Why one director swapped Miami for Manchester | #MemberSpotlight

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For this week’s member spotlight, we’re getting to know an award-winning creative producer with a proven track record in everything from documentaries to music videos, commercials, and everything in between.

David Morris, the head of Campaign Video at The Hut Group is a thrice-featured director with an extensive body of work and we’re honoured to introduce him to you all today.

How did you get into the industry?

I studied Film at Falmouth University and met my 1st business partner during work experience. Once I graduated University, we opened our own production company in East London.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I am now based in Manchester, UK having lived and worked in Miami, New York, Rio de Janeiro and Cornwall. I am currently employed by THG Studios.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Probably doing something in Astro-Physics or running a quiet bar in the middle of nowhere.

Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?

Where we are often influenced by so many incredible creative outputs around the industry, I often deprive myself of particular types of content I want to develop in the future. I think about what I want to create, be that a specific style, integrating a new technqiue, or working with someone in particular.

When the time is right, and I have a rough idea in my head, I then fully indulge in the content type. From here I see what is on trend, what techniques I like or don't like, and see how my idea may fit or break the mould. I find this approach helps me maintain focus and provide somewhat original ideas that align in various ways with industry trends.

How would you describe your style?

My style is pure collaboration. I take in the knowledge and experience around me, funnel the ideas and see how the align or challenge my own and use the ones that often make me feel happy or scared - but these are often the ideas that push my own boundaries of skill and knowledge.

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

Charles Mehling was a huge influence to me at the start of my career. His work with Rimmel London and The Script very much taught me that beauty, fashion and music combine for the greatest creative experiences.

What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?

Giving general advice is always difficult. I think I'd just be very specific to what worked for me. I had nothing when I graduated from University apart from a couple of work experience stints under my belt. I reached out to those with whom I got to learn from and simply asked them to continue mentoring me.

This opened up doors, developed skills and gave me a constant source of critique from industry leaders to whom I continue to look up to. Find yourself a couple of mentors. Take criticism. Synthesise knowledge and experience. Experiment, play, and don't be afraid to throw it away.

What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?

A client wants to work with you because you are the best fit for what they want to create (be that creatively, commercially, or some other reason) but also get into the habit of asking yourself if they are the best client for you. Do they push you? Do they challenge you? Do they listen to what you have to say and respect your expertise?

I've never been one to chase lots of clients, I've always aimed to build my relationship with a small selection of clients who tick all these boxes for me. Finding a client that wants to grow with you is the ideal.

What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?

Apart from the usual trusty notebook, instagram and Adobe CC, I love using Milanote for creative ideas and production. In positions of management I love using the Football Manager editor database.

Odd as it may seem, the engine uses a unique algorythm that observes the compatibility and performance of people who collaborate together, especially over a period of time. You can change values to set attributes and identify skills and character traits that help create the best team.

It's a bit of fun, but actually takes quite complex data analysis and makes it fun to use. Obviously, it's not a solid tool to use on it's own, but it does help in identifying particular people or skills I might look to recruit or add to a crew. Also...who doesn't enjoy playing a bit of Football Manager? :D

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I'm a bit odd when it comes to motivation. I purposefully deprive myself of particular content styles and then fully binge on them when necessary. It becomes a life of love/hate but I find that it helps keep ideas fresh and has been key contributor to getting varied projects out into the world.

Being out in interesting places, visiting new cities or countries and experiencing new cultures is by far my most conistent way for me to get inspired and feel motivated to incorporate some new learning or experience into the next project.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

Working on an Oscar-nominated film was great accomplishment however, I was the most proud for finishing my first feature human rights documentary in Brazil.

Made on a shoe-string budget about a huge issue in Rio de Janeiro, the creation of this film tested everything I ever knew about filmmaking, about the industry, and about people - all for the better. It completely shaped my career and opened me up to new experiences without fear.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

Coming back to work in the UK, I have been reminded of the absolute lack of diversity and equality we have in our industry. Compared to other places I've worked around the world, the UK seems to do very little to champion diverse talent.

I believe it starts with education. I loved studying and teaching at Falmouth University because they challenge this status quo and have been supporting women getting into the industry more than any other institution I've worked with or know of. Manchester, especially, seems to be behind the times.

The awareness is there, but the actual opportunities and skilled, diverse workforce is still somewhat lacking. Businesses and industry leaders need to do more to work with local education institutions to help ensure we can provide better foundations for those who are not currently fairly represented in our industry.

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

Anything written, shot or directed by Derek Jarman. I'd also suggest exploring your local libraries film and photography archives.

One of my favourite resources growing up was "Inside the Actors Studio" - an old, but classic talk show where actors and filmmakers talk in-depth and detail about their work. The old episodes are available to view on YouTube.



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