Interview: Leo Zahn

Leo Zahn, like many of the people I’ve been lucky enough to interview, has a very cool job. Leo directs commercials. Specifically, Leo, through his California based company Picture Palace, directed a commercial for Trendmasters. The product was Trendmasters line of Extreme Ghostbusters toys.

Busy as he is, Leo took a moment to answer a few questions for Proton Charging.

PC: First some background. When was the commercial shot and about how long did it take?

SH: The Ghostbusters spot was shot in May/June 1997 in St. Louis. Trendmasters holds the license for the toy line of Extreme Ghostbusters. I shoot quite a bit for them. They are one of the largest toy companies in the U.S. (“Independence Day” ” Godzilla” etc). Usually, a 30 sec spot is shot in 2 days.

PC: I’ve always wondered; what are commercials shot on? I’m guessing they’re not all on film.

LZ: All [my] spots are shot on 35mm film.

PC: How did you get involved with doing the Extreme Ghostbusters ad? What did you know about Ghostbusters going into the shoot?

LZ: I knew a lot about Ghostbusters, having been a fan of both movies. I was not aware of the animated TV show. I feel in love with the design of the toy figures, and especially the design and look of the car.

PC: What’s the trick to selling Extreme Ghostbusters to kids? Was there a particular angle that Trendmasters was trying to get across? Suits on the set trying to explain their vision for the product?

LZ: The beauty of working for Trendmasters is the fact that they welcome a director’s input, and there are no “suits” on the set. Their product managers are very creative people with good ideas, who act as creative directors on the set. [There was] no ad agency involved.

PC: When you were shooting the EGB commercial were you using production toys or prototypes? Did you have any trouble with the product?

LZ: We shot mostly with production product. There were problems.

PC: Ah ha. Your company site separates the commercials for girl toys from the commercials for toys for boys. What’s the trick to selling toys to boys using a commercial spot on TV?

LZ: Boys to spots are usually aggressive, battle oriented spots. There is constant attack and destruction. As a director, you need to be sble to maximize the impact, while staying within the Federal guidelines for toy advertising.

PC: How do you think the commercial turned out? If you could have done anything different,would you? Or would you leave it as is?

LZ: I’m very pleased with it, and it’s on my boys toy reel.

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