Roberto Serrini fell in love with Film Theory at UC Santa Barbara before entering the industry as an editor with a unique, energetic, musically driven style that had him cutting pieces for Maybelline, Victoria Secrets and Cadillac.
He started producing travel documentaries soon after, traveling the world trying to capture captivating foreign stories. With his editing background and his natural ability to communicate he has built a reputation as a commercial director that can easily provide results and elevates his client’s creative concepts to new levels of sophistication.
He has proudly won many accolades in film and advertising, and his work can be seen in the MoMA permanent collection as well.
He lives in NY and LA but has never stopped traveling any chance he gets.
- Location: NY/LA
- Repped by/in: Superlounge (US) Recalcati Multimedia (EU)
- Awards: MoMA Permanent Collection
- Multiple Vimeo Staff Picks
- SHOOT Top 30 New Director Showcase
- Le Book Advertising Showcase
- ADC Golden Cube two time recipient
- One Show Silver Pencil recipient
- NYFF winner
- Brooklyn FF winner
- Toronto FF nominee
- Portland FF winner
- Hollyshorts FF winner
- Jalopnik FF nominee
- St. Louis FF nominee
- Aesthetica UK FF nominee
- New Haven FF winner
- Austin FF nominee
- Rome Mototematica FF winner
Q> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Roberto> I still get excited about shooting anything, and I know that may seem juvenile, but to me filmmaking is like sports; it doesn't matter the match, you're in love with the game. Like sports I crave a good challenge, a worthy opponent, that can make me a better player, or in my case, director. So I like complicated scripts most I suppose, one's that challenge convention, or require out-of-the-box thinking to succeed.
Q> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Roberto> First I research the brand. I try to get to know them like a lover. Predict what they want, surprise them, know their history. From there I go down the rabbit hole. I collect lots of things; videos, posters, memes, trinkets. I have the collections that have these wonderfully random but creative items in them, and they always spur my imagination in the best way. Once I discover the gold, I can start mining the concept.
Q> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
Roberto> You can never know enough about your work. It can only help you make bold and confident creative decisions. So I like to research not only the brand, but other brands in the same market. See what their world is like, what it's lacking, and how to provide something unique for it.
Q> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Roberto> I will be the first to say that I've always relied on everyone else to make a project a success. The role of the director is to have a confident, well conceived vision, and to be able to communicate that to a skilled team to accomplish that vision. While it's important to have a solid relationship with the client, you are there to serve their needs, so it's more important to listen. For me, my producers are always closest to me, as they are the neurons that connect my ideas to the body of production that makes it reality.
Q> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Roberto> Personally, I'm a big fan of travel, but only because I was born into an airline family and have been addicted to dropping myself in far fetched places to see if I can return home safely. This extends to any project that is foreign to me. While I have types of work I'm known for, I'm perhaps best known for doing a wide variety of work, because I really enjoy exploring ideas, brands, and worlds that I've never been to before. Novelty is beautiful.
Q> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Roberto> Some of my favorite pieces I've produced, shot, and edited myself. I tend not to promote that information, because it tends to devalue the work in some people's eyes. They feel the need to have large budgets and big crews be responsible for good work, but the reality is sometimes alone, with strong drive and clear vision, you can create some beautiful work.
Q> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?
Roberto> I have not. Truth be told I have interest in budgets. This is why I rely on a producer that understands me, and understands that if there isn't funds to make something happen, then I can figure out a way to make it happen without funds.
Q> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Roberto> I've worked all over the world on all sorts of productions, so the craziest kind of blends together. Overall most problems I encounter have to deal with something breaking that is crucial to production. It might be a Russian Arm on a Honda shoot that required me to hop in and hang off the back of a pickup truck with a DSLR on a Ronin, it might be being rained out in Jakarta so the camera team leaves, then the sun comes out, and me and a grip get the shot on my iPhone, it might be shooting Nike in Beijing and not having enough lights for our Phantom shoot, so we jury rig 300 car headlights to get our shot. After a while nothing is crazy, it's expected and it's production.
Q> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Roberto> I'm a professional more than an artist when it comes to advertising, so my ideas aren't precious. I'm there to deliver the best product and serve the needs of the brand above all. Sometimes you may defend an idea because you feel it will serve their needs better then what they are proposing, but if you can't explain it clearly enough to convince them, then it's never worth fighting over. My creative work happens without clients, and there, my ideas are precious and only challenged by my own mind.
Q> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?
Roberto> I am. I never had that coming up, it was rather difficult and I always think of all the things I wish I knew when I started. I run a YouTube channel that advises up-and-comers because to me knowledge is really the only commodity I have for my profession.
Q> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?
Roberto> When the world shut down I immediately set up www.onemanonecamera.com
to handle any requests for contactless media production. Being able to self produce, shoot and edit allowed me to thrive during this time and provide interesting solutions for all types of brands. I really enjoy this type of work, direct to client, as it's streamlined and forces you to be more creative a lot of the time. I've still done full scale TVCs during this time, and while it's made production lag a bit, it still happens. So I think there is a new market, for more concentrated work direct to client, and the ability to still complete large scale productions as well.
Q> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?
Roberto> I love vertical almost as much as I hate it. The challenge to do something in a new perspective is always fun. What isn't fun is trying to make one film fit in multiple formats. I try my best to only focus on executing one format per shoot if possible. Because if you're cooking a steak you should eat it with a fork and knife. If you eat it with chopsticks it doesn't make it sushi.
Q> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?
Roberto> Love it. I was born at a very unique time, where the world transitioned from analogue to digital, and more than any other generation mine was constantly being bombarded with giant leaps in tech and possibilities. So I learned film, and all the science that goes into art, and from there took a journey on a digital stream. Now I am naturally looking out for the next tech horizon, and incorporating it in my work.
Q> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
Belvedere - Bullet Time
Roberto> Everyone loves this piece and I'm glad they do. I shot this early in my career, before gimbals for cameras even existed. I had to mount a rotating gyroscope that we got at a Navy Surplus store that was used for torpedo guidance. This stabilized the camera as we walked through the frozen bodies on set. This is how I like to play; stretching the possibilities and using tech in ways that it shouldn't be used.
Nike - Anthem
Roberto> I enjoy hard work. Nike was a marathon of work. 12 cities around the world shooting the greatest athletes of our time. So many strong personalities, so many technical puzzles to get the same exact look with a wide variety of equipment and entirely different crews speaking entirely different languages. This was a dream project for me. High profile, lots of moving pieces, and a ton of discovery producing a beautiful award winning project of colossal magnitude.
Van Huesen - The Office
Roberto> I love when a brand comes to me with a product and asks me to show it off. When they give me free reign is when it gets magical. For Van Huesen, they wanted to show off their stain proof shirt in nothing less than an epic way. So yes, there were action sequences, slow motion dodges, and magic happening all over the place in my mind. I love being let off the leash creatively.
Dole - How it Started
Roberto> Sometimes I like to be alone too (I am an only child after all). For Dole, they sent me to Mindanao in the Philippines to do a branded documentary on their company history. Alone with my gear, crafting the story by hand, is a wonderfully personal experience, and ends up telling a really human story. This is how I've produced hundreds of travel pieces as well. Vacation for me isn't sitting on a sandy beach, it's behind a lens listening to someone tell me how much they love sandy beaches.