- NEW YORK
SHOOT premiered its 16th Annual New Directors Showcase reel at the DGA Theatre in New York City on Thursday (5/24), followed by a panel discussion moderated by SHOOT publisher and editorial director Roberta Griefer featurng four of the up-and-coming filmmakers as well as feedback and advice from Loretta Jeneski, partner/executive producer of Nonfiction Unlimited, and James McPherson, EVP, director of integrated production at Townhouse, a WPP/Grey unit.
The 2018 New Directors Showcase consisted of 34 directors--32 individual directors and a duo. The lineup included 18 freelancers. And while past Showcases have included strong showings by women, this year's tally of 14 females is the highest ever. Kicking off the proceedings was Neil Dudich, Eastern executive director of the DGA. He described the Showcase directors as the next generation of talent, congratulating them on entering select company, and affirming that the Guild is there to support them. He cited the DGA's track record of fighting for directors' creative and economic rights and its push to get employers to adopt inclusive hiring practices. On the latter front, the DGA and AICP in their contract negotiated the launch of an initiative to foster women and ethnically diverse filmmakers, which has become the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP).
Dudich then introduced Griefer to the audiece who in turn presented the debut screening of the 2018 SHOOT New Directors Showcase reel, which contained a sampling of work from each Showcase filmmaker. After the screening, SHOOT held the Meet the New Directors panel discussion in which four of the directors participated, all of whom are as of yet unaffiliated with a production company: Erica Eng, Shaya Mulcahy, Brad Raider and Brett Warkentien.
Eng earned inclusion for her short film Horace Gold's POISON and has come up the industry ranks with internships at Spyglass Entertainment and HSI Productions, serving as an assistant at PRETTYBIRD and as an executive assistant for filmmaker Michael Mann. She recently directed a spec commercial as a fellow of the CDDP. Eng was one of six promising talents selected from some 400 CDDP applicants to benefit from an industry workshop, mentorship and support in the making of a spec piece of their own choosing. Eng's spec PSA centers on Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, a rehab group which gives a second chance to gang members, ex-cons and others, putting them on a positive path to career advancement. Eng's piece focuses on acclaimed actor Richard Cabral (American Crime, Lethal Weapon), a Homeboy alum.
Mulcahy garnered her Showcase slot on the strength of her short titled ZT: Zero Tolerance, which she described as a "hyperbolic" piece meant to be a comedy yet carrying a serious message about sexual harassment. Mulcahy is currently developing her first feature film, teaming with the same writer colleague whom she worked with on ZT. Also involved in the feature is a producer from the Final Destination movie franchise.
Raider made the Showcase cut for his feature film Kensho at the Bedfellow. A trailer for the movie was shown to the DGA Theatre audience. Raider wrote as well as directed the film which centers on a playwright turned doorman of The Bedfellow Hotel who is reeling from the death of his little sister. In a sex-and-drug-filled odyssey through Manhattan, his desperate search for fulfillment reunites him with a childhood love and ultimately, catalyzes a consciousness-expanding journey of self-discovery. Kensho at the Bedfellow was screened at The Rubin Museum of Art in NYC as the inaugural film of its Brainwave: Perception Series. The feature, said Raider, entailed 25 shoot days in New York and four in Los Angeles, with a year-and-a-half of postproduction. Informing the filmmaking experience was his prior extensive work as an actor during which he had the opportunity to work with and observe numerous directors, noting that the best "make actors feel comfortable so they can be creative and inventive." Most recently, Raider helmed a spec commercial dealing with gun violence and the debate over stricter gun control measures.
Warkentien earned Showcase recognition for his poignant piece on gun violence, "Every Three Hours," a public service spot for Cease Fire USA. The PSA introduces us to a physician who talks about the incrediby difficult, harrowing task of having to inform a mother that her son or daughter has died due to gun violence. We are then told that this happens every three hours in the U.S. Warkentien said he was moved to do the spec ad by the writings of a doctor who shared her experiences of having to tell moms that their children could not be saved. Warkentien first established himself on the agency side of the business, having served as a creative for 15 years. Warkentien said he experienced "a lot of mentorship" from directors he worked with, getting to see first-hand how they worked, how they handled clients and varied situations.
Most of the Showcase directors were in attendance at the DGA Theatre. The other directors in the 2018 Showcase are:
Meghann Artes of Tessa Films; Cameron Busby who is unaffiliated; Erin Collett who's unaffiliated; Andy Dulman of ArtClass; Lissette Feliciano who's unaffiliated; Maja Fernqvist of goodstory films; Matt Fisher who's unaffiliated; Tiffany Frances who's unaffiliated; Lan Freedman of charlieuniformtango; Ben Giroux of Superlounge; Caitlyn Greene of Voyager; Greg & Jacob of Unit9; David Kobzantsev who's unaffiliated; Jared Knecht of m ss ng p eces; Anais La Roca who's unaffiliated; Jenna Laurenzo who's unaffiliated; Justin Lebya who's unaffiiated; Danielle Levitt from Tool; Bing Liu of Nonfiction Unlimited; Stewart Maclennan of CoMPANY Films; Sallyanne Massimini of Principato Young Entertainment; Nina Meredith who is unaffiliated; Matteo J. Mosterts who's unaffiliated; Christian Schilling who's unaffiliated; Duncan Sullivan of Cause+Effect Productions; Casey Stein who's unafiliated; Bartley Taylor of Adolescent Content; Celine Tricart of The Cavalry Productions and SPECTACLE; and Emma Zakes Green who's unaffiliated.
Click here to view the 2018 SHOOT New Directors Showcase Reel and see profiles of all the directors in the Showcase.
Jeneski has a track record of seeking and signing notable directorial talent, and was ahead of the curve in bringing documentary filmmakers to the commercial/branded content space via Nonfiction Unlimited. She has a fine eye for identifying documentarians whose work and sensibilities would translate well into the ad sector.
Jeneski shared with the Showcase directors that she looks for documentary filmmakers who take the genre and push it past the conventional talking head archival fare, and whose visual style would play well in the commercialmakig world. It's important, she said, to get a personal sense of the filmmaker and whether he/she is up to the demands of the ad business. Jeneski added it helps to be a little "thick skinned" in that often you can pitch hard for a job but still not get it.
Griefer asked about the gender balance on Nonfiction's directorial roster which currently consists of six men and six women. Jeneski said that this level ground "was not anything we set out to do." She affirmed it's all about the work. "The work either speaks to you or it doesn't." But unlike others over the years, Jeneski heard those voices. She noted that in today's marketplace, Nonfiction does get more requests than in years past for women filmmakers.
The latest addition to Nonfiction's roster is Liu, one of this year's Showcase directors. Liu earned the Showcase slot for his feature documentary Minding The Gap, which tells the story of three young men--including himself--who bond with one another via skiateboarding to escape volatile families in their Rust Belt hometown. However, as they grow up and adult responsibilities take hold, unexpected revelations jeopardize their decade-long friendship. This past January, Minding The Gap earned Liu the Sundance Film Festival's Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking.
Meanwhile Townhouse's McPherson is on the lookout for diverse voices and storytellers. A combination of a production department for Grey and a production company as well--with some 60 producers on staff--Townhouse is in the market for the full spectrum of directorial talent. Most of the time, that entails top tier work going to top tier directors and production houses. On the other end of the continuum, for projects that have little or no money or time, Townhouse produces in-house, which frequently involves connecting with freelance directors. Or creatives within the agency could be called on to direct.
In terms of his advice to aspiring directors, McPherson related, "We are bombarded with content," often harbored in "a sea of sameness." New directors need "something that stands out," a story that offers "a human truth" that resonates, that people can relate to. He noted that diversity and inclusion are integral to getting a wide range of stories and tapping into universal truths.
Following the New Directors Showcase screening and panel discussion was the NDS after-party hosted by Silver Sponsor The Mill in Soho. Showcase directors and a cross-section of the industry came out to The Mill for food, drink, music and networking on their lovely rooftop.
Click Here for photos from the SHOOT 2018 16th Annual New Directors Showcase Event at the DGA and After-party at the Mill
Earlier in the day, as part of the New Directors Showcase event, SHOOT held its In The Director's Chair session with Amir Bar-Lev of Chelsea Pictures, and a panel discussion on Embracing Change in the industry with insights into the Free The Bid initiative as well as evolving relationships among clients, agencies and production companies. Coverage of these sessions will apear in next week's SHOOT>e.dition and on SHOOTonline.
Lead sponsors of the 2018 SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event were the DGA and My SHOOTonline. Silver sponsors were advertising and entertainment law firm FKKS, The Mill and McCann Worldgroup. Bronze sponsors were charlieuniformtango, Superlounge and the Commercial Directing Boot Camp.