At the beginning of this year, Tim Green was a senior creative with so many of the right agencies in his history. Impressively, he was working at Venables Bell & Partners and had been a VP creative director at DDB Chicago, an associate creative director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, a senior creative at The Monkeys and a senior art director at DDB Sydney.
Now he is starting again as a director. Well, sort of. When you bring more than a decade of creative experience on Skittles, Starburst, Nike, Reebok, PlayStation, NBA, Specialized Bicycles, Audi, Alfa Romeo, Volkswagen, Gatorade, Toyota, Doritos, ComCast, Google, YouTube and IKEA to a new career, you’re already a long way up the ladder.
Plus, Green has been picked up by The Glue Society and his first job was the commercial that caused a very big buzz this US Father’s Day for Dollar Shave Club.
Still, why did Green want to leave agency life (and a regular pay packet)?
“I guess I’m a slow learner, but it took me a while to realise that I really love film and everything that goes into production,” he states simply. As it turns out, there was a little more packed into the catalyst for change. It involved working in the US.
Tim Green: The more time I spent in agencies, particularly big ones in the US, the more appreciation I developed for the production process. It’s a bit like an addiction. I really, really enjoyed getting in there and making scripts better, getting into the craft to make an ad really special. Maybe part of it as well, is that the production process in the US is slightly different to here. There’s more money in each project and you have more time to think about the best way to bring things to life. There’s usually enough money to do anything and you absolutely have to nail whatever it is you want to make. The other part is that once you’ve shot, the director bows out, so as the creative director you end up being responsible for the edit yourself. Anyone who’s been successful over there knows that yes, the director is really important, but the creative director has to know what it is that needs to be done in editing to make the commercials work. So as a senior creative in the US you’re so much further down the line of being a director than here.
TS: Why did you want to leave the US for Australia?
TG: The biggest reason was to work at Glue because I think Glue is a really unique place. I don’t think there’s anywhere else in the world where you can make the transition so well and if Jonathan [Kneebone] believes in you he’ll find a spot for you. Yes, coming back for family is part of it but to be honest, for me it was almost 100% to work for Glue.
TS: How did you get started?
TG: It’s very hard to change careers…I guess it’s changing careers but I feel that everything I’ve done up to this point is hugely important in being a director. I just really wanted to do it so I made sure I put myself in a place where I could start directing and surrounded myself with people who believed in me even though I hadn’t done it before, which was hugely important. Some people come into directing with more of a film background, and I have a huge amount of respect for that, but I think that I do have a bit of an advantage coming from agencies – and coming from good agencies – because I know what everyone wants and I know the pressures on the agency.
TS: As a senior creative what were your criteria for a great director?
TG: It comes down to taste. You’re really buying someone’s taste. I like to look at their best work but also all the work they’re showing on their reel because if they’re showing me something and it’s not good, it makes me question where their taste level really is. The low end is really important because if they think that’s good, I feel a little nervous. The last few jobs I’ve done as a creative have been high profile and there are things that go along with that too. One is a great production company and for me that’s hugely important. That I’m being backed now by Revolver/Will O’Rourke and Biscuit matters a great deal to me. If a director is backed by a good production company, they have the best contacts and you know you’re in safe hands.
TS: What skills did you bring from being an art director/creative director to directing?
TG: I think the biggest thing I can bring is my agency experience. I understand how agencies work and what creatives want, as well as the pressures that exist. As a creative, I always wanted a director to come in with fresh eyes on a project and add one little piece of magic. I’m hoping I can bring that magic as a director.
TS: What have been the challenges? What didn’t you expect?
TG: So far, it’s really just been fear of the unknown. I’ve been on a lot of sets and faced a lot of things as a creative so I feel in that respect there’s no surprises. There are directors who don’t want the creative director hanging around too much, but I’ve been really lucky in that the guys I’ve worked with in the last few years have wanted me to be up near the camera, so I’ve been observing really closely. There’s also forgetting where to sit. I go to sit with the agency, then I remember that I’m the director.
TS: How did you link yourself to Revolver/Will O’Rourke & The Glue Society? What drew you to them?
TG: When I was in my very, very first job in advertising, I was the despatch boy at Young & Rubicam in Sydney. (In fact, I took over from Rob Galluzzo. He showed me the ropes.) Jonathan Kneebone was a creative there. Jonathan and Gary (Freedman) were a team – I was doing the mail and filling the bar fridge. I was eager to get started as a creative and we got to know each other. We stayed in touch a bit but he’s also someone in the industry I’ve always admired, so when I was wanting to make the transition about a year ago he was the one I spoke to for advice on how to make the switch. We got talking and I wrote a couple of treatments for him while I was working at my other job. We ended up realising that maybe there was an opportunity for me to come back to Australia.
TS: Take me behind the scenes of the Dollar Shave Club production.
I’ve known Matt Knapp, the Dollar Shave Club ECD, since we were at DDB Sydney at the same time. He went to DDB New York less than a year before I went to San Francisco to join Goodby. In my last two or so years in San Francisco, I was spending a lot of time in Los Angeles because I was in charge of Play Station. There was a lot of work for an art director, so I was in LA every week, Tuesdays to Fridays. Mostly, I was by myself because the writers didn’t come, so I had a lot of time trying to hang out with friends. I was always pretty keen to hang out with Matt. About two years ago, I was telling Matt that I wanted to direct. He was very supportive. Then, when I finally took the plunge and signed up with JK, I was in LA for one more time and he was really excited for me. I said that thing you say to everyone, “Well, are you going to give me a job?” He baulked and I thought, “That didn’t sound good”. But true to his word, in early February I got a random text from Matt saying that he had an idea, a celebration of dads, had found a great song and would I like to treat on it. I mentioned it to JK. I think he was a bit sceptical as to whether it was going to happen. But the next thing you know we took it a bit further, Revolver and JK got behind it and costed it, Matt flew to Australia, we cast it and the spot was underway. The casting was very reassuring. After seeing the first rehearsal, it was clear that the film was going to be pretty funny. I did what I’d done so many times before as a creative and over-prepared leading up to the shoot. As it turned out, that worked well. On the day I had no nerves and knew exactly what we needed to shoot. I hope it’s just a glimpse of what I can do.