Best cities for commercial production

If you want to direct commercials (I assume well-budgeted, ad agency commissioned national spots), then this is the best route:

  1. Make music videos for whatever band you can that is on the most well-run record label. Music style and even the music quality isn't nearly as important as their label having their shit together. You will make very little if any money at all. But when you're done, that well-run record label will get it in front of as many eyeballs as possible, which is what is most important for your career. It will definitely help if the video is conceptually interesting, looks great, and is well edited.

  2. Make short films that demonstrate your style and aesthetic (gross out humor, delicate romantic situations, awkward comedy, whatever). Put them online and get them seen by as many people as possible (forget festivals). Ideally, these should make some hack copywriter / art director / creative director at an ad agency think "aw man we could just throw a Snickers / Selsen Blue / Doritos logo at the end of that and it would totally work" (sadly, this actually really happens a lot).

  3. Get some kind of whatever job related to the industry that will result in you making industry contacts. Entry level is fine, anything. Hopefully it can help pay your bills.

  4. Keep doing steps 1 and 2 over and over and over. Ideally you will matriculate into making music videos for better-run record labels with actual budgets (you still will barely make any money on them). Ideally you will gather some kind of online following with your short films.

  5. Hope that someone at a first or second rate commercial production company in LA, NYC, or Europe notices your work and signs a deal to represent you. These are the shops that produce (ie. actually make) the commercials for big ad agencies. They function by holding exclusive representation of directors that either already are sought after by agencies, or that they think will become sought after. They are essentially gatekeepers to these name directors and if the ad agencies want them to direct their spot then they have to hire that prodco to produce the TV spot (which is very, very profitable for the prodco). These prodcos usually also make music videos for mid-sized and large record labels. They don't make very much money off of these, but they essentially do them to showcase their directors' talents to… ad agencies. Because in the end—from a business standpoint—they really only care about the agency spots because they are so very very profitable (though some huge name artists' videos can be good money). If you are a newish director, they will get you up & running making music videos, any music videos, so they can then take those music videos and try to sell you as hot new talent to the agencies they have existing relationships with. For music videos, the prodcos will want you to do as creative, innovative work as possible (ie. showcase). And for commercials, the work is usually aesthetically extremely watered down, even banal, due to: the nature of the agency system, appealing to a large audience, and the fact that several people have to sign off on the concept. Once you are in demand by agencies, the prodco will steer you away from doing the creative. innovative music videos because you're a cash cow now.

Then when you are out of vogue with the big ad agencies the prodco drops you and you sign with a less prestigious prodco, and so on and so on. Also, there are many directors who get signed, make a few music videos, don't get any agency spots, and then are dropped by the prodco and fade into obscurity.

Obviously, this is all a generalization.

And if you want to make regional/local or online-only commercials (ie. lower budget commercials) then the path is very different—you would just start your own production company and direct everything yourself. If you're in Seattle, you are actually in a perfect mid-size market full of well-moneyed corporate clients that makes such a thing very possible.

/r/Filmmakers Thread