Dave Whayman — Creative Director, Affixxius Films

Dave talks to TheNextGag about the different hats that he wear at Affixius, why they always strive to deliver the best work quality and why he thinks 3D is not a technology for better storytelling.

Dave Whayman is the Creative Director at Affixius Films, a commercial film production company, in the UK.

Affixius Films is one of the leading Video Production Facilities and Creative Agencies in the UK. They were crowned winners of the “Best Promotional Programme” category at the Royal Television Society Awards in 2014 for their “Cricket Has Landed” advert.

THENEXTGAG: WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A CREATIVE DIRECTOR IN A PRODUCTION COMPANY ?

DAVE WHAYMAN: I am maybe a bit more hands-on than other creative directors. Because I direct a lot of the work we actually do, as well as I direct the creative part of it.

So I am a lot on the shoots. A lot of the high-end stuff that we do; I direct a lot of that. And then I tend to follow it through: right from the beginning, from the first client meeting, coming up with the creative concept … And I have got a technical background as an editor as well and I am also doing some post-production. So I have a good overview of how the process is going to get from start to finish: work with the client, coming up with the concept, right to the scripting, the work with the storyboard artist, actually being on the shoot, directing actors, then taking it back into the studio, working with the post-production team, bringing it all together, finally final delivery to the client and the review and revise stage.

TNG: THAT’S QUITE A LOT OF JOBS FOR ONE PERSON ONLY !

DW: It is. It does feel like that sometimes.

I don’t know who’s to say if I am doing it well, but it is going well so far.

TNG: IS THERE ONE OF YOUR ROLES THAT YOU ENJOY MORE THAN THE OTHERS ?

DW: I started of being an editor, so I do enjoy that. But I don’t get the chance to do loads of that these days, which is a bit of a shame. I do really enjoy the directing as well. I guess I am just a kind of control-freak really. I like being involved in all the tasks of the process.

TNG: SOMETIMES PROJECTS CAN TAKE A LOT OF TIME TO GET PRODUCED. HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED AND KEEP EVERYONE ON BAORD FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME ?

DW: We have quite a quick turnaround generally speaking. Usually, I would say probably a couple of months from start to finish. It depends on the project, the complexity … We work in all budgets really. We don’t have a set sort of scale of projects that we work on. We’ve worked on projects that were six months long but we’ve also worked on projects that were a month long with a very quick turnaround. I think everybody wants everything as quickly as possible. But I think it has to be a balance. Because when we first started, somehow said “Jump” and we said “How high ?”. But now, we’ve kind of get more respect to the process and we really try to make sure that we put the thoughts into it, because sometimes if a thought isn’t there at the early stage, if you don’t take a moment to think, that can really jeopardise the project and have a sort of domino effect way down. So although we try to meet any deadline that we are given, we are also well aware that there are some things that are just simply unachievable because they would compromise the end quality of the product. I think it’s a bit of a balancing act.

TNG: DO YOU WORK MORE WITH EXTERNAL TALENT OR DO YOU HAVE TALENT IN-HOUSE ?

DW: We have a lot of talent in-house. We are a team of about fifteen now. And that’s sort of the production side and the post-production side. And we’ve got great guys across the board. And we do tend to work with the same team. I do direct most of the projects. We have also a senior cameraman, who shoots pretty much everything we do. But we are all sort of chameleon-esque, if that’s a word. And we like to fit into different styles that allow us to take on a project. And we are really keen to make sure that everything has a good look-and-feel each time.

But we do also bring in some external people for certain jobs. For storyboarding, we don’t have an in-house storyboarder artist. And that is something that we probably will do eventually. We bring in external sound people as well, because we don’t have that capability in-house. And some additional outsourcing, we are starting to look for external colour gradists as well, because we previously did a lot of that in-house but we are keen to make the most of what we’ve shot. So we are looking for some pretty talented external people in that area.

TNG: IS THERE ONE PROJECT THAT REPRESENTS THE ESSENCE OF YOUR COMPANY ?

DW: To be honest with you, I always get to the end of each project and although I am happy to show it to the client, I am fairly critical after that point. Because I always think that there is always room to improve, there are always think that you should have done better, there are always ways that you could advance and our skills are constantly improving.

I think the project that kind of really spurred as on, was a project for a company called Millers Oils, they make engine oil. It was a vastly ambitious project for us, for such a small team. We shot in a green screen studio. The concept was essentially to take an individual and replicate them five times to show them in a race against each other. And it involved all kind of visual effects, especially robots, green screen, motion-control rigs. We used things that we’ve never used before. It was a great project and it was incredibly ambitious for a very small team to try and hit some things that were like sci-fi: special effects, motion-control rigs, 3D elements. And also very high shot quality. It was a very difficult, very long, very hard project but something I think, back at the end of it, we got something really special, something very impressive and the client was absolutely blown-away. Because we always try to have very high ambition for our clients. Millers Oils isn’t a particularly household name, but there are very massive in their industry. So we wanted to shout about it and present them as if there were a household name, because we are a small company with massive ambition.

TNG: IN THE RECENT DAYS, I RECEIVED A LOT OF ADVERTS RELYING ON VIRTUAL REALITY, 360°, 3D. DO YOU TRY TO PUSH YOURSELF INTO THESE KIND OF BOUNDARIES ?

DW: We haven’t particularly in terms of 3D and that sorts of things. I think within the company and on sort of a personal level, we are not the biggest fans of 3D. We are all massive film geeks, so we love storytelling. And that’s where kind of our love of the work we do comes from. And I guess, our opinion — even though there are some massive things out there — is that the 3D is a kind of a barrier between the audience and the experience. But it can be very immersive too.

It is not something that we’ve looked into. I am sure it’s something that we may look into in the future. But for now, we are still in the realms of putting shot A and shot B and creating unique scenes.

TNG: DO YOU HAVE A DIFFERENT APPROACH WHEN YOU WORK ON TV ADVERTS THAN WHEN YOU DEAL WITH OTHER TYPE OF PROJECTS ?

DW: Not really. We try to match a certain level of quality for whatever it is. It is where we are in love with beautiful shot quality and using the best possible kits for whatever the job. I think some companies would be surprised to see that we throw our best equipment and our best guys at the smaller work. For us, it’s all about pride in the work. We want to get at the end of the day to produce a work that is amazing. Wherever it goes, that is a little bit irrelevant to us. We always try to hit the very top level. So if it just going on YouTube, that’s needs to be as good as possible because it’s an advert for us, it represents what we do. And equally, just because it goes on YouTube doesn’t mean that our friends and family are not going to see it, and that’s where we drive our pride, it’s producing quality work regardless of the budget, or where it is headed.

TNG: ARE YOU ALLOWED TO TALK TO US ABOUT YOUR UPCOMING PROJECTS ?

DW: We’ve got various things coming up. We are working on a big project with an university called UCFB, and it is based in Wembley stadium, which is bit of a bit unusual. And we are producing a TV advert for them, which is going to be Europe-wide. It involved a lot of special effects, drone work, 3D and some very nice shots. I directed that one as well. That’s going to be a long project in the making. That’s kind of starting to come together, so that’s quite exciting.

But we’ve also been doing a lot of work in education. There are a lot of great schools out there, and they are starting to shed the more traditional old-fashion forms of marketing and are now looking at video advertising. As it is becoming a more affordable type of advertising in all markets: in cinemas, online, that sort of things. We are seeing a massive upturn in that. We are really enjoying that kind of work as well, because you visit the school, you see the kids. There have nice things to say, to be honest. There are positive institutions. So, it’s nice to work with the kids, it’s nice to work with the institutions that are trying to do something positive and help young people. We really like that work. And there is also a lot of creative freedom in that, because kids are lot of tun and you try to attract a young audience so there is a lot of flexibility in that world.

TNG: COMPETITION IS FIERCE IN LONDON AMONG THE PRODUCTION COMPANIES, HOW DO YOU DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELF FROM YOUR COMPETITORS ?

DW: I think it is probably that we are not in London, to be honest. I think that is our biggest asset in many ways. We are very competitive in terms of price. We also attract a lot of great talent up there. People who are uninterested in the London lifestyle. It’s kind of a dog-eat-dog world out there. And it’s not necessarily the best environment for creativity or for lifestyle. People are sacrificing a sort of standard of living to live down there. When we live in such a digital age where it’s not 100% necessary to be in that world. We hire lot of kit from London, we hire lots of studios and that sort of thing — which is handy and useful — but it’s nice to go home for all of our staff to their three-bedroom houses rather than one-bedroom flat.

We’ve got a happy team. And also it is very cost-effective to have your team based out of London, where you are sort paying a premium just for your location. But also, cost is not passed on to our client. And our client can review the work in our in-house little cinema that we’ve got, with perfect sound, perfect vision. So there a lot of selling points for getting out of the big city: we can still do everything that they can do, we can just do it a lot cheaper.

TNG: IS THERE A PIECE OF WORK THAT YOU SAW IN THE RECENT MONTHS THAT REALLY PUSHED FORWARD CREATIVITY IN YOUR EYE ?

DW: I saw Whiplash on Sunday. That was an incredible film. I thought it was absolutely mind-blowing. I really really loved it. So, I’d sayWhiplash was one of the most recent films that I’ve seen that really struck me. Pretty incredible storytelling.

Dave Whayman

Affixius Films

Creative Director

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