2021 has marked a pivotal year in Zanah Thirus’ career journey as a producer and director. She began her journey in advertising as an Associate Producer at FCB Chicago in 2017, and since then produced at various shops – BBDO Atlanta, Havas Chicago, and most recently Leo Burnett. This month, Zanah is joining Stink Studios as a Senior Producer.
This exciting news for Thirus comes on the heels of her signing as a filmmaker/director with Sweet Rickey, a female-owned production company that reps multidisciplinary artists.
Zanah stopped by SCREEN for a quick chat about the exciting road ahead…
SCREEN: So Zanah, how does one balance a career as both a producer + director?
ZANAH: Producing makes me a better director, and directing makes me a better producer.
As an agency producer, I pride myself in being able to bring the perfect directors/production companies to my creative teams. Being an agency producer who also directs means that I can better understand the nuances and scope of what my teams are looking to execute. It gives me insight to being on the other side of things. Ultimately it makes the production process so much smoother.
As a director who also produces, I understand the cost and timing implications of my creative requests, and how to communicate effectively with the various teams involved in an agency production, from accounting to client to creative.
This gives me a 360 degree approach to any job, and the two roles go hand in hand.
SCREEN: But do you feel you have to choose between directing and producing?
Nope. I don’t. I always want to produce because it keeps me close to how things are actually made. I always want to learn and grow as a producer.
Directing is my creative outlet. It’s how I tell stories and make an impact.
I’m grateful to be working at a company that appreciates my creative outlet of directing, and repped by a production co that appreciates the fact that producing ultimately makes me a better director.
SCREEN: Speaking of Zanah’s directorial efforts, here’s a quick peek at one of most recent projects, Unlearning Sex, which earned a prolific festival run, including a Best Documentary Short win at this year’s NY Inspirational Film Festival…
SCREEN: Zanah, what about time management between your work as a producer and as a director?
Great question. I don’t glamorize burnout like a lot of people in this industry do. Some days are inevitably going to be more stressful than others, but having a fully remote role allows for me to have the bandwidth for producing and directing.
As far as time management goes, producing comes first, since that’s my full time job. I’m not working on any directing projects unless it’s after 6pm on weekdays and/or the weekends. I’ll usually end my work day, then go straight into creating treatments, virtual creative meetings with my teams, or reviewing virtual auditions from talent.
I filmed a documentary during my 5 day vacation this spring. I recently directed a visual album and all of our production meetings were at 6pm, and our shoot days were on the weekends.
Of course, no production role is a true ‘9-5’. But, the beautiful thing about producing is that it ebbs and flows. Some days, I am working until midnight on a fire drill production. Other days, we’re in a holding pattern or awaiting edits and I have hours of free time. Working remotely has eliminated my daily commute and given me more time in my day as well. Meetings are easier to accommodate since everyone is simply a zoom call away.
Most importantly, if I feel like a directing opportunity will interfere with my production job responsibilities, It’s always a no. I’m lucky to have director reps who understand that I have a job 🙂
SCREEN: Thank you to Zanah for her time today, and congratulations as her career continues to stride forward. As for Zanah’s independent film work, she has a new romantic comedy set to enter the festival circuit, The Love You Want Exists, and you can click here for a special first look at the film here on SCREEN.