When Ad Land’s main communications calls and asks for an interview with our Director Yoni Weisberg, he was more than happy to make the time.
Little Black Book Online has been hailed as the communications business for the communications world for some years now and the opportunity to talk to them and share opinions on the advertising and production world was an exciting one.
In his interview, Yoni shared his views on a range of topics, from scripts and the creative process, through to how to navigate the brand/agency/production relationship and the impact that the Covid pandemic could have on the shooting process in future.
As brands increasingly require their content to be shared across a variety of platforms, LBBO were interested in understanding how Yoni and other Chief directors accommodate this and still deliver for the primary format.
Yoni is a lifelong cinephile, from renting videos with his mum from Ritz Home Video to making his first films starring himself as Spider-man in his childhood, and eventually studying Film Production. Yoni has always had a drive for making films.
His style is defined by education in multiple disciplines. Studying graphic design and art at University. He began his career as an editor, then moving on to life as an After effects
artist and finally a Director of commercials and online films for some high profile clients including Nike, Adidas and the BBC amongst many others. Yoni is also an accomplished artist and illustrator working for sports clients such as BT Sport, Liverpool FC and These Football Times.
He is currently represented for commercial work by Chief Productions based in Manchester, UK.
Name: Yoni Weisberg
Repped by/in: Chief
Awards: Cannes Lion and D&D Yellow Pencil
LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Yoni> I love a script when you can see one singular creative idea running through it. The script itself might be a sprawling epic but weaved into every scene, line of dialogue and even the end line is an idea with real purpose and focus.
Personally the scripts which most excite me involve a multi-disciplinary approach. Combining live action with VFX, archive material, photography, graphic design the list goes on. My own education, both academic and within the industry, combines a traditional film school type journey with studying a degree in graphic design so I’m always on the lookout for ways I can give the most value to a piece of work in bringing all of my skills.
LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Yoni> The most important part for me of approaching any treatment is I have to believe that I have a unique point of view on how to create it. I always start by searching for a way into the script from my own perspective, what am I bringing to it and what is my vision – something that I can really grasp on to and feel like my treatment won’t be like the others they receive in a definable way.
From there I try to understand the brand’s positioning, and what has gone into establishing that – both short term and/or long term. I think it’s important to see how I can integrate my own style and approach as a director within the agency and brand’s own beliefs.
LBB> If the script is for a brand that you’re not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you’re new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
Yoni> My first point is to explore my own creative relationship to the script. I think it’s really important to keep your instinctive reactions totally unfiltered. Once I’ve gotten to the route of that then I will research the brand and the wider market. My rule of thumb is that if I can have a competent conversation about the brand, it’s competitors and the wider market we’re operating in then I can begin to understand what it is I don’t know. Ultimately the agency and the brand themselves will have a far greater understanding of who they are and what they want to say, and I just try to put myself in a position to ask the right questions, interrogate the creative decisions and present the brand in a way we’re all super happy with.
LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Yoni> Ooof, that feels like an almost impossible question. It can change from set to set. I certainly always like to have a good connection with the creatives who have developed the script – bouncing ideas around, embracing adaptation and evolution on set together can be a lot of fun. Ultimately filmmaking of any sort is about searching for the best ideas, and I think harbouring a set which can nurture those ideas is the most important thing. My DP and my producer are often my fiercest ally on set, they are the people I will most often bounce ideas off and also expect them to chip in with some key thoughts as well. Once on set I like to feel I can trust the crew to see through the vision for the film, giving me the ability to focus on the big picture and see where we might want to build on a thought or add something new. As I’m sure you’ll get from this answer I don’t actually think there is a finite answer, film crews are a giant collaborative pot and I think that’s what makes it such a unique art form.
LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about – is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Yoni> I love filmmaking of all sorts, and have a massive amount of passion for many genres. Because of the world I operate in I feel like I naturally gravitate towards sport/football work. I’m an illustrator as well as a filmmaker and I’ve done work on that front for brands like Liverpool FC, BT Sport, the Champions League and I think there’s a strange serendipity that when your life is so naturally focused in one area all of the work seems to come in through that funnel – as a massive football fan and sports enthusiast in general I’m not complaining at all!
LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Yoni> So the first thought I had was what my mum thinks I do. I doubt that’s what the question was angling towards, but it’s the honest answer. I’m fairly certain she thinks I’m a cameraman and that cameraman/director are synonymous, or that she thinks I do everything on set – it can shift and change depending on when she is asking the question.
LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?
Yoni> It’s not something I’ve had to deal with a lot in my career up to this point, but I understand the reason for them. Within our industry we need to be able to rationalise the why of every penny and pound. It’s about finding the balance of trust between all parties whilst still leaving the door open for creative exploration up to delivery.
LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Yoni> When we were shooting with Dennis Rodman in North Korea there was certainly a lot of…….navigating to be done around the restrictions put in our way. All I can say is we got back home safe, the film exists and anything else I say would probably be a little risky.
LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Yoni> I like to establish the relationship between the parties early on. I don’t mean that I sit down and give a diatribe on what all of our roles are, but rather that as soon as possible I will make it clear that as the director of a project I see my role as being the trusted keeper of the creative idea and the brand. I think that as long as everyone understands where their perspective is coming from it can be a really productive dynamic, even when it’s contentious.
From my own position it’s always important to recognise that there is a reason you’ve been awarded the job. Your own skills and talent are what you’ve been trusted to bring to the table, and to not do that is not fulfilling your duty. At the same time you also need to accept that creatives and clients have a right to a point of view and being the conduit for all of that input is your responsibility.
LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?
Yoni> In relation to the former I think it’s brilliant. Diversity of people breeds diversity of ideas, and I think ultimately that will make all of us better as the work is pushed higher and higher with new ideas. I also think it’s long overdue, and seeing our industry embrace diversity and push for it is what I want to continue.
I am always open to helping bring through the next generations of talent, in any way possible.
LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?
Yoni> There are no doubt numerous ways the pandemic has impacted the ways we work. I think we’ve had to push our own limits of trust with people working more and more remotely, and people have also had to take more ownership of their roles in pre production because of that which is only a good thing.
The best thing from my point of view has been we’ve made ourselves more accessible. We used to have this preconceived notion that creative collaboration only worked in the same room, face to face but we’ve adapted. I’ve had some fantastic collaborative and creative conversations on Zoom, Teams, FaceTime etc. You used to have to book out hours for a half hour meeting, but now if you’ve got a 10 minute window you can all jump on zoom and get to it – and I hope we retain that into the future.
LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats – to what extent do you keep each in mind while you’re working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?
Yoni> As someone who grew up as a film fanatic I will always feel the strongest connection to a traditional frame. However, I really do appreciate that brands see more and more of their engagement with the work we create together on digital platforms – be it Facebook, Instagram, twitter, TikTok – and because of that it’s important to understand it. If millions of people are going to see your work in X format then it deserves your consideration for sure. Thankfully the advent of 4/6K cameras means that working with your camera team you can often allow for the frame to be a little baggy so that you’re not then compromising much on the visual side as the work is reformatted.
LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?
Yoni> I think virtual production is the game changer. A good friend of mine is just in the process of setting up his own studio with virtual production capabilities and I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities it opens up. Especially when you consider that we are at the dawn of that technology, imagine what it will offer in five years.
LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
Yoni> I think these four pieces show the diversity of approach I love so much.
As an artist, filmmaker and football fan it doesn’t really get much better than seeing your work before every game at a major tournament on the BBC. The animation, design and art direction of this piece is something I am incredibly proud of.
Combining moody, cinematic live action footage with bold graphics is the kind of filmmaking I live for. Adding in a cool forward facing tech brand and four superstar footballers was the icing on the cake.
University of Leicester
Receiving the script for this from my friends at TBWA\MCR was a total joy. The idea is born out of the link between Leicester and the British space programme. The locations were excellent, and the trust given over to my DOP and myself was immense.
BBC WSL Match of the Day
It’s amazing to me to be part of the season in which the WSL gets widespread free to air broadcast coverage. Women’s football is going from strength to strength, and I love feeling a part of continuing to see it grow. The design and execution of these titles feels so fresh for the Match of the Day brand, and we wanted to create something which disrupted the landscape visually for football on the BBC.