Pawsitive Pals

Marshall Harrington

How did you get into directing?
I was called into a meeting by a friend whom that I’d known for a long time, but had never worked with. During the meeting we discussed a wide range of strategies and content of the images they wanted to make alongside conceptual conversation of the projects they intended to use the images for.
It was at that point that it became crystal clear to me that motion was the correct solution to the story they wanted to tell.  I was already visualizing the scenes in my mind…how they were edited together….how the people would come to life. I could sense the emotion and see the audience feeling it as well.
I’ve been a photographer my entire adult life. I’ve also always been a storyteller. I imagine my audience sitting around the campfire…watching and listening. Sometimes the fire rages, other times it’s just the glowing embers.

What is your most recent project?
I’m continuing to create content for San Diego Hospice. I’m also working on a script about what motivates people to own their own businesses. It’s a narrative piece that I’m planning on shooting this summer. We also are considering a piece about Nobel Laureates. We’d originally planned it to be stills but film seems a better solution

What is the best part of being a director?
I believe that ideas can change the world. I have so much passion for how film expresses ideas. Combining visual expression with ideas. It can be so powerful.
Being at the center of creating an idea and helping it evolve is an amazing process. To work with a group of collaborators, each with their own skills and passions, and bring the idea to life is unforgettable.
As a photographer I’d been directing for years but this is really different.
I’m so lucky to have the chance at a second career. I never thought it would happen. Certainly didn’t plan for it. I’m like a kid looking up at all the possibilities with wonder.
And there’s so much for me to learn.

What is the worst part of being a director?
Have not found it yet. I’ve rarely found a shoot that I couldn’t find some redeeming quality to hang onto.

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 interested in all kinds of work. I come from a commercial background and was told my specialty was shooting people…connecting people and brands in an emotional way. Based on that I expect to create branded content with interesting storytelling.
But the fact is that everything but advertising is new to me and I love that. I hope that I don’t get pigeonholed so that I get to taste lots of different genres. I’d love to do a food show. Narrative work really intrigues me. I love the idea of developing different characters as well as the story.
And big landscape pictures also intrigue me. How are they different in film than stills? How do you make them work?

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 don’t think I could ever narrow this down to one person. There are so many people that I’ve learned from. I’ve been fortunate that early in my career the AD’s I worked with are now the top CD’s in the business. I learned so much working with them. And the best is still in front of me. There are so many new people to meet that I’m sure will have huge influence on me. That wonderful winding road…

Who is your favorite director and why?
I’ve been trying to answer this for a day now. Stanley Kubrick, Hitchcock? Even though they’re obvious I also love the basics of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola. The storytelling of Mike Nichols or Cameron Crowe,  or the visual intensity of Nick Rogue. And these are the obvious choices. So many great filmmakers.
In college all my classmates were film majors. No matter what, I was inundated with everything film. Manny Farber (whose classes I sat in on) lived across the street. His passions for “B” films really lead the charge for independent films where it’s not about the money but the ideas. Watching films backwards and out of order forever changed the way I visualize a film.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
I could never tell you there was one movie that was the best. I love so many films. I can see films over and over again. Sometimes the whole thing…sometimes just a little maybe even out of order. I love watching how scenes are put together. How they lit a room. How the talent worked together. I read a about films and am interested in how they did each thing. I love the technology of film-making. I think that it’s key to understanding contemporary films. The gear has been changing all the time and its one of the primary elements that shapes the storytelling.

Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Southern California. Never L.A. proper but all around it. I went to lots of different schools winding up at UCSD. I stayed in San Diego, building a successful photography studio, working primarily with advertising agencies all over. My wife, a graphic designer, and I have long been partners. In recent years we’ve teamed up to work on projects that include strategy, design, content, and creative executions for a variety of national and regional clients.