Rylee Jean Ebsen, formerly director of creative media for Snapchat and one of its first employees, has joined Los Angeles-based creative services company Big Block as only the second woman on its roster of live action commercial directors.
“I had always set out to direct full time,” said Ebsen. “We were in the trenches at Snap and it feels like a place I was able to help build. Now I want to work with other brands and continue to grown and learn.”
Ebsen, who is the granddaughter of actor Buddy Ebsen and advertising creative director Stan Freberg, grew up in Hollywood and attended high school at Crossroads in Santa Monica, where she hung out with future Snap Inc. CEO Evan Spiegel. After graduating, she attended NYU Film School, where she studied directing. While she was still in school, Spiegel called her and asked her to direct a commercial to help the company find its first round of funding.
After that, she continued to work at Snap for seven years, leaving as director of creative media, overseeing a team of 15 and reporting directly to Spiegel.
“Rylee was a valuable and innovative creative partner throughout Snap’s early journey,” said Spiegel in a statement. “We’re excited for her to fulfill her dreams as a full-time director!”
In 2015, Ebsen directed and produced Snap’s first original content for the Discover platform, including such short-form content as Literally Can’t Even, Pillow Talk and Under the Ghost.
She also co-directed Snap’s very first broadcast TV spot, earned an official patent for her work creating Snapchat’s AR Geofilters, and guided Snap’s narrative through its billion-dollar IPO. As part of that effort, she directed a brand film for the company’s IPO road show, which served as a sort of documentary as the brand worked to go public.
In 2018, she directed Snap’s campaign for Voter Registration, which drove more than 400,000 people to register to vote. That campaign was produced completely vertically on smartphones.
She also helped establish Snap’s position in the art and technology communities as the lead creative behind the debuts of the Jeff Koons Augmented Reality project, Snappables, World Lenses, Custom Stories, and Spectacles.
Ebsen also produces projects for musicians, such as the Goldroom Music Video (below) that incorporated both vertical and horizontal video.
“What drew me to Big Block is that they weren’t just another production company making commercials, they’re a go-to partner for brands and agencies to turn to for innovative ideas, unique activations and incredible artistic interpretations,” said Ebsen.
Both Ebsen and Big Block are involved with association Free the Bid, which works to bring more female directors into the industry. Ebsen also is an executive member of Women in Film and a member of the Directors Guild of America.
As she’s built her career, Ebsen also has created a network of mentors over time.
“The best advice I give is to find people in your life that you admire and respect and then take them to lunch or dinner or coffee and just talk to them,” Ebsen said. “I have built this collection of mentors that I can rely on.”
At Big Block, Ebsen said she is excited to work with brands to “crack the digital puzzle,” creating content that attracts viewers across mobile and digital platforms.
“I’m a storyteller and I love to collaborate with brands,” she said.
“This is a transformational time for advertising and Rylee is a trailblazer in inventing and executing new concepts. Her experience at one of the top social media platforms gives her a unique understanding of storytelling and advertising in the digital landscape,” said Jennette MacLachlan, live action executive producer at Big Block, in a statement. “With culture and innovation driving Big Block’s offering as a one-stop-shop for brands, Rylee’s creative vision and agility across new technologies make her a perfect addition to our director roster.”