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From Movie Buff to Advertising Filmmaker

Jason Mcilquham 642024 (1)

Jason Mcilquham will never forget seeing the iconic galaxy far, far away on the big screen for the first time — and how it inspired him and his brother to capture that magic in their own backyard productions. 

Star Wars was my favorite and it got me interested in filmmaking as a young kid,” he said. 

Jason was able to realize his childhood dream of working behind the camera at Cox Media (part of the Cox family of businesses). Instead of directing feature-length films, his art comes in the form of TV commercials. 

“What I do is I make 30-second movies — and that’s the fun nature about working at Cox,” Jason said. “I’ve been very happy to do it for almost 20 years now.” 

Here, Jason talks about his career journey as a creative and finding an opportunity to do what he loves most outside of Hollywood.

 

Take one 

One of the exciting — and challenging — aspects of pursuing a creative career is that your path can have many twists and turns. 

Jason explored going into broadcast journalism, film school and briefly worked in live event productions before going back to school to study graphic design. On a campus bulletin board, he found a posting for an internship with Cox Media’s creative services department. 

That internship allowed Jason to focus on what he truly loves: working on set. 

“Whether I was helping sort camera equipment or writing and editing, it was just great to observe and learn a whole bunch of new stuff,” he said. “I just realized that this is a key opportunity to observe and make note of how they’re directing actors here, or how they handle themselves on set or their kind of writing style.” 

By the end of his internship, Jason was offered a full-time job. That’s where his journey really begins. 

  

From a one-man band to creative leader 

Early in Jason’s tenure at Cox Media, he took on a gig in Lake Havasu in northern Arizona, where he would take the lead on producing TV commercials in the area. 

“It was a great experience because I was a one-man band,” he said. “I was doing it all: writing, producing, meeting the clients, managing campaigns.” 

After successfully honing his skills for about a year and a half, Jason moved back down to Phoenix. Even with the backing of a full production team behind him, Jason continues to prove he can do it all: pitch, write, direct and produce.  

Case in point: Under Jason’s leadership, his team produced a year’s worth of commercials — 21 commercials, to be exact — in two days.  

“That was the most commercials that I’ve ever filmed in a day,” Jason said. “I had to figure out a way to shoot a year’s campaign with our client’s limited availability.” 

Jason explained that it usually takes a 10-hour production day to create a 30-second commercial. He crafted over 20 unique commercial scripts, ranging from heartfelt and lighthearted, and coordinated costume changes and props for holiday spots. 

And for those two days on set, he was all about keeping the energy up. 

“My role as the director is to provide the vision and be the most enthusiastic cheerleader for the people on camera and the people in the crew behind him,” he said. “Because you want to lift everyone’s spirits and to get us through the day by creating a fun, happy, safe environment that everybody enjoys.” 

 

A director’s vision  

One of Jason’s favorite projects over the years was a three-day shoot in the Arizona desert for the grand opening of a new luxury car dealership. 

“I pitched an idea, and the client gave me absolute creative freedom,” he said. “And that was probably the most fun I’ve had doing a commercial because I just felt really inspired to just go for it.”

His vision: a high-fashion shoot where the people looked like they had stepped out of the pages of Vogue. 

“It was the largest cast I’ve ever had, and we had costumes, wardrobe and a lot of cool cars,” Jason said. 

Part of the fun of being in a creative field is the challenge of coming up with great ideas within a certain timeframe. For Jason, inspiration comes from the most unexpected places — at the grocery store, mowing the lawn or in the middle of the night. 

“Sometimes you hear a great line and pick things up overhearing conversations,” he said. “I always thought my finest ideas came in at about 1 a.m. the night before the presentation I had to pitch. Sometimes that’s when creativity hits you.” 

He also loves bouncing ideas with people in his life: his wife, who’s also a writer, and his brother (his first creative partner) — as well as his colleagues at Cox. 

“I love the brainstorming process, collaborating with my other peers and batting around ideas,” he said. “You have a nugget of an idea and then we’re putting things up on a big whiteboard and then your idea splinters off to some other place that maybe you won’t even think about. It’s that creative process of you start someplace, and it leads you someplace else.” 

 

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