http://dictionaryfilms.com/1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
The One Chicago campaign for Ogilvy in 2017. I interviewed and directed 40 stories of immigration over four days–part of the City of Chicago’s efforts to unify the city and celebrate and protect its immigrants and refugees. We captured a wide range of emotional stories–from teenage Syrian refugees to undocumented people to the world’s tallest male ballet dancer who came to Chicago from France. I worked with nine editors across four cities to deliver these stories in a month. It won three Gold Pencils at the One Show.
2) How did you get into directing?
I spent many years editing commercials, documentaries and features – often playing an instrumental role in projects that needed structural reworks and story development. I was always curious about directing and so after a particularly long feature film stint, I decided to take a break from editing and developed a short doc about high rise window cleaners in Chicago. It played at Sundance, won Best Short Doc at Tribeca, was short-listed for an Oscar and ended up part of the Criterion Collection. The whole experience was incredibly rewarding and I decided I wanted to spend more time developing my skills as a director.
3) What is your most recent project?
I just finished a short stint on a new TV doc series for Apple, and since then have been directing commercials and writing what will be my first narrative feature film.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
In my doc-based work, I love drawing out the emotional core of stories. It sometimes takes some effort to help people overcome their discomfort in revealing themselves or even challenging them to connect to their own narrative in a deeper way. But when that connection happens, it’s very satisfying. And then, on a film-making level, I also love the process of translating that emotion into a visual language that can be felt by audiences. It’s an imaginative process that on a practical level involves a lot of scouting and prep, which is interesting, especially in places I’ve never been before.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
Since transitioning from editor to director, I’ve noticed that your relationship to time is so different. You’re comparatively limited in the number of versions you can try, there is no “undo”, and sometimes you may only get one chance to catch a moment. You actually have a lot less control in some ways, which is exciting but can also be anxiety inducing. I’ve learned to trust the process more because that uncontrolled space is also where some of the most interesting moments can happen.
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.?
That’s a difficult question to answer – it seems like the distinction between some of these categories continues to get more blurred. As I continue to direct, I’m more driven by what work deals with story and emotion, rather than format.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born in Israel to a Jewish mother and Japanese father and spent some of my childhood in the U.K. and Switzerland before moving to the United States. During those early years, I lived in several artistic communities and was surrounded by the visual arts from a young age. In the US, I’ve lived in Chicago, NY, SF and some short stints in LA. I studied English Lit at the University of Chicago and have worked in film since.
Contact Chris Rossiter, Managing Director, Dictionary Films, regarding Nadav Kurtz via email