Wednesday 23 October 2019

'One celeb I was filming said he saw a ghost, sped off in a Lamborghini, and never came back' - Irish director Shane Griffin

We go behind the scenes with Dublin-born director and artist Shane Griffin who reveals the challenges and perks of his work, and how to make it in the industry

Shane Griffin
Shane Griffin
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Shane Griffin has worked across a range of disciplines from animation and live action to sculpture and CGI on projects for Kanye West and brands including Nike, Adidas, and Ford. Here, the 31-year-old director and artist from Glasnevin reveals how he honed his craft in his native Dublin before making it in Manhattan, where he currently lives.

Did you have any formal training?

"Formal? Assuming someone can formally tell you what to expect from the industry?! Absolutely not," he laughs, "I’m self taught to date."

It’s a hugely competitive industry so how did you get started?

"I interned in a small post production company called The Element in Merrion Square when I was 18, I think they’re still around, great laugh. From there I just became really addicted to image making and figuring things out. I bounced around some companies in Dublin for a while before heading to London for a few years.

"It’s a harder industry to break into that ever before, the competition right now is crazy. The internet has put the creative community under a microscope. I’m glad I missed that at the beginning of my career!"

You created the video for Irish artist Jafaris' track 'If You Love Me' for Three's MadeByMusic campaign - did you collaborate?

"With Jafaris, I made sure he saw the treatment and gave it his blessing. That was important. We connected after it on Instagram, I slid in his DM’s, so to speak, and he was really feeling the piece, so that was really cool."

Does the creative process differ when working with artists and brands?

"Most of the top tier brands have great creative teams and we collaborate throughout the whole process. We’ll chat for a while then I’ll go away and make stuff. This was pretty similar in that regard and we worked two 15-hour days in NYC and were still laughing by the end of it."

You've worked on Yeezy projects for Kanye West - did you have any contact with him?

"Had a missed call..."

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Nike Air Yeezy II, Kanye West

What else are you working on and do you have any wish-list projects?

"Yes! Lots of fun ones actually. I did a nice title sequence for a movie which should be released early next year, a labour of love!  I’ve also been working on an installation in a gallery in Dublin next year, very excited for that.  Watch this space. Another beauty of a project for a new Nike sneaker too. I’m doing everything I want to be doing now, feel very #blessed in that regard."

What are the perks/most enjoyable aspects of your job?

"One time I shot this big celeb in China, and I got to go to the Great Wall on my day off and have a few pints on it, then slid down it on a toboggan.  Seriously, it was one of the best days ever."

Any challenges?

"So I get to the shoot where the Chinese celeb guy is, great guy.  We do this real bro-ish hand shake thing and he starts speaking in this pseudo-American accent, refers to me as 'My G' a bunch.  It's all a great laugh and we’re best pals. About an hour goes by and we start shooting. He dances around on stage for about 40 minutes, does a couple of takes, the usual, knocking out the storyboard shot by shot. Out of nowhere he starts sweating, and says to me, 'Hey man I just  saw a ghost', hopped up and walked off stage and right out the door, sped off in a Lamborghini about 30 seconds later.  I didn’t know what to do - he never came back. Used a body double for the rest of the shoot. Showbiz.

"So that was one of the more challenging moments this year."

Which skills do you think serve you best?

"Honesty and patience."

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Le Bron James for Nike

What kind of person would NOT suit this job?

"Dishonest, impatient people. There’s plenty of them in it though! Go home, lads."

Any advice for people starting out?  Are there many misconceptions about the job?

"A common misconception might be that it’s an easy job, or a waster's job. It's a job that brings you around the world and back again if you’re lucky, one that has you installing art in Miami for a weekend before heading to the Philippines to speak to 4,000 people.  It’s a job that rewards you [with] the fact that you can make amazing things every single day, and never the same thing twice.

"But it’s a job for obsessives, for the passionate, for the scatterbrained, for the kids who are up all night, for ones with something to prove, for the ones with nothing left to lose. It’s for the ones who see things through a different lens.

"It’s a hard job, and it’s hard for the people around you. But it can fill your soul."

Has the industry changed since you started?

"Yes, its always changing. It's evolving more-so. There’s such a huge demand for content, design, visuals, you name it. Brands are constantly pushing media to their audiences on every platform.

"When I started out it was just print and TV. Then digital - YouTube - came around, and that was a dirty word for a while! Now, we’ve got several social channels, print, TV, digital, gifs, loops, verticals, 360s, VR, experientials, and that’s just  another extension of that evolution.

"But the biggest change is the power of the individual. Before, it was only big brands and networks that owned the airwaves. Now, artists, performers, bloggers can captivate a global audience from just their apartment. For better or worse, we can watch whatever we feel.

"What a time to be alive."

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