Home Creative writing The Directors: TRUCE’s Tim Potter on the acting lessons that made him a director

The Directors: TRUCE’s Tim Potter on the acting lessons that made him a director


Tim Potter is an award-winning comedy director, screenwriter and actor who recently joined Truce Films. He has directed spots for Telstra, Nissan, Carlton Dry, Vicks, Sorbent and Beyond Blue, as well as his own short films and series. Tim took the time to discuss how acting experience helps in directing, the importance of the casting process, and the love of an underdog story.

How did you start playing?

I was studying a degree in English and creative writing when I started taking acting classes on the side. Classes were run by an acting agent, who basically used them to recruit actors for their books. It’s fair to say they were pretty crappy – think Stephen Merchant’s character in The Extras. They also took all their own headshots in a seedy back room – another clear warning sign.

But it was around this time that I also started doing stand-up – a friend had dared me to do it, so I chose to do it. I thought, ‘If I can get up in front of a room full of drunk people and make them laugh, then that’s probably as hard as it’s going to be – being an actor will be a breeze…’ I I have since realized that is not the case. the case [laughs].

How does your experience as an actor and performer influence your approach to directing?

After those initial and highly questionable acting classes, I was lucky enough to enter the VCA and graduate from the drama school. Having since been cast in a whole slew of commercials, movies, and TV, one of the most important things I’ve learned on set is to make actors feel so confident and supported. as possible. It is priceless. Having experience as an actor also means finding yourself with a shortcut when you communicate with talent – ​​you know how to talk to each other. You become a teammate and an ally, instead of working in two stages.

My process for commercials also involves personally preparing the role of the actor. It may sound weird, but I will learn the lines of the actor, as well as the mapping of their blocking. With a 30-second commercial, it’s imperative that you capture all those golden moments and make it all fit. This preparation helps, because it means that I know where the actors are coming from and what they will want to achieve.

Your recent spot for ANZ has a very soft and comedic tone – how did you come up with it?

The goal was to transmit an authentic relationship and a real bond between our couple. We wanted to balance sweetness with a playful comedic twist and convey authentic moments.

Finding the right talent is one of the most important tasks – and knowing the tone and performance you need to achieve right from the start. For the ANZ spot, I had the two lead actors in mind from the start – so it was rewarding to bring them into the audition room and see that they delivered.

In this case, we had worked together before, so I knew I could trust them. I knew we could discuss an idea and have the confidence to play, basically. They also brought a truthful quality to their performance and the sense of playfulness needed to bring the spot to life.

Sounds like you appreciate the teamwork element of management…

Absolutely – the collaborative nature of the ad is the most rewarding aspect for me; build your team – whether it’s your DP, your art department, your casting department – and go through each of these moments and stages together. It’s a bit like getting a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle and solving it as a team.

The whole team that works in advertising and publicity also works in film and television: you collaborate with super talented people – the cream of the crop. It’s also rewarding to team up with many people I’ve worked with on both sides of the camera.

Are there certain themes or sensibilities that you explore in your work, whether in storytelling or in advertising?

Comedy, but comedy with heart – especially when there’s an innocence to the character, and potentially an underdog story. So the characters trying to achieve something with the odds stacked against them and the odds people can relate to – an inherent vulnerability.

I am also attracted by the construction of somewhat fantastic universes, with a touch of absurdity. If you create a world that is sweet, innocent, and full of heart, the audience immediately connects with the characters, giving you the freedom to then push the comedy and make it a little darker.

“OUR FAVORITE DOWN” for Sorbant of Truce Films on Vimeo.

Are you inspired by other works or directors?

When I first started directing commercials, I was mentored by American comedy director Justin Reardon. It’s fair to say he didn’t look like the typical publicist, but with each new job, his passion and dedication was unmatched. Watching how he navigated each element of the process was the perfect introduction to business fulfillment.

As for other directors who inspire me, I obviously can’t top Taika Waititi – not only his feature films, but also his short films and his commercial work. I seem to gravitate towards stories and characters that have a unique blend of absurdity, vulnerability and heart. The Richard Curtis movies and movies like The Castle were pretty formative.

I’ve also always loved the work of Australian commercial directors like Tim Bullock and Tony Rogers – their casting and tone are always spot on, with wonderfully weird and flawed characters.

Apart from your commercial work, what other projects are you proud of?

I wrote and starred in a short film called Lemonade Stand, which was lucky enough to win at Tropfest. We had an awesome creative team, made up of a lot of people I still collaborate with in the commercial world, and everything just seemed to click. The film took us overseas and in many ways became the trigger that launched my commercial achievement.

My most recent short, The Man with the Golden Throat, is another short I’ve written and acted in, and this time also directed. It had its world premiere at the Manchester International Film Festival. It all takes place in a run-down voice-over studio and centers on a middle-aged voice-over artist, who has one last chance to prove to himself and the industry that he still has what it takes. The studio is about to collapse, he’s drunk, and it all kind of ends like a shipwreck – basically the kind of dark comedy I love.

I’ve done a lot of voice acting, and anyone who works in that environment will understand that it can sometimes feel a bit silly – so I took inspiration from that. There have been times when I’ve been in a studio, a room full of agencies and clients (all juggling their lattes and bento boxes), and you’re told to repeat a word like “truck” 400 times – a word can quickly become meaningless [laughs].

The Man with the Golden Throat – Trailer of Tim Potier on Vimeo.

You recently joined the Truce Films team. What do you like about working with them?

What attracts me most about Truce is that they are all very genuine people. My main goal is to always work with genuine, generous and dedicated people – without ego. Our story goes back to when I was cast in one of their first commercials, straight out of acting school, so it’s exciting to now join the ranks and work together. We also had success on the film festival circuit around the same time.

Truce also has a narrative arm, which gets better and better. Over the last few years they’ve really supported each other and brought on some great talent, fantastic producers and are growing exponentially, which is really exciting to see.

Exciting projects currently underway?

I have funding for a TV comedy project, which is in collaboration with a cast of neurodiverse actors and actors with mixed abilities. I will be directing, and myself and a colleague will write the scripts – but the aim is for it to be a collaborative project where the actors are also involved in crafting the work together.

I also have a few upcoming TV attachments, while working on a handful of personal comedy series – one that will see me return to the world of stand-up comedy.