Life is short. So short you only have time to develop one talent, one thing that makes you more than ordinary. Optimists say this isn’t true, but they lie. When I speak of talent I’m not talking about someone who can play Air on a G String on their violin. Talent is getting paid and your name on a stranger’s lips. Tyler Warren may be the exception to the rule. His name has been on stranger’s lips for years, crisscrossing the globe on someone else's dime just to skateboard. It turns out Tyler is also a masterful writer/director/producer of short films. Sure, his shorts are commercials, but that’s where it starts. David Fincher, Sophia Coppola and Spike Jonze all made commercials when they were coming up. In 1984 Ridley Scott even made what is considered by some to be the greatest commercial of all time. If you don’t believe me, see for yourself. Tyler just finished up three commercials for everyone’s favourite apparel & bag brand, TAIKAN. And they’re not going to throw a bunch of money at someone who isn’t the best, are they?
Your first commercial was for the skateboard brand Alltimers whose Skateboard team you were on, so that makes sense…Actually my first commercial was for a bar in Vancouver called Colony. A guy I know did the marketing for the bar and I guess he saw some of my Instagram edits and he asked if I wanted to make a commercial for them. My friend Hayden Wrench also knew the guy from Colony and Hayden is a filmer, so I came up with this idea and we just banged it out.
From there your producer/director career just took root?People saw it and liked it and I just kept getting asked to make more stuff. Hayden and I have done a bunch of shit together since. He has a background in film outside of skateboarding and he’s good about my style of making it up as I go along. The man knows how to use a camera to its full potential and he puts up with me being an amateur.
How did you end up doing these TAIKAN commercials?
I made a couple more commercials after that. People would see something I did, get in touch and want me to make something for them. I’d make a new commercial, people would see that, and the cycle repeats itself.
And one of those people was from TAIKAN I take it?Yeah, GMAN (Garret Louie) hit me up about my work way back, like two years ago, and he was all, “We gotta do something together. I want to use one of your commercials…” We bandied it around in the meantime and I tried to figure out what I’d do if it came together. TAIKAN makes bags so how do I make a commercial about bags? I mean they’re straightforward. They’re bags. I mean, they’re really nice bags but at the end of the day they sell themselves. They’re bags. You put stuff in them.
Did you have a moment of imposter syndrome? This is an international streetwear company. It’s not $4.50 Zima night at a pub. This is the big leagues.Yeah. But I came up with an idea and hit him up and he said let’s go.
And shit got real…
Not really. GMAN is pretty chill. There was no deadline so I let the idea marinate for a long time.
Are you shopping pitches to brands now or are you still just getting work by word of mouth.Well I’ve only been doing this for a year-and-a-half, so I haven’t really made that many. And it’s all been people seeing my shit on Instagram and saying, “Yo, you wanna make something for us?” Just like that…
I only saw a sliver of one of your TAIKAN commercials, but even that brief glimpse showed me some pop culture tropes you’re exploring. Is this intentional or is this just a byproduct of the subcultures you’re involved in?Well the infomercial thing was a group effort. After the TAIKAN commercials were green-lit I had some of the boys over and I brought up the project, telling them GMAN hired me to dose commercials for his new Bag brand TAIKAN. So we’re just having some beers and we were just spitballing and bouncing ideas back and forth and the infomercial idea came out of that. What if you were just lying about the product you’re selling? But lying in an incredibly obvious way? I mean what do you do for a bag company? They’re bags. They literally sell themselves. So I went with that, commercials about three different bags with fake selling features for them. Then I ran into the script wall…
The Script wall?I’d never written a script or teleplay. I don’t do that. Which is why it worked with Hayden because he could put up with my amateurish, guerrilla film maker vibes. But I did these with another dude, Evan Bourque who is super fucking cool. But the origin story for all of this shit is sitting in dark rooms making skateboard videos. Everything in the commercials is just me applying the formula I used for skate videos. But Evan is a professional and not from skateboarding so I didn’t have the shorthand I have with Hayden. He can pull up and I just unload the whole idea verbally and we’re shooting right away. I had to actual write a script and stage directions. So I have a professional film industry guy and I’ve got an actual actress and I can’t do it Gonzo style. And skateboard videos have zero pre production. Any dialogue is just something that came out organically. It was fine in the end, but I didn’t know how it was going turn out.
How big was your crew?
It was just the three of us. Evan was behind the camera, my friend Maya is an artist and an actress so she was the talent and I did everything else. Maya is amazing. She does print and commercial acting gigs on the side. But even if she wasn’t a working actress I would have thrown it to her anyways because as a friend I know what she’s capable of. And she is so fucking funny. And that was the crew.
What was it like having GMAN and TAIKAN as a client? Seems like they’d let the creatives take the reigns on something like this…He was pretty hands off. He said he was down with me doing whatever I wanted and that’s one of the things that stokes me out about working with TAIKAN and GMAN, its all about the creatives and their individual visions, not about getting their work to match the brand.
Are the commercials something you're doing because each one leads to another or is this you cutting your teeth to move onto music videos or independent films?
This last year-and-a half has just been going with the flow and I don’t usually have that much time between projects because one seems to lead to another. To be honest I haven’t even given much thought to what’s next, I haven’t thought that far ahead. I’m still trying to figure out what I’m doing with three minutes. This evolved from putting together skate footage but It’s also very different. I spent a week just sitting at my computer teaching myself how to edit videos when there’s dialogue and a linear narrative—I just learned how to edit audio and vocals—so I’m just going to focus on mastering these. I could see if I kept making little vids it just will organically and grow longer and more complex on my own, but as of right now I’m not there yet. I’m still having fun with little things and learning. But hopefully once I learn everything I need to know it will grow into me writing something longer than three minutes.
Is there anything else on the horizon? Are these three commercials for TAIKAN just a one off or is more coming down the pipe?
I made a funny little commercial for Altimers right before I started the TAIKAN commercials. Funny story, before these commercials I never had a proper computer I could edit on. I was always relying on Hayden to help me with editing or using his computer, so I used the money I got for making the commercial to buy the computer to make the commercial.
That’s like Ouroboros, the snake eating it’s own tail…At one point it started to feel like a trip because I borrowed the money for the computer and then I was waiting to finish the commercials to get the money to pay back the loans. I started to feel like Adam Sandler’s character from Uncut Gems, the anxiety movie of the year, where he’s constantly just throwing other peoples money around. I was feeling like that for minute, for real. But I am finally in a place with this new computer where I do not have to rely on other people so much. I don’t have anything lined up to follow the TAIKAN commercials but something will happen. Dave Ehrenreich is letting me use his (insert camera type here) and he gave me a list of cool people who might be down to do camera operating. So if no one hits me up for anything after this I’ll make something happen.
Well you just bought a fancy editing computer so I can’t see you wrapping things up that quick.
I’ve only produced four or five things so far, all of those productions I didn’t even have a the computer, on top of doing literally everything… I’m trying to do everything except operate the camera. But now that I have the computer and this list of camera operators now I’m feeling confident I can start taking on more work. It’s exciting to have everything I need and not having to rely on other peoples equipment is great, no more Uncut Gems anxiety.
To see more of Tyler's directorial work, go check out Tyler’s other short films on Instagram: @WOATZART
Interview written & conducted by Scotty MacDonald
Photos by Antosh Cimoszko (@antoshcimoszko)
Take a listen to the custom curated Spotify Playlist from Tyler: