If a Top 10 list of ad land’s best female directors were released, Station Film‘s Lena Beug would surely make the cut. The in-demand director has carved a niche for herself telling true-to-life, art directed comedy stories with a heart. Lena was born in the west of Ireland to hippie parents where she grew up a ravenous reader with no TV. Today she lives in Red Hook, Brooklyn, with her cinematographer husband and two children. She draws her inspiration from real life, peppering in those authentic moments to bring a commercial script to life.
Source Creative took the chance to chat with Lena about how she got her start in the industry, her body of work, and the trials and tribulations of working in ad land.
SC: How did you get started in the industry?
LB: I moved to New York in the early ‘90s and took every job I could find – serving up roasted chickens behind the prepared foods counter at Dean & DeLuca, scanning photos for Time Magazine, quite a lot of babysitting, and assisting a rather famous wedding photographer until a lucky coincidence led me to an internship at MTV. That’s where I learned everything – and met a lot of the friends I still know today.
I was such an innocent when I landed in New York, a bit of a country bumpkin (growing up in rural Ireland), but I’d spent the summer here babysitting for my cousins when I was 16 and from that day was determined I’d live here one day. It was a rocky start, I was totally blown away that one could actually have a job at a place like MTV. Everyone was so ‘cool.’ In my mind, at that time, a job was something you had to wear a slacks and a blouse to. Seeing what was possible made me absolutely determined to get there… and I did, I ended up a senior art director, and then finally made that scary move to the world of freelance directing.
SC: How do you generate ideas/concepts for spots? Or is the direction mostly led by the brief?
LB: I go to the movies – and I watch some TV, but ultimately for me it’s about reading. My hippyish west of Ireland up bringing did not include television so I learned how to lose myself in books starting at a young age. When I read, I see the pictures better than I do when I’m watching which is weirdly helpful when you’re at the stage of bringing things to life in your mind.
I’ve lived in New York now for about 20 years – and one of the things that keeps me here is that as a New Yorker I’m constantly engaged with people – whether I like it or not. The NYC subway, much as everyone loves to give out about it, is the ultimate people watching spot, every size, shape, gender, ethnicity, age and social group is there – just looking around opens doors in your mind. It’s a first hand reality show and I still love it.
In terms of answering your question, it really depends on the project – sometimes the brief is the brief and other times it’s totally open to interpretation. There’s almost never any time – so the process of generating ideas, or holding on to things you notice needs to be ongoing. Nothing is safe though, conversations, personal experiences, the guy with the pet rat, memories and observations. They’re all fair game.
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