Director Robin Walters joins Robber’s Dog; opens up on past projects and the key to Kiwi comedy
Robber’s Dog has announced the signing of award-winning director, Robin Walters, to its expanding roster.
Walters has a reputation as one of the most original and perceptive directors working in the entire Asia Pacific region. Known for both comedy and drama, Walters’ work has been commended throughout the industry as some of the honest and funniest to come out of Australasia in recent years.
Having worked with brands including Ebay, NZTA, Hyundai, Nibble, McDonald’s and Spark, to name but a few, he has been providing his unique approach to shortform commercials for over a decade.
Says Walters: “I’ve always thought that the directors they have on their roster, and the overall company ethos, is one which I could buy into.”
Throughout his career, Walters has worked in every corner of the world establishing his presence as one of the best character-driven directors working today. He has also been highly decorated throughout his career, including securing the Best Director award at AdFest. He has gained global recognition for his short film, ‘The Platform’, winning awards at film festivals in Japan, Germany, Australia and Spain, where it won the prestigious Silver Spike Award at the Valladolid International Film Festival.
A lover of the quirks and nuances that make up human beings, Walters’ work has always been built around the genuine characters he uncovers in casting.
Adds Walters: “I’m constantly on the lookout for new and potential talent; I love street casting. I have tremendous respect and faith in actors, because it’s not easy what they do.”
Below Walters, opens up on documenting the Marae of New Zealand, the key to Kiwi comedy and why filming models is just like filming tomatoes…
How did you come to have such a varied portfolio of styles and genres in your work?
RW: I used to specialise in food and table top. I would shoot the milk/chocolate/tomato at 300fps then the agency would hire a talent director for the appreciation shot. One ECD took the punt and said, “Mate, if you can direct a tomato, I’m sure you can direct a model”. So then I started specializing in beauty. Then I did a spot that people thought was funny, so I became that guy. Then I became the car guy. The thing is, I love doing it all but I am particularly good at directing tomatoes.
Much of your work is character driven, how do you know when you’ve found the right cast members?
RW: It’s a number of things really. I’m quite familiar with the talent pool especially in New Zealand and Australia, so I’ll often have someone in mind before the casting process has begun. I have a close relationship with the casting directors who regularly update me with any new discoveries. I’m also constantly on the lookout for new and potential talent; I love street casting. There are a number of actors I work with regularly who are tried and trusted. I have tremendous respect and faith in actors; it’s not easy what they do, I certainly couldn’t do it! Then of course it could be that they have nice teeth.
What skills and techniques would you say are invaluable when casting comedy spots?
RW: I don’t think it’s much different than casting for a dramatic role. I’ve always found that comedians are usually very good in dramatic roles. Robin Williams, Steve Carrel, Sarah Silverman, Jim Carey, the list goes on. Having big ears helps, big ears are always funny.
Why do you think Australia and New Zealand are so renowned for their comedic commercials?
RW: New Zealand certainly has a unique flavour which is different to the humour in Oz, Britain and the US. I’ve sat in cinemas in the States where all the locals are laughing their heads off and I’m like ‘WTF??’ – I don’t get it. Although I’ve introduced Kiwi comedy films to foreigners who have an equally baffled reaction… Big ears are funny though.
In 2014, you put together ‘Marae – Te Tatau Pounamu: A Journey Around New Zealand’s Meeting Houses’, a book which documented Maori Meetinghouses all over New Zealand. What was the motivation behind this extensive project?
RW: I was brought up in a very rich Maori environment. I moved overseas for 11 years, and my children were born in the UK. I really did this for them. They don’t appreciate it now but I think they will when they’re older. My Maori heritage certainly influences what I do, but so does my English and Scottish heritage.
Do you have any plans to follow up this book, or do you have any other passion projects ongoing/upcoming?
RW: We have been asked by all the marae that weren’t in the book to make another one because they feel theirs is the most important marae in country. So we’ll see what happens.
You have travelled and worked throughout much of Asia. Where would you say has a style you find most enjoyable?
RW: Bangkok, I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because they haven’t been colonised, so they smile a lot.
What motivated your move from Curious to Robber’s Dog?
RW: They said they’d give me a shiny new phone… and Mark has big ears.
Nice move Robin, faxing you a “Big Ears” script now.
Congrats Robin, and RD
I’ve shot with this guy and it’s been hysterically good. Looking forward to seeing what you do at RD mate.