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I would like to make a Super Bowl spot this year,” Station Film director Lena Beug proclaims. “I think it’s time. Isn’t it time?” 

A 15-year commercial veteran, Beug has directed award-winning work throughout her career, from early viral hit MTV MerryXXXLMAS to the more recently honoured, What’s Love?, for Los Angeles LGBT Center.

I would like to make a Super Bowl spot this year. I think it’s time. Isn’t it time?

Both reflect the resounding themes of challenging stereotypes and supporting inclusiveness, which provide a through line for much of her body of work. This year, she has directed two global campaigns for Google, along with campaigns for B of A, Michelob ULTRA and Ball Park Franks. And the year isn’t over yet. 

Beug lives in Brooklyn, grew up in Ireland and has a reputation as a straight-shooter with a sense of humour. She shared some insights about what the current climate is like for women filmmakers and talks about her democratic approach to scripts, her  cultural inspirations and what she does to stay creative. And she has no qualms putting the word out that she’s ready to direct her first Super Bowl commercial.  

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Los Angeles LGBT Center – What’s Love? Part 1

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Los Angeles LGBT Center – What’s Love? Part 2

Above: Beug directed these spots for the Los Angeles LGBT Center in 2019.

What’s a good analogy for being a commercial director? 

LB: I was talking to this one woman the other day who’s a TV director, and she was comparing a director to being an air traffic controller. I think that people have this idea that you’re this auteur. And, yes, a big part of my job is to come up with great ideas, and to make client and agency ideas the best they can be. Equally, I have to talk to the client and talk to the agency and shepherd the job throughout, so that they end up with a finished product they are happy with. Like an air traffic controller, you have things to negotiate that are coming at you from all angles.

Every time I get a job, it’s important to remember there are two other directors who just got the call saying that they didn’t get the job.

You’ve been directing commercials for 15 years in a business with ups and downs; how do you maintain perspective?

LB: I’ve had moments of great lows, then I’ve had moments of success. I hope for those to continue. You have to keep your head, no matter what people think. We lose jobs for so many reasons. We don’t get given jobs for bad reasons. Every time I get a job, it’s important to remember there are two other directors who just got the call saying that they didn’t get the job.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to commercial directors just starting out?

LB: Our job is to figure out where to push and where to step back. I think everyone needs to feel heard. And I think that sort of experience you accrue, and even though it’s not that sexy, it’s not that cool, it factors into why the good directors are the good directors. 

Above: Some of Beug's early work for MTV.

There are plenty of commercial directors who are male, and who are A-list. Less so, females. How come?

LB: They see the best scripts. While talent is the baseline, you can’t deny that their reels continue to get better, in part because they see all of those scripts. A job will come in for me and they’ll need a treatment for the next day, which probably means I’m not a first-round choice. I don’t care. I always, always pitch on the jobs that come in for me. I don’t care if they give it to me because I’m a woman. I just want to have the opportunity to make better things.

I always, always pitch on the jobs that come in for me. I don’t care if they give it to me because I’m a woman. I just want to have the opportunity to make better things.

You directed a campaign for Google this year that touches upon the role of TV series in the culture. It’s common today to ask a friend or colleague, ‘What are you watching?’; can you share some background on that campaign?

LB: The really fun thing about working with Google is there’s literally not a person in the world who doesn’t know what Google is. It’s something that I can tell my aunt and my parents about when they ask me what I’m doing. This was a really fun job. All these TV shows that are around at the moment are so important in our lives. When I was watching White Lotus, all I could do was think about other people in my world who reminded me how complicated and layered those characters are. There’s barely any difference between life and TV anymore. 

So, when I saw this script that had this man who walked around the world and sees things that remind him of TV shows, I was like, I love that. But it’s actually kind of a challenging thing to put into pictures. And the other one where people are trying to remember the names of TV shows; both were fun to think about and solve, and very fun to direct. 

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Google – A Marvelous Watchlist

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Google – Easier Recommendations

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Google – One Watchlist To Rule Them All

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Google – Search Easier

Above: Beug's recent campaign for Google.

Can you talk about diversity in your crews historically and currently?

LB: Historically, there was very little diversity in the crew. People used to ask me if I was the Art PA. It’s happened to me even in the last year, a guy on the set will turn around and be like, ‘who are you?’. It definitely happens less now, but along the way I have felt the perception that I got this job because I'm a woman and I've probably never done this before. 

I constantly try to hire a diverse crew. I think it’s really amazing, for example, that most of the women DPs, they’re booked solid. I think the DGA and the AICP, and all of these organisational bodies, should really be thinking about how to get more experienced women and Bipoc people? What is the entry point?

It definitely happens less now, but along the way I have felt the perception that I got this job because I'm a woman and I've probably never done this before. 

I keep wanting to work with a young, Black woman, a young Latin woman – who wants to see what it’s like to be a director, to apprentice. But I also think they should be paid. In Ireland, for example, every time you’re on a commercial program there’s a trainee. The DGA have one for ADs. I want a world where there’s more of that. If I could have a trainee who wants to be a director, follow me around and go on my Zoom meetings, see how you pitch jobs, learn how you deal with the agency and be on set… I’d be delighted to share any knowledge. 

Road Safety Authority – Seat Belts

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Above: Beug's work through BBDO/Dublin for the Irish Road Safety Authority.

What are you up to outside of commercials right now? 

LB: I’m actually doing a lot of writing. I am a huge reader. I’ve been a book worm my entire life. I love to read but I’ve always been very intimidated by writing. I was listening to some podcast, and you hear it said a million times, you just have to sit down and write. I’ve been trying to do a half an hour every day, just sitting down to write. I have written a script for a short film and I am working on a second one. I do hope that I will get those made in the next year or so. 

I saw a woman walking down the street in a bear suit this morning in Brooklyn. Rolled up to the knees with cute little sneakers. It was a look. You can never be bored [here].

What inspires you?

LB: Honestly, the whole world feels kind of inspiring to me right now. New York, even though it can be difficult and dirty and expensive, is still filled with energy and beauty and possibility. I went to see my friend Rachel Comey’s fashion show on September 11th and it was this wild and fun piece of performance art; dancers wearing her new collection and pieces from previous collections, young and old and men wearing women’s clothes, and it was so free - an ode to New York about people and love and the city - and it sort of reminded me why it’s worth living here.

I saw a woman walking down the street in a bear suit this morning in Brooklyn. Rolled up to the knees with cute little sneakers. It was a look. You can never be bored. My whole life now, because I have a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, is spent driving them to activities. I drive them to school, then I drive them to soccer, then I drive them to piano, and I walk around random neighbourhoods, where they’re doing activities. I’m out on the street, doing my work in between that, but I feel like I’m able to see all the weird and wonderful people that are in New York. I do find that very inspiring.

I do see a lot of art, still. A great thing during the pandemic is you could go to the Whitney and there’d be, like, 20 people there. Looking at art became an even more amazing experience.

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