Top Director: Jeffrey Darling

Jeff Darling.jpgIn a regular column Campaign Brief Asia is turning the spotlight on a hot director. Here, we talk to Jeffrey Darling from Moth Projects.

Jeffrey Darling is one of Australia's most celebrated and admired commercial directors. Since he first captured the imagination of his audience through distinct cinematography and visual imagery, Darling has been honoured with many international awards, the latest being the Festival of Festivals in Vienna for Barossa - Be Consumed. His unique visual palette and stimulating work has earned Darling his reputation as one of the world's most sought-after directors.
How did you get your start in the industry?
Well my start was at high school really. I began doing photography quite early and am entirely self taught. Once leaving school, I quickly adapted into motion picture.

What was your first big break as a commercials director?
This was directing the campaigns for the Bank of New Zealand. It comprised of a series of five commercials, which all carried inspirational qualities, and were inherently anthemic. This was showcased at Cannes in the Young Directors.

What do you love about directing commercials? Tell me about your most recent job and what was involved/the challenges of the job and why you like commercial work?
I find commercial work offers a great diversity, in that you are always able to engage with a variety of film language, and grammar. It is also being constantly on the move, in the last few months I have shot in Shanghai, Mexico, Hawaii, New Zealand and Beijing. My most recent job was for Davidoff, shot in Hawaii with the actor Scott Eastwood. It was very much a water story, essentially the idea of a man that is one with the sea. The conditions were challenging, due to the hurricane that was just out to sea.

Have you recently shot in Asia and what appeals to you about working in the Asian market?
Yes, I have shot there are few times this year, most recently in Beijing. Geographically, the locations are fresh to my eye and working there offers an alternative palette and stimulates new vocabularies. The market there is exciting because it has a very strong, refined visual understanding. I also love the can do approach that is throughout Asia.

Have you ever ventured into short films or films?
I have shot a number of films and was the youngest DP to receive a coveted AFI award. I have done many short films. I find that when I have an idea to explore, the short film format is great for discovery, and quite often becomes the beginning of a new chapter in a working style.

Diners.jpgWhat's the three most memorable spots you've directed? 
1. Diners Club - Map of the Land.
This was the first step into lightweight digital photography, introducing an entirely new possibility of locations and ways to unobtrusively interact both with the cast or exploring more fragile environments. I explored this further for my first Hennessy VSOP spot for China.

Barossa.jpg2. Barossa - Be Consumed.
Here I took a genre of tourism and brought a non-literal and more emotional atmospheric response to showcase the environment.

Hankook.jpg3. Hankook - Be One with It.
This was a piece based in action around extreme sports all paralleling the need for control. It produced some great imagery and gave us an opportunity to play with some dynamic editing.

What are your favourite three commercials of all time?
Tony Kaye - Dunlop Tire.
Chris Cunningham - Gucci Flora.
Johnathan Glazer - Wrangler.

What are your career highlights to date?
There have been so many highlights. It has become quite addictive to continue pursuing the possibilities of what one can achieve. I love it when you are given boards that are out of the box. This happened a few years ago with the first Hankook Tires work, which was high action and fast cars, which then lead to the Lexus work. The week after doing that I was shooting a beauty spot. I love being able to switch between genres and not be pigeon holed.

Tell me something about yourself that not many people would know.
I live in Australia.

What is your favourite genre?
I enjoy exploring mini genres, most of them being visual. I love the play between two juxtaposing elements, be it ugliness and beauty, or perhaps absurdity and reality. It is always engaging to find some element of conflict within your work, especially for the edit room.

Is there intention within the absence of dialogue in your work?
Many of the dialogue pieces that present themselves pull me out of the emotional reality that I want to connect to. However, with more flexibility, I know there are great ways to integrate and emotionally capitalise on dialogue. Having shot an award winning 40 minute film I am no stranger to dialogue.

Previous directors featured in this Top Director series:
Stuart White
Sam Bennetts
Melanie Bridge
Mark Toia
Andrey Hardaway

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