We sat down with Jens Gehlhaar, German Director, Illustrator, Designer and Commercial Director at Logan & Sons to talk about commercial filmmaking, type design and pitches.
Hi Jens, tell us what you do for a living?
I’m a Commercial Director and type designer.
What does that involve?
Commercial film making is a highly social field. As a director, I’m collaborating not only with cast and crew but also with agencies and clients. I’m involved with dozens of artistic and creative fields from writing to photography to art direction to performing to VFX; and I have to shape framing, grading, editing, sound design and many other textures.
On the other hand, type design is super solitary and exclusively visual. One project can take years. I'm meditating over large systems of black and white shapes and nothing else: no concepts, no narratives, no clients. I enjoy oscillating between these extremes.
What do you love about your job?
I love the constant change, not only between directing and type; but also the built-in variety of commercial film making. Pitching, conceptualizing, story-boarding, scouting, casting, designing, shooting, editing — the phases are too different from each other to ever get boring. I also enjoy working on a different brand with each new gig.
The best phase is of course the shoot. To me, it's never less than thrilling to see all the pieces come together. When an actor offers a surprising take, or the sun peaks over the trees just as planned, or when I've sketched out a complicated camera move and have thirty people making it happen with ease and professionalism — the feeling is just fantastic.
What do you hate about your job?
Pitches can be very satisfying when dealing with an interesting creative and a quick turnaround: As a director, you get to make the film in your head without any compromises at first, and that can be quite exciting.
However, when a pitch must be won on a limited budget with mediocre creative as a starting point, and I'm not getting paid for any of it, it becomes my least favorite part of the job. Once agency folks or clients step in and push back on worthwhile changes only because they've sold the creative up the ladder and don't have the balls to go back, it becomes worse. (That being said, I've been on the agency side and absolutely understand and respect the difficulties.)
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing that?
At various stages in my career, I've made a living as an agency creative, graphic designer, musician, type designer, design teacher and animation director, and I've had a blast in any of these fields and could go back to any of them if presented with an interesting opportunity. I like film making the most because it actually combines all of my interests.
What is your all-time favourite piece of creative work/campaign?
The work I am most interesting in making is straightforward story-telling stuff that touches the hearts of the audience. This may describe socially relevant content such as P&G's “Moms” Olympic campaign or absurd humor such as the Old Spice brand, because if we have to sell things to the audience, we'd better make sure they have a good time watching our content.
However, when asked about all-time favorites, I would choose something that is more abstract than story-telling, namely structurally or conceptually challenging pieces that create new form. I’m still in awe of a trio of Michel Gondry's music videos where the visuals are representations of the musical score: “Around the World”, “Star Guitar” and “The Hardest Button to Button”.