Posts Tagged: Directing

The Human in the Machine Interview #4: Director Jeanne Kopeck

The Human in the Machine is a continuing series of interviews with industry professionals focused on the relational aspects of the editorial process. Blog pages and bookshelves everywhere are flooded with technical information on the craft of editing, but there seems to be little out there on the human side of it all. Even though much of our work is technical based, what is at the heart of it all is spending 10-15 hours a day locked in a room, usually with other people, creating stuff. What makes those other people come back to your edit suite instead of walking down the hall to the next one? Why do so many editors and directors reference a “psychic relationship” where they instinctively know how the other would proceed with an edit? Some of my questions don’t even pertain to editing alone, but all work that involves relationships and collaboration. I think, especially in school, so much of the curriculum is geared toward the tech side instead of the human side. As much as it doesn’t seem fair, a big part of this industry is not based on raw talent and knowledge but on politics, connections, and people skills. You can either fight this truth or decide to train those muscles with the same intensity that you train your technical skill set. Hopefully each of these interviews give you a better idea of how to approach this human side of the business and how to create the work relationships that keep clients coming back for more.

Here is how Jeanne describes her climb,
I never started out to do this. I was a painter who got into computer graphics and effects work before a lot of other people…it was dumb luck, and a very fortunate meeting with Wyndham Hannaway. I consider him a God. Beyond that I have had the good fortune of working with wonderful people through the years who have given me a chance to try things, and who have been willing to share their expertise.
I worked my way up from the overnight “news” artist at KUSA, to Art Director in the late 80’s. Then spent 15 years at Citizen Pictures (went in as Art Director, left as President/ Partner). My time at Citizen was invaluable and afforded me the opportunity to direct. Five years ago, I left Citizen to form Mrs K, and though I still have a deep passion for broadcast design, over the past 18 years I have pretty much exclusively directed (hopefully with an artist’s eye). Our work is primarily national and international. In Sept. 2010 Peter and I took over complete ownership of Mrs K. and moved the company to Boulder. 2011 has been our most successful year to date. Life is good.


GM3- Based on your time spend locked in a room with an editor, what qualities created the best relationships. What were the worst?

JK- My favorite way to work with an editor is to take them through the footage, explain what I was thinking and leave them alone. I like to give editors space to think and take ownership of a project rather than dictate shot for shot. As a result, my favorite quality in an editor is passion. I look for people who are willing to spend time with the images/stories and can show me combinations I couldn’t have thought of on my own.

When an editor makes those unexpected connections, I’m in awe and feel I’ve witnessed magic.

GM3- What should an editor know about the director and her personality that would help the work relationship?

JK- Tell me what you think/feel….but don’t forget to listen. Before I shoot anything, I spend a LOT of time visualizing a project…so when I’m describing shots, I’m trying my hardest to give an editor a sense of “why” things look as they do. Take good notes.

I strongly believe that as “commercial artists” our job is not to showcase our personal opinions, but to find ways to honor and give voice to our clients stories/products etc. I think a mistake a lot of people make is to confuse this. The best description of this I have ever heard is “that’s why it’s called show business and not show art”. So, respect for that original “vision” and the client is imperative. I know this is a little confusing and sounds like a contradiction to my “bring yourself to the project” statement…but there is a distinction between finding creative solutions (expertise) vs. making it about what “you” think.

Also, don’t try to impress me with technical expertise…I don’t really care how it works.

GM3- How do you create a resonance with the editor and your client?

JK- By placing trust in the editor. Let’s face it…this is a business of relationships before anything else. When choosing Mrs K to execute project, a client is expecting us to make good decisions on their behalf. We take this trust very seriously. As a result, we spend a lot of time selecting our “team”. So, by the time I am in an edit bay, I have “sold” the editor and their capabilities to the client. In other words, they walk into the room already a fan…it’s the editor’s responsibility to keep it that way. Treat them with respect.

GM3- When working with an editor for the first time, what are you looking for in them to see whether there is a long term working relationship worth developing?

JK- Selfless passion and a wicked sense of humor.

GM3- What types of pet peeves do you have in terms of working with editors?

Don’t talk about all the other cool things you have worked on.
Listen first.

GM3- Could you share a little about your process is working with the ad agency? Where did the line cross from your vision and control, to their’s?

JK- It is ALWAYS their vision. My job is to help them execute that vision in the most creative and beautiful ways I can.

GM3- What qualities do you find in the clients you work with regularly? What makes you both click?

JK- Back to this being a business of relationships first. I think it’s really important to work with people you genuinely respect as humans. I am also old enough to not waste time on people who don’t care…passionately…about what they do. If you’re “calling it in” or just looking to make money…don’t call me.

GM3- What are your expectation of the editor and how they handle the project outside of just technical proficiency?

JK- I expect them to be open-minded, truthful…and more than a little talented.