1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
A 15 second ad I wrote/directed for Zulily while freelancing with their ad agency, Office of Baby. Previously I had been self funding shorts… unprofessionally.
2) How did you get into directing?
I always loved film but it never seemed like something I could do, it seemed too complicated, difficult, mysterious. But I loved to make stuff and worked on the kinds of projects I could pull off by myself or with friends—illustrating books, making weird products, joke websites, etc. Discovering directing was a combination of being on set and in edits all the time for work (as an agency art director), and getting really into watching short films. I started making some silly/lo fi videos with friends and my available tools (an old SLR, an Adobe cloud account, my apartment) that did alright online. I loved the whole process and realized I wanted to pursue directing seriously. I’ve since been working with a DP (& sometimes even a proper crew!) and the shorts we’ve made together are on the festival circuit this year.
3) What is your most recent project?
I recently finished directing a commercial for Casper. They really let me go nuts with visual humor and color and it was a delight to work on. I’m in prep for two short comedies, one microbudget—just me, a DP, and the actor—and the other a larger piece with bonkers production design and supernatural elements. Very excited about both.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
Seeing all the pieces come together and actually work. And the relief of finally having the footage on a hard drive (+ backup hard drive).
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
I can only pick one?? Time, energy, money, physics, the sun.
Also rough cuts give me hives.
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.?
I want to make things that are hilarious but still beautiful, graphic, and composed. I feel too often the joke is more important than the look and feel of something deemed “comedy” when that’s another vital tool you have to work with—something I learned from amazing creative directors I worked under who really pushed art direction as integral to the concept.
I specifically want to work in the commercial/branded and short film space. I’ve been working my entire career on pieces under a minute so I feel like that’s where my strength lies right now.
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 don’t have a mentor, but so many amazing women have given me tools and support to really pursue directing: the ladies of SLMBR PRTY films (Leah & Sarah Donnenberg + Kirstin VanSkiver) for all their collaboration/support/enthusiasm, Jenny who is a delight to write with and direct (& is always down for whatever), Sarah who made directing feel like a real possibility, Grace who watches and reads everything and is honest with me :), anyone who has gotten a coffee or sandwich or beer with me and told me I’m not crazy for wanting to direct.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
I’m drawn to several directors for their dark and strange senses of humor, and the way they build universes through rigidly controlled production design, characters and storytelling that is completely unpredictable. Forever faves are Pedro Almodovar, Yorgos Lanthimos, and Todd Solondz, all lovable freaks.
I also hugely admire Mike Mills for his beautiful but slyly hilarious stories and his carefully composed frames that let you see his graphic designer brain.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
It is hard to pick a favorite movie, and not enough time in a life to see everything good! Still, I watch I Heart Huckabees once a year. Other movies that left deep grooves in my brain are Bottle Rocket, Citizen Ruth, The Jerk, and (recently) Seidl’s Paradise Trilogy.
I think my comedic sensibility was definitely influenced by Mr. Bean, and I have King of the Hill and X Files on loop at home. I recently binged Pen15 which was basically perfect.
Favorite Commercials: "Mr. Wind," anything Roy Andersson has touched, Puma's "Hard Chorus," “All-Bran Construction Worker” if you like constipation jokes.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up in Texas wanting to be a cartoonist or painter as a kid. In high school I got into photography and my dad set up a dark room in our laundry room. I taught myself Photoshop making horrible digital/political art and comping giant cats into photos of my friends. I wanted to work in graphic design or publishing, and ended up in a program at University of Texas called Texas Creative that teaches, as you might guess, Creative (for advertising). That led to nearly a decade working as an art director in SF, LA, and NY, at Crispin, Droga5, and Wieden under some incredible creative directors who beat me into shape as a thinker and creative. I’ve since been freelancing as a creative/director, and am now leaning into directing more full time.
Contact Mary Dauterman via email