Meet Director Stephen Frandsen
by Heather DiPietro
Before Stephen was directing spots for Swiffer, Dawn, and Charmin, he was headed to law school when a camera fell in his lap, and he fell in love with video. He moved from Utah to New York City working his way up from production assistant to director while teaching 2nd grade for Teach For America.
After a year of shooting and directing personal projects, his work screened at the Seattle International Film Festival, Cannes, and the LA Shorts International Film Festival. At the heart of it, Stephen is a storyteller that enjoys meeting people and telling their stories with empathy. It’s why AdAge calls his work “Real enough to actually warrant a rare bit of respite of cynicism.”
Stephen recently joined our production company, so I wanted to sit down with him in between shoots to talk about his directing and what he’s most proud of.
When did you first know that you wanted to direct?
SF: I’ve wanted to direct ever since I saw Marty McFly riding a hover-board, Indiana Jones cracking a whip, and Luke Skywalker hanging from the bottom of Cloud City. I just didn’t know it was something people did for a living until I was 28 years old.
What is unique about your vision?
SF: I think bringing an empathetic point of view to telling stories is a key part of connecting with consumers. We have to actually love the people to whom we are selling. We have to connect with them and understand them. And that’s something I love doing. I love putting myself in the shoes of my audience, learning what makes them tick, and then telling stories that are interesting and entertaining.
How do you approach directing talent?
SF: With Empathy. Whether directing real people talent, or actors, approaching people with empathy and kindness, I think, is the key to getting great performances.
What do you enjoy about directing?
SF: Every day is different. I’m able to meet new people, experience different points of view, travel to interesting places, and tell exciting and interesting stories. What’s not to enjoy? It’s the greatest job on the planet.
One thing you can’t live without on set.
What’s your favorite camera to shoot with?
SF: Whichever is right for the story.
Speaking of story, what makes a good story and what elements of a story interest you the most as a director and a consumer?
SF: If things feel real, then it’s good. If it feels forced then it’s not. Do I want to keep watching? Then it’s good!
Now for the million-dollar question, what have you directed that you are most proud of and why?
SF: I strive to make sure that the last thing I shot is my best thing. So, every time I shoot something I try to make it better than what I did before. I have a recent short film that’s won best drama awards at multiple film festivals, and I’m very proud of. But, hopefully, the next thing I shoot I will be even more proud of than that.
What do you look for in a project to determine if it’s right for you?
SF: I want to tell interesting stories that are also entertaining. Whether we are selling toothbrushes, cars, or making a short film, I want to figure out a way to inject some humanity and empathy into the story and make our characters relatable, funny, and entertaining.
What advice do you have to students?
SF: Shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot. Care less about gear. More about story. And shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot shoot.
We’re really excited to have you here at GhostPepper!
SF: I’m excited to be here. You do great and work and I think we’re going to tell a lot of great stories together!