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Director Series: Dan Martin

In our StopPress Director Series we take five to chat to our industry’s top directors. In the director seat today, Dan Martin tells us of dream projects, sources of inspiration and applying a prodigious power-wedgie to Donald Trump.

Dan Martin

Was a career as a director always the plan? 

I’d like to say it was my destiny but in reality I trialled many other things, from primary school teacher to lab technician. In my mid twenties I finished a good old fashioned arts degree and then, as many do, I drew a career blank. The obvious answer was to move to Japan, which I loved. Soon afterwards someone was charitable enough to offer me a real job in television, so back to the 09 I flew. 

How did you get into the position you’re in now? 

Through tenacity and dumb luck, I became a Junior Promo Producer at TVNZ. If you know how pacy broadcast TV is, you’ll understand what a trial by fire this can be. It was a whirlwind apprenticeship in shooting, editing, production and copywriting. Once I had graduated to a leadership position I had the privilege of Creatively Directing nationwide campaigns. You couldn’t ask for a better training ground. 

What has been one of your favourite projects to date and why? 

My favourites are usually my most recent projects, and so I can’t go past this content piece we made with Pead PR, for Best Foods: ‘Tu Mai Nga Tama Toa! — Rise Up, The Warriors!’

It’s a bespoke haka for the New Zealand Warriors and the performers were just electrifying. To cap it off, the weather was utterly horrendous despite us needing a cinematic sunrise. Suddenly, there was a 5 minute break in the clouds and we got the shot. The gods intervened. 

Where do you get your inspiration from? 

I voraciously consume movies and television. (Despite decades of this, my eyes have not gone square Mum.) There is just so much excellent storytelling out there. I like to read novels and politics, I am an amateur musician, but in the end I think the most important thing is to stop working and do something completely different, to give your subconscious time to settle down and rest. It builds reserves of insight, energy and enthusiasm you can’t get in any other way. 

What would you like debunked about being a director? 

The sense that directors are like artists with a unique vision, you know, all the pomposity associated with the title. Directing is a craft not an art – anyone can do it. It’s about being a people orientated person, an effective communicator with a knack for human empathy. Primarily, you are the guardian of the story and the client’s message, but in doing so, you have to balance everyone’s needs, communicate to individuals and a crowd, and adapt as you go. Maybe it’s not that far from primary school teaching after all. 

What do you do outside of work to stay motivated and inspired? 

I get up at dawn everyday and meditate in the lotus position. That of course is a lie, but it’s what I’d like to do. I manage that sort of thing occasionally, but at a more civil time of day. Mostly I recharge with friends and family, you know, the full ‘live, laugh, love’ formula. 

What would be your dream project? 

Ok, so 2020 has been absolutely crazy, it’s been the Nicolas Cage year of the 21st century, yet there’s a sense of optimism starting to peak around the door. It would be wonderful to work on material that does good for the environment and social justice. Also I’ve never filmed an exploding car, so that’s an unfulfilled dream. 

If you had to rename your business, what would you call it? 

Yes, I would like a long black LTD.

What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career?

Hoover up all your mistakes and own them like a badge of honour. That’s how you get better. 

What has been the best ‘hard lesson’ you’ve had in your career? 

Early in my career, I was lucky to be able to make mistakes when the stakes were low. I’ve made things that have gone way off brief because I was working in isolation. Now, the only surprises I like to bring to projects are good ones. 

What is the best advice you’ve even gotten? 

Everyone on set mirrors your energy, so make it positive. 

If there was a 24-hour period where laws didn’t apply only for you, what would you do? 

I’m hoping that also applies to the laws of nature, and if so I’d like to dress up as Abraham Lincoln, materialise directly behind Mr Trump at one of his rallies, apply a prodigious power-wedgie, and evaporate back into the ether before the snipers realise what’s happened. 

What famous director would you want to swap with for 12 hours? 

David Lynch. He could read a shopping list and make it feel like an adventure. 

What superpower do you think would best benefit your career? 

I’d love to be able to just add another hour to the shooting schedule at will. The power of hypnosis over Producers, perhaps. 

Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years? 

With the way things are going, I’d be quite happy with a leadership position in a Mad Max style road gang. Otherwise, it really is a privilege to tell stories for a living, and unless A.I. makes some huge inroads very quickly, I hope to be doing this in one way or another indefinitely. 

This is part of our StopPress Director Series, if you’re a director with a yarn to spin and would like to be profiled, hit us up on editor@stoppress.co.nz.

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