Slider Image
Slider Image
Slider Image
Slider Image
3rd May 2023
Soul Ambition
Title of film: SOULS (Teaser for mini series)
Director: Hanna Maria Heidrich & Alex Eslam
Production Company: Geissendoerfer Pictures
Teutonic efficiency meets boundless creative vision in director Hanna Maria Heidrich – whose cinematic aesthetic and stylised visuals elevate 30-second spots into beautifully conceived films in miniature. In Heidrich’s world, a humdrum car trip makes a handbrake turn right into the pages of a fairytale; scarecrows shake off their shackles and go searching for the perfect home. Recently, she’s been exploring the circularity of life and the tantalising prospect of reincarnation in SOULS, her award-winning mini-series for Sky Atlantic, transporting viewers on a journey between past, present and future to discombobulating effect. She tells 1.4 why she loves the choreography in car commercials, the craft of directing actors, and why she’s founded her own organisation to shake up the pitch process.

Taken from SOULS 

Tell me a bit about your journey in directing – was it something you’d always dreamed of doing from a young age?

I’ve always been a creative person. As a kid, I loved making all sorts of wacky things, and as a teenager, I became obsessed with drawing, painting, and photography. I even thought about studying art in college, but when I visited some friends at art school, I realized that it would be too lonely for me. That’s when I discovered filmmaking. It’s the perfect way to collaborate with people and explore my interests in art, light, psychology, and humanity.

Of course, with the rise of AI, things are changing a bit, but I don’t think that the sense of collaboration will ever disappear. We’re always going to want to work and create together.

As a director, you’re particularly known for your affinity with actors and your ability to draw out authentic performances – you actually did a specific post-grad course on directing actors at Central St Martins. Are you generally a ‘people’ person, and what do you find most interesting about this aspect of the job?

I absolutely love working with actors! I think it probably comes from my fascination with psychology. I’m always curious about what makes people tick, what causes them to change, and what drives them apart. When I’m directing actors, it feels like I’m on a journey of discovery with them, exploring the depths of the human psyche. Who are we, really?

For me, directing actors is a craft that requires lifelong learning. I’m constantly fascinated by it, and each experience humbles me in a new way. I try to keep growing and learning outside of projects, too. I’ll attend directing workshops or listen to podcasts from actors or the DGA. We directors should work hard to be the actors‘ best possible partners.

Lexus, Unfollow

You’ve carved out a niche for yourself in automotive advertising, having directed spots for pretty much every car brand from Porsche to Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Toyota, Nissan and more. Despite all the advances made by female directors in the last five years, it feels like you might still be in the minority as a female director in the auto sector. What has your experience been like, and what appeals to you about car commercials? 

Personally, I’m a big fan of the choreography in car commercials. It’s like conducting an orchestra: You and your crew have to work together to find that perfect moment where everything falls into place. The precision driver has to be just close enough but not too close, and the arm car driver, arm operator, focus puller, and camera operator all have to be in sync. And then there’s you, the director, who has to know exactly what you want and whether it’s good enough or not. It’s a real challenge, but when you get it right, it’s a beautiful moment. Working with a crew on a car commercial can sometimes feel like you’re in your own little simplified universe for a moment.

But yeah, it’s crazy to think that there are still arm car crews out there who have never worked with a female director. Sure, there might be some macho behavior and skepticism at first, but I have made the experience that when you know what you’re doing, people will respect that. Once people see you have a clear vision for the project, doubts tend to disappear pretty quickly. I’ve always believed that I’m in the director’s chair for a reason, and the crane operator and anyone else is in his for a reason, too. We’re both there because we bring different skills to the table. It’s all about teamwork.

Your work feels deeply cinematic in scope, from the editing to the stylised visuals and beautiful cinematography. Are you a meticulous planner when it comes to pre-production and storyboarding?

Yeah, for sure. I think the better you are prepared, the more you can let go of your planning and see if any better ideas unfold in the process. Planning gives me a sense of security which allows me to stay open to create more creative freedom.


Taken from SOULS 

Let’s talk a bit about your recent project SOULS – a mini-series about reincarnation and past lives. Your husband, Alex Eslam, created the show and directed several episodes too – what was it like working alongside him to bring the story to life? What appealed to you about the project and do you believe in reincarnation personally?

Although I’m personally very interested in spirituality, SOULS is a show that appeals to a wider audience. The inspiration for the series came from a documentary about kids who claimed to have had past lives. Meeting one of them was a truly mind-blowing experience.

Collaborating with Alex on the show was a pure joy. It was easy to fall in love with his vision of creating a miniseries that was both mind-bending and emotionally resonant at the same time. We both loved the casting process and the opportunity to bring to life such complex and dynamic characters, from the young man who claimed to have lived before, to the three multi-dimensional female characters, to the ambiguous cult leader.

Directing the show was a great opportunity for me to deepen my fictional directing skills: I loved directing the actors in challenging scenes and to build a mysterious yet approachable world with Alex.

Taken from SOULS 

SOULS moves between past, present and future worlds – what sort of directorial challenges did that present for you?

The scripts not only have three timelines, but the story is also told non-chronologically. The biggest directing challenge was to maintain the right flow of events because we couldn’t just scroll through the script to check what happened 10 pages earlier. Instead, we needed to keep track of all the details of each character arc across the 8 episodes.

This level of knowledge was crucial for the 6-month shooting schedule. Although the storylines only differed between 10-15 years, some actors underwent significant visual transformations. Thus, we had to ensure that all beards, hair lengths, and extra pounds matched up!

Now you have a series under your belt, is a feature film something you’d be interested in taking on as well?

100%. I enjoy the fictional work a lot. At the same time the script needs to be good enough. Since SOULS had its premiere in Cannes last year I had a lot of new offers but I haven’t found something that really excited me yet.


Taken from SOULS 

Outside of your directing work, you’ve co-founded an association/community, DRCT, that represents and supports commercial and branded content directors, with the first goal to bring about a change in pitch culture – what do you see as the current obstacles and how far has the cause moved forward? What do you see as the other burning issues that DRCT could get involved with?

The biggest obstacles we face are the people who refuse to acknowledge that the world is always moving forward and that there’s no turning back. Just because we’ve done things a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it’s the right way. Behaviours that worked in the past may no longer be acceptable in the future. This is particularly true for pitching for free.

Since we founded DRCT, a lot has happened. We’ve been able to shift the conversation about our pitch culture with the German Producers Association, who has become our biggest partner in our endeavour for sustainable change and a fairer pitching environment. We’re currently in the middle of some very exciting conversations, so I can’t reveal the details yet, but I hope that we can bring about the change we desire and make Germany one of the first global markets to introduce a pitch fee.

This is an exciting process that will benefit all parties involved, from directors to creatives, from head of productions to clients, in the long term.


Interview by Selena Schleh 



Repped by:






Souls Mini Series

Created By The Mastermind #Alexeslam
Directed By #Alexeslam & Hanna Maria Heidrich
Dp #Carlojelavic @Lustig.Franz @Norwin.Dp
Music @Daschadauenhauer
Editing @Benentrup @Robertstuprich @Moritzpohl #Juliakovalenko
Production Design @Jillschwarzer @Jurekkuttner
Color Grading @Manuport
Costume @Nicolefischnaller
Casting @Lizastutzky
Idea By @Maltecn
Headwriter #Alexeslam With @Lisa_vanbrakel #Erolyesilkaya #Senadhalibasic
Ep #Hanageissendoerfer @Maltecn @Alena.Jelinek
Sky Ep #Luciavogt #Fankjastfelder
1stad #Ronny Bregulla And #Alexrutkowski
Sound #Bertinmolz
Make-Up&Hair #Jan Kempkens-Odemski #Anettweber #Emiliagrund
Stunt @Production_concept
Vfx Consulting #Denisbehnke @Arri @Pharos_thepostgroup @Haukehilberg @Seh.Sucht
Production #Geissendoerferpictures


Lexus, Unfollow

Advertising Agency Team One
Executive Creative Director Jason Stinsmuehlen
Creative Director Britt Wilen & Philipp Dietz
Agency Producer Leah Bohl
Management Supervisor Rachae Delesk
Production Company Reset
Executive Producer Michael Garza
Producer Matt Wersinger
Director Of Photography Roman Vasyanov
Production Designer Meghan Mcclure
Costume Designer Christian Strobel
Key Make-Up Marta Camer
1st Ad Francoid Caillaud
Editing House Cabin
Editing Producer Sari Resnick
Editor Rami D’aguiar
Postproduction Jamm
Grade Adam Nazarenko | Company 3
Director Hanna Maria Heidrich


Rightmove, Happy Valley

Advertising Agency Fold7

Executive Creative Director David Billing
Agency Producer Rachael Long

Agency Assistant Producer Izy Brand
Production Company Believe Media London

Director Hanna Maria Heidrich

Executive Producer James Covill
Producer Jules Fennel

Additional Producer Simon Eakhurst

Production Assistant Sarah Graley

Production Manager Fiona Martin

Director Of Photography Antonio Paladino

2nd Unit Dop Luke Jacobs

Styling Bratsk

Postproduction Rascal

Vfx Supervisor & Creative Director Markus Lundqvist

Grade James Bamford

Editor Dfran


Bonaqua, Live Till The Last Drop

Advertising Agency Publicis Italy
Global Cco Publicis Ww Bruno Bertelli
Global Executive Creative Director Davide Boscacci
Senior Creative Directors Conor Barry & Thiago Jacon
Copywriter David Casares
Art Director Victor Lopez
Agency Producer Shereen Mostafa
Chief Strategy Officer Raluca Kovacs
Production Company Anorak
Executive Producer Catherine Baikousis
Producer Toni Jaschke
Production Assistant Daria Zakharova
Director Of Photography Jamie Ramsay
Production Designer Wendy Fredriksson
Costume Designer Gabrill Zarandah
1st Ad Tony Fernandez
Service Production Romance Films
Executive Producer Rozanne Rocha-Gray
Service Producer Tvc Helmke Möller
Editor Sabine Panek
Sound Studio Screen Play
Postproduction Prodigious Italy
Grade James Bamford @ Rascal
Director Hanna Maria Heidrich