Crafting ads and the creative process of independent filmmaker Steve Mims

Photo: Inti St. Clair

Photo: Inti St. Clair

Steve Mims is an award winning independent filmmaker based in Austin Texas. His portfolio consists of a number of critically acclaimed feature films including Arlo & Julie,  Starving The Beast, and most recently, Run Like The Devil, which documents the first of its kind race for senate between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz. Outside of his narrative work, he is a notable commercial director and creative mastermind behind numerous ads such as the viral spot for Gerald Daugherty that received praise everywhere from adweek to Ellen

When learning your craft, did you have any mentors or formal education?

I studied film as and undergrad at the University of Southern Mississippi.  There I was lucky to get into a small program designed by a recent USC grad Lawrence Albers.  Prior to that I’d made my own films through high school. Albers was the person who introduced me to professional gear and a professional approach.  I was very lucky to have him. A few years later in the grad program at UT Austin I had two important teachers: Nick Caminos and Jan Krawitz. Nick was an old school editor and Jan made docs.  They were terrific and very tough.

As someone who’s been in the creative industry for decades, has anything specific changed for an individual to be successful?

Success really comes from perseverance, labor, reading and writing.

“A jack of all trades is a master of none,” is this true for independent filmmakers and creatives today?

I’m a believer in knowing all you can about every aspect of filmmaking and being able, in a pinch, to competently do any job you have to to get the film made.  Unlike the old days, the tools are readily available to make a film that you don’t have to apologize for. It just takes you being prepared to do it and not being duped into thinking that somebody is going to fall in line and do a job for you.  That might not happen and you can’t let some obstacle like that stop you.

A lot of your advertising work has been in politics, are there any specifics as to what makes advertising more effective in this sphere?

Advertising jobs in politics are fun because there are no rules, there’s a lot of pressure because of time constraints and if people trust you you can do original and fun work.

How does the creative process differ from writing/producing a short film versus sponsored content?

I come from a long background of advertising and filmmaking and in some ways I don’t differentiate. Client films require reporting to the client, otherwise all my jobs are much the same.

As a director what’s the creative relationship between you, your clients, and the agencies you work with.
My clients usually let me start from scratch or collaborate with them on an idea.  If I work with an agency they bring a lot to what I’m supposed to do in the normal fashion. The idea is the most important thing.

How do you go about implementing feedback?

I’m always looking for objective feedback, especially on edits.  I’m usually trying to see if other people understand the piece I’m working on the way that I do.

What starting advice can you give to filmmakers looking to work in advertising or commercial work?

You have to have something exceptional to show people.  Something that makes them recognize that you have something for them.


Hayes Reed is a senior Advertising and Radio Television Film major at the University of Texas at Austin. He can be heard beatboxing from parking garages as he paces during the not so quiet hours in which he writes.