ANDREW Lang on Documentary Making, Influences & Career highlights

17 August 2023

Written by

Charlotte MeEleny for The Drum

In the first of a new series, in which The Drum interviews directors on influences, passions and career highlights, Andrew Lang discusses being a news junkie and why Thai Director Thanonchai Sornsriwichai is an inspiration.

The Sweetshop

Who or what inspired you to be a Director? (or who are your creative heroes and why?)

I was studying Spanish at school in a rowdy class. The exhausted teacher put on a film to shut us all up. The film was a Chilean documentary called The Battle of Chile and I’d never seen anything quite like it. From that moment on, I wanted to make films.

Outside of work, what are you into?

I’m trying to read as much as much fiction as possible and I’m also a bit of a news junkie. Although it’s hard to tell the difference these days.

How would you describe your style of commercial/filmmaking? What are you known for?

Coming from a documentary background, I imagine I'm known for realism; naturalism of performance, lighting and camera work. My girlfriend says my commercial work is all about people running. It’s a fair point. Looking back, I’ve certainly spent a decent part of my career standing over long dolly tracks or next to out-of-breath Steadicam operators.

Have you got an idea about what sort of projects you’d like to work on or are you quite open-minded about what work comes your way?

I’m especially on the lookout for character-led commercial scripts with a strong narrative; short films where the character goes through some kind of meaningful change within the walls of a 30 or 60-second commercial.

When you’re looking at scripts and projects that come in, is there anything in particular that you’re looking for?

I get really excited if a script gives me a chance to try something I’ve never done before; whether a camera technique or a certain type of performance from an actor. I ask myself, what can I learn by making this?

Which commercials directors do you most admire?

There are some amazingly skilled directors out there. But even when you look at the work of the best, the message of their films is the message of the brand. That’s not surprising considering these are commercials. But it does make the work of the Thai Director Thanonchai Sornsriwichai all the more remarkable. When you look at his body of work, you can clearly see his social concerns and compassion coming through. He's using advertising to communicate a model of behaviour that he feels is important. That’s incredibly hard to do, while still, say, selling shampoo. It’s what makes him hands down the best commercials director in the world, in my opinion.

Which ad do you wish you’d made?

I’ve got a soft spot for the ‘Never Say No to Panda’ campaign. Normally, the message of a commercial is, “Use this product and your life will be better”. ‘Never Say No To Panda’ turns that on its head and tells the audience, “Use this product or something really terrible will happen to you”. It’s brilliantly irreverent and I’d love to have a beer with the people who made it.