David Reviews

 It's the work, stupid.

THE RISE AND RISE OF HANNA MARIA HEIDRICH.
5 March 2018

Even though advertising has been 'freeing the bid' for eighteen months, opportunities for women remain limited and there are some metrics which are moving extremely slowly. The Super Bowl is a case in point. Every year, dozens of new commercials are aired during the USA's biggest television event and being invited to direct one has become a significant career milestone.

It's sad then that only four female directors were handed that opportunity in 2018.

The youngest of these was German-born Hanna Maria Heidrich who was given the huge responsibility of directing Pepsi's Super Bowl commercial. It was a remarkable act of faith by an advertiser under enormous pressure to cleanse the stink generated by their poorly-received ad featuring Kendall Jenner.

Christmas commercials in the UK carry a similar prestige to US Super Bowl ads, and Hanna Maria Heidrich's highly-praised Debenhams film last November meant that she'd already achieved the first half of a rare double.

Towards the end of last year, DAVID had the pleasure of speaking to Hanna Maria Heidrich about how she started as a director, and her career to date.


Hanna had been up all night shooting the Pepsi ad that would ultimately air during the Super Bowl, though that was by no means assured at the time of our conversation. Not that this was something that greatly concerned her: "I think it's more important to focus on making a good film instead of concentrating on the politics of airtime."


I'm really interested in storytelling and I love working with actors and that's sort of what I'm excited about.

 ”

Her interest in film stemmed from her need to find a form of expression which would allow collaboration: "I spent my time painting and doing photography but I realised [these disciplines] can be very lonely things to do. I was alone in this little room, in front of my canvas and I realised, 'Oh my God... this is not for me.'"

This insight drew her towards directing - a discipline which enabled her to express herself while working alongside other creative people. She was a natural and began picking up awards for her films while she was still studying.


in view of her success, it's perhaps unsurprising that she found it relatively easy to make the transition from student film-maker to commercial film-maker but rather than leaping ahead too quickly, she pressed the pause button to add another string to her bow: "I decided to move away from the camera for a moment and focus on actors... and so I came to London for six months and went to St. Martin's College and took a theatre directing course."

She describes this as the best thing she could have done as it provided her with an opportunity to focus wholly on performance. Even though the course didn't require her to try acting herself, she nonetheless formed an appreciation for "the helplessness and vulnerability" felt by actors when on stage or in front of the camera.


The theatre directing course and a stint in at UCLA examining the differences between European and US filmmaking reinforced her sense of purpose: "By then I realised that I'm really interested in storytelling and I love working with actors and that's sort of what I'm excited about. Just to bring that visual side together with actors and to be able to tell a story in either a short time or a longer time."

She signed with RadicalMedia in Germany and the US, and began cementing her reputation as a skilled TVC director with a number of high profile projects.


In the last year, she's made a splash in the UK as well. After signing with Believe Media, she made a series of commercials for Betway which featured lovely performances and looked a great deal better than they needed to.

This was followed by her Christmas ad for Debenhams: "One of the best things about film-making is creating a unique world for each project and the moment I read the Debenhams script, I realised that it was one of those bigger-than-life stories."


No one wakes up thinking I'm a man or I'm a woman. I wake up and that's how I am.

 ”

Part of the fun of making a fantastical ad for Christmas came from a sense that she was getting the chance to brighten our lives a little: "We are living in a time where there's so much challenging stuff going on... we need a little magic."



Looking at her ascent, it's hard to imagine her femaleness has held her back but she's nonetheless mindful of the importance of Free the Bid: "It's sad that it's necessary... but it is. When I started to realise that I wanted to become a filmmaker, I had no idea at all that it was this thing to be a female director. It wasn't something I was aware of at all. No one wakes up thinking I'm a man or I'm a woman. I wake up and that's how I am."

But her experiences bear out the rarity of women in her role: "I've only pitched against another female director on one occasion, and that's why I think Free the Bid is a fantastic thing... it needs a conscious process to bring awareness to it."


She identifies her decision to join the roster at Believe Media as critical to her success in the UK market: "It's a people business and, for me, it's always about the people. James [Covill] is such a wonderful partner because he is ambitious and - at the same time - he's a really nice guy."

Hanna Maria Heidrich has the world at her fingertips and there's no question that we're going to be hearing a lot more from her in the next few years... and, we'd venture to suggest, not exclusively in the realm of the TVC.

For more on Hanna Maria Heidrich, contact James 'Nice Guy' Covill on 020 3145 0960 or via email at james@believemedia.com.

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David Reviews - Lovely Lenzie Ltd, Woodbourne House, Seven Sisters, Lenzie, G66 3AW. Telephone: +44 141 776 7766. Editor: Jason Stone.