NATALIE SCHWAN is an award-winning commercial and narrative director and producer who is known for work that celebrates the vastness of the human condition, the journey of the overcomer, and the spirit of adventure. She has received multiple Telly Awards for directing and producing, produced Webby-nominated work, and recently won 2nd place in the She Directed Audience Awards Competition for her J.K. Rowling biopic short film Jo.
She is constantly drawn to historical narratives, and is set to direct her debut feature Rebel, an action packed film based on the true story of Deborah Sampson, the first female soldier in US history who disguised herself as a man and fought in the Revolutionary war. She is also developing a period era Ellis Island narrative series surrounding stories of immigrant children, a female-driven scripted anthology series that celebrates hidden histories of bold women who dared to defy the status quo, and a traveling docuseries focused on international cuisines.
In 2015, she launched her full service, award-winning production company Velocity Creatives, which creates commercial and narrative content that present stunning visual stories that inspire, challenge and excite. She has created work for brands including SONOS, Colgate and Goldman Sachs. In Spring 2021, she is launching a new branch of the business focused on episodic and feature films. Her heart is in travel and exploring, and you can often find her planning her next international adventure.
How does your creative process differ when working on Music Videos vs working on other short films/branded work?
Every project is different, but in general music videos are unique in the sense that the client can often also be the talent. We’ve had great opportunities to work with artists directly when crafting music videos – which makes them specific to the artist’s vision and means we are creating something that really resonates with them on a personal and artistic level. It can give a bit more room for creative autonomy and expression, and the passion is always an undercurrent driving the project forward.
For our branded and commercial work, there are often more departments and decision-makers to coordinate with – whether that is the brand’s in house creative team or a creative agency (or both) and high level creatives involved. While this means there can be slower approval for each step of creative prep, the core of strong storytelling and authentic content remains integral in every video or photo campaign we produce. We have also had the opportunity to work with smaller brands and startups who have trusted us to craft all the scripts and creative concepts for their campaigns. We can be as truly full-service as our clients require; the unique requirements and approach for each and every project is what makes our job so dynamic and rewarding.
Short films run the gamut from developing ideas from scratch alongside the writers and directors, or taking a finished script and treatment directly to the screen. We work with filmmakers that want to tell stories that challenge and excite and align with our values as a brand. There isn’t a set formula on what kind of stories we put our name on, but we’re drawn to content that explores the vastness of the human condition, challenges perspectives and celebrates the overcomer.
What do you think are some essential elements to having a successful creative team?
Trust, integrity and competency. We work with creatives that have a strong voice, talented track record and a strong work ethic. We don’t like to micromanage our teams, and aim to give each department the autonomy to do their job well and then bring those ideas to the greater team in a spirit of collaboration and inclusion. When you set the tone of trust, you give everyone on the team some headspace to be inspired and work more creatively. (We’ve been greatly inspired by the Pixar memoir Creativity, Inc in the way we work and highly recommend this as a blueprint for creating a healthy work environment that fosters ingenuity and value). We don’t tolerate disrespect or internal competitiveness on our projects, and have attracted incredibly talented and hard-working freelancers because of our reputation in taking great care of our teams every step of the way.
How has your work structure changed with all of the fluctuation of the the last year?
When our typical commercial and branded production was put on hold due to Covid, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work developing our slate of longform (both episodic and feature) content. In coming months, we will be launching a second branch of our business that will deal exclusively with longform scripted and unscripted content. We have engaged in some exciting partnerships we will be able to announce in coming months for these projects. The same heartbeat of Velocity Creatives is mirrored in these projects – stories that challenge and excite, stories that encourage conversation, stories that celebrate the complexities of humanity.
When it was safe to do so, we got back on set working with our clients in alignment with COVID safety protocols. The entire world and the way we work in this industry has shifted, and we have adapted alongside it. Remote prep, smaller on set teams, and limited client exposure with virtual video village have all become the new standard of our workflows. We’ve been challenged to work smarter and more creatively without compromising quality.
What do your Telly wins mean to you and the team?
Winning a Telly confirms we are doing something right – it is a badge of honor that confirms our work is being recognized in our industry. Receiving a Telly Award validates the quality for our work, and gives each collaborator recognition for excellence in their respective craft. It is a benchmark we strive for in all of our work.