Director’s Insight | 导演见解
Exclusive interview with Canadian Director Ian Robertson on his latest shoot in China for NBA.
Director | 导演: Ian Robertson
For only his second time shooting in China, film director Ian Robertson is incredibly at ease. In between shooting and editing we met at a French bakery tucked down a winding lane, lined with Shanghai’s iconic London plane trees. Shooting in China is not for the faint of heart but Robertson makes it sound like one big adventure and is able to shrug off cultural frustrations with a soft chuckle.
His first job in China was a series of comical spots for Audi. It was on a freshly laid, yet to be used highway just outside the city. The production company was local and the shoot was long. Emotions ran high as the scheduled eight days of shooting came to a close. Now two years later shooting in China again, Robertson is impressed from his experience with how much the organization and quality of the shoots has improved. “To see [China’s advertising industry] change so quickly is really encouraging”.
Robertson’s specialty is storytelling so in a way it’s perfect timing for him to dip back into the Chinese market as storytelling methods are finally picking up in China. This time around the client was NBA China paired with a well-established Chinese production company MiC. The TVC is for a web browser to increase fan engagement. The Chinese already adore the NBA as the numbers show – China is the second largest market for the NBA – so the TVC was about creating ways to get already passionate Chinese fans more involved.
Robertson的专长是用镜头讲故事，现在再次回到中国时机恰到好处，中国市场终于开始注重讲故事了。这一次的客户是NBA中国，携手中国知名制作公司MiC，共同打造广告。专门为网络浏览器所打造，目的是为了增加粉丝的参与度。数据显示，中国人很钟情NBA – 中国是NBA第二大市场，所以这次的广告是为了让原有的中国粉丝加大参与度。
NBA Fan Club TVC | NBA 球迷圈 TVC
Pre-production planning efficiency was certainly increased this time around as communication with the client and creative team was led by the NBA Executive Creative Director who is a native English speaker. Communication, however, is not only about the verbal elements, something Robertson has picked up on and mastered over his years shooting in places around the world where English is not everyone’s first language.
Animation used in NBA TVC | NBA TVC 的动画部分
And Robertson is no rookie to directing. While sipping a frothy latte out of a small glass cup, he tells me he has shot in over 14 countries. In his early twenties he moved to Milan as a freelance fashion photographer. Less intrigued by the indulgent and sometimes gaudy runway photoshoots, he soon landed a job with MTV as they were establishing themselves in Italy. He was responsible for rolling out smaller social media style campaigns, which is where he first dipped his feet into directing. After eight years in Italy, Robertson moved back to Toronto, Canada with his wife where they are raising three boys.
“Being a director is a lot about being able to read the room” Robertson tells me. Particularly in China, Robertson has observed the sensitivity to hierarchy. “Everyone has a certain place and order so I have to be careful who I talk to about getting things done” he explains. This, however, is hardly viewed as a frustration to Robertson but rather as something simply to adapt to and figure out how best to get the job done despite cultural differences.
In many ways China’s advertising market is still evolving and it is hard to pin any label or accurate description to the scene. Robertson was impressed with the level of craftsmanship and skill level of the crew. The TVC required a couple shots in an official NBA store so the team was brought to a real NBA store in one of Shanghai’s busy shopping malls. After it become clear that shooting in the real store would not yield the results Robertson was looking for, the production team immediately offered to replicate an NBA store in studio to get the desired lighting and effects needed. This sort of flexibility and willingness to try new methods makes China an exciting place to shoot, Roberson expressed repeatedly.
Building a mock NBA store on set | 实景搭建
His biggest complaint about shooting in China is about finding the appropriate talent. Whereas if he were shooting in the US, production might send him 80 to 100 options in the first round, here he was much less involved and had a lot less options before the final casting decisions were made.
“I’m a storyteller” Robertson reminds me. So to tell a good story he needs good actors to convey the necessary human emotions. It’s self evident then why casting a model to play the part of an everyday fan is less than ideal. While Chinese advertising is notorious for whitewashed ads with gorgeous models using the particular product for sale, from the scripts Robertson has seen recently, this trend is fading fast. As the brand narratives begin to favor storytelling, “the casting will naturally evolve to meet the demands of the scripts” Robertson believes.
Lee Cheng Producer from MiC Productions
While certainly exhilarating to work in a growing market like China it is not without its handful of struggles. Robertson is able to brush them off with a sort of calm cultural acuity. Perhaps its because Robertson is a kind-hearted Canadian or has an extra bone of empathy that allows him to work so fluidly in different markets.
As our time winds to an end Robertson jokes to me he might like to try his hand at shooting in India. This is not because India is a good or known stable market but more so he could take on a new challenge. China, on the other, might be the world’s best market at the moment. For storytellers in particular it is an exciting time to be in China’s advertising world. “I think it’s only going to get better and better,” he tells me optimistically, “and that’s exciting, it’s fresh”.
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Credits 制片团队 Client 客户： NBA Agency 广告公司 : AKQA SHANGHAI Executive Creative Director 执行创意总监 : Eric Cruz Account service 客户服务 : Shirley Ling / Joyce Wang Agency Producer 广告公司制片 : Ivy Low Production 制片公司 : MiC (Made In China Films ) Director 导演 : Ian Robertson Producer 制片人 : Lee Cheng / Lanny Dong Dop 摄影师 : Leandro Vieira Ferrao Art Director 文艺指导 : Amily Wang Editor 编辑 : Yan Jing Grading 调色 : Don Chuan ( MBS) Post 后期制片公司 : CO2 Music, Sound Design & Mixing 音乐制作 : The Recroom ( Malaysia）