One of my Bosses once told me that, while we love to make movies, “commercials are our bread and butter.” At the time I thought well that sucks, but then within a week I realized what those words truly meant. I’ve been producing TV commercials for over 10 years now both in English and Spanish. I’ve been lucky to work with some of the top production companies and acclaimed directors producing for Fortune 500 brands. What I love about making commercials is that there is always a beginning and end and a timeframe that must be kept, everyone gets paid well and it doesn’t take up a whole year of your life to do one spot. Working in the US Hispanic Market taught me a lot and especially how to budget, so I can work with tight and challenging budgets and timetables but still deliver on time and under budget.
Film is my passion, it’s sort of a love and hate relationship. You are creating a reality that already exists and making it into a movie which is always a monumental task, and does become a marriage since you normally are in pre-production for a very long time. Funding is complicated and you have to be willing to constantly fight to get a greenlight. However, once you are on set and your crew actually shows-up and the actors are all in a good mood and crafty is keeping the Teamsters happy, its like magic it’s the best adrenaline rush ever, you just need to really know what you want when you direct and produce a feature, if not it can quickly turn into a nightmare.
Film is in itself a universal language, you do not need to be a multi-linguist to admire and understand films in foreign languages and about diverse subject matters. The main reason I decided I wanted to make movies was because of the powerful educational aspect behind documentaries. I realized that with the right message you can create a huge and significant impact on a global level. I’ve always admired Errol Morris and Barbara Kopple as Directors but mainly I respect them as Documentary Filmmakers. I find Micheal Moore’s style to be amusing and in-your-face which is why I believe he has been responsible for putting docs back on the map in this past decade at least.
PSAs are what I personally call, Passion Projects done with Selfless Sacrifice to Achieve Awareness purpose/goal. None of this Public Service Announcement stuff, really it’s a labor of love and if you really just want to do one to win an Award or a Palm D’Or at Cannes then don’t bother because those kind of awards don’t impress the actual brand buying the media buy too much. You heart has to be in the right place when you shoot a PSA and it’s a very humbling experience to most Commercial TV director when shooting one for the first time. The important thing to remember about PSAs, just like documentaries is that they should not just raise awareness to an issue or a situation or conflict, but mainly inspire people to act upon doing something meaningful for the cause or non profit organization on which ever way possible for them.
Well, as you can see, I don’t like writing….NOT! An Economics Professor of mine once said that she knew a classmate tried to plagiarize a paragraph out of a conference paper I wrote, because I write just like I speak, and that I believe is true to most people I know. If you enjoy talking and telling stories, chances are you will eventually write them down.
I didn’t set out my career thinking I was going to become a Writer especially since my father is one, I just started writing one day. James Schamus once told me, “Look if the material is good, the movie will do well, no matter what, it’s all about the material and it all has to start with writing it down first,” and he was and still is absolutely right.
I find writing can be therapeutic, but mainly it’s a great way to express yourself in any number of languages and share with the world your thoughts and beliefs. During my career I’ve found myself doing script evaluation, that later on helped me develop my form as a screenwriter, and given the opportunity to write Director’s treatments for directors who at the time were too busy or simply did not want to be bothered to do them I had fun writing them for them even when I just got paid the same salary at which ever prod company at the time. With my writing partner I’ve created and concepted several reality TV shows as well as first couple of episodes, this kind of brainstorming was always very entertaining. I’ve written several feature lengths scripts both in English and Spanish as well as short films. I even provided Director George Sluizer with some ideas for the script “The Chosen One” that he later incorporated into the movie.
In 1994 after I completed the Future Filmmakers’ Workshop I was asked to participate in the Short Screenplay Workshop by Christine Choi at Tisch School of the Arts and I thoroughly enjoyed (jaja) having my script torn apart and the material trashed, I was devastated cause I thought I had written a story of substance (lol) when in fact I was just a Senior in High School who had been proclaimed Queen of the Prom and hadn’t really lived much to tell an honest story. Writing for me will always be a process and it is rare that I’m ever happy with where I left off, as I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the dialogue or tighten the scene, the last thing you want is an actor volunteering to write it, so you better come prepared, open to their ideas and suggestions, but know your material well- live it- own it!
I enjoy producing and directing radio spots, you can really have so much fun. I particularly like making them for regional markets like LA and Miami and Texas where people drive a lot, and since they are stuck in their cars it brings back to mind the 1940’s when all our parents had was radio, no TV so you had to really use your imagination. Good imagination plus great foley artists and voiceover talent can make a script come to life right in your passenger seat, and that’s what I love about radio.
I think the moment you are laughing and having fun producing something is the moment the awards start racking up, their must be some direct correlation there… for many of the radio spots I had the best time producing were the ones that got awards and they were often quite complicated to piece together, but in the end those were recognized by the Industry as being great! So it’s a WIN! WIN!
Back in the day Print had great budgets, but since digital took over it’s not always the best possible budget for amount of work required. I was fortunate to have had the days of generous budgeting for Print, I’ve worked with some very talented Photographers and realize that the digital era keeps taking time away from doing other important things because you must be on top of all the new technology coming out every day.
I enjoyed doing the Print work for Toshiba it can be distressing when there is no Project Manager involved which is where my skills come in handy.
Countless times I’ve been asked to step into the recording booth and do voiceover scratch tracks especially when the Creative Team hasn’t made up the mind about the voice. Luckily, for the client I love to put on accents and do different voices, I really get a kick out of it…And that is how it started and what led me to do a VO demo, I mean if I can get paid to do something that I was sort of put into the position of doing for free, why not? I wrote most of the scripts you will hear on my VO demo both in Spanish and English. Don’t ask me to do “Spanish neutral”, because my Castilian accent won’t allow it.
For me photography is capturing a moment in time that you will never relive unless you view it in the form of a photograph. What I love about photography is the spontaneity of the medium, you can just freeze a frame of your life and depict so many things going on around what you set out to portray. I took my first photography class when I was about 14 and I remember my Teacher telling me that I needed glasses because all my pictures were soft! Lol
My paintings and drawings are the most direct way of expressing myself without having to deal with too many external factors or equipment. I find painting therapeutic and relaxing, but it also conveys powerful emotion. I prefer finger painting, but I’ve recently taken to water-color that was always a challenge for me as a kid, of course acrylic is one of my favorites and oil paint even though I cannot stand the smell.
I have to really be honest and say that while I am good at acting, I really do not enjoy doing it much. We act enough in our daily lives, so I try to keep mine off screen and prefer to hang behind the camera. I’ve done acting mostly Theater and some TV as well as features, the biggest shocker was a bit role I played in a Russian film called “ Brother” received a special nomination at Cannes in 1997. Acting has done wonders for my directing, and well as being a part-time shrink...
Modeling runs in my family, my mother was a Model for Vogue and my two sisters have both modeled and even acted in a few of my documentaries and danced in a Flamenco one I directed and shot on Super 8 film back in College. I’m trying to steer my son away from modeling, but he seems to be very attracted to it- so we shall see!
& Special Events
This was a last minute section I decided to throw-in as I’m quite good at putting on big affair events and I love to get creative with party ideas and really get the most bang out of each dollar. My son’s godmother, is a Set Decorator and helps me out a lot when doing these fun and quite intensive “mini productions”, luckily my son’s birthday is just once a year. But, seriously, I can put on special events for your advertising agency, your production company, your mother-in-law’s 90th b-day, and get you the best catering, do something very personal with the decoration and overall atmosphere.
My favorite part is figuring out the party favors and throwing in something truly memorable and practical so that your client or guests will actually be forced to remember your grand event every time they see or use your amazing party favors! :)
I did the 9th Anniversary Party for La Banda Films at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood when it first opened after being rennovated, the follow year the Oscars held their banquet at the same venue. I took care of everything, renting the space by the pool, picking out the h’ordeuvres and even hiring a private valet company. They were also promoting 4 new directors they had just signed and so I was put in charge of making the showreel (by that I mean I actually cut the spots on the Avid) that looped throughout the event on various discreet flatscreens. I also put together an assortment of B&W film noir silent movies to play in the background such as Nosferatu and Gold Rush. I did the whole music mix for the evening and even had some rooms available for guests who weren’t fit to drive home after so much partying. They party was such a hit that the bouncers we were made to hire kept coming up and telling me that people were showing up who weren’t on the list, so we had a lot of crashers and luckily never ran out of food or drinks.
For Castells Advertising, I doubled up on my duties as the Sr. Producer and was recruited by Liz Castells personally to “produce” the big industry event that was the Agency changing its old name Ad Americas to launching officially Castells & Asociados Advertising. Suffice to say, there was a lot of branding items that had to be done professionally and with plenty of time to allow for a whole series of changes in between. Liz is just as demanding if not more as I am, I remember having this debate as to what tone the orange on the flame of the new logo was, in the end we determined that it was a “peach” color orange…lol
I had inflatable hot air flames that were custom made out of silk screen blowing with the exact same colors of the logo, we had to settle for peach orange colored glow sticks as the Fire Department would not allow sparklers at the venue that Liz picked. I had presented over 20 different locations from an extensive scout that I did all over downtown LA including The Standard that had just opened, but Liz opted for a venue that went more with the personality of the Agency that she was re-branding and it turned out to be perfect. We designed together a cocktail drink list, my was called the Naughty Nadia- don’t ask me what it was made with as I do not recall…we had too much fun. I hired an Editor/Shooter to do all the camera video work and a professional Still Photographer as well. And for So I can handle huge budgets and small... with reasonable timelines, in my producing world everything is possible, you have to just ask.