Creatives Unplugged | Stuart Gillies | Creative Director

With the launch of our new website we're kicking things off in the Creatives Unplugged series with a particularly insightful piece. We spoke with one of our Creative Directors, Stuart Gillies, to see what makes him tick.


You get a script and a brief sent to you, can you tell us your creative process for translating this into visual storytelling?

I always consider the origin of the idea, the fundamental reason that this brief exists. What are we communicating? What theme, question, emotion, what opportunity are we presenting to our audience?

I then think about how we can make this idea both local and global, something that the audience can relate to, a moment, thought or action that people across the globe can identify with.

I will then consider a visual identity that will make the piece unique, something that is pushing the boundaries for the brand or client. This visual approach is the special sauce and something I spend a lot of time thinking about, but also a part of the process that I try not to question when I arrive at an idea. I trust my instinct at this point. I usually present a couple of visual concepts at this point, in order to align with the brand or client and land on something they feel equally passionate about.


Are there any particular directors or films that have influenced your directorial perspective?

I have always been inspired by a tapestry of directors, from hyper-realistic réalisateur’s like Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze to classic storytellers like Bennett Miller and Noah Baumbach. I love storytelling and specifically storytelling that focuses on human connection. I also have a background in documentary filmmaking and therefore obviously Roger Deakins is a big inspiration as well as Bradford Young.


In your option what makes a film truly impactful or memorable for an audience?

Human connection, the ability for the audience to relate and identify with the characters or the story being told. Film is an opportunity for the audience to escape, connect and experience a world beyond our own.

Do you have any anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories that highlight the challenges and rewards of being a director?

I have had multiple guns pulled on me across the globe for filming and experienced some incredibly intense experiences, but the biggest challenge I have always faced is always taking that leap of faith on a project and believing in your vision.

For example, for one documentary project I shot, I had to visit the childhood home of an LGBTQ+ artist in the most rural of rural Canada. This trip was a big leap of faith on my part, to trust the talent and the story being told, and also asking this family to trust me. The end result and the opportunity to experience this family’s beauty was an experience I will never forget.

As a director you’ll have to work with many members of the production team such as editors and cinematographers, can share any tips on collaborating successfully to achieve your vision?

Trust is the most important part of these relationships and also the ability to say “yes” and keep leaning into “yes”. The word “no” can be such a blocker to creativity and can lead to a relationship of barriers. My advice would be, to always lean into “yes”


What would be your dream project to work on?

A project where I can travel, meet people, tell their stories and build beautiful cinematic moments of connection.

You’ve got a long day on set, what are some things you can’t live without?

I love an iPad Pro… it never leaves my side. It is the item I can’t live without on set.

Any advice for aspiring directors?

Trust yourself, trust others and trust your vision. Don’t be boring, be anything but boring.

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

Collaborating with others. Building a community of connections and creatives around the world.

Can you name three key qualities you believe to be integral for directing?

Clear, concise communication.


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