Philly Creative Guide

Creative Personality

Christian Collins | Director

Cooperation at MUSE Gallery
by Juanita Berge, 1 Mar 2011

Christian Collins is a performance based TV commercial Director. He lives in Philadelphia and works anywhere a project takes him. You can see his work at

PCG: Tell me about what you do.

CC: In reality: When I direct a commercial, I take the creative idea and message, and transform it into reality. I have the luxury of using all these amazing tools and talented people to help me do that. The Director of Photography - camera, lenses; Art Director - sets, props; Wardrobe Stylist – wardrobe; and most of all the Talent on camera - whether that be an actor, comedian or real person.

The Client: Oh yes my creative friends, the client. Much of my job is to translate and explain to the client my vision, and how that vision effectively communicates their message. For example, if the script calls for an upwardly mobile professional couple, what does that mean? How do you articulate the elements that say, "Professional Couple?" When I describe to the client that our couple reads Architectural Digest, that they are sitting on a hand stitched, organic, free trade, cotton sofa in an open plan loft with exposed beams and a city view out the window in the background, they start to get the picture.

The Voodoo that I do do?: I get great performances out of people on camera. Actors, Comedians, Racecar Drivers, Real People, you name it. Through the bond I create with my subject, I create likeable folks to watch. I use the tag line on my site, "See them on screen, wish you knew them in person."

PCG: How did you get to where you are today?

CC: I came from Florida to Philadelphia on a gymnastics scholarship to Temple University and studied film and television. Since then I really have done nothing but try and learn more and more about my craft. In college my film and video classes were so important. I didn't really look at them like classes, I looked at them as chances to do what I wanted to do. After that, things dip, and the reality sets in of climbing your way up the ladder... and I started at the bottom. Enter the Production Assistant. You do EVERYTHING that stinks. Drive people around, clean up trash, stand out in the rain for 12 hours. But, when I would get the opportunity to drive the producer or director around for the day, I would soak up as much as I could. If we got friendly, I would ask questions, always learning as much as I could. I eventually built a reel and here I am.

PCG: What were and are the main motivators/influences on you and why?

CC: To make cool stuff. I'm from the Star Wars and John Hughes generation.

PCG: What have you learned along the way?

CC: That technology is always changing, but the basics do not. There will always be a new plug-in, filter, editing platform, HD, Super HD, Mega HD, MEGA MEGA HD!!! But, if you watch video in HD, on your I-Pad or your phone, we first shoot it with a camera. It all starts with an on-camera performance. So it's back to the basics... Do you know how to make someone smile? Can your audience internalize what you are trying to tell them? When control R+F, makes those things happen, I will retire. Also, managing relationships is important. Developing and maintaining trust and confidence with my clients is paramount.

PCG: You say that a certain aspect of your training comes from your background as an athlete. How so?

CC: In many ways. My ability to focus. In the ADD multi-tasking world around us, I can be very focused. That is what is great about shooting on set. We have a set full of 50 people, cast, crew, clients, caterers, but, when the camera rolls, everyone has to be silent, and the only thing that matters at that moment is what we are shooting.

I relate very well to athletes having been one. I liken the calm they need before they compete to being on camera. I coach them, rather than direct them. I get them to bend their knees, take a deep breath and let it rip. Recently, this was the case in a series of commercials I did with Team USA winter athletes on their way to the Winter Olympic Games in Calgary.

Interview with Christian Collins – Director

PCG: Why have you stayed away from the feature film world?

CC: My attention span. Commercials, soup to nuts, are about 3 weeks. A movie? Years. Maybe someday.

PCG: What pieces would we recognize that you have directed?

CC: Much of what I have done airs in other parts of the country. Locally, over the years, I have done many spots for Comcast.

PCG: Which projects or experiences in your career stand out, and why?

CC: The best part is working with people I not only like and love to work with, but who are also talented, awesome people just to be around. Doing what I love with people I really like, well that doesn't sound much like work does it?

PCG: What advice do you have for others in your field and for the Philly creative community in general?

CC: Look for clients outside of Philly and bring them here! Find clients in Orlando, Oklahoma and Oakland and let them know about all the talent Philadelphia is bursting with and bring those puppies here! My big client right now is in Denver, and in the last few months I have shot in D.C., New York and Atlanta. We need to be on the go! Branch out!

Get your chin up everybody! If I'm in Philly, sometimes I might hear, "Eh, he's just a Philly guy," but when I'm in Atlanta, people say, "Oh, you're from Philadelphia? What a cool place," and I say, "Yes it is!"

PCG: What do you do in your spare time?

CC: Try and take advantage of our city and our region. To me, Philly = great food and spirits! The no reservations, cash only, BYOB restaurants are my favorite! Getting outside the city: I mountain bike in the summer and snowboard in the winter.

My personal Philly hint: Check out the Philadelphia Museum of Art for their Fridays after 5. I'm a member so its free to get in. It's live music, cocktails in the rotunda, with the exhibits open to browse.

PCG: Do you have an unrealized goal or aspiration?

CC: Not sure. I'm not done yet. Never will be.

PCG: How do you stay up to date in your career?

CC: To keep my wits up, I try and watch really bad movies or commercials and figure out where they went wrong. Is it the script? The Director? The editing?

PCG: Who do you admire the most?

CC: My wife. She leads a really balanced full life and is just a good person.

PCG: If you weren't doing this, what would you be doing?

CC: I didn't realize I had an option. Ah, probably something like the ring leader in the circus. That is probably the only other thing my resume' could get me.

PCG: What would we be surprised to know about you?

CC: What you see is what you get.

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