Questions for Don rase

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Don started in the film business as an assistant editor for his uncle in Denver. Soon discovering that he liked being on set more than in the edit room, he quickly moved through the ranks in the production world.

It was as an AD that he moved to Chicago with two partners and started a production company called Ryan/Donovan/Wood, (their mother’s maiden names. Don’s is Wood).  After a five-year run in Chicago, he made the move to LA. There, with the help of his friends at Backyard, he was given the opportunity to start directing. He spent 12 great years on their roster, directing hundreds of commercials. Having worked with Don in the past, we can attest to his ability to distill a brand's identity, convey ideas clearly, as well as understand and help guide the creative to a succesful outcome. He is also an incredibly warm and charming person; a perfect representation of what it means to be wonderful.

“I have been directing for almost 20 years. Having worn a lot of hats on my road to becoming a director is a very positive thing as I know my way around a film set very well. I like telling stories through the performances of good actors and smart dialogue. For most of what I do, the commercial making process starts in the casting sessions. This is where the dialogue, the humor, and tone of the spot comes together for me. Everything builds from what we start to discover in those rooms. We quickly hear what lines work, what needs to be tweaked and what personality or look best brings the script to life. I love the feeling of finding an actor who nails a part, and brings something unexpected and even better than what you had in your head.” 

“I feel the same way about locations. I feel the authenticity, production value and even the ideas that come from finding a great location can be hard to duplicate on set. Once I find the space or environment that looks right for the story I work closely with my DP and Art Director to design frames and shots that look natural and right for the story.  I enjoy the process and believe taking the time to get these things right up front is the key to doing really good work and having a great time doing it.” 

"I run a low drama, collaborative and fun set. I always try to create an environment where the actors, crew and agency all feel invested and involved, a scenario where everyone feels their ideas are welcome and that their opinions are valued. I like the process and think it should be fun. I definitely don’t work in a vacuum. I think I’m a good problem solver from a creative and production standpoint. I have a handle creatively on what makes a good spot and my production background and experience helps with smart production solutions. Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoy the production process, and love being the guy who brings the pieces together.”

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1 - What made you want to become a director?

"It was a long, slow climb up the call sheet, but once I finally got the confidence, and some support from some of the directors I was working with, it just became the natural next step.  I loved the film business and directing just looked like the best job.  And it is."  

2 - Who are your biggest influences as far as directors?

 "I like almost anything written by Arron Sorkin, his incredibly smart and clever dialogue always sucks me in.  I love Martin Scorsese, everything he does always feels so damn real and edgy.  Wes Anderson always amazes visually, and I love his quirky humor." 

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3 - Name 5 films that instantly come to your mind?

"Amadeus/Casino/Molly’s Game/Money Ball/Spot light/The big short"

4 - What is the biggest challenge for a director on set?

"The most challenging moment for me on set is when an actor, selected by me, approved a week ago, flown in, made up and wardrobed suddenly lacks what it was you saw in the casting session. That moment when everyone on set can see that an actor is struggling, and they are all looking at you to make him better, fix it, just figure it out, is horrible.  It doesn’t happen often fortunately, but when it does you want to hide in the motor home or join the craft service team (hehehe). To be fair, many times it is simply their nerves and the self inflicted pressure felt by the actor to deliver, and so that is when keeping a relaxed environment and a calm demeanor helps, as it allows me to gently guide him/her into a mental place where they feel confident again and relaxed enough to bring out what you saw in the casting session."