Last summer, Los Angeles-based production company Paxeros launched its inaugural Women of Color Commercial Directing Program (WCCDP), an initiative to amplify marginalized voices in advertising. After receiving over one hundred applications, a distinguished panel of influential advertising creatives awarded Stacy Pascal Gaspard and her Subaru spec project “Isadora” as the winner of the program, with Elitia Daniels and Julia Elihu as the second and third place finalists. Now after several months with the aid of the program’s mentorship and sponsorship, the finalized spot “Isadora” is released on Father’s Day.

The impetus for the WCCDP originated in Paxeros’ executives seeking to fill a void of minority voices in the industry. As they were building a roster of their own directors, they saw the gap in opportunities afforded to POC creators in building a foundational body of work. “We realized the odds were stacked against women of color, and as an ethos-driven company, it was our job to help create more opportunities in this space,” notes Paxeros Co-founder Chelsea Bo. 

The first-place finalist Stacy Pascal Gaspard – a current AFI Fellow – was selected for her spec script “Isadora,” and through WCCDP, the spot was funded and produced while Gaspard received one-on-one directorial mentorship. A tale of overcoming insecurity, the heartwarming commercial follows a young ballerina and a tradition of impromptu dances with her father lit by the glow of their Subaru’s headlights. 

Gaspard comments, “The program allowed me to make a commercial that was deeply personal. Many Black and Brown communities don’t highlight the support of father figures when it comes to the arts, but my dad was one of the first to invest in my Hollywood dreams. When you’re a young artist, that act of support means everything. To cast a little girl who looked me at that age, dancing salsa… highlighting that representation was so important to me.”

Paxeros chose Subaru as the automotive brand to represent this story due to their messaging of equality and love. Chelsea Bo and fellow Co-founder/Executive Producer Sean Drummond also noted that while car companies frequently seek to hire female directors, there is a notable lack of women with previous experience in this space. With both of these ideas in mind, the company decided that Subaru's Love Promise would be the perfect campaign to create a spec for. 

“I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by commercials, especially the ones that have made me cry within two seconds,” Gaspard remarks. “Talking to people from all areas of the advertising world, now I have a better understanding of all the steps that go into delivering that content. It painted a map of how the industry works, including the balancing act of delivering what the client wants while staying true to your voice, and remembering that your unique point of view is the reason your pitch was chosen.”  

The second and third place finalists received one-on-one mentorship calls with the judges, and a free rental of Paxeros’ ALEXA Mini Camera package and Angenieux EZ zoom lenses for their upcoming projects. Runner-up Elitia Daniels proceeded to be awarded as a finalist for the Indie Short Fest at the Los Angeles International Film Festival 2020. Paxeros also aided Daniels in booking a job on the upcoming film Black Adam with Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, which just began production in Atlanta. 

Finalist Julie Elihu went on to shadow Chelsea Bo while slowly taking over projects, and has now officially joined Paxeros’ roster as a director this April. The Iranian-American writer and director strives to tell underrepresented stories through an intimate lens. Currently, Elihu is in post-production on a short film which is based on her family's stories of escaping Iran.

Ten major sponsors donated their services to the initiative SirReelARRIAbleCineJL FisherFunTonARCMPCKearny Mesa Subaru DealershipAP Camera Cars and APM Music.

Additional Information on Paxeros & WCCDP Sponsors
Known for harnessing their passion for capturing authentic and diverse stories, Paxeros is an award-winning production company providing branded content, commercial, music video, documentary, and narrative film production services. With an eclectic roster of directors and robust in-house capabilities, Paxeros’ mission extends beyond the work, by striving to create meaningful and positive change within the advertising industry.  

WCCDP Sponsor Quotes

“At AbelCine, we’re passionate about serving as a resource for all filmmakers and creatives. Part of this is ensuring these storytellers, especially those whose voices have been historically overlooked and undervalued, have access to the tools and knowledge to bring their creative vision to life. That’s why we’re so proud to sponsor the inaugural WCCDP initiative. I look forward to seeing the final project.” 

  • Jeff Lee, AbelCine Director of Education

“Improving equality and diversity is important in our society – it’s an area that our industry must and is actively trying to address, and the WCCDP initiative is a great way to pave the way forward. I am honored to be part of such an amazing initiative and to be able to provide our color grading services on a project that everyone should be proud of.”

  • Mark Gethin, MPC Color Creative Director

"Representation matters, on screen and behind the scenes. We’ve been hearing from the same voices and seeing the same faces for too long. Providing directing opportunities to women of color is a crucial step towards creating media that more accurately represents our country’s great diversity. I’m proud and excited to be a part of the WCCDP initiative and I hope this is just the beginning.”

  • Meghan Lang, MPC Color Executive Producer

“I think there are a lot of good-intentioned ideas of how to “even the playing field.“ Sometimes it seems like those ideas are not specific enough to be tangible, not that big picture ideas aren’t valuable. But why SirReel wanted to support this project was the targeted opportunity it provided to some talented women. I knew this would make a difference—Not only in these ladies’ careers but in our industry too. We are excited to be a small part of this fantastic project and can’t wait to see what is born from this!”

  • Wes Bailey, Founder & CEO, SirReel Studio Rentals

 "Music stands with the black community and is taking action in support of the fight against racism, bigotry, violence, hate, and discrimination of any kind."

  • APM Music

Chelsea Bo, Paxeros co-founder and director, on WCCDP:  “Agencies and brands have long been eager to hire women of color, however, without proof of their directorial abilities these women have the odds stacked against them. This initiative aims to break that cycle. We realized that it takes a mixture of experience, opportunity, and economic stability to build a body of work, and spec commercials are often how reps, brands, and agencies discover up-and-coming directors. This initiative aims to jumpstart the commercial directing career for a woman of color by producing their first spec and breaking down the barrier that would normally silence their voice and creativity in the world of advertising. Although this opportunity is our small effort to combat a much larger problem, we hope that this year's Women of Color Commercial Directing Initiative is the first of many and can inspire others to take actionable steps in amplifying diverse female voices in advertising.”

Chelsea Bo on Stacy Gaspard: “Stacy is a natural storyteller, and this was evident when we first picked up her treatment for ‘Isadora.’ We could tell the concept was personal to her, but it was also creative and incorporated the product in a beautiful and succinct way. Stacy was the perfect fellow for our program’s first year. We were flying by the seat of our pants and although this program was created with the purest of intentions, we still had much to learn about how to be better allies. Stacy was patient with us, and we are grateful for her willingness to trust us in helping tell her story. We have no doubt Stacy Pascal Gaspard will go on to do incredible things and tell authentic and beautiful stories from her heart.”

Chelsea Bo on signing Julia Elihu: “Julia is an incredible creative force. Having only graduated from Chapman a year ago, Julia has proven that you can create your own opportunities, and this evident by the abundant amount of spec work she already has under her belt. Julia is the definition of ‘up-and-coming’ talent. She earns the respect of her team by leading with kindness and an open mind and her strong understanding of camera, editing, and sound design make her an extremely well-rounded director. Julia embodies many of the qualities we look for in a director and we are proud to represent her and to have her represent us.”