Commercial Directors Diversity Program Sets Lineup of 5 Fellows, 15 Finalists
Araeia Robinson
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The Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP), created by the AICP and the Directors Guild of America to bring women and other under-represented directors into commercials and marketing communications, has announced the five Fellows for the program’s 2021 cycle: Iqbal Ahmed, Manjari Makijany, Araeia Robinson, Tamer Shaaban and Siyou Tan. They were chosen from a group of over 400 applicants, all of whom started their directing careers in other media--documentaries, dramatic shorts, music videos, among other formats.

This third cycle of the CDDP was pushed to start in early 2021 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  The five Directing Fellows will participate in a six-month program that will provide them with experience and exposure to the inner workings of commercial and other marketing content production. The program begins with a series of workshops that allow the directors to hear from commercial directors, production and postproduction executive producers, and agency creatives about the nuances of commercial production--from the treatments and initial pitch to working with clients on set and in the post process.

The directors will be paired with mentoring companies which will provide first-hand access to observe the process, then help them to produce spec spots with scripts provided by creatives and producers from Saatchi & Saatchi, Los Angeles.

The program culminates in an industry showcase for company owners, directors, agencies, and clients that will, hopefully, lead the Fellow Directors to be signed by an AICP member company as a pathway to DGA membership and a productive career.

“The CDDP is committed to being a part of the solution to representation and equity in the commercial advertising space,” noted Tamika Lamison, CDDP executive director. “There is so much diverse talent out there that a little bit of access and nurturing will yield a lot of success. A win-win for everyone. We believe this, because we have seen it.”

The Fellows were selected by the CDDP Advisory Committee. In addition, 15 finalists will be invited to participate in the program’s workshops: Leo Aguirre, Francis Agyapong, Kevin Berlandi, Megan Brotherton, Tracy Twinkie Byrd, Xavier Burgin, Justin Casselle, Ashley Czerniewski, Ashley Eakin, Alexander Gilbert, Guillaum Knight, Rachel Rinehardt, Sherwin Shilati, Larin Sullivan, and Sarah Wilson Thacker.

Last year the program launched Five Fellows: Vanessa Black, Christopher Nataanii Cegielski, Dominique Deleon, Sofia Garza-Barba and Jane Qian. Ms. Qian, a 2020 Young Guns finalist who earned inclusion into SHOOT’s 2019 New Directors Showcase, recently signed to her CDDP mentoring company, Knucklehead. All of the Fellows are on the move generating work.

The CDDP’s mission is to foster awareness and increase directing opportunities through a targeted program of outreach, mentorship, and exposure. The Fellows each receive a grant to create a spec commercial.


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