Friday, February 5, 2010

The Art of Commercials

On Christmas Eve of 2008 I came across a public service advertisement, Polar Bears produced by the big advertising agency, Ogilvy & Mather for Environmental Defense Fund. Simple. Visually engaging. Effective. The PSA triggered new thoughts in my short filmmaking career, awakening a different perspective on the role of advertising.

I entered Syracuse University in 1998 studying TV-Film production, concentrating on documentary filmmaking. At 19 years old I was adamant that documentary was the best way to tell stories that matter. In the seven years after graduation I worked in New York, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Paris - video documenting diverse subjects and places. I came back to New York to work for NPR Science Friday, producing environmental films on the endangered natural environment. Later I was commissioned by a non-profit to direct a documentary on an endangered urban environment: New York’s Lower East Side. After the project ended I took a pause to reflect on the direction of my career - I needed new challenges.

Nine months later saw the birth of RED LIGHT : Biking Rules PSA.

RED LIGHT : Biking Rules PSA from MA Shumin on Vimeo.

In September 2009 Transportation Alternatives came out with Biking Rules, a new campaign to encourage cycling in New York City. It was a perfect opportunity to create a PSA, and I started looking for a team. I first met Sean Kenney, a sculpture artist who uses LEGO while working on the series of environmental films. We recruited David Pagano, a young talented LEGO animator. Sean’s brother, Brian joined the team as the sound designer and composer. I took the role of envisioning the overall image. Sean created the set and the whole LEGO world. David brought the LEGO character and objects to life with movement and humour. Brian brought the final film to life with sound and music. Different talents and capabilities, together we joined forces to create something bigger than ourselves.

This first collaborative advertising effort made me realized how vital it is to expand and acquire new storytelling skills and techniques. The successful outcome inspires in me confidence - I feel invigorated, eager to tackle bigger challenges.

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