InnovAge's "Tour" (commercial)

Randal Ford

charlieuniformtango

1) How did you get into directing? 
I’ve been an advertising photographer for almost 10 years now and over the past couple of years started to direct more live action pieces.  The progression from still photography to live action has been very natural as I treat most of my print shoots similar to how a director treats a live action shoot.  My obsession with details in a still picture or moving picture is the same and the additional variables when shooting live action makes the process even more creatively fulfilling.  I’ve also had the desire to direct more because there is more interaction with people - whether it be on-camera talent, crew, or agency creatives - and I believe I have a knack for collaboration, communication, and bringing people together.

2) What is your most recent project? 
My most recent project was a print and live action campaign for Purina and The Martin Agency.  We created a series of live action pieces and print ads of rural animals to be used across a variety of media outlets.  All animals were shot (cameras only!) in studio on black backgrounds and lit in a timeless but modern aesthetic.  The goal with the assignment was to create a body of work that was visually arresting, sophisticated but simple, and cohesive.

3) What is the best part of being a director? 
Coming from a still photography background, the best part of being a director are the additional creative variables that are available to tell the story.  Photography is stripped down to a frozen millisecond whereas live action is an evolving picture.  Even a five second piece has the ability to tell a story in a much different way and the exploration of that process has been an amazing experience for me.  And being a director also allows for so much collaboration and connection with on-camera talent, which I love.  At the end of every shoot I walk away energized and excited, in large part, because I love the process of working with on camera talent.  That’s what keeps me coming back for more.

4) What is the worst part of being a director? 
The most challenging part of being a director are the constant decisions that need to be made.  I would definitely consider myself a decisive person but even so, a director is constantly making a lot of decisions during pre-production, shooting, and sometimes post production.  Those decisions - some small, some large - are inevitably what makes the piece yours and determine it’s success.  So it’s imperative that as a director I’m aware of the importance of making decisions, big and small.

5) 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.? 
Because of my background as an advertising photographer, my current focus is commercials and branded content.  I’ve been living in that world for the last ten years so I’m familiar with the process of collaborating with agency creatives and brands.  I believe that my experience in the ad world is one of the reasons why becoming a director has been a natural progression.   As far as specializing, right now I want to be able to offer clients a cohesive solution of visuals, from live action to stills.  With that said, I’m open to the evolution of specializing further within the realm of shooting people.
As said above, working with on-camera talent is probably my favorite aspect of directing live action.

6) 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’ve been lucky to have some amazing mentors throughout my process of becoming a director and visual artist.  My mentorships have become friendships and by staying in touch, I believe that we both are constantly learning from each other.

7) Who is your favorite director and why? 
My favorite director is Richard Avedon.  Yes, the still photographer.  Even though Avedon was a photographer, his direction of talent was incredible. When you read about his process and the connections he developed with his subjects, it’s just incredible and beautiful.  Had Richard Avedon been of this generation, I believe he would have evolved into one of the great directors of our time.  Avedon’s obsession with the story being told and minutia in talent direction for a single still photograph is inspiring to me as a photographer but even more so, as a director.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Favorite movie from last year was probably “The Big Short” or “Spotlight.”  My current favorite TV content comes from Netflix and Amazon.  Both are putting out such entertaining shows from mini documentaries to dramedies.  I like “Cooked,” “Chef’s Table,” and “Flaked” on Netflix and then “Mad Dogs” and “Mozart in the Jungle” on Amazon are great.  Oh, and “Silicon Valley” on HBO is hysterical and all too real.  Regarding branded content, there’s just so much great stuff out there.  Whether it’s through humor or drama, I’m drawn to the content that tells a story in the simplest way.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I’m originally from Dallas, TX and now based in Austin.  I went to Texas A&M and received a business degree but my obsession with the visual arts drew me into the world of commercial photography.  Since then, I’ve been an advertising photographer and have photographed everything from people to animals to landscapes to food.