film that I wrote with a friend which I can’t wait to bring to life. As a creative, I’m always focused on the story. Recently that has become more fluid as I push myself to view storytelling not only from a commercial or documentary approach but also through the lens of a narrative series or feature film.

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 met Matt Ogens a few years ago while working at a news organization, RYOT. At the time he was already an Emmy-nominated, commercial director, and documentary filmmaker that had made rounds at the biggest festivals. As I made the move into directing, he has been instrumental in helping me understand the landscape of filmmaking as a career and also pushing me creatively to try new things. I was really honored to have him produce my last short documentary and hope we can continue to collaborate on new projects. The largest lesson I’ve taken away, thus far, is to trust my gut when it comes to the story that I want to tell. Everyone will give you opinions and it’s great to listen but let your own creative vision be your guiding light.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

My favorite director is Alma Har’el. From music videos to documentaries to narrative films—she breaks the mold. Even before I was in the film industry, I remember being really inspired by her Beirut music video, "Elephant Gun." It was so poetic and playful. Later, I saw her documentary Bombay Beach. The way she captured the essence of the people and places really unearthed the beauty and hope that lies in all things—even if it’s not immediately apparent. This came at a time when I was experimenting with a very linear idea, around the process of capturing real people’s stories, so this film was transformative for me. Alma presents a magical realism that I was familiar with in the written form, with writer’s such as Gabriel García Márquez, but had never seen on screen. She stretches the boundaries of documentary film to elevate the stories she is telling—not by inventing new worlds but by revealing the magic in the existing world. Her most recent film, Honey Boy, continued to inspire me as a storyteller. Her connection and respect for Shia’s story was apparent in every frame. The way she jumped between timelines was seamless and I can’t wait to see what she does next! In addition to her creative work, all she does to bring diversity into all facets of filmmaking.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 

My favorite movie is Amelie. Although most of my work has often told real human stories, I often find myself attracted to fanciful storytelling. This film oozes with airy whimsical charm and I can’t watch it enough. It’s hard to pick a favorite TV series, as they each satisfy a different need, but some of my top picks are Mad Men, Breaking Bad and most recently, Fleabag. For commercials, I still go back to Always’"# Like A Girl" campaign. It was one of the first times that I felt that a product for women was actually being marketed and directed by women.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)

I grew up in St. Louis, Missouri. My parents were accountants and I started my career by pursuing business. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I really stepped into the creative field. Even when I began working in film, as a producer, I felt that the role of director was reserved for men. If I ever gave my opinion, it was often overlooked or ignored. I’m not sure this was entirely gender based but I do think watching women, like Alma Har’el, pave the way for female filmmakers, along with the recent push for more female directing voices, gave me the confidence I needed to step into my own creative voice. A voice built from my own personal experiences. My business background, international work for grassroots organizations, and expertise as a journalist; all these blend together, giving me a very unique lens to the way I approach storytelling. I focus on human truth first and foremost. My goal is to continue to grow and push the boundaries on how to tell stories in a captivating and elevated way.

11) 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?

During the pandemic I’ve really allowed myself to expand into different creative pursuits. It has been freeing to explore writing scripts, developing TV and film pitches, even children’s books! Like so many, I have a new appreciation for what the work in the field means. I miss the camaraderie. I miss being on set. I miss the ability to connect with my team and subjects in person. The power of in person connections is something I will no longer take for granted. I now know just how much it means to me and the joy it ultimately brings to the work I do.


Contact Danielle Peretz, Sr. Executive Producer, Wondros via email