SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event Features Insights From Filmmaker Lauren Greenfield, Cross-section of Industry Pros
Panelists delve into the creative, production, technological, strategic and legal aspects of a brave new content world

SHOOT’s New Directors Showcase provided varied industry perspectives during a pair of afternoon sessions, and then an evening display of up-and-coming filmmaking talent with the debut screening of the Showcase reel followed by a Meet the New Directors panel discussion, all held at the DGA Theatre in NYC on Thursday, November 17. Capping the evening was the NDS Event After-party, hosted by The-Artery at its facility in Chelsea.

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Kicking off the proceedings was the annual In The Director’s Chair session, this time featuring Lauren Greenfield, co-founder of INSTITUTE. It was especially apropos to have Greenfield at a DGA venue. She made history as the first solo woman director to be nominated for the DGA Award in the commercials category--that came in 2015 (when the only other woman nominees in the spotmaking category up to that point were part of directing teams with men). Even before breaking that glass ceiling, Greenfield had a DGA Awards pedigree. Two years earlier she earned her first DGA Award nomination for the feature documentary The Queen of Versailles.

Greenfield’s DGA commercial nomination came for P&G/Always’ “#LikeAGirl,” which also won the primetime commercial Emmy Award, 14 Cannes Lions (including the Titanium Lion), seven Clios and was designated by YouTube as one of the top “Ads of the Decade.” “#LikeAGirl” was also an AICP Show honoree and became part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. The work garnered 200 million views online, 12 billion impressions and became a Super Bowl commercial.

Meanwhile The Queen of Versailles also went beyond its DGA recognition, including earning Greenfield the Best Documentary Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival. 

Greenfield also garnered Writers Guild Award nominations for the documentaries Generation Wealth and The Kingmaker. Generation Wealth additionally was honored with the Film Independent Spirit of Independence Award. The Kingmaker received a Critics’ Choice Award for Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary (Imelda Marcos). Greenfield’s documentary Thin received a primetime Emmy  nomination,

Just as her work broke new ground for women directors, so too did the company Greenfield and her partner Frank Evers founded in 2019, Girl Culture Films, helping to bring about opportunities in the advertising arena for deserving female filmmakers. Recently Girl Culture Films evolved into the company INSTITUTE, building upon its directorial roster to be more inclusive of all underrepresented talent regardless of gender, furthering its mission of uplifting diverse storytellers in advertising.

Greenfield’s spots and print campaigns over the years span such brands as Apple, Asics, Bayer, Chevy, Coca-Cola, Gatorade, Goodyear, Hewlett-Packard, Isuzu, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Nike, Target, Toyota Wal-mart and Xbox, among assorted others.

Interviewed on stage at the DGA Theatre by SHOOT editor Robert Goldrich, Greenfield shared insights into her career, the industry, INSTITUTE and the importance of diversity and inclusion. She described #LikeAGirl as “transformational for me”--not just in terms of the aforementioned accolades and the deep connection it made with viewers worldwide but also relative to what she experienced on the awards show circuit. Other than herself, the awards recipients were all men--mostly white men, recalled Greenfield. Similarly she was named to a list of the 50 best directors in the world but was the only woman to earn that distinction. As earlier noted, she became the first solo female director to get a DGA nomination for commercials. And Greenfield noted that at that time a production company typically would have maybe one female director on its roster--and the work she secured was often for feminine protection product advertising. 

This ultimately led Greenfield and Evers to launch Girl Culture Films which just became INSTITUTE, providing a place committed to bringing deserving directors--women, different ethnicities, people of color and of different sexual orientations--into the advertising community. In these underrepresented sectors, Greenfield looks for filmmakers whom she described as “singular vision auteurs.” The range at INSTITUTE spans new and established talent. On the latter score, recently Pamela Adlon, the creative force behind Better Things, made her commercial directorial debut with a clever Thinx spot for ad agency Oberland. Also making her first foray into commercials was Karyn Kiyoko Kusama, director of the feature Destroyer starring Nicole Kidman, as well as the pilot for the series Yellowjackets, for which Kusama also served as an executive producer. Kusama directed a poignant “Your Voice” spot for Planned Parenthood.

Touching upon the importance of a strong creative and directorial POV, Greenfield noted for example that the Thinx work was marked by Adlon’s “unmistakable comedic voice,” very much reflecting the brand of wit that drives Better Things

And Greenfield cited Kusama’s “great horror sense” as bringing a unique dimension to advertising, a 180-degree departure from “traditional female tropes.”

With the launch of INSTITUTE--which has a roster of assorted other established directors--more new talent has been brought on board, including Sandra Winther, Bao Truong, Courtney Brookes, Mikayla Gamble, and Tash Tung.

INSTITUTE also works in concert with sister companies INSTITUTE Artist, which represents photographers, and Girl Culture Films which develops and produces feature documentaries, narrative features and television.

Greenfield cited Thandiwe Muriu--a self-taught photographer from Nairobi, Kenya, who’s on the INSTITUTE Artist roster--as an example of another exciting new voice making her mark on the advertising marketplace. Muriu, who’s developed a particular interest in showcasing Africa’s unique mix of vibrant cultures, colors and people, has a global campaign for Apple in the offing.

Greenfield said she’s seen some progress in terms of underrepresented voices getting some opportunities and recognition, noting that four more solo women directors have garnered DGA commercial nominations since she broke through--Alma Har’el in 2018, Nisha Ganatra and Melina Matsoukas in 2021, and Kathryn Bigelow in 2022. Matsoukas won the DGA Award for spotmaking. In 2020, Har’el won the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in First-Time Feature Film for Honey Boy. And of course Bigelow in 2010 won the Best Director Oscar and the feature film DGA Award for The Hurt Locker. Three years later, she was again a DGA nominee for Zero Dark Thirty.

Yet while progress has been made, there’s a long way to go, continued Greenfield. Har’el was part of that progress not only as an individual director but as an activist, launching Free the Bid in 2016, which gained momentum as more agencies and clients came aboard with commitments to bid at least one woman director for every project. Free the Bid has since evolved into Free the Work.

On the flip side, though, the lack of progress may very well be reflected, said Greenfield, in how few of those women directors actually get awarded the job. She would like to see the numbers on that front. Bidding is a time consuming process and Greenfield warned that the industry needs to watch out for “check bidding,” which is no more than an exercise to check off a box that a woman director or person of color, trans or non-binary talent has been bid. Greenfield reminded the DGA Theatre gathering that diversity and inclusion are worthwhile not just based on the goal of social justice but the fact that it is good business, helping people to see themselves and as a result move product.

Greenfield first established herself as a photographer and hearkened back to those roots relative to how she hopes the landscape develops relative to commercials and branded content. She observed that photojournalism is “too competitive to be sexist,” explaining that the appetite is too great for “a story that hasn’t been told before.” Original provocative storytelling is paramount in photojournalism, making new diverse voices invaluable. Greenfield believes this will eventually be the case in commercials. 

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Cutting Edge of Content
The second afternoon panel, “Living on the Cutting Edge of Content,” featured a cross-section of panelists: leading advertising industry attorney Jeffrey A. Greenbaum, managing partner, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein + Selz (FKKS); Tatiana Lanier, sr. integrated producer, Ogilvy New York; Dave Rolfe, global head of production, WPP and Hogarth; and Vico Sharabani, founder and executive creative director of The-Artery. Discussion was moderated by Goldrich.

The panelists shed light on the creative, production, technological, strategic and legal aspects of a brave new content world spanning the Metaverse, Web3, augmented reality, VR, AI and experiential.

Lanier shared insights into her first NFT experience--for Bacardi’s ongoing Music Liberates Music program designed to champion underrepresented voices in the music industry. To shine a light on the stark reality that only 2% of music producers are female, Bacardi and Grammy Award-winning producer Boi-1da hand-selected three multifaceted, international female artists--Bambii, Denise De’ion, and Perfxn--whose Caribbean-inspired sounds and production styles have the potential to make their mark on the future of the industry. This at the time not yet fully tapped talent created tracks minted into an NFT and auctioned off as a limited edition mixtape on the NFT music marketplace STURDY.EXCHANGE.

Proceeds directly benefited the producers and “fanvestors” who invest in their work. Each NFT includes a percentage of the streaming royalties as part of the official Music Liberates Music “Fanvestor Kit,” so the more the song gets streamed, the more the artist and their “fanvestors” both make. This first-to-market model is important for talent at the start of their career, while also helping them to foster a deeper connection with fans.

In turn Bacardi stands for something substantive in the marketplace, raising awareness of the gender disparity in the music industry and encouraging NFT investments in support of emerging talent.

Lanier said it is essential that, like Bacardi did, clients figure out what makes sense when delving into NFTs and what role they want to play in this community. It is imperative, she affirmed, that they and their agency/creative partners “ideate and strategize” how they are involved in this space. At the very least, brands need to learn about the space so that ultimately they can connect in a meaningful way with this community, which encompasses valuable demographics.

In terms of ideating and strategizing, Rolfe sees the creative team being significantly different in this brave new world with one of the new bedfellows, for instance, being creative technologists. Additionally design is likely to come into play a great deal more as will creators with a following (aka influencers). 

Furthermore, assessed Rolfe, “curation and collaboration” will be crucial as agencies, for example, will not be building entire gaming divisions to meet client needs. Creatives will have to seek out others to help clients shape their presence in the Metaverse and beyond.

Relative to building a creative team, Sharabani said that The-Artery has found it beneficial not to define roles for talent but rather have talent define his/her/their roles. Akin to a bakery which bakes, The-Artery makes art, said Sharabani, meaning it’s incumbent on the company to cater to the artists. When interviewing prospective talent, Sharabani said the priority is to get to know that person’s strengths and passions and from that come up with a role that advances them and the company. While poaching talent is a way of life, The-Artery, he said, has been less vulnerable to it in that the company tries to be integral in helping its employees develop their roles and build careers. 

A multidisciplinary company with recent credits that include visual effects on the features Smile and Noah Baumbach’s White Noise, The-Artery is also experimenting and realizing Metaverse ready assets, creating a Virtual Influencer which was screened for the DGA Theatre audience and forming a collaborative venture with an avatar company.

Attorney Greenbaum noted that the new cutting edge of content won’t necessarily fall into the traditional commercial production work-for-hire model whereby the client owns IP. Depending on how the pieces of the new content puzzle come together, creators could retain some measure of control, translating into outright ownership, shared ownership, and licensing or limited rights for the client/brand.

Greenbaum advised creators, producers and clients to “find themselves a teenager” who is really good at playing in the Metaverse. Observing a genuine participant can go a long way towards understanding what the new frontier has to offer and how to best place oneself in it.

Greenbaum added that the legal dynamic is “an enabler” when it comes to this new world of content. Some may worry that legal considerations prevent one from diving into a still yet to be fully defined realm. But the reality, he contended, is that once you know the legal framework, rules, roadblocks and areas of liability, you then have the ability to intelligently proceed, no longer encumbered by the fear of the unknown.

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New Directors Showcase
The evening proceedings began with a welcome from Mary Hatch, assistant executive director of the DGA and SHOOT publisher and editorial director Roberta Griefer, followed by the debut screening of the 2022 New Directors Showcase Reel. Hatch congratulated the NDS directors and provided some insights into how the DGA supports directors.  Griefer thanked the event sponsors for their support of the event, describing each company. Reflecting on how rewarding it has been for SHOOT to watch the careers of past NDS directors develop over the past 20 years, she wished the NDS Class of 2022 long and successful careers before introducing the reel. 

After screening the 20th annual Showcase Reel, Griefer asked the NDS directors in the audience to stand up, introducing them to the gathering and mentioning their recognized work. She then moderated the Meet the New Directors panel discussion which included four of the up-and-coming directors: Ariel Ellis of production company Woodward Original; Bola Ogun of Believe Media; and two helmers currently unaffiliated with a production house--Taylor Ellis and Robert E, Wagner.

Rounding out the panel were two industry professionals: Bonnie Goldfarb, co-founder and executive producer of harvest films; and director Evan Silver, co-founder of Reform School and an alum of SHOOT’s 2007 New Directors Showcase.

The 2022 New Directors Showcase offers a total of 33 up-and-coming directors--consisting of 31 individual directors and one duo. The field includes 11 directors who are unaffiliated with a production company. And 15 of the directors are women. 

Ariel Ellis earned a Showcase slot on the strength of her “Happiness Moment” PSA for The Innocence Project which showed the joyful moments with family and friends missed over the years by those unjustly incarcerated. Ellis said telling these stories changed her perspective on life, valuing the heartwarming moments we often take for granted--and which were lost to those imprisoned. She noted that inmates freed through the efforts of The Innocence Project served an average of 16 years in prison. As for her recent endeavors, Ellis wrapped a Michigan tourism spot for Pure Michigan.

Taylor Ellis was pretty much homebound during the pandemic but somehow wanted to keep active directorially. Towards that end he took a crash course in computer animation, creating a spec spot, “Untethered”for Meta Quest 2, in which an astronaut takes an ambitious space walk. The CG spot “Untethered,” which garnered him Showcase inclusion, took four months for Ellis to bring to fruition.

Taylor Ellis was pretty much homebound during the pandemic but somehow wanted to keep active directorially. Towards that end he took a crash course in computer animation, creating a spec spot, “Untethered”for Meta Quest 2, in which an astronaut takes an ambitious space walk. The CG spot “Untethered,” which garnered him Showcase inclusion, took four months for Ellis to bring to fruition.

Ogun secured a Showcase slot for episodic television work, Raising Dion, Issue 208, “Who are you.” She has made a major splash already in TV series, having recently directed the season finale of Witcher.  Ogun received mentorship along the way, making the cut for the 2014 Directing Workshop for Women, and Ryan Murphy’s Television HALF Mentorship Program. Ogun landed her TV directorial debut on Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar after DuVernay saw Ogun’s short, Are We Good Parents? Ogun went on to episodic credits including Lucifer, Charmed and Siren. Earlier this year, she signed with Believe Media for U.S, commercial representation.

Ogun shared that at times as a viewer she’s invested in a story which at the end to her surprise turns out to be a commercial when a sponsor’s logo appears, leaving her feeling a tad manipulated. She quipped that now “I really want to do that to people” as she pursues more opportunities in the advertising sector.

Wagner garnered Showcase recognition for his Dodge spec spot “Baby Tricks.” Real-life experience as a Dad inspired the spec piece which humorously depicts a father’s attempts to engage his young daughter but to no avail--until he connects with her over the sound his car makes. Similarly Wagner’s experience as a husband sparked his next spec piece--for DoorDash--which injects viewers into an absurd argument between a hubby and wife. The dispute comically escalates into something that has nothing to do with the initial disagreement.

Wagner’s affinity for storytelling is rooted in family. A self-described first generation American Cuban Jew from Miami, Wagner at an early age learned from Shabbat dinners the value of storytelling.

Panelist Silver wished this year’s NDS class best of luck. He noted that his NDS recognition helped his career. However, he quipped that even with the NDS distinction, it took him a bit longer than other Showcase alums to land a production company affiliation. His roosts included Funny or Die’s Gifted Youth and Ruffian before launching his own comedy-based production company, Reform School.

Panelist Goldfarb observed from experience that directors are best served “if you work from your heart,” develop your voice and stay engaged. An accomplished 36-year production veteran, Goldfarb noted that she came into the business at a time when women mentors were few and far between--and becoming a director didn’t seem like a viable prospect for a woman. Thankfully that has all changed. While there’s still a long way to go in terms of diversity and inclusion, said Goldfarb, we’re still at least “on a good path” for progress.

The 11 Showcase directors currently unaffiliated with a production house are, in addition to Taylor Ellis and Robert E. Wagner, Alec Basse, Jeffrey Brown, Alexander Gilbert, Maren Lavelle, Kyle LeClaire, Jeremy Nachbar, Andrew Rhee, Steven Tralongo and Drew Vaughan.

Twenty-two directors are affiliated with production companies. Besides Ariel Ellis and Bola Ogun, the Showcase directors with production house roosts are:  Rebecca Applebaum of Community Films, Amandla Baraka of Little Minx, Ilanna Barkusky of Cultivate Media; Annie Bercy of Slmbr Prty, Sheena Brady of World War Seven (U,S,) and The Salmon (Canada), Eva Dolezalova of RSA Films, Evan Ari Kelman of Wild Factory and Good Brother (though he continues to seek additional national and international representation), Tess Lafia of Mirror Films; Bethany Mollenkof of Sibling Rivalry, Kimberly Stuckwisch of Scheme Engine (U.S.) and Rogue Films (U.K.), Walter Thompson-Hernandez of REVERIE Content, Clayton Vila of Greenpoint Pictures, Noah Wagner of Echobend (though he continues to seek additional national and international representation), Rog + Bee Walker of HOUND, Wes Walker from Tool of North America, Miles Warren of Team Bubbly, Gabrielle Woodland of Bindery; Wukda of Anonymous Content; and Courtney Sofiah Yates of Stept Studios.

When the event concluded at 8 pm, attendees and the SHOOT NDS directors headed to The-Artery in Chelsea for great food and drink.  Hosted by The-Artery's Vico Sharabani and Deborah Sullivan, a wonderful time was had by all.

Click here to view the SHOOT 2022 New Directors Showcase Reel.

Click here for profiles/contact info on all of the directors in the 2022 New Directors Showcase.

SHOOT NDS Event Sponsors
SHOOT greatly appreciates the support of the sponsors who help make the event possible.  Lead sponsors of the 2022 SHOOT New Directors Showcase were the Directors Guild of Amercia (DGA) and harvest films. Silver sponsors were The-Artery and advertising and entertainment law firm FKKS. Thanks also go to charlieuniformtango for compiling the NDS reel.  


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