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The Directors

The Directors: Jono Lawley

Having worked with brands including McDonald’s, KFC, and Rockstar, Frank Content's Jono shares his visual style and the trickiness of getting good balance

The Directors: Jono Lawley

Jono is an accomplished DP/directer that creates stunning visuals that have a rhythmic pace and exciting flow. His background in dance and photography are combined in moving images making everything from Food to Fashion leap off the screen. Jono has worked with brands such as McDonald’s, KFC, Rockstar, and Dove to create dynamic and exciting ads.   

Name: Jono Lawley

Location: Toronto

Repped by/in: Frank


What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Jono> I'm often asked to make food look exciting and dynamic. We love to put human traits onto inanimate objects, and I like when I find opportunities in scripts to explore this. Sometimes it’s built into the script, sometimes I have to find it. But there is always a story to tell in every shot, even if it’s a tiny one. 

 

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Jono> I like to bring a visual style and flow to my work. I start my treatments with a vibe, something that ignites my creative process; this might be a piece of music, reference videos or photos and I use that as my launching point. I'm mindful of not attaching myself to that reference allowing my mind to come up with new things. I think about how movement is going to be incorporated into the edit and I try to do things that I haven't seen before. I also like to pay close attention to environments. Is this a clean tabletop? in a situation during a family dinner? and how does this help the visual story? These are all questions I try to address in my treatments.  


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?

Jono> If it's a brand I'm not familiar with I always start with connecting and asking questions to the agency and client. I like to get as much background information as I can.  When doing research on my own I see if there is content for the brand in other markets I can find and from there I decipher what is going to remain similar and what will be a departure but still within the brand’s aesthetic at its core.  


For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Jono> It's most important to me to have a good relationship with the CD and creative team. Trust and being on the same page are the keystones of making a good ad. I like when we can all get excited about an idea and when everyone is allowed to bring their strengths to the table.    

 
What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Jono> I’m drawn to a project that gives me the opportunity to create a visual flow. If this is food or fashion. Camera movement paired with music, editing and style. Some people might think that these are very different genres, but I look at them as a visual dance of images and I think that holistic approach shows in my work.  


What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Jono> I don't want my work to be looked at as just food stunts.  I feel one thing about my work that stands out is the organicness (not sure if that’s a word).  Food should never feel 'controlled' . Drips and splashes should never be distilled down so that they are the same every time.  I know people like to use a lot of fancy robots to splash food around but I think that really takes away from what a real mess should be. 

 

Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

Jono> I have never worked with a cost consultant, but I am sure my EP’s have and they just don’t tell me.


What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Jono> Luckily I haven't had any experiences (thus far) that I would classify as crazy, and yes I have shot animals & kids, sometimes simultaneously. 

 

How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Jono> We all know that that balance is a tough one to get right. And when it goes well, it is when the real magic happens. I’m a big believer in the “too many cooks in the kitchen” adage. Confrontations on set can derail production, if things are going in a direction I think might not work I make sure that my concerns are heard and offer options for all of us to work together on how we can steer it back on track. 

 

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?

Jono> I love the idea of opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent. I'm a believer in the more pencils people have, the more voices we hear, the better the stories will be told. 

 

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?

Jono> To keep numbers on set low we have had to strip down crews, luckily I have always had an affinity for smaller crews, so moving forward I think this is something I will continue to implement.  I think we have also worked out a lot of the kinks in remote shooting capabilities, this will enable shoots to happen in various locations that might not have been possible prior to the pandemic. 


Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working? 

Jono> Being a DP/Director one thing that is always on everyone’s mind is aspect ratios.

I believe there is always a solution if that is double shoot, or shoot in 8k and crop or add space in post.  This has always been an area I feel very confident in. 

   

What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Jono> I'm a big fan of all things new and tech.  Trying fun and interesting ways to look at food from different perspectives with new toys is always fun. Also with new formats or new cameras that enable you to tell a story from an interesting point of view. I like trying to use this in a new way that might not have been possible before.  Lots of brands are looking to create new and interesting ways of presenting, ie interactive or AI visuals.  


Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why? 

Jono> We are going to just share the sizzle 

 


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