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
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.