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In the director’s chair: Zoe Mcintosh on why being a director makes the world more interesting

In the director's chair with Zoe Mcintosh

In the latest Drum series of ‘In the Directors Chair’, Sweetshop director Zoe Mcintosh, says everything becomes an inspiration while directing, and her love of dancing.

Past interviews have included Wilkins and Maguire, Henry Busby and Eli Roth.

What inspired you to be a Director?

I always wanted to be a photographer, but I loved writing and creating stories. When I started making films at University, it just felt so right. Being a director makes the world so endlessly interesting. It means, for me, everything is an inspiration; I’m always observing people, relationships, light and environments. It’s a job that makes you look at life more closely and try get to the truth out of things. I love that.

Tell us something unique about you?

I love dancing. Whether it’s dancing in a pitch black old hall, with a bunch of strangers every Monday night, spending two months Tango dancing in Argentina, or just letting loose to Bowie in my living room, like an idiot. I’m also obsessed with the ocean. If there’s wind or swell on the NZ coast, I’ll be surfing or kite surfing at a gorgeous beach for certain.

How do you refuel creatively?

By throwing myself into unusual situations and foreign places. Feeling like a total fish out of water is a sure way to spark me creatively, energise me and generate fresh ideas. Whether it’s hitchhiking with a camera, making a doco with the homeless or staying in a run-down caravan park to write a script – getting fully out of my comfort zone is where the magic happens for me.

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

I see myself as a storyteller, who has an ability to reveal the truth and complexities behind people. I pride myself on getting natural and memorable performances from both actors and non-actors. In both my independent films and commercials, I like to celebrate unconventional characters and tend to explore themes around connection, rebellion and small acts of kindness.

What kind of projects do you like to work on?

Projects which have immediate heart, truth and humour. Projects which make you feel something authentic and have an interesting idea behind them. If the script has scope for a strong visual treatment and craft, that’s exciting for me too.

What do you look for in a script?

When a script comes in, I always ask myself “what do I relate to in this material, how can I make it better, is there scope to do something really different and what can I personally bring to it to make it distinctive and memorable”. I’m looking for a good idea, a universal theme and an opportunity to cast interesting and unexpected characters.

What's your funniest moment on set?

Tough to choose one specific moment. I’m always laughing on set, as I predominantly work with a team of close friends. We're always messing with each other and cracking jokes.

What's your best piece of work?

This spot for Spark is one of my favourites. It’s a simple story about a dad stepping out of his comfort zone to reconnect with his daughter. I like the casting, the locations and also managing to score a Pharrell Williams track.

Spark. Big Tony from Zoe McIntosh on Vimeo.

What was your greatest fear when you first started Directing?

My biggest fear when I first started out was working with actors and delivering strong performances. However, I’ve been directing for many years now and I've actively practised, done courses and directed many dramatic films and commercials. Although there’s still an abundance to learn I no longer have that fear. Working with actors is now my favourite part of the process.

What's been the biggest change to the industry during your career?

I think the biggest change I’ve seen, has been the encouragement and increasing support for female directors. It’s great to see perceptions shifting and seeing organisations like Free the Bid form. I still think there’s a huge way to go, but it’s promising when you see the industry beginning to wake up and make more changes.

What would you be doing if you weren’t directing?

Tough one. I can’t imagine a life not directing. I think I’d want to be a marine biologist. I love the ocean, exploring new places and am always marvelling at natures peculiar miracles and oddities. I have watched BBC Ocean back-to-back an uncountable amount of times! I never get sick of it.