The Directors: Nina Meredith
Nina Meredith is an international, award-winning film and commercial director. Her work has received accolades from numerous festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes Lions, Webbys, Clios, Andys, D&AD, One Show, Tellys. Meredith was shortlisted for Best New Director at the 2020 AICP Awards and she was inducted into SHOOT’S 2018 New Director Showcase. She was one of just three female directors to direct a National Superbowl campaign in 2021.
Known for her unfiltered cinematic portraits, her films act as dynamic displays of color and intimacy, peeling away layers and revealing the hearts of her subjects. Nina has built an impressive portfolio in short order over the past few years, filming in over 30 countries for a variety of world-class brands including Nike, Facebook, Levi's, Adidas, BVLGARI, Ford, Vogue, Intel, New Balance among others.
Born and raised in New Jersey, Meredith has always been creative and curious about the world around her. Her competitive spirit and passion for the arts took form in both athletic and artistic pursuit. She competed at the D1 collegiate level in Track & Field while earning a fine art scholarship.
She credits her formal education as a fine artist combined with her deep love for magic in helping define her craft.
Name: Nina Meredith
Location: Los Angeles + NYC
Repped by/in: Rattling Stick US
Awards: Her work has received accolades from numerous festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes Lions, Webbys, Clios, Andys, D&AD, One Show, and Tellys. Meredith was shortlisted for Best New Director at the 2020 AICP Awards and she was inducted into SHOOT’s 2018 New Director Showcase. Meredith was one of three female directors to direct a Superbowl commercial in 2021.
LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Nina> I like scripts that are simple and confident. It should only take a one-sentence logline for me to get it. If the brief is open to interpretation and invites collaboration, even better. I like when there’s room for my imagination to paint a bit.
LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Nina> I don’t have an exact start or end point. I aimlessly begin where it feels right - I have a horrible sense of direction, so it makes sense. Typically, I start by writing down key words from the initial kick-off, words that hold meaning and purpose. I think about what those words symbolise. Then I start a mood board that includes imagery, personal memories, references, or any kind of raw material I can draw from. I put pen to paper that same day starting with a script; even if only a few sentences, I have to jot something down. And then I work non-linear, in terms of writing down sections like look and feel, tone, casting, and the other segments. I ask myself what the very first line the agency reads should be. I want to hook them. It’s the ad to sell the ad, and I love selling the ad. I want them to know what the job’s personal significance is to me. Then I put the treatment together, which is the most fun part: challenging myself in terms of font, colour, format, etc. I used to be really verbose in treatments (50 pages sometimes). I swear I’ve gotten better, despite the length of this answer.
LBB> 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?
Nina> It’s probably the most important part. Even if I’m familiar with the brand, I want to know everything. I’ll read and read, reach out to people that know the brand well, listen to podcasts, check out their social media, and try to ingest it all. Because when I finally metabolise all of that info, the nuance of the brand shines through in a way that feels fully formed. I’m afraid to make anything shallow.
LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Nina> I can’t narrow this down! On the agency side, the creatives are a major one. They’re the force that will fight for you and champion you. On the production side, my EPs (who I talk to every day), the line producer, DP, and PD are all crucial roles that contribute to the success of an ad. We need to speak the same language and be on the same page. And then on a personal note, my partner.
LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Nina> Anything I haven’t done. I look for an element that scares and excites me, because then I know I’ll be challenged and fulfilled.
LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Nina> When I walk on set, most people don’t think I’m the director. A lot of women experience this. That aside, I get pigeonholed as a documentary maker. I love documentaries, but I also want to be known for narrative. I have two scripted films in pre-production that I’m excited about. To be a great artist, you should be able to master more than one type of medium.
LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?
Nina> Not directly. The producers I work with typically handle the money chats. They spare me those. But I’m always aware of the budget parameters so that I’m not pitching some crazy, unattainable idea. I learned that lesson from pitching crazy, unattainable ideas.
LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Nina> There are challenges in every job. You have to become a quick problem solver. It’s like speed chess, but on someone else’s dime. So you have to learn not to panic or lose patience. This happens a lot in documentaries. But sometimes it’s out of your control. I was directing a film about a professional freediver and my DP was wearing a tank with only enough air for three dives. On the second dive, the monitor case depressurised and water got in, cutting off the connection to my feed and the DP’s monitor as well. I couldn’t communicate with him because he was deep underwater and he was shooting based on intuition. The conditions were rough and he couldn’t come up immediately. But he’s a pro and I trusted him. He knew the shots to get and outperformed himself. Situations like that taught me to let go and trust my crew.
LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Nina> It’s like any solid relationship. I try to listen and understand their perspective. I give it my all and then implement the feedback. I’m aware that what they’re asking of me is coming from multiple angles and clients who aren’t on set. Or, it’s coming from conversations I am not privy to. I’ll push hard when and where I can for the art, but I’m selective about these moments. Because at the end of the day, it is the brand’s property to protect. It took me a long time to figure out that feedback I didn’t align with wasn’t a personal dig. I began to view it more objectively.
LBB> 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?
Nina> Yes, yes, and yes! I always have one to two aspiring directors (usually BIPOC and women) assist/shadow me on a job and make sure they’re paid. With each job, I’ll make it known—through Instagram or word of mouth—that interested parties should email me. I’ll find out their interests and include them, BCC them on relevant emails, have them listen in on the pre-pro, ask any questions they have, and have them stand beside me on set. I’ve asked a lot of my fellow directors to do this, too. If we don’t create opportunities, who will?
LBB> 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?
Nina> The pandemic made me appreciate the work more than ever. I realised how lucky I am to do what I do, and I love what I do. But when the world changed and the industry slowed down, it gave me time to reflect on how much I took for granted. I’m far more grateful for the work and opportunities now.
LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working?
Nina> Almost every job I direct, regardless of the format, is unique. But I try to leave that work in the past and focus on making each new job fresh and compelling. It’s like having many, many children leave the nest and then focusing your attention on the next child, adjusting to their unique needs. Each project is a chance to grow as a director—even the most trying jobs.
LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?
Nina> I view it as a foreign language that I need to learn and understand through practice.