kaboom directors Justin and Martin on having fun, complimenting each other and bringing individual inspirations together.
Justin (the Plummer) and Martin (the Strauss) are directing partners that use classic cinematic techniques to create stylised imagery for films and branded content. They met studying film production at San Francisco State University, where they discovered their mutual interest in narrative visual storytelling and ultimately joined forces to become Plummer/Strauss.
The duo’s filmmaking career was officially launched when they were shortlisted for the Young Director Award and appeared in SHOOT Magazine’s New Director Showcase. Since then they have directed spots for Comcast, O2, Ralph Lauren, Ben & Jerry's, Jim Beam, Cisco, The United Nations, and Dell. In each, they blend captivating imagery and cinematic aesthetics to deliver playful, intense, seductive, intricate, and unexpected narratives. That’s the playground of Plummer/Strauss.
As a BIPOC director, Justin Plummer is heartened to see changes in the industry - and society at large - that support underrepresented voices; and he and Martin Strauss are proud to be represented by a production company that is a certified Woman-Owned Business (WBENC).
LBB> How did you two meet?
Justin> We lived on the same floor in the freshman dorms as San Francisco State University. Martin had a projector in his room so we’d all gather there to watch movies. From there, we started doing film school projects together, which naturally progressed into co-directing.
LBB> What were your first impressions of each other – and have they changed?
Martin> I remember we first met in the elevator, I can’t remember where either of us were going but I thought Justin was also Jewish. I was duped. To this day, he still isn’t Jewish.
Justin> I realised Martin was a super technical person right off the bat. People on our dorm floor would go to him with any of their computer questions. I still bother him when I can't get my TV to work.
LBB> What was the first project you worked on together? How was that process?
Martin> It was a 24 hour film festival in school, we were on the level where you cast your roommates as actors. We weren’t at all proficient in filmmaking at the time (and I’m sure the film was terrible), but we learned from the process that filmmaking inherently requires collaboration, and that we can have fun working together.
LBB> Why do you think you complement each other?
Justin> When concepting, Martin is really good at taking a step back and thinking about the overall message and goal of a project. He is able to help me think on a broader scale. I tend to be more detail oriented, so we compliment each other in that sense.
LBB> Is there anything that can frustrate you about each other? Or that you disagree on?
Martin> We disagree on all sorts of things. But the discussions are part of a process that forces us to consider the merits of each idea. It’s a great litmus test for our choices before we get on set. It’s a way of vetting things. We can also use an argument to get a better understanding about what each of us cares about that might not have been previously articulated.
Justin> One thing that we hope shows in our work is the thought and intention that goes into our projects. By the time we get to set, we’re on the same page. That’s born from our early morning, mid-day, and late night discussion during pre-production and the treatment writing process.
LBB> How do you approach creative disagreement?
Justin> Creative disagreements are all based on how we feel about something. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to them, since we’re always aligned on our approach to a film on a higher level. Stalemates ultimately come down to who feels the strongest about any given decision, and usually it’s pretty obvious.
Martin> We’re both human. Emotion usually comes into play during a stalemate once our well articulated arguments fail to move the needle, it’s the barometer for how strongly each of us feels about the outcome.
LBB> What is the collaboration that you’re most proud of? If you pick different ones, why do you think that is?
Martin> Salesforce, ‘This is a Mask’ comes to mind, because the final product matched our initial vision to a T. We crafted it with our resources in mind and it was relatively unaffected by production realities, even during the early days of Covid.
Justin> Probably Zepp, ‘Designed for any Era’. I’m really proud of how the cinematography and set design came together in the final product. It was also our first production during Covid, so I have a lot of appreciation for all of the hurdles our crew had to go through to make it come together.
LBB> What are the benefits of having a creative partner or regular collaborate in the industry?
Martin> Directing is otherwise a pretty lonely endeavour. It’s so good to have someone to stay up late with, travel with, laugh with, complain about the size of casting links with.
Justin> Filmmaking is a collaboration, I think that’s one of the best aspects of it. So it’s invaluable having a creative partner that you trust, who you can bounce ideas off of and vice versa.
LBB> What or who inspires you and your work - another creative duo perhaps?
Martin> We’re inspired by so many different things. In the world of film, it’s commercials, docs, shorts, long form narrative, virtually every medium. And it’s work by both individuals and groups. For the vast majority of films, there’s so many people working on them that it hardly matters how many directors there were.
Justin> It can also be something as simple as an image on Instagram or something I see on a walk. I try to keep a notebook in my jacket for nonsensical notes that I’ll hopefully know how to interpret in the future when I look back at them.
LBB> Do you enjoy socialising together outside of work? If so, what do you get up to?
Justin> We play Catan super often which is always fun, at least for me because I usually win.
Martin> For better or worse, we basically get up to the same stuff we did when we first met. To Justin’s point, he’s got this innate mastery of board games, it’s incredibly demoralising/annoying.
LBB> What have you learned from each other?
Justin> Martin is really good at adapting when we have to adjust to something on set. He’s helped me realise that sometimes it’s necessary to blow up the plan and start over to get the best results.
Martin> To piggyback off of Justin’s answer, I’ve learned so many things from him over the years, but I’m consistently in awe of his unwavering approach to details. There’s a commitment to perfection in everything he touches. It reminds me to stay true to our vision.