The Directors: Noah Kistler

Noah Kistler is an East Coast raised, Los Angeles-based director and editor. He loves storytelling that is personal, emotional, and highly cinematic, and has applied this directing perspective to spots for Polaris Industries, The United States Air Force, and Greats Shoes, among others.

​For over a decade, Noah has edited movie trailers and documentaries for noted entertainment networks, production companies, studios, and streaming platforms including A24, Netflix, Neon, Paramount, Sony Pictures, Hulu, PBS, Discovery, Magnolia Pictures. His debut short film, 'Dear Jane' premiered at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

LBB: How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Noah: "Before diving in creatively, I want to understand the brief inside and out: target audience, client objectives, brand values, key messaging, etc. Those are in the back of my head throughout the process. Then, probably because I started as an editor, I like to watch a lot of videos or parts of films, look at a lot of photos, listen to music or sound design, and just think about how it could fit together.
In the treatment, I work to balance creative vision with the nuts and bolts of execution. I want clients to walk away with a strong impression of how the finished spot will look, sound, flow, and how the combination of those elements will impact the viewer.
I also want to give them a step-by-step understanding of how we’ll achieve it, from pre-production through post. The better everyone understands the creative vision and steps we’ll take to get there, the more in sync we’ll be and easier it will be for us to work together toward a common goal."

LBB: If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Noah: "Extremely important! Even for brands or industries I’m familiar with, I start with research to help orient me and get me in the right creative headspace. The more I know about the product, the company, the audience, and cultural context, the more confident I am that my creative work will line up with agency goals and client needs."

LBB: For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Noah: "Probably more than any other art form, film is a collaborative medium that requires clear and open communication. So, my relationships with everyone whose work will affect the final result are all very important. With creative collaborators, I try to empower them to do their best work. That means clear communication and close consultation, but not micromanagement or a domineering attitude."

LBB: What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Noah: "I love pieces that combine authentic portrayals of life or documentary techniques with a heightened or highly stylised aesthetic. One of the things I enjoy about doing documentary work is it allows you to enter worlds you might not otherwise see and learn from the people in them. There’s no better way to understand a person, a place, or a community than through watching, listening and asking questions.

At the same time, I’m very drawn to the expressive power of film and how it can emphasise emotional states and make the ordinary or mundane feel exciting and unfamiliar. It’s that cinematic heightening combined with real places, real emotions, real people that I love more than anything."

LBB: "What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Noah: "Filming the B-2 Stealth bomber at the Whiteman Air Force base was uniquely challenging. The plane isn’t new, but the technology it uses is constantly being updated, so parts of the plane remain classified and there are a lot of restrictions on how it can be filmed. If we happened to roll on something we shouldn’t have for even a second, we had to delete the entire card because it couldn’t leave the camera or be connected to a computer.

Luckily, we had an advisor from the Air Force who helped us avoid catastrophe and we carefully planned our angles and cut points down to the second. Even with that, we did end up getting some footage deleted, but we found alternatives for what was lost during the shoot, and I was still able to craft something we all liked in the edit."

LBB: What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Noah: "Not only is it the right thing to do, but increasing diversity behind the camera and in central creative roles is essential to the relevance of the industry. America is increasingly diverse, and the industry that seeks to represent it should be too.

As someone who has benefited from on set mentoring, I know there’s nothing more educational than seeing how a set runs first hand and having someone knowledgeable answer your questions. I haven’t had the opportunity to mentor someone yet, but it’s something I look forward to."

LBB: You are a director/editor – can you talk about why that is important to your process and approach?

Noah: "As a director/editor, I think a lot about how the shots will cut together in a sequence. So I always have a clear sense of whether or not we’re getting what we need and where we’ll want options for the edit. This allows me to shoot efficiently, so we’re not wasting time on too many versions of the same setup or on shots I know won’t make it into the final cut. It also lets me confidently pivot, if something isn’t possible or working in the way we hoped."

LBB: Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?

Noah: "I try to keep each in mind, but shooting multiple aspect ratios at once without compromising quality is often impossible. A video shot 16x9 might look pretty good in 1x1, but will probably always look best in 16x9. Often that’s okay and it still looks good enough when reframed, but if you want something to look perfect in every format, then you really need to shoot a different version for each aspect ratio you plan on finishing in."

LBB: What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?

Noah: "Like the rest of the world, I have a lot of trepidation about some of the AI tools on the horizon, but I’m also excited by the possibilities and, especially, for increased efficiency in post. I’m for anything that maximises a filmmaker’s ability to achieve their original vision.

LBB: Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

Noah: "Most recent USAF. I like the way this one moves and how we were able to connect the on ground work of maintainers to the grandeur of these incredible planes in flight."

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Lauren Schwartz