Thursday, April 19, 2018
  • Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
TV Academy’s John Leverence Reflects On Current Crop of Emmy-Nominated Spots
John Leverence, sr. VP of awards, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
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Our annual tradition continues with SHOOT sounding out John Leverence, sr. VP of awards at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, to get an entertainment industry perspective on the commercials nominated for the primetime Emmy which this year are: two Ad Council PSAs in the “Love Has No Labels” campaign from R/GA—”Love Cam” and “We Are America”; Google’s “Year in Search 2016” out of 72andSunny; Gathering For Justice’s “Why I March” from mcgarrybowen, San Francisco; and Squarespace’s “Calling” out of agency JohnXHannes, NY.

The latter is the “outlier” in this year’s field, assessed Leverence. While the other four nominated pieces are described by Leverence as “morality tales,” the Squarespace spot deploys humor and the cantankerous persona of Malkovich to great effect. Directed by Miles Jay of Smuggler, the spot, which debuted during this year’s Super Bowl telecast, features actor Malkovich in his fashion design studio talking on the phone to someone who has already claimed the domain name This raises the question of who is being the real John Malkovich as the famous thespian tries to convince the other Malkovich to give him back his “rightful” domain name—but to no avail.

In its own way, the spot, related Leverence, is “kind of a hard sell, saying, ‘Look, here’s the problem. You can fix it by getting your domain name through Squarespace. There are no excuses. Otherwise you’ll become an angry John Malkovich.”

Four “warned”
The remaining four nominated commercials play like “cautionary tales,” observed Leverence, all carrying a sense of commitment, urgency and vigilance in promoting tolerance and inclusiveness.

The Ad Council PSAs are a follow-up to last year’s Emmy winner, “Love Has No Labels,” in which different skeletal figures emerge from behind an X-ray machine, revealing people for who they are and eliciting spontaneous, approving reactions from an audience.

This year “Love Cam”—directed by Floyd Russ of Tool—takes a page from that live stunt scenario only this time the reactions come from fans at the NFL Pro Bowl Game in Orlando, Florida’s Camping World Stadium. This Ad Council piece puts a twist on the traditional sports stadium jumbotron “kiss cam” by replacing it with a camera capturing positive expressions of love, unity, diversity and acceptance across race, religion, gender, sexuality, ability and age. The Orlando venue carries a deeper meaning in that the filming of the spot took place not long after the June 2016 terrorist attack/hate crime at Pulse, a gay night club in Orlando, where 49 people were killed. Appearing in “Love Cam” was a lesbian couple who is seen kissing—they were survivors of the onslaught at Pulse.

The “Love Cam” spot was “very sweet, emotional and surprising,” said Leverence, noting that in one scene a guy is next to a girl. The kiss cam puts them into focus when the gent instead turns to his other side and kisses another man. The piece also captures affection between two elderly people, those who are physically challenged, and interracial romance.

Meanwhile Rocky Morton of MJZ directed Ad Council’s “We Are America,” a video which too introduces us to a diverse mix of folks, underscoring that the country is blessed by a full spectrum of age, talents, sexual orientation, race, religion and gender. Delivering a soliloquy in an “anytown USA” kind of environment is WWE wrestling star John Cena.

“John Cena walking through the streets as the people he’s talking about emerge—women, veterans, Muslims—was very nicely done,” said Leverence, adding that this message too struck a responsive chord with Academy voters.

Similarly we see different people, most of them women from different walks of life, explain “Why I March” in the Gathering For Justice PSA. Directed by Nanette Burstein of Hungry Man, the piece features celebs and others who explain what drives them to participate in the then upcoming Women’s March (which took place in 370 locations worldwide on January 21, 2017). The PSA was created to help boost attendance at the various marches which were designed to express a message of solidarity and unity about women’s rights to society at large and the then brand new Trump administration.

“They were marching for equality and fundamental human decency—a recurring theme in the nominated work,” said Leverence.

And Google’s “Year in Search 2016” too is an affirmation of people seeking a voice and taking action. Leverence said that the piece—produced by 72andSunny’s in-house studio Hecho en 72—touched upon many different aspects of the year, it ultimately played like “a plea for peace, love and understanding,” accentuated by excerpts from the Tony Award acceptance speech/sonnet by Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda—who spoke of his wife’s love and alluded to the tragic Pulse mass shooting which occurred that very weekend. Miranda affirmed that “love is love is love is love is love is love” and “cannot be killed or swept aside.”

The Google, Ad Council and Gathering For Justice entries all represent a pushback against divisiveness, a declaration that “this isn’t the way it needs to be—even if that’s how it is on the news cycle,” said Leverence. “There’s an urgency in these commercials about remembering that. This was enormously relevant at the time of Emmy voting.”

This work, noted Leverence, appealed to the social consciousness of Academy voters. Whereas in the past, the tugging at heartstrings in nominated spots was along the lines of a lost puppy saved by the Clydesdales in a Budweiser-sponsored piece, the current climate calls for more overt messages. Instead of work that brings an easy tear to the eye, voters recognized emotional appeals which Leverence described as being “more direct and in your face. You can feel the urgency in the message.”

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Ad Council Agency R/GA Nick Law, global chief creative officer; Eric Jannon, Chris Northam, group executive creative directors; Thomas Darlow, Rene Van Wonderen, Lucia Orlandi, associate creative directors; Bethany Kennedy, sr. visual designer; Ria McIlwraith, designer; Tessa Ndiaye, experience designer; Emily Uram, jr. art director; Lukas Pearson, jr. copywriter; Cindy Pound, executive production director; Jeff Skutnik, executive campaign producer; Lucas Dennison, digital producer; Kat Friis, executive production director, content; Leanne Diamond, post producer; Ashlye Vaughan, sr. content producer. Production MJZ Rocky Morton, director; Emma Wilcockson, exec producer; Larry Shure, line producer; David Lanzeberg, DP. Editorial Rock Paper Scissors Dan de Winter, editor. Original Music Human Phillip Glass, composer. Music Supervision wool and tusk Audio Post Nylon Studios David Robertson, mixer. Postproduction Nice Shoes Chris Ryan, colorist; Jason Farber, Flame artist.


Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Squarespace Agency JohnXHannes New York John McKelvey, Hannes Ciatti, executive creative directors; Kristine Ling, executive producer; Conor Hagan, sr. art director; Matt McCarron, sr. copywriter. Production Smuggler Miles Jay, director; Allison Kunzman, Patrick Milling-Smith, Brian Carmody, exec producers; Chayse Irvin, DP; Carly Reddin, production designer; Jurgen Doering, stylist. Production Services Premiere Heure, Paris. Catherine Guillot, Parisian producer; Alex Orlovsky, U.S. line producer. Editorial NO6 Chan Hatcher, editor; Kenneth Larkin, Randy Baublis, assistant editors; Carr Schilling, managing director; Malia Rose, Michelle Dorsch, producers. VFX NO7 Verdi Sevenhuysen, VFX artist. Audio Post Formosa John Bolen, mixer; Lauren Cascio, exec producer. Color Company 3 Tom Poole, colorist; Clare Movshon, producer.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Ad Council/Love Has No Labels Agency R/GA Nick Law, vice chairman, global chief creative officer; Chris Northam, Eric Jannon, group executive creative directors; Chris Joakim, Mike Donaghey, creative directors; Alberto Portas, Alfredo Adan, creatives; Daniel Diez, EVP, global chief marketing officer; Cindy Pound, executive production director; Jeff Skutnik, executive producer; Kat Friis, executive production director, content studio; Ashlye Vaughan, sr. content producer; Dylan Viner, group director, strategy; Dave Surgan, strategy director; Amy McEwan, strategist. Production Tool of North America Floyd Russ, director; Gregory Wilson, DP; Elyciphus Siler, line producer; Sarah Di Leo, Nancy Hacohen, exec producers.  Editorial Cut+Run Robert Ryang, editor; Dan Gutterman, assistant editor; Ivannah Flores, producer; Lauren Hertzberg, exec producer. Color The Mill NY Damien Van Der Cruyssen, colorist; Natalie Westerfield, color producer. VFX Cut+Run Joseph Grosso, lead artist; Matt Dolven, 2nd lead; Ivannah Flores, Wendy Garner, post producers. Audio Nylon Studios Rob Ballingal, sound mixer; Halle Petro, producer; Christina Carlo, exec producer.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Gathering For Justice Inc.  Agency  Intel and mcgarrybowen, San Francisco Teresa Herd, VP/global creative director, Intel; Marianne Besch, managing director, executive creative director, mcgarrybowen; Katelyn Andree, MacKenzie Dunsmoor, Amber Justic, Laura Lapham, creatives; Stacy Kay, executive producer; Jerry Krenach, managing director, global music. Production Hungry Man Nanette Burstein, director; Kevin Byrne, managing partner/exec producer; Julie Kopitsky, head of production, NY/producer; Amy Vincent, DP. Editorial Union Editorial Sloane Klevin, editor; Caryn Maclean, exec producer; Lauren Hafner Addison, producer. Audio Sonic Union Brian Goodheart, mixer; Justine Cortale, studio director. Color The Mill LA Thatcher Peterson, exec producer, color; Diane Valera, producer. Music Track “Don’t Forget To Breathe” Daniel Nigro, composer; Heavy Duty Projects, artist/produced by. Performers/Celebrity Talent Garcelle Beauvais, Jennifer Esposito, Zoey Deutch, Chelsea Handler, Gugu Mbathu-Raw, Frida Pinto, Melissa Rauch, Sarah Rue, Jean Smart, Milana Vayntrub.

Credits for ScreenWork: 

Client Google Agency 72andSunny Matt Murphy, executive creative director; Matthew Curry, group creative director; Adam Szajgin, creative director/writer; Nuno Ferreira, creative director/designer; Aron Fried, sr. writer; Jessica Lasher, Natalie Seitz, designers; Reilly Baker, writer; Bryan Smith, director of strategy; Carl Mueller, strategy director; Angelo Mazzamuto, group film director; Helena Yueh, film producer; Adrian Womack, film production coordinator; Thomas Dawson, sr. interactive producer; Melissa Harris, sr. art producer. LICENSING Matthew Holskin, principal licensing manager; Natalie Tjandra, licensing coordinator. Editorial & Finishing Hecho en 72 Aaron Leichter, film editor; Patrick Nugent, lead assistant editor; Ted Stanley, Gary Burns, additional assistant editors; Chris O'neill, lead motion graphics animator; Billy Koak, Emnet Mulugeta, additional motion graphic artists; Stefan Smith, Paul Heagney, Christopher Moore, Max Harris, Dave Levine, Flame operators; Noah Duesterberg-Chavez, VFX assistant; Ben Looram, VFX supervisor; Lauren Coffin, Shelby Wong, VFX producers; Nathan Rotmensz, executive producer; Ryan Curtis, post producer; David Yoon, post coordinator. Audio Mix Jeff Fuller, audio engineer; Jesse Herrera, assistant audio engineer; Whitney Fromholtz, audio producer.