Michael Leary

Where are they Now? Brought to you by Members Only “The Sopranos”

Michael Leary


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

I am actually in the hunt for that first opportunity! I have been a DP for years and decided to direct my own spots in the hopes of putting the camera and lights down to pick up the monitor which I must say is MUCH lighter.

2) How did you get into directing? 

When I started college my major was originally sports medicine but as soon as a friend bought a video camera I noticed my grades in biology and chemistry started to slip. We would constantly shoot really awesome films (awesomely bad) and it made me realize I was developing a love affair with the camera. I changed my major the following semester. I studied film and focused on all aspects of filmmaking but eventually focused on cinematography and editing. Over the years I shot and edited projects for many directors but started developing the itch to write and direct my own material. I created my director reel a couple of years ago and have been recently looking for representation.

3) What is your most recent project? 

My most recent project was the spec campaign I wrote and directed for Members Only. I had two more specs ready to shoot this past spring, but we all know what happened in March. I took the time to tighten up both scripts and am currently gearing up to shoot both in the next couple of months.

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

I think the best part of being a director is collaborating with a crew whose goal is to help you see your vision through to the end. I have been very fortunate to work with extremely supportive people who are both my crew and close friends. When we call wrap on the final shoot day it’s always great to see how enthusiastic everyone is about seeing the final spot.

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

I would say the worst part of being a director is the fear of a project falling short of your original vision due to external circumstances. For example, a dramatic change in weather can really put a damper on a shoot that was planned for months. But with a great crew and some solid backup plans, everything works out in the end.

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 am currently focusing on commercials and branded content, specializing in comedy. After working on several feature films over the years, I have found that creating multiple short-form projects in the time it takes to create one long-form is more appealing to me. I love making people laugh and there is no better way for me to do that than through my commercial work.

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? 

My mentor happens to be comedy commercial director Jordan Brady. When I first started developing my reel, I subscribed to his podcast and later attended his “Commercial Directing Bootcamp.” This was one of the best ways for me to learn the inner workings of the advertising industry from how commercials are written to how the jobs are awarded to directors. I have also taken his calm, light-hearted approach to directing and applied it to my own productions. We all know how we can get a little anxious the day of a shoot and his lessons on staying focused on-set has helped me keep those feelings at bay.

8) Who is your favorite director and why? 

Besides Jordan Brady mentioned above, I really love the work of comedy director Harold Einstein. His tone and comedic timing is exactly what I look for when watching a spot.

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

My favorite movie is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That film never refuses to get me into tears every time I watch it. They did an incredible job of capturing and projecting the raw emotion of the characters. Breaking Bad still remains my favorite series although Stranger Things and Ozark are a very close second. As far as commercials go I would say the “Most Interesting Man in the World” and “Mayhem” campaigns are amongst the best in my opinion.

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

I was born and raised in Bucks County PA, just outside of Philadelphia. As I went through college and started working in production, I worked as a waiter and bartender. This gave me the flexibility to develop my filmmaking skills so I could work freelance gigs and eventually turn it into a full-time career.

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?

The pandemic hit me pretty hard mentally and it was hard to comprehend what was happening to the world let alone the industry. My wife, family, and friends all came together to create a support system for anyone who needed it which helped us all keep our spirits a bit higher. After going through a really tough time in the beginning, I was able to get myself focused on being creative and get some writing done. It has really taught me not to take anything in life for granted including health, work, friends, and family!



Contact Michael Leary via email