So Much Watching To Watch

Tim Roper

How did you get into directing?
Actually, writing and directing has always been the path for me. Advertising was the 20-year detour. I earned my Film degree from The University of Texas at Austin in the ‘80s. But, after a few short films and an ill-fated development deal, I took a salary job in the agency world.
At CP+B, I was such a hands-on Writer and creative director during production that directors would say, “Wow, he always seems so sure about what he wants.”
Luckily it usually worked out well. So, I got slated to direct a lot of very fun projects that I wrote. Many fell apart just as I was about to shoot them.
After steering a pretty successful campaign for Hulu in 2009, Jason Kilar (Hulu’s founder and CEO) consented to let me direct three spots with Will Arnett that I wrote for the Super Bowl and Oscars in early 2012.

What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is the transition from agency guy to writer/director guy. While this writing/directing model that I love is a fairly rare thing in the ad world, I’ve actually stirred up a couple of good projects that way so far. I’m just not allowed to talk about them yet.
Purely as director, I’ve just been awarded a really funny TV campaign that involves golf. (That’s all I’m allowed to say about that too, right now). I am also shopping several longer form projects around the entertainment world that I’ve been developing for years. Most are comedic but one is very dark and will blow people’s minds that I had anything to do with it. Sorry to be so cryptic.

What is the best part of being a director?
I love storytelling–in any form. The really fulfilling part about directing for me is being the very nucleus of a project, not on the periphery. Enjoying the interaction and collaboration with actors and cinematographers and others to pursue a story.
And as an agency guy I was extremely involved in post. On my own projects and those of others who invited me in. And that’s still a process I absolutely adore as director. Piecing together a story one frame at a time. Discovering (and re-discovering) timing and pace and tone and utilizing elements that some partners had no idea I even planned on using. So damn fun.

What is the worst part of being a director?
The worst part of being a director is the same as the worst part of being a writer and the worst part of being a creative director: telling a story that never gets heard. Seeing a project just vaporize under your nose for no good reason. The faint echo of passion left behind is maddening.

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.?
I left the agency world in February 2012 to pursue directing full time and recently signed with Partizan. That includes commercials, branded content and entertainment content.
But I’ll never give up writing. So, I really hope to wear as many hats as any collaborator can tolerate.
I tend to have an especially good ear for comedic dialogue but I think my agency reel indicates a skillset that extends to lot of different genres.
Ultimately (as in yesterday!), I’d love to develop, write and direct episodic television. I tend to be pretty effective at any point in the creative pipeline. From generating original ideas to pitching said ideas and all the way down to the marketing of completed content and ideas on distribution.

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 most with you?
The closest thing I’ve had to a mentor in this business is a pal, Bryan Buckley. We’ve known each other for over 10 years and have worked together countless times. And while I wouldn’t describe that relationship precisely as “a mentorship,” he has been super collaborative and extraordinarily supportive in every encounter, including this latest transition. One very simple lesson I learned from him long ago came from something he said to me back in 2002.
BRYAN: “Tim, they call it ‘a shoot day’ for one very simple reason. It’s one day”.

Who is your favorite director and why?
I have a current favorite director based on both his batting average and his sensibilities. That director is Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking, Juno, Up in the Air, Young Adult). His run in features speaks for itself.
But, I knew we had matching sensibilities after a friendly exchange we had on a commercial set a few years ago. Several minutes into a discussion over coverage, it came down to this:
Tim (shrugging): “Ya know what, Jason? You’re right”.
Jason (smiling): “Yes Tim, I am”.
It doesn’t get any more succinct than that.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
These kinds of questions are always tough because I always want to break things down into genres or categories or time periods or Top Tens or whatever.
But….
In the category of Favorite American Satirical Comedy Motion Picture with Marionettes, Geopolitics, Hollywood and A Deceased Foreign Dictator in the last Ten Years featuring the ‘F’ word more than 45 times, the winner would be–
Team America: World Police (2004).
And, if it were just any film, anytime , it’d be…Team America: World Police (2004).
As for commercials, I like Graff 9000’s “Brain Surgery” spot for Kayak.com. A lot.
I’m behind on branded content because there’s so frickin’ much of it. Trying to digest most of it feels like shoveling your driveway in January.

Tell us about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Having divorced parents, a father in the military and a stepfather in the CIA, Tim Roper grew up all over the place. But he spent more time in Austin, Texas, than pretty much anywhere except in front of a TV. Tim is a pop culture Encyclopediac and TV geek who studied Acting and Radio-TV-Film at UT Austin with a minor in History.
Tim has spent 20 years as an advertising creative and the last 15 of those at Crispin Porter + Bogusky between Miami, L.A. and Boulder as writer and executive creative director. He left the agency life in February 2012 to direct commercials and develop entertainment content. He now splits my (oops, I mean his) time between Boulder, Colorado, and Santa Monica. Tim is the father of many fine children. And he is in love with his favorite agency executive producer. As well as his 1972 Chevelle SS.