Egotist Q&A with O Positive Director Brian Billow

By christinewatson / / That’s a real phone. Q: From JBLto BMW, Tribeca and Ally Bank, your work shows a flair for original casting, great performance and high production value. What do you look for in a script – i.e., what draws you to a project? The underlying idea of the spot or campaign. It’s not about a big production budget or how funny the dialogue in the script is. The best dialogue often comes later in the process and many times there is little or no dialogue in the scripts when I first see them. If the core idea is clever and different then I’m on board. With the board. A clever foundation allows us to explore and workshop many angles in the casting process. If there’s truth to the scene we are casting, the dialogue and funny bits flow endlessly. I’m fully aware of how “directory” that sounded. Q: How does your background in improv play into your success as a comedy director? Casting is my favorite part of the entire job. Mostly because of those yogurt covered pretzels in the casting rooms. But I also really enjoy collaborating with actors who have the ability to treat their dialogue as if it’s the first time they’ve ever said it while saying it take after take. The skill and confidence to “act” the way we act when we think no one is watching is what I love even more than pretzels. Lastly, I search for actors with large bladders because I rarely cut the camera. Q: What is your favorite commercial shoot and why? Shooting with LeBron is always fun, for instance, this Nike spot. He’s a great basketball player and a surprisingly good actor. Jason Sudeikis was a blast to collaborate with as well, for Tribeca. He’s a great actor and a surprisingly good basketball player. Q: Do you approach a script the same way or differently depending on the platform it will live on – i.e. broadcast, digital, mobile, social? Regardless of the platform, I approach every script as if it’s a newborn baby: with love, tenderness and a paralyzing fear of dropping it on its head. Q: Your most recent short – Worst Paparazzi – is an unexpected twist on the way we ‘see’ those maligned photogs. You and the star Brad Morris wrote it. How did you come up with the idea? Were you trying to convey a sympathetic angle? Well we had a bunch of script ideas that we ran through quantitative research testing and then a bunch of focus groups to help us decide which idea would work the hardest. In the end Worst Paparazzi tested the best so we were 100% certain it would work since, ya’ know, testing. The helpful people in the focus groups were even kind enough to suggest ways to punch up our lame jokes. I don’t know what I’d do without testing. Q: What advice would you give to aspiring comedy directors today? Aspire harder. Q: What’s next for you? I’m pitching a 30 day shoot (1 day shoot) in Barcelona (Irvine, CA) that stars Louis CK. (an ethnically ambiguous non-union actor) touting the virtues (selling) of donating to save the planet (fast food). Fingers crossed. (Fingers crossed!) Q: Where does your obsession with ping pong come from? It’s what happens when you’re locked in the basement for pretty much your entire childhood.