Little Things

Lawrence Chen

How did you get into directing?
When I was in 8th grade I picked up a camera one day and just started yelling at everything: people, pets, inanimate objects, whatever would listen and not yell back. Got a lot of great footage. That was my first directing experience and I haven’t stopped since.

What is your most recent project?
Just finished a funny little St. Patrick’s Day spot for Guinness Black Lager involving a kilt, an Irish bagpiper, and bending over. I also recently returned from Malawi where I was shooting a documentary about local healthcare workers in rural villages. I like working on a range of projects.

What is the best part of being a director?
Working with a talented team, the challenge of telling great stories in 60 seconds or less, bringing great creative to life, the first class international travel, the money, and the women..

What is the worst part of being a director?
Knowing that the last three things listed above aren’t true.

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.?
I’m currently focusing on commercials and music videos. I love the short form. Each project is so self-contained, you only get a couple weeks to craft something great, and it is always a real challenge to tell a story in as little as 15 seconds. In terms of genre, I want to work across a variety of styles, such as comedy, drama, and action, but specialize in visual storytelling with a focus on doing as much as I can in-camera.

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?
I’ve met a lot of EPs along the way who have served as mentors. In addition to giving me guidance and feedback on my work, many of them have taught me that the key to success is not just being a good director and putting something great on film, but involves a host of other things: being a great salesman, being a charismatic leader, being a problem solver, being a visionary, and basically being an all around perfect human being. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Who is your favorite director and why?
Christopher Nolan. He likes to do everything old school, utilizing special effects where absolutely necessary. He never went to film school, learned through making mistakes, and shot all his early films after work and on the weekends. He is a master storyteller and really knows how to craft characters and create tension.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
The Prestige. It is beautifully shot, full of plot twists and hidden stories, and on the surface seems like a sci-fi film but has many hints of a deeper narrative that Nolan is trying to tell. As for commercial/branded content, I’ve always loved the Berlitz “German Coast Guard” spot: such a simple joke, perfect delivery and great execution. Another favorite of mine is the Dirt Devil spec that parodied The Exorcist, another genius idea that really gives brands something to aspire to in terms of creative work.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born in Minnesota and immediately afterwards my parents decided it was not the place for us. I was moved to CA, MA and PA, and was then finally smuggled to Beijing, China, where I grew up. In high school I focused on mathematics, physics, and chemistry. I went to Duke University and studied economics, biomedical engineering, marketing and management. After I graduated in ‘09, I decided I didn’t want to have a high paying job and successful future so I chose to become a director and ended up in advertising. I’m currently a commercial producer at BBDO NY and moonlight as a director. My parents still cry themselves to sleep.