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The Story Behind the Inaugural Winner of the Women of Color Commercial Directing Program

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Director Stacy Pascal Gaspard speaks about her Subaru spec project 'Isadora' while Paxeros co-founder Chelsea Bo reveals the inspiration behind launching the program

The Story Behind the Inaugural Winner of the Women of Color Commercial Directing Program

Last summer, Los Angeles-based production company Paxeros launched its inaugural Women of Color Commercial Directing Program (WCCDP), an initiative to amplify marginalised voices in advertising. After receiving over 100 applications, a panel of 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. The finalised spot 'Isadora' released on Father’s Day earlier this year. 

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 spoke with Stacy about the process of making 'Isadora' and Paxeros co-founder Chelsea Bo about the inspiration behind and process of setting up WCCDP. 


LBB> Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the concept for the “Isadora” spot?

Stacy> There's a lack of representation in the media showing positive father figures from black and brown communities. I pulled a lot from my personal relationship with my dad as well as my background as a dancer. I really wanted to highlight how important representation and parental support is.

My dad was one of the first to encourage me and my Hollywood dreams, starting with investing in my headshots in LA. When you’re a young artist, trying to navigate those waters without built-in industry connections, support means a lot. 


LBB> What do you feel was the biggest lesson you took away from the process? 

Stacy> Your voice and unique vision have power. I realized I had a voice and that’s what I needed to nurture and practice. “Isadora" shows what I have to say but within a branded campaign. Working that muscle in the context of advertising made me better understand the balance needed.

I also realised that every artist and filmmaker has a specific style. With the WCCDP program, I was able to express that. Being Caribbean, and coming from a dance and performance background , I connect with both cultures which I love to bring to life and color. I could do just that in this spot. 


LBB> What was your favorite part of the shoot? Most challenging?

Stacy> I had a couple favorite parts: I loved every dancing scene on the look-out point and on stage. Seeing older Isadora on stage was a very emotional moment for me. I also love the traveling car shots, I call them the sexy car shots. That was my first time directing and filming with a vehicle, it was a fun experience and I learned a lot from the team. I definitely would love to do some car chase-style action films in the future.  

The most challenging I would say was filming during a pandemic. As a director, the safety of your cast and crew is a priority, and I was constantly making sure the cast was safely navigating the new normal. I had 12 ballerinas on set and was grateful for my team and everyone helping to keep each other safe.


LBB> Was there anything that surprised you about the process or the industry at large?

Stacy> I’m not sure if I was surprised exactly, but I think it was just fully understanding the role of a director in the ad world, compared to the narrative world. I realised the client is almost like the network, if this was for TV, for example. They have final say of course, and you have to balance that with respecting your voice and style, and make sure you deliver the client with a commercial that fits with what they are trying to say or portray.


LBB> What kinds of stories do you hope to tell through advertising in the future? 

Stacy> Representation is important to me and I hope I’ll be able to showcase special stories and moments with BIPOC so that others can feel seen or connect with. I hope to continue finding fun and unique ways to do car commercials. I’m really intrigued by perfume ads and would love to shoot something glam and beautiful, as well as try to find an innovative way to show beauty and redefine what the standard is.


LBB> What was the catalyst for starting the WCCDP?

Chelsea> A few years ago, as we were building Paxeros’ roster, it was really important to us to have a diverse slate of directors with different backgrounds and unique voices. However, when I looked around the directors we knew and had relationships with, they were predominantly white men and even a few white women. As we scoured the internet for up-and-coming talent we struggled to find women of color who had enough work that we could confidently pitch to clients and book jobs. Or the women who did have the work were already signed onto major rosters. That’s when we realized the odds were stacked against women of color, and as an ethos-driven production company, we felt a responsibility to help create more opportunities for women of color in this space.


LBB> How did you select the panel of judges for the initiative? 

Chelsea> Making sure we had a diverse panel was extremely important. We wanted to make sure that our roster of judges were not only culturally diverse, but also rich in entertainment and branding experiences, with different points of view on the various segments of the film and advertising industries - from directors, to producers, to copywriters, to creative and strategic marketing executives. We wanted our panel to embody each segment of that space where entertainment and advertising mesh. 

Mainly, we worked with Tamika Lamison, the Program Director of the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP), as well as Dana Astrow and Lisa Sabatino at ARC - a company which connects content producers to content creatives across the brand advertising spectrum. With their help, we assembled the incredible judges  that made up our first year’s panel


LBB> What about Stacy’s concept made you know she was the right choice? What stood out to you?

Chelsea> The prompt was ‘How does love make Subaru a Subaru?’ and after reading over a hundred different Subaru commercial pitches, the story of Isadora uniquely answered the prompt. There were a handful of elements that intrigued me about Stacy’s first pitch of Isadora. I loved the personal connection she had to the story - about a daughter being lifted up in her art by her father. I also loved the creative way she intertwined the car into the story - using the headlights of the car as a spotlight. Her story and pitch had heart and incorporated the product in a creative way. I also gave all the semi finalists feedback on their pitch decks and scripts and Stacy took the constructive criticism and made her pitch even stronger. The ultimate decision came down to our panel of judges and they too were drawn in by Stacy’s story of love and support.


LBB> What do you hope to see from Stacy and the other finalists next?

Chelsea> I’m excited for each of our finalists to continue exploring and building their own directorial voices and aesthetics. I’m excited for them to hone in on what themes move and inspire them, and for these ladies to keep bringing their joy to the world through their films and artistic projects. 

It’s always exciting to watch an artist you care about grow and adapt - and we know that these ladies really do have such unique, bespoke voices. I hope to see them keep on making things, and using their artistic voices to inspire other younger or newer filmmakers, especially people of color, to make art as well. Creativity often causes a chain reaction and I’m just excited for these women to keep carving their own unique space in this industry, and for that inspiring chain reaction to follow.


LBB> Do you want to see more of these types of initiatives in the ad industry? Are there other causes you feel should be spotlighted? 

Chelsea> One of the main objectives of our program was to inspire other production companies and ad agencies to take action in supporting under represented voices - if a small company like ours can do it, then larger companies with way more money,  resources, and connections could DEFINITELY do it. I think it’s also important to note that giving doesn’t always have to come in the form of money. One can give their time, advice, expertise, positivity, or mentorship to lift another up. So yes, I’d love to see more of these initiatives and opportunities being offered by the ad industry.

As far as other causes being spotlighted, our company does it’s best to highlight different non-profits and causes every month. Giving back is really important to us and we are constantly searching for ways to uplift our community and industry. 

I believe brands and the advertising industry should be conscious of the how they are supporting a cause and being mindful of whether or not their intentions are sincere or just “performance activism”. As a smaller company, we’ve been able to hold conversations with our coworkers and work on our individual growth, so that our business practices can follow. 

There is a lot of power that comes with advertising and it’s our goal to uplift and support other companies with ethical goals and business practices or sustainable products with moving and powerful advertising. That’s why we chose Subaru as the car company to build this first year’s program around - Subaru does a lot of giving back and promotes the message of universal love. It aligned with our program and our company’s identity. 


LBB> Any advice for companies who would like to try something similar? 

Chelsea> I would say that if it’s not in your budget to fully handle everything in-house or within your own corporation, at least voice your idea. You’d be surprised at how many people are not only willing, but wanting to help. It’s easier to find sponsors, help, advice, and general support than you’d expect. People want to do good things, people want to help make the world better, it’s just about taking initiative and making space, developing a project, or setting aside a specific amount of time to actually do that.

Map out what you want to do and then go do it. Voice it and ask around. Let people know that you’re really doing it and ask them to join. It’s corny to say but it’s true that when you put your mind to it, you really can make anything happen. You just have to stop waiting around to take action.

If you are an agency, brand, company, or record label and want to support the amazing directors of WCCDP, please reach out. We had over 100 applicants who are all truly amazing up-and-coming directors who deserve similar opportunities as what we provided to Stacy. Paxeros is looking for partners to bring future iterations of WCCDP to life. If you have any interest in partnering, think you might be a good fit, or want more information, please email us at hello@paxeros.co

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Raconteur, Tue, 21 Sep 2021 10:45:40 GMT