Cannes, France — 10 Cloverfield Lane is one of the movies featured on both Delta and Virgin Atlantic this month – so no surprise that so many Cannes attendees were primed and ready to hear this morning’s McCann Health presentation with Dan Trachtenberg, the film’s director.

His film career started in his mother’s kitchen. He had heard that the sounds of Star War’s Millennium Falcon were made from the hums of a refrigerator motor. To his little kid brain, that meant kitchens = Star Wars. So he recorded all the kitchen stuff he could and ran behind the camera to see … well, the very disappointing results. He said he was crushed that it sounded nothing at all like Star Wars.

Jump ahead to other disappointments. Trachtenberg was rejected from his top choices for film school and decided to use as much of his time as possible to get out to Hollywood and create things. Predictably, he started as a production assistant. Trachtenberg admits, he was terrible at it. “I was a terrible production assistant. I didn’t know how to use a fax machine. I backed the grip truck into someone’s Jaguar. That path wouldn’t work for me. I’d just have to make really good stuff because I couldn’t climb the ladder the way I thought you should.”

He did create “really good stuff.” First directing spec commercials. Then co-hosting The Totally Rad Show podcast before creating the short film Portal: No Escape, based on the video game Portal.


Every step led to the next one. Portal was created around the time as so many short and feature films based on video games. But the others were inherently cinematic. Portal wasn’t. It was a puzzle game. No robots or alien and machine guns. Creating the graphics was incredibly challenging and it was ultimately Trachtenberg’s podcast fans who came to his aid. He put out calls to his Twitter fans for some special talent he needed and found volunteers from around the world.

The short film got 1 million views in the first day and 17 million over time. Plus, it quickly caught Hollywood’s attention, ultimately leading to the opportunity to direct a series of movies about heists, comics and …. Well, we can’t tell what Cloverfield Lane is really about (no spoilers!) but, you’ve got to watch it!

Last thought on the nature of creative careers from Trachtenberg: “I thought I was going to have to make a Super Bowl spot to get to make a movie. But, the movie I made got a Super Bowl spot and will hopefully help me make cool commercials.”

About the Author:

As Managing Director of Innovation for Syneos Health Communications, Leigh is responsible for shaping the company’s perspective on the next era of healthcare marketing. Through thought leadership, strategic innovation workshops and new products and capabilities, Leigh focuses on identifying marketing approaches that will fuel that new era and generate significant growth for clients. Leigh has worked with Fortune 1000 companies to craft their digital, mobile, social and CRM strategies for over 17 years. She’s worked for category-leading agencies in retail, public affairs, B2B technology, and higher education. Prior to moving to Syneos Health Communications, she had several leadership roles at one of our agencies, GSW. There, she founded an innovation practice fueled by the zeitgeist and spearheaded digital and innovation thinking across the business. Leigh has taken a special interest in complex healthcare products that can change lives in meaningful ways. She was recently a strategic lead on the 3rd largest launch in pharmaceutical history: Tecfidera. Before that she had keys roles with Eli Lilly Oncology, Abbott Nutrition, Amgen Cardiovascular, and Eli Lilly Diabetes. A critical part of Leigh’s work is trends and new ideas. Every year, she convenes a group of trend watchers from across our global network to identify the shifts most critical to healthcare marketers. Leigh is a sought-after writer and speaker. Recognized as one of the most inspiring people in the pharmaceutical industry by PharmaVoice, Leigh also was recognized as a Rising Star by the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association (HBA) for her overt passion, industry thought leadership and significant contributions in new business, strategy and mentoring.