Di­rect ac­tion

One OF New Zealand’s lead­ing Com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phers, Chris Sis­arich, talks to Lara Wy­att about go­ing be­yond still images and tack­ling new cre­ative chal­lenges from the direc­tor’s chair

The Shed - - Assignment -

Plan­ning and dic­tat­ing your own cre­ative vi­sion can be a real luxury in the world of photograph­y, but for Chris Sis­arich — one of the coun­try’s best-known ad­ver­tis­ing pho­tog­ra­phers — it’s in­creas­ingly be­com­ing a re­al­ity, if not a ne­ces­sity.

De­vi­at­ing slightly from his usual still photograph­y cre­ations, Sis­arich has been ex­plor­ing the idea of di­rect­ing mo­tion and — although rel­a­tively new to the process, hav­ing di­rected four pieces pre­vi­ously — the ex­pe­ri­ence has ig­nited a near-in­stan­ta­neous pas­sion.

“The thing with TV com­mer­cials and telling sto­ries through mo­tion is that it does need that el­e­ment of story,” Sis­arich ex­plains. “So it needs things like rhythm and pace. And it’s got to be some­thing that cap­tures peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tion.”

An agency ap­proached the pho­tog­ra­pher to shoot a stills cam­paign for a tech prod­uct called Sem­ble ear­lier this year, and Sis­arich pre­pared a treat­ment to out­line his vi­sion for the job and how he would attack it. The agency loved it and asked him to di­rect the tele­vi­sion com­mer­cial (TVC) as well.

“A treat­ment en­tails a lot of work … for some­thing like Sem­ble, I might have spent a

It was quite prod­uct-driven, but what I was able to do was get a re­ally beau­ti­ful, life­style, emo­tive piece hap­pen­ing as well

cou­ple of days, but as soon as they came back and said “are you in­ter­ested in do­ing TV?” then I prob­a­bly would have spent a week on writ­ing a treat­ment.”

Sem­ble is a mo­bile ap­pli­ca­tion pro­vid­ing users with a new way to pay. Its slo­gan “bye­bye wal­let, gidday phone,” in­tro­duces the idea of pay­ing for ev­ery­day items, col­lect­ing re­wards points and pay­ing for trans­port tick­ets all from your smart­phone. Sis­arich’s vi­sion was to cre­ate a story around how the prod­uct can be used, not just show off its fea­tures.

“It was quite prod­uct-driven, but what I was able to do was get a re­ally beau­ti­ful, life­style, emo­tive piece hap­pen­ing as well. So it wasn’t just dry and prod­uct-like. Part of the story was set around the idea of a day in the life of a DJ. So he starts his day, buys a record, meets up with his girl­friend, has a cof­fee, takes her shop­ping, they jump on a bus, and catch a plane to Queen­stown.”

It differed from his com­mer­cial ex­pe­ri­ence in still photograph­y, when there’s usu­ally not a vast amount of lead-in time for a shoot. Sis­arich ex­plains with mo­tion there is a lot more time to plan — and it’s es­sen­tial to en­sure ev­ery­thing is cap­tured for the edit­ing process.

“You sit down around a ta­ble with the art depart­ment, your stylist, your wardrobe, your lo­ca­tion scout, your pro­ducer and you all sit there and say, ‘OK this is what I’m think­ing’. And they go ‘cool’, and come back to you and show you what they’ve got. So it’s a real col­lab­o­ra­tion. By the time you come to shoot, all the plan­ning has been done and you kind of just get to en­joy the process.”

The lo­ca­tion-scout­ing process in par­tic­u­lar had very spe­cific re­quire­ments to en­sure the com­mer­cial could be shot ex­actly how Sis­arich en­vi­sioned. He wanted it to look like New Zealand and have a city feel that was busy and cos­mopoli­tan.

“We needed a street scene, a cafe, a re­tail store, and a record store. So I sat down with the lo­ca­tion scout and I said, ‘I want a cafe with a lot of glass … and I want a shop that has a lot of glass and a lot of colour be­cause I like shoot­ing through glass’. I wanted a record store that was quite au­then­tic, that would have a bit of light and wasn’t too dark and dingy. So you set your lo­ca­tion scout out with those ba­sic briefs and they come back with a bunch of ideas.”

As the direc­tor, Sis­arich is the one in the po­si­tion to make sure ev­ery­thing is hap­pen­ing in ac­cor­dance with the col­lab­o­ra­tive vi­sion, and it’s up to him to pull it all to­gether. Look­ing to­wards the fu­ture, he may be load­ing even more re­spon­si­bil­ity onto his shoul­ders.

“One of the big things with pho­tog­ra­phers mov­ing into di­rect­ing is that a lot of them prob­a­bly shoot as well — I don’t. And it’s not that I don’t want to, that will prob­a­bly be one of the next things I do, learn how to shoot a bit more mo­tion. But I was re­ally want­ing to get a good han­dle on be­ing a good direc­tor rather than get­ting caught up with the tech­ni­cal­i­ties.”

Sis­arich also shot the still images for the cam­paign, which you see here. To view his com­pleted Sem­ble TVC visit bit.ly/1zRUDGF, and to check out the pho­tog­ra­pher’s other cam­paigns and projects head to chris­sis­arich.com.

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