June 7, 2016
Creative Conversations, Volume 2, Pt 1: Brian Cummings
By Elizabeth Lampe
Creative Conversations: An UPBlog Interview Series
Ever wonder who’s behind the creative campaigns you see in the media? Creative Conversations gives a glimpse into the people and personalities typically involved in such efforts. In each edition, we’ll interview an industry creative, account person, or client of interest.
Volume 2, Part 1: Brian Cummings, Commercial Director and Photographer
Brian Cummings is known in the advertising world for his unique conceptual images and ideas. A former creative director with a BFA in graphic design, he has a career of experience in the commercial field. In his freelance practice, he harnesses his conceptual skills and design sensibilities to compose striking images that tell stories. UPBrand has collaborated with Brian on several projects, including video and photography for JBL and School of Rock.
1. How did you get started in video direction and photography?
In college I studied photography as part of a BFA and worked in a photo lab, but I never thought it was something I could do. I got into advertising back in the dinosaur period, moved here in ’99, was a creative director, and got to go on tons of shoots. Photography kept coming back to me immensely like, “I love this, I’ll never do it.” in 2007 I left my job. I was a senior creative director one day and then two weeks later I was standing holding a light for someone else, as an assistant. I completely started over.
2. Was there a trigger that prompted you to actually quit your job?
I knew it was coming. I’d been saving my money for years. For a time I had wanted to start my own agency, and then I contemplated film school. But I started reading from all these directors saying film school is a joke, and you can learn anything you want on your own. I remember having an epiphany, going y’know, why don’t you just ask a photographer you work with if they would let you come in and assist for them. You could creative direct for them, and they could teach you about lighting. I decided if I could learn how to light one frame, I’d eventually learn how to put 24 frames together.
3. How did you transition to your current role, in this studio?
I kind of knew this was gonna be my path all along. A photographer friend agreed to take me on and let me cut my teeth. I assisted, retouched and designed while I was there. With time, I was shooting for myself. After several years, I decided, it was time to start my own studio. Four years ago, I moved out and eventually into my studio at 1717 Olive Street.
4. What skills do you have that help you excel in your role?
The principles of art apply to all media. A camera is just a tool. When it comes to what I do now, it’s all problem solving. I’ve got a good understanding of client speak, agency speak, and then my world. And then there’s the consumer, which we all forget. Communicating, concepts, and knowing how to improvise are all strengths of mine. I’m the last person you should ask to shoot a wedding or a family photo or something that’s pretty. My skills are more about how to get a performance out of people, how to get a story.
5. What are the stages of your work? What’s the process for your projects, starting with receiving a client request?
I want all the information you have. What’s your budget? What’s your usage? What’s your target? How is it gonna be used? But then, I like to get down further. Are you coming to me for a certain look that I do, or because you know I can solve this for you? If that’s the case, then what are we talking about? Once we get a little further along, I’ll start putting together my own style guide. I’ll even sketch things out, or create storyboards if the client isn’t already doing that. The better I can visualize a project, the better it will be.
Stay tuned for Part 2.2—a continuation of our interview with Brian Cummings. View his work in the meantime at briancummings.com.