- LOS ANGELES
Six promising filmmakers selected for the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP)--the joint initiative of the AICP and DGA designed to create opportunities for women and ethnic minorities--got the opportunity to showcase their talent last week (7/31) during an industry screening of their spec work at the Linwood Dunn Theatre in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Pickford Building in L.A.
The spots featured at the screening were facilitated by the CDDP program which paired each of the six directors with a mentor production company, staged workshops on the ins and outs of the business, and provided not only a stipend to help fund the spec fare but also access to production community resources to help bring the work to fruition.
The lineup of six CDDP directors consisted of Maya Albanese (whose mentoring company was brother), Erica Eng (Native Content), Kryzz Gautier (Backyard), Monty Marsh (Skunk), Tamika Miller (Pulse Films) and Gabrielle Paciorek (m ss ng p eces).
While the spec fare was well received, eliciting rousing applause during the evening screening, the litmus test remains as to whether or not production companies will step up to the plate and sign this female and ethnically diverse talent for representation.
In remarks on stage after the screening and a panel discussion, AICP president and CEO Matt Miller made a strong pitch for this tangible inclusion of the CDDP directors in the industry at large. He and CDDP program director Tamika Lamison are hopeful that the evening event and the ongoing exposure of the spec work on the CDDP website will ultimately help land a production company roost for each CDDP director.
At press time, five of the directors were in the market for a production company affiliation. The one who’s already found a home is Albanese who, as reported earlier by SHOOT, signed with brother, her CDDP mentor shop.
In a prior iteration of the CDDP--which has since evolved into its current state with mentoring companies, spec funding, workshops and other benefits--13 directors had their work showcased at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles last year. Only two of those directors have thus far signed. Miller would like to see the numbers rise for that original deserving group as well as attain a higher batting average right out of the gate for the latest six directors to make the CDDP cut.
Miller also in his on-stage remarks asked production houses to follow in the footsteps of mentor shops brother, Backyard, m ss ng p eces, Native Content, Pulse and Skunk. He noted that companies willing to commit to CDDP and join the ranks of those that mentor will benefit the overall industry. Additionally, the advantage goes beyond altruism as a mentoring company will get the chance to connect with an up-and-coming talent, likely getting first crack at bringing him or her aboard its roster--just as brother did with Albanese.
Albanese’s spec piece is titled “History” for Georgia-Pacific. The piece introduces us to a gay couple, a high school student with Down syndrome, and an immigrant to the U.S. who each receive a letter in the mail bringing life-changing news. The couple reads that its adoption of a child has been approved. The student is notified that she has been accepted to Syracuse University. And the immigrant is informed that he has been granted permanent residency status in the U.S. A supered tagline reads, “History is written on paper. Which is why paper will never be history.”
Eng--who earlier this year gained inclusion into SHOOT’s New Directors Showcase--made via the CDDP a spec spot titled “Second Chances” for Homeboy Industries, which assists high-risk youth, former gang members and those who had been recently incarcerated with a variety of programs, including work-readiness training in such businesses as the Homeboy Bakery and Homeboy Farmers Markets.
Gautier’s “Defend Dreamers” spec piece for AT&T shows how a girl comes to the U.S. and grows up to realize her dreams as a young woman despite being separated for her dad across the border. Still, they stay connected over the years via AT&T--until he is able to see her face to face in the U.S. on the day she attains a major personal milestone.
Marsh’s adidas spec spot for adidas, “Original Is Never Finished,” correlates with adidas’ current marketing strategy of tracing a line between the past and the present. The film is about the power of culture and pioneering new ways to inspire the collective. This is achieved by utilizing modern-day Jumbies who cross from the past into the present. The goal is to inspire a new generation by reminding them of the richness and influence of African heritage in today’s creative culture.
Tamika Miller’s spec ad, “Get Answers NOW!,” for Amazon Echo centers on the curiosity of children. Miller elicits top-drawer performances from the kids to great comedic effect.
And Paciorek’s spec savvy is displayed in Apple Watch/Nike+’s “Running Thoughts” in which we see a female runner in action--as both she and her imagination run wild.
After their work was screened, the six CDDP directors participated in a panel discussion moderated by Jessica Sanders, an Academy Award-nominated, Sundance and Cannes Award-winning director and producer of narrative and documentary films and commercials. Sanders’ commercial career was launched when Steve Jobs handpicked her to direct Apple’s iPad launch campaign. She won the coveted Cannes Young Director’s Award for her “Sony Make.Believe” film which also won an AICP Show honor. Among her recent endeavors are a narrative short End of the Line which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and a feature she’s currently helming, Picking Cotton, based on the New York Times best-selling book by Jennifer Thompson, Ronald Cotton and Erin Torneo.
The CDDP panelists touched upon their backgrounds, experiences and what their different perspectives can offer to the market at large. Tamika Miller, for example, described herself as “a queer woman of color” who offers a fresh POV and aspires “to be in a position to empower more women of color.”
While the AICP and DGA are on opposite sides of the collective bargaining table, Matt Miller observed that they are “in lockstep” when it comes to promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry for underrepresented groups.
Thus the CDDP was born out of AICP-DGA contract talks, related Fabiana Ochoa, director of commercial contracts in L.A. for the DGA. He affirmed in opening remarks to the evening’s audience that inclusivity has been a priority at the Guild for many years.
During the evening proceedings, the six CDDP directors were presented with commendations for their achievements. The certificates came from Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl.
A sense of accomplishment and being honored weren’t confined to the directors themselves. For example, CDDP Advisory Committee member, commercial veteran Lisa Rich, the former COO of Smuggler, shared that it’s been “a pleasure and a privilege” to be part of this AICP-DGA program and getting the chance to “pass along things I’ve learned and experienced to this new generation of talent.”
Though no exact timetable has been set, Miller and Lamison said that another round of CDDP talent will be coming through the pipeline down the road. The plan is to help introduce worthy diverse talent on an ongoing basis.
Client Georgia-Pacific (spec spot) Creative Stuart Fink, writer. Production Maya Albanese, director; Catherine Goldschmidt, DP; Rich Carter, exec producer; Jonathan Biebl, producer; Emily Terfehr, production manager. Editorial/Finish Cosmo Street Julie Kravitz Gannon, editor; Shinya Sato, Flame artist; Chelsea Spensley, producer; Yvette Cobarrubias-Sears, exec producer. Color Apache Quinn Alvarez, colorist; Stefanie Schaldenbrand, producer; LaRue Anderson, exec producer. Audio Post Lime Adam Primack, mixer; Susie Boyajan, exec producer. Production Support Quixote Studios Camera Support Keslow Camera Performers Ungela Brockman, Umberto Celisano, Arianna Ortiz, Katelyn Reed. CDDP Tamika Lamison, program director.
Client Adidas Originals (spec spot) Creative Monty Marsh, writer. Production Guerrilla Filmworx Monty Marsh, director/executive producer; Robert E. Arnold, DP/executive producer; Scott Lane, Chris Ritchie, producers;. Mentoring Production Company Skunk Shelly Townsend, CDDP mentor. Music Michael Brian Stein; Dawn Richard, music supervisor/recording artist. Editorial Bill Marmor, editor. Sound Design Eleven Sound Color, VFX, Finishing The Mill Will Mok, post producer; Evan Bauer, color producer; Ashley Goodwin, VFX producer. Camera Support Keslow Camera, Adorama Camera Collaborators Brooklyn Jumbies, Laura Anderson Barbata and Fotokem Special Thanks Big Sky Movie Ranch and MOME/Made In NY