Interview with Michael Haussman on 26th January 2016
Pulse/Person Films director secretly lives in Rome where he looks to the stars, Instagram & drones for inspiration.
What’s the best ad campaign you’ve seen recently?
I honestly can’t remember seeing anything on the air that blew me away recently in the US or Europe. Most of the good work I see is on people’s reels… and there is some great, inspiring and refreshing stuff out there… I just have no idea where any of it ever plays.
What website(s) do you use most regularly and why?
I don’t spend a lot of time navigating websites. I do visit a lot because I work in many different mediums – art, film, commercials, music videos – but surfing for work normally has a purpose, like looking up a specific artist, musician, film clip, location, etc. But I don’t look at any sites as a matter of routine.
What’s the most recent piece of tech that you’ve bought and why?
I’m in the process of buying the new Sony Alpha 7 camera because it can shoot in amazingly low light and also has 4k capability. It’s also very compact and is the perfect travel camera.
Facebook, Instagram or Twitter?
Always Instagram: Michael_Haussman.
What’s your favourite app on your phone and why?
SkyView app. So I can finally learn the constellations.
What’s your favourite TV show and why?
At the moment Ray Donovan, but that can change depending on what my wife pulls up. She keeps me in tune with what is out there and there’s a lot of great stuff. I normally watch the first four episodes of anything and then, out of simple neglect, and interest in something else, I shift to the next. It would be nice one day to follow a series through to the end.
What film do you think everyone should have seen?
I don’t for a moment think my tastes should be everyone else’s taste. But… I thought one of the most complete movies in the last couple years was MOMMY. A French Canadian character-driven film that was exciting, emotional, funny, heart wrenching, and superbly-acted and shot. Basically, all the reasons I go to the cinema.
Where were you when inspiration last struck?
Lying in bed at 4:00 am this morning.
What’s the most significant change you’ve witnessed in the industry since you started working in it?
Since I started, directing and film editing was just being phased out of commercials for 3/4 U-matic machines, which we used for music videos. A lot has happened in technology, so it’s hard to label the most significant change.
Recently, the emphasis has been on digital technology, so the end result is most felt in post production, where so much is being created. There’s no limit to realising any ideas and dreams. But I’m not sure if this has had an inverse effect on storytelling, as ideas now tend to focus on the latest effects instead. In a very short time, the new digital world has taken us from a one-dimensional, projected film experience to multi-dimensional, interactive spaces.
But I think the most significant advance in actual filmmaking has been the use of drones. In two years, they have gone from risky experiments, that may or may not get off the ground, to becoming a safe, accurate, and completely steady means of getting the camera into impossible places and moving it in ways we have not seen.
If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?
Lead the visual trend again, not follow the trend. There have been certain glory moments in advertising when films, music videos and artists were using ads for inspiration. Advertising can be a powerful pop art source. Clients know this, but don’t utilize the potential. Safe is the norm today – to the point that repetition and copying operates on a grand scale.
Example: Low-fi visuals which were once street five years ago, now form part of the status quo and have evolved to become the corporate visual style for everyone, whether they’re selling hamburgers or insurance. Or take the trend of copying a special effect just because it worked for someone else. This has only made a lot of recent work more repetitive.
It is rare to hear a creative pitch today that says, “We want to do something that has not been done.” That used to be said. Now if someone can’t see a previous example of the idea, it can’t be done or it musn’t be that good because it wasn’t done previously.
What or who has most influenced your career and why?
Probably when I worked at Replay, in my early twenties. Then, Replay was a progressive, but small, fashion house out of Milan. The owner and I became friends after he saw one of my Levi’s ads. For six years. he trusted me to write all the spots, shoot them, shoot the stills and even buy the airtime. Everything. I had complete creative control, but I also had a tremendous amount of fiscal responsibility. I learned all the parts that go into advertising – from conception to airtime – and the expense of running a 90-sec spot. When you are given X amount to spend on airtime, you make bolder decisions on the campaign you write.
One of the first ads I did with Replay (below) was about 90-seconds long, so I knew it had to be a 90-second idea. I created an attention-grabbing short film, which was due to air on a channel like MTV at a time when no one was doing this. The ad won many awards and helped to elevate Replay but I learned that an ad idea has to fit the length of the airtime slot. The audience will watch a 60 if the story is a 60. Equally, they will know if it’s not a true 30. Rarely has a 60 and 30 combination made sense. If the story is a true 60 then the 30 will be a horrible sacrifice. If it is not a true 60, it should just be a 30. A great combo is 60 and 15, because the 15 can be a very powerful ad for the 60.
Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know…
I live in Rome.