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"Porch Chats" with Director Peter Zavadil

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Q: Tell me about yourself. How long have you been in the industry and what got you into directing commercials?

A: My interest in film as an art form and as a language started early. I was one of six kids so my Mom was always dumping us off at the movie theater to get a little break! So I was a big movie head growing up. By the age of twelve I knew I wanted to be a director. My first ‘real’ film work was as an unpaid intern in college so I got to work my way through all of the departments. That was an intense rite of passage, but it was good because you got to see the different demands of all the departments and how the filmmaking system worked. I learned how to be efficient and respect the process.

I moved to Nashville in the early ’90s, during the heyday of country music videos when ‘cotton was high.' I was producing for a directing team that shot a lot of high profile artists and projects so it sharpened my skills, but I wasn’t creatively challenged. That’s when I realized that if I didn’t pursue a directing career, I would stagnate into a cranky old producer, so I threw my hat in the ring and started directing music videos. It’s a great format because it’s like shooting a mini epic in one day so I got a chance to experiment, contextually and creatively with a lot of different approaches. That led to a lot of commercial opportunities and my career boomed from there.

Q: What’s your favorite commercial you've ever worked on and why?

A: That’s a hard question to answer. It’s like saying what’s your favorite film, or what’s your favorite song? I really like creating work that makes people cry or laugh…or both. I like drama and I like comedy. I’m really proud of the narrative work I do with clients like Food City and I really enjoy the stylistic work I do with Health Care clients and the Service industries. To put it simply my favorite spots are the ones where everything comes together, the casting is perfect, the light is right, and we capture that thing I call the ‘eternal moment’…all those little things, the intangibles that you can’t map out, that all come together to create something magical. It is a very gratifying process to make people happy and brands look good.

Q: What makes your directing style unique?

A: I’m very comfortable with narrative storytelling. I like things that have a beginning, middle and end, but land that way by taking a unique path. I enjoy working with actors and creating performances that go beyond the obvious and finding the nuances in a performance or moment. That’s why I like to edit my own work, if the project allows. I was there, I experienced what my clients responded to and know where to find it. I’ve heard it said that the right moment can be the difference between cutting a shot one frame earlier or one frame later. All that said, I find it incredible that you can draw epic, emotional moments out of a spot in just 30 or 60 seconds. That’s my absolute goal every time I step behind the camera or break down a set of storyboards.

Q: Who is the top actor/actress you'd love to work with?

A: As a director, I’d love to work with actors who are really committed to their craft…people like Meryl Streep or Robert DeNiro…Leonardo DiCaprio or Saoirse Ronan. The idea of giving an actor of that caliber the creative parameters and letting them loose sounds intoxicating! But, honestly, I dream more about getting a chance to spend time with Directors and DPs that I really admire…real artists like David Lynch, the Coen Brothers or Martin Scorsese. I love Roger Deakins…a true DP legend…and I really want to work with a mega female DP like Rachel Morrison!

Q: Where in the world would you want to shoot and why?

A: I know it sounds whack but a dream of mine, since I was a geek kid, is to shoot in space or make a film on the moon. If that’s too ambitious, I would love to shoot in Greenland or New Zealand…everywhere you point a camera in those places is gorgeous. I would also love to shoot (and eat) my way through Asia…from Japan to Thailand. One thing that’s really cool about our business is that it affords us the opportunity to go to places that most people have never seen or experienced. I have logged over 27 hours in a Black Hawk helicopter flying over hostile airspace in Afghanistan and Iraq. I have learned how to take a lobster out of a trap with a lobsterman in Maine. I have stood in the batter’s box while a Major League pitcher threw me a 98 mph fastball (I missed). I have watched open-heart surgery in scrubs from the back of an operating room. I’ve been to some really incredible places and seen some really amazing things…I would go anywhere to shoot and experience anything.

Q: What's your fun fact?

A: I’m currently teaching myself how to play the piano because I want to better understand the language of music.

I’ve run 14 marathons (including NYC!). love my wife…and spoil my dog.

Every day I try to get a little better and being a compassionate and engaged human being.


Porchlight is a premier, commercial production company in Nashville, TN that consistently creates and delivers extraordinary visual content.

1 Comment

Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson
Apr 19, 2022

Hi, I’m Bella Heaven - Medical officer working in TRUSTRXPHARMACY. I’m responsible to oversee all facets of health care. I supervise everyday practices, serve as clinical consultants, and discuss any issues that might occur. I also apply to services for medical research and monitor clinical trials.

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