Danger Daisy

Rachel Knoll


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

My first professionally directed work was a branded content piece for Hyundai with artists at the LACMA. 

2) How did you get into directing? 

I’ve been initiating my own projects for as long as I can remember. 

I studied interaction design initially and honed in on learning technical skills at a young age. Some of my first projects were interactive installations/immersive experiences and I used video as a way to document the project. 

In the following years, I continued learning through working in camera, post, and creative roles. This work taught me many valuable skills and it was a good way to pay attention to what other directors were doing in a professional setting while I continued to direct my own personal projects. As I gained experience, I focused more and more on directing. Eventually, I had a body of work that I was confident about and decided to start freelancing. Since then things have snowballed and I continue to put out new projects and build relationships with new collaborators.

3) What is your most recent project? 

I just finished two productions with very different approaches to remote directing. 

One was a duo of spots for a pet care company with an ad agency. The commercial utilized a hybrid approach with a mix of remote casting, remote video village, and in-person production. The agency and brand were lovely to work with. We built a bold stylized set, and I was smiling nonstop underneath my face mask because I was surrounded by dogs in diapers and Pomeranians in pink strollers.

The other was a documentary on the largest wooden boat to be built in Costa Rica’s history. In this project, all work was done remotely and I conducted interviews in Costa Rica while I was at home in the U.S. 

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

I feel incredibly fulfilled getting to do what I do. It’s a role that inspires curiosity. There are always new things to learn about, new places to go to, new challenges to solve, and an endless number of talented, deeply inspiring people to meet.

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

It’s prolonged my goal of being a dog owner because it’s easy to lose control of your schedule and routine! It’s important to use your downtime to live, get out in the world and have a balance in your relationships and activities. As well as doing things that inspire you and sustain a fresh creative perspective when you jump back into your next creative job. I’m still working on finding that balance. When I’m on a job it’s all-consuming and in the midst of it, I feel energized. Afterwards, I’m always tempted to run away and recharge by doing something completely different. I love it though, I really can’t complain much.

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’m currently focused on bringing a strong storytelling sense to commercials and branded content. I definitely get excited to work on projects that have a clever or innovation-driven concept and I have space to push a strong technical, creative idea or artistic craft in the production.

8) Who is your favorite director and why?

I couldn’t pick one. I’m generally drawn to dark and moody stories in film and admire directors like Yorgos Lanthimos, Bong Joon-ho, Paolo Sorrentino. But I also admire Spike Jonze, and Michel Gondry who I find inspiring in the innovative, controlled, and uniquely whimsical way they build worlds.

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

I grew up in the Midwest and while in undergrad for interaction design, I got asked by Vimeo to do a production job in Malaysia. That completely shifted my mindset--I had never left the U.S. After that, I went to school in Europe and spent time living in London, Zurich and Montreal, and working all around the world. This gave me a strong global perspective which has been really beneficial in documentary-type projects where you are quickly embedding yourself in other’s worlds and encouraging their personal stories.

I then spent time building up a directing portfolio while working in various production roles. I worked in camera department and creative. I also worked for several years in ad agency, post houses, and production companies mostly doing editing work.

It’s important as a new director to continually make work and improve one’s craft as well as give yourself experience, know-how, and connections in other departments along the way.

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?

What’s going on in the world is heavy and definitely weighs on me. I miss the collaboration and energy of frequent on-set work, but I’m thankful to find ways to pivot. The importance of trusting your collaborators has really solidified with me. Creative and production work always has a level of encountering and overcoming challenges. I’ve been thankful to have opportunities to create with others and adjust to new ways of making while supporting each other through this new process.

I find projects can be difficult if there are no constraints, so having absolutes in how the production can safely happen and embracing remote and hybrid ways of doing production wasn’t too difficult to do. In some ways, location matters less. I can be brought into remote directing jobs or work with an agency in a city I’m not physically in. I can also bring in a DP or editor whose work I admire and collaborate with them on remote jobs. I’m trying to take advantage of any positive circumstances and use them as opportunities to grow. I’m also giving myself time to process what’s going on in the world when I need to as well.


Contact Mara Sutterfield, Producer, Plural, via email