It’s not about the length, but about what you want to convey.
Do you think it’s possible in a short commercial to achieve the same level of personal connection as you are able to get in a feature film? Can you create a strong feature-like narrative in under a minute?
Maurus: “Of course you cannot unfold the same kind of depth in 30 seconds as in 90 minutes. But in terms of craftsmanship, I don’t think it’s all that different… It’s the same toolkit.
I try to bring in as much detail as I can, to really do some layering. In the end you have a limited amount of time both in feature and commercials, so what it comes down to is: make it count.
And of course, when you have a short format, sometimes you have to work with broader brush strokes. For example, I’m doing four 15 second films in October for a client; I finished the storyboard this morning. I worked a lot on adding detail, but in some places you end up realizing… It’s only 15 seconds. That just doesn’t allow for much detail, so you have to be super-efficient and create drama in those 15 seconds, and it’s possible.
There’s a Tim Godsall commercial for a short film festival that makes a hilarious comment on how to establish characters in short formats: the shorter you get, the less gray area you can have. You have to get to the point quite quickly. On the other hand, not answering all the questions is vital to interesting storytelling. You don’t intrigue by playing your audience for fools.”
Do you enjoy working in a short format or do you prefer having more room to really create?
Maurus: “Well, I love films where you keep discovering new stuff, and you don’t get tired of it. That makes for quality. If I can put that in there, great. So I don’t really have a preference in length. Some commercial scripts will only give you a tagline of two sentences, and then they will ask you to write something – much like Balenciaga, where I had so much creative freedom. And sometimes you get a script where every comma was placed meticulously and you have to see how much you can add. If it’s a great script, short or long; wonderful – let’s shoot it.”
Is it hard to fight for your creative ideas? How do you go about collaborating with an agency’s creatives, for instance?
Maurus: “I find that you can open doors when you create an atmosphere of respect and understanding. There’s so much hard work that goes into a script until the point where it actually lands on my desk and so I do my best to give it respect and to add to it, rather than trying to force something onto the people on the other side of the table.
I often experience that once you establish that feeling of respect, people will start to give back trust. And to be honest, most of the time you can tell from the first script whether it’s open for interpretation or not. So, the idea is to choose wisely, really. Even so, I’ve been surprised in the past to see what someone else made of a script I rejected because maybe I thought it wasn’t inspiring or it wasn’t for me.”