In the director’s chair: Andrew Lang on documentary making and funny moments on Ikea’s ‘Pussy People’

Andrew Lang answers questions on inspirations and passions

In the first of a new series, in which The Drum interviews directors on influences, passions and career highlights, Andrew Lang discusses being a news junkie and why Thai Director Thanonchai Sornsriwichai is an inspiration.

Who or what inspired you to be a Director? (or who are your creative heroes and why?)

I was studying Spanish at school in a rowdy class. The exhausted teacher put on a film to shut us all up. The film was a Chilean documentary called The Battle of Chile and I’d never seen anything quite like it. From that moment on, I wanted to make films.

Outside of work, what are you into?

I’m trying to read as much as much fiction as possible and I’m also a bit of a news junkie. Although it’s hard to tell the difference these days.

How would you describe your style of commercial/filmmaking? What are you known for?

Coming from a documentary background, I imagine I'm known for realism; naturalism of performance, lighting and camera work. My girlfriend says my commercial work is all about people running. It’s a fair point. Looking back, I’ve certainly spent a decent part of my career standing over long dolly tracks or next to out of breath steadicam operators.

Have you got an idea about what sort of projects you’d like to work on or are you quite open minded about what work comes your way?

I’m especially on the lookout for character-led commercial scripts with a strong narrative; short films where the character goes through some kind of meaningful change within the walls of a 30 or 60 second commercial.

When you’re looking at scripts and projects that come in, is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?

I get really excited if a script gives me a chance to try something I’ve never done before; whether a camera technique or a certain type of performance from an actor. I ask myself, what can I learn by making this?

What's your funniest moment on set?

When we were shooting ‘Pussy People’ for Ikea, a lady at the cat show we were documenting waxed lyrical about the special bond she had with her cat. Then she went to pick it up and the cat attacked her.

What's your best piece of work?

In terms of commercials, I think ‘Pussy People’ for Ikea and ‘Wake Up World’ for FIFA

FIFA - Wake Up World from Andrew Lang on Vimeo.

Which commercials directors do you most admire?

There are some amazingly skilled directors out there. But even when you look at the work of the best, the message of their films is the message of the brand. That’s not surprising considering these are commercials. But it does make the work of the Thai Director Thanonchai Sornsriwichai all the more remarkable. When you look at his body of work, you can clearly see his social concerns and compassion coming through. He's using advertising to communicate a model of behaviour that he feels is important. That’s incredibly hard to do, while still, say, selling shampoo. It’s what makes him hands down the best commercials director in the world, in my opinion.

Which ad do you wish you’d made?

I’ve got a soft spot for the ‘Never Say No to Panda’ campaign. Normally, the message of a commercial is, “use this product and your life will be better”. ‘Never Say No To Panda’ turns that on its head and tells the audience, “use this product or something really terrible will happen to you”. It’s brilliantly irreverent and I’d love to have a beer with the people who made it.

Andrew Lang is represented globally by The Sweet Shop.

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Charlotte McEleny

Charlotte McEleny is The Drum's Asia Editor, charged with finding all the interesting industry news and insights from the Asia Pacific region. During her year in Asia, she's covered topics as wide ranging as industry overwork to artificial intelligence, and interviewed top CMOs such as Alibaba's Chris Tung, and world famous creatives such as Rankin.

Based in Singapore, she travels the region regularly, attending and presenting at many top events, such as Spikes, Ad Week Asia and Innovfest.

Prior to her role as Asia Editor, she spent 10 years working across the London marketing trade magazines, even picking up an award for Best Digital Team at the PPA Digital Awards during her spell as digital editor at Marketing.

All by Charlotte