Peer Review: Matthaus Bussman
DogEatDog director Matthaus Bussmann has held just about every role on set. Runner, editor, production manager, you name it - he’s done it. Here, he talks classic commercials, going out of your comfort zone, and how a book on the making of Miami Vice was the catalyst for his career in film.
Who are three contemporaries that you admire?
I admire the contemporary filmmaker Denis Villeneuve. The level of attention he puts into every aspect of his filmmaking makes watching them a truly holistic experience.
As for advertising, I’m a huge fan of Terrence Neale. His combination of using real people with zeitgeist pop culture references is really inspiring. I particularly love the way he blends music videos and advertising.
Please share 3-4 pieces of work that exemplify great direction
Very recently I watched Barbie with my family. I went in thinking, ‘How can this possibly be not just ridiculous?!’. But what Greta Gerwig has created is just amazing. She has so skilfully presented important messages in such an entertaining and relevant way, and to such a broad mainstream audience. I truly think they deserve all the success. I always admire bold choices.
I didn’t study film, but I was always one of the youngest people on set when I started out. I was really lucky that the early 2000’s advertising world was my film school.
I also loved Johan Renck’s HBO show Chernobyl. That really blew me away. Of course this was so well researched and well written, but I really think Renck’s masterful direction really mattered here too.
Finally, Jonathan Glazer's Odyssey commercial for Levi’s is a classic piece of great direction. I remember that commercial really influenced me when it came out. I loved the way the couple look at each other, the camera perspectives, the shaking handheld camera, these amazing parallel tracking shots. Glazer in general is a director I was heavily inspired by early on.
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- Agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty
- Production Company Academy
- Director Jonathan Glazer
- CD Stephen Butler
- Copywriter Antony Goldstein
- Producer Andy Gulliman
- Art Director Gavin Lester
- DP Daniel Landin
What do you like most about the work that you do?
I love when a project allows me to experiment and challenges me. I tend to do my best work when outside of my comfort zone. I think continuing to learn and not repeating myself is what drives me. I especially love how different the process is in every country when I work internationally.
When I get asked to do a project that feels quite similar to something I have done before, I always have a rule to make it better than my own reference. It’s an internal challenge, but one that pushes me to be better, which I love.
I soon realised, however, that what I loved most was working with actors to capture their best and most emotive performances.
What was your journey to becoming a director?
My Dad was a Curator and Art professor, so my first instinct was to choose a path furthest away from what he did. I was going to study economics, but then I received a book about the making of MIAMI VICE, and suddenly there was no going back. I was a huge fan of the show at the time, so to read about all the various professions involved was eye opening. For quite some time I wasn’t sure which part of the film-making process I wanted to be a part of. But I knew I wanted to step into the exciting world I had read about in that book.
As an intern I operated cameras and teleprompters, and during my first projects I was a producer, cameraman and editor. I soon realised, however, that what I loved most was working with actors to capture their best and most emotive performances. I didn’t study film, but I was always one of the youngest people on set when I started out. I was really lucky that the early 2000’s advertising world was my film school.
You’ve worked in many roles, both on and off set - how has this helped you get to where you are today? What has been your favourite role and why?
I am extremely grateful that I’ve got to work on film sets in various ways. People work so differently and there is always so much to learn.
I think it helps to have a holistic perspective on a shoot. It’s important, for example, to have an understanding of the production process when working with challenging budgets to have a really successful shoot.
David Fincher’s work has been very influential on me. Fight Club turned my world upside down.
My true favourite role, however, was being a video operator. I was able to listen to every detail through my headphones when I heard directors talking with the talents. This was the best film school.
What is one thing all directors need?
With commercials, I think that you can’t succeed without listening to and understanding your clients perspectives. By this I don’t mean to just do what you are told, but to at least listen to what you are told, and then find the right arguments for your ideas. In the end you might turn the whole original idea upside down, but you do it with a client that feels understood and comfortable. As a commercial director you are hired to sell a product - HOW to do it in the best way is what needs to be discussed.
Nobody gives me more brutally honest creative feedback to my early offline edits than [my wife]… and she is always right...
Who was the greatest director of all time? Why?
This is an impossible question since there are so many great directors! But, I can say that David Fincher’s work has been very influential on me. Fight Club turned my world upside down. I was such a fan of Fincher’s music videos before the movie even came out. I love how strictly he handles camera movements and how he composes his shots. I can’t wait to see KILLER.
Did you have a mentor? Who was it?
My dad has always been a huge support to me. He always finds something good to say about even the most absurd and weird art videos I share with him. His support and encouragement meant the world to me when I first started out. Later, I think it’s been my agent Esther Kurle, who I’ve been working with since the early stages of my career. She guides me and helps me make the right decision in countless situations.
My wife Sarah is also a huge mentor. She is the person I talk to and discuss all my career decisions with. Nobody gives me more brutally honest creative feedback to my early offline edits than Sarah… and she is always right with her notes.
What’s changing in the industry that all directors need to keep up with?
I think that a modern director needs to have a broad understanding of the advertising process. Clients don’t aim for the one commercial that airs on TV anymore. It’s about content in a broader sense. I think directors also need to keep up with open communication with their clients, as it is definitely more important than it was when I first started in the early 2000´s.