73rd Awards MTN Events

Meet the Nominees: Commercials

April 7, 2021 73rd Annual DGA Awards

On April 7, DGA members heralded the best in commercials during the 2021 Meet the Nominees: Commercials event. Following a screening of the commercials and an introduction of the nominated directors by DGA Director of Commercial Contracts, Fabiana Ochoa, the online event featured Directors Steve Ayson (The Great Chase, Nike), Nisha Ganatra (#wombstories, Bodyform/Libresse), Niclas Larsson (See the Unseen, VW Touareg; The Parents, Volvo XC60) and Melina Matsoukas (You Love Me, Beats by Dr. Dre) speaking about the making of their ads in a conversation moderated by Director Kim Nguyen. Nominee Taika Waititi (The Letter, Coca-Cola) was unable to attend.

See exclusive video of the symposium below.

Speaking about concept behind the making of his Nike commercial, The Great Chase, Ayson said, “I didn’t really know about Hong Bao in China, gifting money, and the creatives got to share their experience with it as kids. It was very difficult they said because in the car on the way to your relatives your parents would tell you ‘Don’t take the Hong Bao.’ It’s polite to not take it but it’s also polite to then have to take it so it’s like a conundrum as a child. Imagine that. I have to say no but when is it good when I say yes and take it? It’s a simple concept and then their idea is that it turned when auntie got some Nikes. It was a unique script and for Chinese New Year. They had never done anything that really reflected Hong Bao like that in China so I was excited by that.”

On the inspiration behind her Bodyform/Libresse ad, #wombstories, Ganatra said, “It was sort of this idea – we all pretty much know what male anatomy looks like but nobody can tell you what a uterus looks like and that’s ridiculous for half our population to not know what our own reproductive system looks like. So, we started on this process of how do we tell a womb story and what does the inside look like as opposed to the outside? We were looking at all these amazing female animators and then got the idea that we should actually use all of them because everybody’s womb would lend itself to a different story and each story should be told in a different medium. Certain animators and certain claymation and stop-motion work lent itself to some stories and some didn’t feel right for those stories, so it turned into this huge collaborative project across many mediums that was so satisfying and so ultimately, I think impactful.”

Larsson recalled the difficulties of figuring out how the breath of the invisible jogger in his VW Touareg commercial, See the Unseen, was going to be shown. “I’m not a big VFX guy so it was a bit of a challenge. I insisted on actually casting her and she was part of every shot and it was actually, it turned out to be kind of a great thing because we shot in Austria in February when it was freezing so having a reference of a woman actually running was a great way to just set the shot and set the focus and also for the VFX team to just see how the breath actually appears. One of the things that I didn’t really want to happen was how cold breath sometimes feels like smoke. You see that even in big Hollywood films. That’s not how it appears actually. It’s way thinner so finding that balance was interesting.”

Matsoukas spoke about the challenges show the spectrum of Black life in America in her Beats by Dr. Dre spot, You Love Me, when she was only able to shoot in Los Angeles. “It’s always challenging when you shoot in LA. I really like to get out of the normal spots that everybody shoots here. And what I found through my other work is that what’s really unchartered is Black LA. South of 10, nobody really goes and shoots and it’s really about finding that authenticity and knocking on doors and finding places that aren’t necessarily in a location book. That’s the technique. I love these areas. I’m familiar with that area because I shoot there a lot on my show Insecure. I knew I wanted to be in the Crenshaw District for some of it to represent the more urban LA stuff and then we needed to represent the rural South and we found some more natural places that felt more country all kind of within there and we shot also in Malibu State Creek Park to shoot the lake and the forest and some of those fields. So just kind of trying to get the balance and run the gamut of Black life and normalizing different spaces that feel like the Black experience.”

DGA Meet the Nominees: Commercials Symposium

See video from this event in the gallery below.

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