- LOS ANGELES
An 11-time Emmy nominee for his work as a producer, writer and actor spanning Saturday Night Live, Portlandia and Documentary Now!, Fred Armisen has joined RadicalMedia’s global directorial roster for commercials and branded content. Armisen’s directing chops are on display in such projects as episodic work for Portlandia, the well-received short film Guide to Music and South by Southwest, and a Kings of Leon concert for the digital series American Express UNSTAGED.
The latter, which was produced by RadicalMedia, earned a Silver Clio in 2014. Armisen’s positive experience on the job figured prominently in his decision to now connect with Radical for his first representation in the ad arena. Armisen noted, however, that he was initially drawn to Radical based on word of mouth--specifically from his colleague, actor Steve Buscemi, who appeared on Portlandia and directed a number of episodes for the comedy sketch series (which Armisen co-created). Buscemi had directed an installment of American Express UNSTAGED prior to Armisen getting the Kings of Leon gig. “Steve (who’s still with Radical for special projects) told me the guys at Radical were great,” recalled Armisen who found that to be the case on the AmEx assignment. For Armisen, “great” isn’t being left alone to do what you want. Rather, it’s providing a measure of creative freedom but also parameters and guidance. Radical delivered just the right balance, marked by, he said, “honesty and not being afraid of challenges” as well as being quick and responsive, open to inspired ideas and whims. “I remember the band being happy with the results, Radical being happy, American Express being happy, and my being happy. It was a great experience.”
Armisen explained that he not only wants to spread his directing wings but also is particularly interested in spots and branded fare, citing their immediacy and the inherent challenge of trying something new. “I like to explore anything that I haven’t done enough of. I’m at my best when I’m figuring something out that’s new to me.”
Though he has no spots as of yet in his directorial body of work, Armisen is adept at comedy, has roots in music, and is no stranger to short form--as evidenced by the aforementioned Guide to Music and SXSW, as well as a penchant for memorable sketch comedy in SNL and Portlandia. He also has the experience of integrating Subaru vehicles into select Portlandia sketches, grappling with “how can we make the car work for the sketch” and no matter what the product placement “to make sure the sketch is still funny.”
Acting acumen, conceptual chops
Armisen is a performance-savvy director based on his experience as an actor. He was a repertory cast member on SNL for 11 years. One of his Emmy nods was for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for Portlandia in 2014. He’s appeared in such films as Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. And Armisen starred alongside Maya Rudolph in the critically acclaimed Amazon series Forever in 2018.
Armisen additionally brings writing/conceptual talent to the party. He’s been nominated for assorted Writers Guild Awards on the strength of his work on SNL, Portlandia and the Documentary Now! mockumentary series (which he co-created with Bill Hader, Seth Meyers and Rhys Thomas). Armisen won WGA Awards in 2013 for Portlandia and in 2017 for SNL. Furthermore, Armisen also is the recipient of two Peabody Awards--for SNL in 2008 and Portlandia in 2012.
Armisen is the latest in his creative ensemble looking to diversify into commercialmaking. For example, Portlandia co-creator Carrie Brownstein is among those colleagues of Armisen to take on spot representation, recently joining PRETTYBIRD. And Alice Mathias, Armisen’s producing partner on various shows including Portlandia and Documentary Now!, is handled for spots and branded content by Gifted Youth (a company recently acquired by Caviar from Funny Or Die). Armisen credited Mathias with opening his eyes to the content/filmmaking possibilities in the branded space and the opportunities its quick turnaround time affords for more immediate creative gratification.