Creative TV Film

In the Director’s Chair: Doug Liman on moving into TV early and wishing movies went as smoothly as ads


By Charlotte McEleny, Asia Editor

August 23, 2018 | 4 min read

The latest in The Drum’s Director’s Chair series is award-winning Hollywood and TV director Doug Liman, famed for his work on the Bourne franchise, Mr & Mrs Smith and TV series The OC.

Doug Liman

Doug Liman answers questions for In The Director's Chair

In this week’s article, Independent Media's Liman discusses his move into TV, as well as the differences in working on films versus adverts. We’ve previously asked the very same questions to Traktor, Eli Roth and Mea Dols de jong.

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

I started making movies when I was eight. I think my influences were the Peanuts Xmas special and The Six Million Dollar Man.

Outside of work, what are you into?

I have a small farm. I love farming. I don’t have any pets but I develop pets like relationships with my farm animals.

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

Honesty, emotional honesty. It’s about putting my audiences in the movie, in the action, in the emotion of it, rather than just watching from a comfortable distance. The assault scene in Impulse makes audiences squirm like they are in the truck with the couple.

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 have my bucket list of movies, but I’ve been so lucky to get amazing projects coming in over time that my bucket list keeps growing.

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

I look for material that I have a unique perspective on. Movies and TV shows and commercials that would be fundamentally different if someone else directed. Mr & Mrs Smith was entirely a reaction to The Bourne Identity. If I hadn’t just made Bourne, I don’t think I would have had the unique perspective on Mr. & Mrs. Smith to see it as a love story.

What's your funniest moment on set?

Movie: Go

TV: I just want my pants back.

What's your best piece of work?

Commercials: The Tiger Woods golf ball juggling commercial and another spot I am not allowed to talk about.

Which ad do you wish you'd made?

The Aaron Burr ‘Got Milk?’ campaign.

How well does the information flow between client, agency and production company on a job?

Great. I wish movie studios worked as well as my commercials.

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

More of my peers joining me in TV. When I did The OC, people thought it was insane for a film director to want to do TV. When TV directors were trying to break into film, I was swimming against the tide.

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