Kulay Labitigan | Art crafted by heritage, strong cultural influence and gratitude.

Happily raised in a rural Filipino town, Kulay grew up freely exposed to local artistry and cultural scenes. Then unaware of his capabilities, he already knew that he always wanted to be creating.

As a kid, Kulay spent a lot of time daydreaming and playing. In a family-owned general merchandise shop, Kulay had a treasury load of random stuff he would make into something. He loved to draw religious imagery in made-shift drawing pads that he stitched together from old notebooks and constructed art made of objects used by priests during mass. 

Kulay Labitigan

With the multi-dimensional influence of the outer world on the Philippines’ culture and history, it is safe to say Kulay inherited an exciting, eclectic aesthetic that is evident in his everyday life. Now in his thirties, he has learned to embrace the diverse culture of the Philippines. He thrives on living in the intersection of language, tradition, and meaning without losing sight of his upbringing on a little floating island in the Pacific.

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Kulay is an introvert walking around in extrovert clothing. He is very spontaneous and loves to explore new things as long as it is not far off the outermost peripheries of his secured zone. With all the realities of living back home, he developed a great sense of grit, motivation, and courage to follow the path where his soul could freely sing.

Getting started in the industry

In 2012, Kulay graduated from the University of the Philippines with a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Then in 2015, he moved to the UK to take up his MA in Narrative Environments at Central Saint Martins-UAL. It was a good learning playground for Kulay to explore his trajectories, meet muses, and, most importantly, his tribe. Traditional art and design education gave him the time and space to reflect, think, experiment and converse with similar-minded human beings.

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Everything happens for a reason, and Kulay’s first crack at creative jobs was pure luck, but he did spend his youth burning all the artistic fuels and has been creatively working hard to prepare him for his first position. His first job in the industry was as an art director for an independent creative agency alongside freelance design works.

Kulay loves to immerse himself in experience. He believes that human experiences make one’s creative practice richer and distinct. Therefore, he makes sure to absorb many inspirations and learnings from different fields.

artwork Kulay Labitigan

Going through the years of his experience, Kulay mentioned it always pays to be kind. People you meet along the way are there for a reason. However, what pushed everything forward was his fearlessness in following his gut. In Filipino, they always say, “Ato lang nang ato at gawa lang nang gawa,” which translates as try and try, work and work. 


The work, the work, the work


Before doing illustration, Kulay worked with art installations for performances. Telling stories through space shares a lot in common with telling stories through images; the only difference is how one arrives at the destination. Different mediums of work have impacted Kulay, but his piece for Kasa and Kin, launched at the end of last year, created a good amount of traction in the local press. It is, for him, the closest marriage of his present and past life as an image breathing in an enormous expanse of physical wall space. He is looking forward to making his illustrations more experiential. 

Kulay Labitigan

The favourite part of being an illustrator for Kulay is the creative process itself. He enjoys research, conceptualising, and getting lost in the craft. Kulay is lucky to be able to do what he loves, but as he likes to say, it always comes with a certain level of perseverance and commitment. Beyond this, receiving messages from young Filipino creatives back home that, in one way or another, found inspiration in his story to make something of what they do now makes all of this worth pursuing. 

The most challenging part of every project is the beginning of it — especially the introduction and the negotiation. As much as he tries to be better at it, he feels those are not his superpowers and are best left to the incredible team of producers at NERD Productions.

Kulay looks at his creative practice of illustration as a spiritual experience, almost like a religion. He says that there are three things we all want in life. First, to make our parents proud. Second, to reach for that one star, we are all looking up to. And finally, to be part of something that impacts others. Therefore, Kulay aspires to be relevant so that he can utilise his craft as a vessel for the greater fulfilment of his purpose.

Kulay Labitigan

By digging deeper in skills, Kulay tries to constantly explore new ways of doing, materials, and scenarios. But most importantly, by giving himself permission to be still and be in solitude. We are constantly consuming information every second of our lives, and moments of quiet help Kulay develop his original ideas. 

Kulay’s Passions and inspirations

Outside work, he likes treating himself to loads of Gelato, morsels of brownies, and hours of a good bath. He is passionate about Filipino culture. Especially the Filipino language. Words capture stories, histories, cultures, emotions, and imagination. Kulay is very passionate about narrative arcs and story structures. 

He likes the art of film. He loves going to the theatre and enjoying colourful arts, exhibitions, prints, or digital. Kulay loves immersive narrative experiences. He also likes indulging in good food.  

As for his hobbies, he loves illustrating. Kulay is currently working on an illustration passion project called BRGY Hall. BRGY is an abbreviation of the Filipino word Baranggay, a local community of several households. BRGY Hall reflects Southeast Asia’s history as told by a migrant gay man living his dreams in London whilst expounding on the idea that we are all walking micro-universe. He is looking forward to sharing this with the world once they are ready.

artwork Kulay Labitigan

With all the blessings and opportunities that opened for Kulay, he thinks he must have done well in his past life. As mentioned before, creativity for Kulay is almost his religion, and he becomes a better person the more he makes better things. What immensely motivates him in life apart from his loved ones is creativity itself, but more importantly, that sense of paying everything forward, hoping to be that person he needed when he was younger to others.

All these things and many more are what we love Kulay Labitigan for. His incredible art, view of life and unique perspective make for a fantastic addition to our creative powerhouse at NERD Productions.

See more from Kulay here.

Pride, Drive & Excellence in Production: Ira Giorgetti

NERD Productions’ resident Creative Producer Ira Giorgetti spills the tea on art, producership and being a multi-hyphenate in London

Introduction

Who are you?

My name is Ira Giorgetti, and I’m a creative producer, photographer and entrepreneur.

Where are you from (both in UK and heritage)?

I am of British-Filipino ancestry, although I’ve got an Italian stepfather, so I’m a little bit of that too as far as culture’s concerned! I’m based in leafy West London, where I live with my partner and our three-year-old chihuahua.

What do you do?

I’ve got a very mixed professional background as well, to be honest! The day-to-day sees me working my magic with production, showreels, pitches and directors’ treatments at NERD Productions as a Creative Producer. I’m also on NERD’s roster as an Advertising and Portrait Photographer, with a dash of Still Life and E-Commerce in the mix just to spice things up. I’m currently also working on my fledgling side-hustle Provoke Art.

How did you fall in love with what you do?

I’ve been in the media and advertising game since I was about three years old when my mother, then a creative director for a publisher in the Philippines, decided to “hire” me as a talent for a magazine cover when the model they’d booked got ill and didn’t turn up. As a result, I got paid in Mcdonald’s Happy Meals, which was an exciting start to life in the industry!

Anecdotes aside, I’d always been fascinated by film and photography, and I developed a love for the visual arts from a very young age. I first picked up a camera in high school and have been making pictures ever since. Delving into production felt like a natural next step, as I think that creativity flourishes when paired with a good understanding of how to utilise imagination best and turn ideas into reality.

Production

What’s been your favourite project to produce so far?

It’s hard to pick a single favourite, as I enjoy working with the fantastic roster of diverse directors and outstanding creative talent at NERD. However, a project that resonated with me and my visual aesthetic was a 3D project for Genesis Motors (a subsidiary of Hyundai), which we produced for Innocean USA with our animation director Roman Bratschi. The resulting visualisations were beautifully constructed, conceptually brilliant and genuinely designed with a perfect blend of artistic vision and an eagle eye for details.

What a production tool can’t you live without?

A good old Parker ballpoint pen and ruled index cards. I’m a bit old-school about task management, but I’m trying to learn Notion to better organise my life given how fast-paced things are nowadays!

What’s the most challenging part of the job?

When our team puts hours of effort into pitches only for us to receive word of reworked marketing strategies, delayed campaign dates, or sudden changes to execution and approach. Always hard to hear that the hard work, creativity, and commitment to excellence didn’t make it in front of clients’ eyes. However, that knowledge results in less heartbreak for us in production and our partners, designers, and directors!

What’s something you wish clients knew, but you dare not share?

So much hard work and effort occur in the background, with directors spending hours and hours poring over the little details and flourishes in their work. Sometimes it can feel disheartening when clients want to scale big ideas back or streamline concepts that work best unrestrained. Of course, we always offer our best creative suggestions and advice throughout the entire creative production process, but the client is always right at the end of the day! 

Creativity & Art

What’s your favourite style of art?

I don’t have a favourite style or genre, although I tend to gravitate towards visual and experiential art. I’m a bit musically challenged, and even though I appreciate poetry and prose, I find myself drawn mainly to photography, illustration, painting, sculpture and architecture. I also love a bit of experiential art here and there, even if most people find it to be a bit corny!

Who/what are your top 3 artistic influences?

I have a great love for the works of Zhang Jigna, Darren Aronofsky and Alasdair McLellan.

What’s the most challenging experience you’ve had on the job?

I once had to shoot a summer fashion campaign during a snowstorm! I just managed to pull it off, although the whole crew had the sniffles for a couple of days after.

What’s your fondest memory of making art?

Probably my early days of exploration and experimentation in the Philippines, where I set up self-motivated projects taking portraits of friends and family with no particular goal in mind. I think that whilst my skill and style have developed significantly since then, I still miss the simpler times of my youth when I didn’t have to think about commissioners and how each project fits into my professional narrative. It was a lot of fun just to grab a camera, hop in the car and drive to the mountains with people near and dear to me – something I sorely miss now that the naivete is gone and I have to think a bit more about approvals, deadlines and deliveries. Of course, production is rewarding in many ways, and I appreciate the daily exposure to different ideas and disciplines. Still, there’s something to be said for one’s first few creative ventures and how that shapes their viewpoint, perspective, and approach.

The Future

What projects are you working on?

I’m handling a fair few productions at NERD at the moment, including having just delivered some pieces for L’Oreal and Hyundai whilst working on active productions for Google, Air Wick and Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation. 

Photography-wise, I recently shot the social campaign for E45’s refreshed range of moisturisers and creams. In addition, I won a competition with M&C Saatchi and the Cabinet Office, which has brought my work to large-scale display at airports, embassies and government offices. Although all that commercial progress aside, I’d love to build Provoke Art up a little more! 

With any luck, I’ll be able to take it from concept to budding side hustle. I’d love for it to be a space where queer artists around the globe are celebrated and allowed the opportunity to get their work in front of more eyes and into more physical spaces. I’ve got a fair bit of interest so far, and a couple of friends from the queer and ESEA communities are keen to get involved!

What’s top of your list of goals and aspirations?

I’d love to say that it was to get published in a certain magazine, land a particular client or receive a specific grant, all of which I’m trying to do. But, for now, I’d be thrilled to see my friends and family in the Philippines again after all we’ve been through with this long and drawn-out pandemic!

Where can we learn more about you and your work?

I love connecting with new people, and I’ve got loads of profiles online where I try my best to engage regularly:

PERSONAL LinkedIn | Twitter | The-Dots

PRODUCTION Website | Instagram

PHOTOGRAPHY Website | Instagram | Portfolio

PROVOKE ART Website | Instagram

The Black Cop: a villain, a victim and a hero. 5 Questions we asked Director Cherish Oteka

Exploring the complexities of identity, authority and community with Cherish Oteka, director and producer of BAFTA-nominated “The Black Cop: a villain, a victim and a hero.

NERD: Gamal’s story is about the complex challenges that ethnic minorities sadly have to face to this day. How did you come to know Gamal’s story, and when did you realise that this was something that everybody needed to hear?

Cherish: I first heard about G when I attended a workshop for LGBTQ+ people of colour. During the workshop there was a breakout session to discuss role models within the community and G’s name came up. While I didn’t actually know the details of his story at the time, I reached out to him to generally make contact. G and I built a friendship from there and along the way he shared details of the challenging parts of his journey. He was keen on sharing his story in the hopes that it could help and inspire other people. I knew that this was an important story of overcoming self-hatred and that is a universal journey that could connect with audiences.

NERD: Gamal is proud of who he is and has taken ownership of himself, his past and his identity – all of which he now uses to help better the lives of others. How has his story impacted you personally, and what impact do you think it will have on others?

Cherish: I hope the impact of hearing G’s story will be the same for others as it was for me. While G’s story is shocking and triggering in parts, making the film and meditating on these themes have been healing for me. His story provided an opportunity for me to reflect on pivotal moments I’ve had with my identity and the impact they have had on me. I think everyone can relate to being told directly or indirectly that there are parts of who they are that aren’t good enough. The intention behind this film is to make conscious what is largely unconscious when it comes to self-hatred.

NERD: Race and gender identity are common themes in your work. How do you tell stories to people who have so few touchpoints with the issues facing minorities?

Cherish: Identity as a whole is an area that I am interested in and we all have a sense of self. My approach to storytelling is to tell specific stories in universal ways. In that way, whether someone can directly relate to the struggles of marginalised communities or not is less relevant. It’s ultimately about the emotions that drive our collective experience of humanity and those feelings transcend race, sexuality, class, gender etc.

NERD: There’s a clear exploration of identity, as well as a rallying cry for equality and inclusion. Why did you choose to centre the story of an individual rather than a group of people?

Cherish: G’s story alone touches so many important moments in recent British history. From the Black communities’ resistance of oppressive policing, to the push for LGBTQIA+ equality and the aftermath of the West African ‘farming’ phenomenon, where white families took care of Black children outside the remit of local authorities. There were so many important touchpoints in his story alone that allowed us to speak to several bigger societal issues. Because of this, I didn’t feel like we needed more voices to tell this story. Some of my favourite films are ones that tell big, complicated and nuanced stories through one persons’ perspective and that is what I sought to do with The Black Cop.

NERD: Gamal’s story is inspiring but heart-breaking. Do you have a message for all the young people of colour out there who are silently internalising many of the same conflicts that Gamal faced growing up?

When we think of racism or any other form of bigotry we think of the big events and give little attention to the daily subtle comments and actions that can negatively impact self-esteem. I want us to acknowledge those events, the impact they have and begin or continue a journey of healing.

Want to see more from Cherish? Tap here.

NERD Producer & Photographer Ira Giorgetti on the Association of Photography, finding a creative tribe and making work that matters

5 Questions with NERD Producer & AOP Board Member Ira Giorgetti

What was it like moving to London and why did you do it?


Ira: I first moved to the big smoke in 2016, back then I was fresh to the local scene and really struggled to find a community where creatives of all backgrounds and interests were both celebrated and supported. I was basically looking for a community  to call my own where guidance without judgment and mentorship without profit were the norm. I’d moved over six thousand miles to be with my partner, but starting over from scratch professionally is definitely a tough period to go through.

The Association of Photographers proved to be a great place where I found kinship with other young artists, where I developed my craft and understanding of the industry and ultimately built many meaningful relationships with similarly minded folk who didn’t put much weight on status, client list or portfolio. I found a real sense of community there, been active in many ways for a few years now and as of 2022 I’m on the Board of Directors!

Why is it important for artists to find a sense of community?

Ira: I never really liked to fly solo, and I think it’s especially important for people in the creative industry to find a safe space where they feel supported both as an artist and a professional. Within the past couple of years, the AOP has really felt like a  community of people coming together and they’ve done so much to support the craft, the practitioners and the business and institutions that keep the wheels turning.

Although I would be amiss if I didn’t admit that there’s still a need to tackle many issues both locally and in the national, professional sphere when it comes to diversity, inclusion and equality of opportunity. The organization is thankfully modernizing and that’s been reflected with some changes to the leadership structure. 

Aside from a new female CEO the Board of Directors now also includes a pretty even split between male and female members as well as a couple of seats taken up by people of colour (myself included!). The entire membership supported the new direction which was quite heartwarming as it’s something that the rest of my team at NERD and I take quite seriously and champion daily in our approach to fairer, more equitable production.


What happened when you finally found your tribe?

Ira: I felt supported, excited and largely relieved! Always nice to find people of the same feather, and was always nice when we flocked together to discuss ideas, create opportunities and devour red wine and pizza!

In all seriousness though, I think it really is worth joining your national trade group or professional body as it’s a good place to talk shop, find solutions to problems others have already experienced  and if you’re lucky even make friends!

What do you do for the organisation and what has the organisation done for you? 

Ira: As a newly elected board member I am part of a few working groups that aim to engage more assistant photographers and early-stage creatives that will allow the organization to broaden its impact, increase its membership and work with both the government and the private sector towards fairer representation and treatment of visual artists.

Something that many creatives struggle with when starting out is the legal and this is an area I got a lot of help in especially in the early days! The forums are also great for talking about kit, discussing the state of the industry and making connections.

What are your plans for your future as both photographer and board member?


Ira: I fully plan to continue pushing for diversity and inclusion in all senses of the word as I’d love to see the industry start to really take it seriously and stop with all the meaningless faff and tokenistic approaches towards better representation. I also plan to continue personally providing support and mentorship to up-and-coming photographers and creatives as that’s something the AOP did for me back then that’s had a great impact and has helped me get to where I am today!

Since joining AOP Board Ira has taken part on the judging panel of the Black History Month exhibition at Canary Wharf. See more of Ira’s work as part of the AOP’s Black and Minority Ethnic Member Spotlight Focus as well as his profile at NERD.

Bossing It: Staying Calm During the Tough Times with Milana Karaica

Our founder and creative executive producer on working like an animal, accepting failure and partying like it’s 1995.

Milana is an active diversity and a passionate equality advocate. Having built a successful diversity-led production company, Milana champions innovative and forward-thinking company culture, focusing on empowering and nurturing accomplished as well as young talent and talent from non-traditional backgrounds.

What was your first experience of leadership? 

After being a runner for a while, I landed a cool new job – Office Manager at a busy production company in Soho. Sounds like quite a boring job if the title is anything to go by BUUUT.. I had a team of amazing runners to help me pull off the most random, eccentric production tasks as well as incredible parties, team bonding trips and sometimes even the most bizarre requests. No day was ever the same, no task was ever the same. It meant always being on your toes, continuously learning, meeting new talented people and partying like it’s 1995 every single day! 

How did you figure out what kind of leader you wanted to be – or what kind of leader you didn’t want to be? 

This job meant that I had to interact with producers and EPs on our day to day.. They had their crew, I had mine and we had to come together to make a job happen. 

It was here that I first got the real taste of amazing leaders and also simply horrific ones too. There were those that were kind, polite and open to sharing their knowledge with others on the team regardless of their social background or what role they played in production. On the other hand, you had those that would talk to people like they were dirt on the bottom of their worn-out trendy Converse trainers! It was painful to watch, listen to and simply be in the same room with. Even though I had only little say at that point in my career, I often clashed with those individuals, perhaps even when the situation didn’t involve me at all as I just could not stand unfair behaviour! I knew I wanted to be different from them, power or no power, I did my best to be supportive but straight up at the same time, both with the ones who were mistreated and the ones that were favoured.

What experience or moment gave you your biggest lesson in leadership?

Being a young EP and getting so ahead too quickly! In my eyes I had the right to be there due to my relentless work energy and never saying no to a random all-night task or an unexpected challenge. With that came the need to prove myself though, to my peers whom I left behind, to older colleagues and specifically those that didn’t like me for many personal or subjective reasons – like being too young, too ethnic, or just for being from Croydon! 

I worked like an animal, day & night. Missing family gatherings, birthdays – doing conference calls at funerals… yes, I did that! However, with the recognition and praise came the ego as well. There was a point where I started to care too much about myself and the unfair treatment I was getting, even in this position and actually forgetting that so many others had it the same or worse, but had much smaller voices than I did. 

Did you know you always wanted to take on a leadership role? If so how did you work towards it and if not, when did you start realising that you had it in you?

I think three weeks into my first job in the industry I knew I would run a production company one day. Not because I wanted to lead, but because it really pissed me off how things were being managed from a clique and classist point of view and I wanted them to be done differently, based on merit and talent.

What are the aspects of leadership that you find most personally challenging? And how do you work through them? 

I hate having to let people go! It’s never nice to have to let someone go so I always try to empower people to see why they may be better at something else or be more suited to another adventure. It’s not fair to keep people on if they are not the best version of themselves as they are wasting their own time too, not just yours. 

Have you ever felt like you’ve failed whilst in charge? How did you address the issue and what did you learn from it? 

We all fail! Sometimes you don’t notice a team member is down and struggling with something, be it personal or work related. Sometimes you don’t initially pay enough attention to a problem or an unusual friction between team members. I believe it’s all a part of the process and if we couldn’t learn and improve continuously in our industry, then I would just quit! It simply means it’s got to the point you don’t care enough anymore.

In terms of leadership and openness, what’s your approach there? Do you think it’s important to be transparent as possible in the service of being authentic? Or is there a value in being careful and considered? 

I think honesty is the most important element of any successful relationship. We value this in our personal relationships so why not in our work collaborations? I’m not saying to share your every thought and worry, but to bring transparency while coming up with suggestions is always appreciated whichever side you are on.

As you developed your leadership skills did you have a mentor, if so who were/are they and what have you learned? And on the flip side, do you mentor any aspiring leaders and how do you approach that relationship? 

I have had a few people to look up to over the years and some of those have let me down which is always devastating while others inspired and motivated me more than I expected. I mentor a lot of young and up & coming talent and always treat those as friendships and close relationships. You really have to get to know a person to be able to see their strengths & weaknesses and how to help them get to be the best they can be. It’s a big responsibility!

It’s been a really challenging year – and that’s an understatement. How do you cope with the responsibility of leading a team through such difficult waters? 

Its not my first rodeo, ha! Sadly, I have had to lead teams through tough times before and that is one of my strengths – No matter what life throws at me, I just produce my way out of it. Staying calm and motivated in times of adversity is the best team bonding exercise you can ever ask for. You will be better for it and come out the other side with wonderful friends and more experience to add under your belt.

This year has seen the industry confronted with its lack of action/progress on diversity and inclusion. As a leader how have you dealt with this? 

As a change maker in this specific area it’s been a fantastic year for my talented Directors, Illustrators and Photographers! They are finally getting the opportunities they have been side-lined for in the past for unfair reasons and they get to have a bit more of a spotlight.

How important is your company culture to the success of your business? And how have you managed to keep it alive with staff working remotely in 2020? 

As a company that represents diverse talent, we have been a global company since our first day. Working remotely has not really meant that we have had to change a thing about how we craft. Our company culture is the only reason I started NERD, so it is the key to what we do, how we do it and why – every day! 

What are the most useful resources you’ve found to help you along your leadership journey? 

Other passionate and creative people!

NERD’s Director Rafa Cortés on the power of printing and how to find the best ideas.

Rafa dives deep into the thoughts on how to find the best possible ideas, why he needs to print the scripts and what it takes to be a guy from ‘now’,

What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Scripts choose me! People who get in touch with me usually already know what I can do for their projects. That’s why I don’t usually get scripts that could be difficult for me to end up shooting. I feel lucky because this saves the agencies, my producers and me a lot of time used in unnecessary pitches. The scripts that catch my attention the most are those where I can really tell a little story and provoke emotions to the audience.

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

First and foremost, I print everything. I need to see a script on paper so I can draw on it, move things around. On the first day I never try to do anything with it, I just go away from my desk and spend some time with my family to let my mind relax trying to keep the project in the back of my head till the ideas start appearing by themselves. After that, I try to imagine what points of the treatment will help me explain what I would do with it. Mechanic typing comes then, I let everything I have flow naturally into the treatment.

What I don’t do is to start the process looking for references. It might be an ego thing, but I let my mind come to something on its own, look within myself. I, of course, can come to it naturally, although it might have already been created and it is perfectly normal. I do need references anyway, no matter how much I dislike it, because I need to find a way for the agencies and the clients to visualise my proposals. Although, I still think it is good to come up with something on your own first.

Nenuco – Regalo

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? 

In my commercial work, I’m there to help sell a product/service, and to associate the companies and their brands to certain feelings or ideas. We always need to distinguish the brand from their competitors, how they’re different and how we can show it in the best possible and more effective way. There’s always a moment when I need to do some research, market research and also ask the agency/client some questions to help me understand where they are at and what they are looking for.  The best way to get a genuine, interesting spot, is to make bespoke work. 

For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

I think the most important is trust and collaboration, with everyone – producer, creative team, management, crew, etc. An important part of my job is to help solve their problems, read between the lines, and come up with the best ideas!

La Quiniela 70 Aniversario (Trio)

What type of work are you most passionate about – is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Fiction, storytelling, recreation of reality and anything that involves testimonials. Errol Morris is a director I look up to and I often think that I would feel at home facing a lot of the testimonial and commercials projects he has masterfully crafted. 

What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

One of my biggest frustrations is when people think there’s no script or mise en scene behind my work, that everything happened for real. My ability to make something that is fake seem very real is what I am also known for. But it is sometimes difficult to imagine that kind of work for people who haven’t been following the process. They usually think I am lucky with getting a lot of real stories, told by ‘real’ people, when in fact, there’s a lot of hard work in writing scripts, casting actors and all other things. I’m mostly about fiction!

What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

It was one of my personal projects, a feature film. I had a scene with one very complicated and strong actor. He had to wear a gorilla mask, you can imagine, as an actor it might be quite frustrating. Then he got really angry because of something I didn’t really understand. He is German and he started shouting in German, so what I had to deal with was a person wearing a gorilla mask, shouting in the language no one understood and I was the person in charge, who had to fix everything. What did I do? I went up to him and said “Wait a minute, do you realise I have a gorilla shouting at me in a foreign language in the middle of a set, can you help me solve this?”. After a deep pause, he smiled, we both laughed and the conflict was resolved.

La Quiniela – El Grito

How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

In the commercial world, I really fight for finding the best possible idea that works for both me and my clients. The client knows the brand, I know filmmaking, and we create harmony of those things together.

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?

I tend to be open to anything that makes me see the world from new different angles, I like meeting new people and hearing different and sometimes controversial ideas. I have different friends, I have worked with different people and I am very happy that I am able to learn from people who come from a different background than I do.

Although, I do not specifically look for anything but my doors are always open!

I mentored quite a few people who are now directors and actors. I wish I had more guys like me when I started, a mentor who would advise and help. This is essentially why I am mentoring everyone who comes to me and needs my help.

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? 

I wanted to think that this pandemic would make us better than we were, same with the economic crisis. I tend to be optimistic and I have learned a few things myself.

Working from home has certainly made us appreciate our loved ones more, as well as the change in work ethic. For me, it was no new working from home, I live in Mallorca and I do most of my work from there, so I was trained to work from home for years 😀

Your work is now presented in so many different formats – to what extent do you keep each in mind while you’re working? 

It depends on every project, sometimes you need to put more effort in one of the formats and create others to support the main point of the campaign.

Depending on the format you shoot it, you always need to remember those extras to make it work across all platforms.

VW Polo – Pelota

What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

I am a guy from ‘now’. As soon as something new comes out, I will be one of the first people to try it out. I was one of the first guys in Spain who started shooting with a RedOne camera, when people were afraid of digital video, and will be happy to continue to incorporate new technologies in my work as soon as they come.

With new technologies, we should always keep ourselves at the top of the game. For me, it is applying my unique ideas to this new technology, it gives you the advantage over others and I would suggest everyone to do the same.

See more from Rafa here.

‘Must know’ facts about NERD Productions animation director Sharon Liu

Sharon Liu on visualising the core values of a brand and using her skills to enhance the power of women.

Earlier this summer NERD Productions spoke to Sharon Liu about her experiences, director tips and tricks, and a few opinions on recent changes in the world, and how it impacted her career.

 What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

I get excited by scripts that are full of emotion and might be challenging to describe in words.

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

I read the deck over and over again, to get a feel for what the client wants to achieve (both aesthetically & technically). Then I will thoroughly do my research to find a connection between what I think would be the coolest approach but still effectively reach the client’s goal. Once I have that connection/idea in my mind, I can start sketching out some style frames. Most of the time the thinking takes longer than creating.

 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?

I always think one of the greatest parts of being a director is that I get to work on projects/ campaigns in areas that I’m not familiar with. It keeps me curious and learning.

Therefore I take research very seriously, it helps me to visualise the core values of the brand. I compare the brand’s ad campaigns from the past to the more recent ones. Then I brainstorm with my colleagues and constantly mix and match ideas until the best creative solution appears. I will take notes about the brand’s target audiences and try to find out what people like the most from the brand so I can enhance those aspects as well as delivering the message from the campaign creatively.

Nina Simone – Colour is a beautiful thing

For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

It will have to be my producer, she forms a solid bridge between me and the clients, manages the technical side of the project so that I can execute the creative side.

What type of work are you most passionate about – is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

I’m open to all kinds of collaborations, I like to use my skills to support things I like and believe in. In particular, I like to use my skills to enhance the power of women. I really enjoy drawing and designing female characters.

What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

In the past I’ve had people comment that my work doesn’t have a ‘style’ because I don’t use the same materials/methods for every project and I don’t draw the same character over and over. I would like to think I do have a style but perhaps not in a conventional sense.
As well as being an animation director, I am an artist and I like to creatively challenge myself all the time, so that my work will consistently morph to improve and keep up with trends. I like to use different techniques/styles to create bespoke designs for every client, I think my strengths lie in an exciting use of colour and an elegant style of storytelling.

Lady Florence Boot

 How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

As a creator, I have always believed that it’s part of the fun to be able to deliver the idea in multiple ways. I see the project/idea as everyone’s baby (client, agency & production company). We all share the same goal which is to make sure the baby is safely delivered and grows healthily. Therefore I have trust that other’s opinions and criticisms are in the best interests of the project and I hope that my clients have the same confidence in me.

What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent?

I think that would be the best way forward. From my personal experience, a woman of colour in London, it would be a dream come true to see diverse talents exchanging ideas and supporting each other. I believe together we can create something really special.

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)? 

In a way, a different format means a different canvas. It’s almost impossible to keep the artistic composition the same on every screen. However I will always try to design my shots with extra artwork at the edges of the frame so there is wiggle room for me to reposition the shot if I need to.

See more from Sharon here.

NERDy Work Secrets from Lydia, Head of Business and Talent

As a production company that represents diverse talent and crafts for global clients, NERD Productions has always been progressive in everything we do! We had mastered the WFH concept way before it became a thing we all now call ‘the new normal’.

The creative industry never sleeps and we need to be at the top of the game, producing and creating inspiring visuals. To our team production is all about human connection and relationships, this is why we have Lydia. She is a ray of sunshine and that one person who always brightens up every room she ever happens to be in. We spoke to her and she shared her secrets of working and nailing it at NERD!

We hope these thoughts give you an insight into what it is like to be a NERD and rock the world of production!

  1. Our talent pool is where the magic happens. I feel motivated when I watch our directors shine, see them grow within their skillset, and the spark in their eyes when they receive the next script to work on.

  1. The importance of maintaining relationships is what numerous lockdowns have taught me. It is important to gain but also maintain those relationships with our creatives, friends, and producers. We like to have casual chats and catch-ups with our clients and talent. Good relationships always lead up to a fantastic job in the creative industry!

  1. NERD is a bunch of very creative people and we thrive when we receive exciting scripts. As a sales rep, my day-to-day life consists of lots of calls, emails, knock-backs, and cancellations. This line of work is extra rewarding, especially when you secure another wonderful project. That being said, receiving inspiring, creative scripts is one of the main points that makes me excited about work!

  1. NERD Productions is a big family. The past year has proven how close we all are and how important it is to be there for each other every step of the way. After all, we are all in the same boat and we sail together! The culture at NERD is what keeps me going – regular catch-ups, Zoom coffees, virtual parties, and that general feeling of belonging and care.

  1. Last but not least is running. This is one of those activities when I connect with my body, let it flourish, and nurture my mind. I like to get a good early morning run at least 2-3 times a week. What is better than a sense of accomplishment and endorphins early in the morning? Ready to crack on and keep winning! 

Welcoming Director Lewis Andrews to the roster of talent at NERD Productions

Lewis Andrews NEW SIGNING NERD

NERD welcomes Lewis Andrews – a young director with a distinctive cinematic style, who filled our hearts with joy and excitement for future projects together!

Lewis Andrews NERD Productions on set

We asked Lewis a few questions about his career, passion, and future plans:

How did you manage to get such a large folio at such a young age?

I dropped out of school to pursue my passion for filmmaking as I was already doing what I loved. I weighed it up, is leaving my education any more of a risk than pursuing a university degree in film? The point I am trying to make here is, curating a large portfolio happened when I took the right risk for myself.

The first pivotal project in my career was a short documentary film I made for a pub in my town Hertford, called The Dog and Whistle. I was highly lauded by locals when the film came out on YouTube. I decided to start my production company Wonderfilm Pictures to help market my work. I got contacted by various people after the pub film release, including a content producer at Sky Sports. Since then I have worked with Nike, Vogue India, Puma, Red Bull, Sony Music and more.

My leads continued to expand through recommendation and word of mouth. I have been very fortunate in my career which has taken me to over 10 different countries. My portfolio is like one big spider gram of stories, mis happenings and coincidences which exemplify how the world is small and everyone knows everyone.

My first ever job on a feature film was changing the bins on set. I remember the bizarre feeling of competition, even with the other fellow bin changers in my department. As if there is anything you can possibly prove to anyone important on a film set with the insignificance of changing the bins, in order to hopefully become a world class film director one day, I had to fight for my position as top janitor first.

I have since been fortunate enough to work on some huge feature films Mission Impossible, James Bond, Fast And Furious and Cinderella with an excellent company XM2 Pursuit, world leading aerial cinematographers.

Lewis Andrews NERD Productions on set

What advice would you give to anyone who wants to pursue a career in directing?

A key thing for me has been creating opportunities for myself. Good advice I would give to someone is to be polite, sociable and introduce yourself to as many people as possible. Try to form connections in all departments because you never know who can help you and vice versa – from your fellow bin collector to an assistant director. 

If you find yourself on a set one day, right at the bottom, feeling a million miles away from where you want to be, just know it is a very fortunate position to be in. 

What inspires you?

What inspires me are ideas. I love the melding of components that make a concept great. I get inspired when people take things creatively to levels that have not been attempted before. I get inspired by ideas that are so fresh you feel irritated that you didn’t think of them first. Elon Musk is an inspiration of mine because I think he is possibly one of the most influential people alive at the moment. I think Kanye West, Drake, The Weeknd are doing marvellous things for the creative world.

There are too many actors and directors to name that inspire me. Steven Spielberg has always been at the centre of my inspiration for style of direction and editing. In particular, I think he makes his imagination feel the most real to the audience. His movies make imagination feel real. I think he captures disaster in a very realistic way, forcing you to feel immersed in his movies. I have always been inspired by the vastness of space and how little we know about it. I get inspired thinking about how different things could be in the future. Some of my favourite movies are War of The Worlds 2005, Empire of the Sun, The Joker, I, Robot, No Country for Old Men.

Lewis Andrews new signing NERD Productions

What excites you the most about joining the NERD talent roster?

I am excited to be amongst such a wide representation of diverse talent. I love the approach of the team; they have been so positive and detail-orientated when giving feedback about my work. Their staff have all been welcoming and they encourage creativity. I can tell that NERD’s founder Milana Karaica has a wealth of knowledge and I would learn more from her. I have joined the NERD talent roster at a rather strange time in history, during a global pandemic. When the world is a bit more normal, I would love to meet the NERD team in person.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I once worked in a Michelin star Chinese restaurant in St James, London called Imperial Treasure as a commis chef. I love to cook for my girlfriend in my spare time and one day I would like to launch my own brand of cupcakes.

See more of Lewis’s work here.

NEW SIGNING: NERD Presents Its First Ever Photographer – Gabby Secomb Flegg

MidSummer

We are excited to welcome Gabby to our roster of amazing talent and get creating and empowering from day ONE. We are convinced she will rock the commercial world with her powerful and refreshing visuals!

To properly start the season of new beginnings, we signed our first photographer – Gabby Secomb Flegg. Gabby is a queen of magic and a pro of telling people’s stories through her shots. She brings powerful female energy everywhere she goes and makes sure to capture authenticity and diversity of every person who happens to be in front of her camera.

A few words about this big step for NERD from our Founder & Executive Producer Milana Karaica:

As a production company that prides itself on being forward thinking, promoting collaboration and diversity, it was only a matter of time before we added talented and fresh photographers to our talent pool!  To make our NERDy mark on the industry and truly complete our creative offering to our agency and brand clients, alongside the live action directors, animation directors and illustrators we are proud to present the first female NERDy photographer! Gabby, who shares our ethos and mission is an incredible addition to the family. Her work is concentrated on diversity and female empowerment which is exactly what we practice at NERD.

To help you get to know Gabby a little more, we spoke to her about her story, inspiration and plans with NERD:

When did you decide to become a photographer?

I have been photographing since I was 19 years old (coming close to that 10-year mark now, yeesh!) but I only took it very seriously when I was around 25. I was working as an event manager full time for an insurance company and was shooting weddings, 21st, formals, christenings and everything in between on weekends. It got to a point where I was getting so busy and worn out that I couldn’t maintain the energy for both of those career paths, so I took the plunge into photography full time and have never looked back since! 

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Take the plunge earlier! Not that I didn’t take it at a great time, but I could have saved myself a load of suffering by not working as a check out chick at a local supermarket. However, that being said, I believe everything we experience makes us who we are (even the hard stuff) so had I taken the plunge earlier and missed out on all those in between jobs, perhaps I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now! 

What played the key role in your positioning as a photographer?

Getting rejected from college. Yep. I took my then portfolio to apply for a full-time photography course but was advised I wasn’t ready to take it. This was such a critical part in my desire to prove people wrong and to thrive without any formal education. I took their 12-week weekender course for beginners to understand the basic functionality of my camera, but I went off to do my own thing after that! It was one of the best things that never happened to me.

What excites you the most about being the first photographer to join the NERD talent family?

Who doesn’t love being the first in something haha?! Really though, what I love about NERD is the diversity in their talent and their desire to represent women in this space. I’ve admired NERD from afar for about a year and decided to throw myself out there a few months ago to just see what would happen – and here we are! What I am super excited about is the opportunity to help build this sector of representation in the NERD family and to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible like-minded, talented artists. 

What inspires you on daily basis?

Inspiration is a funny one, I don’t think it’s a daily experience, it’s more of an anomaly. Seems to show up when it feels like it but when you chase after it you can never find it! For me I find myself most inspired when I am travelling or interacting with other talented people. Seeing others thrive in their creative field really sparks joy in me which can then lead to inspiration. But usually, inspiration hits me in the quiet pockets of space I try to carve out through the week. 

What shot are you most proud of?

I had a full afternoon shoot just for fun with my friend Renee and incredible makeup artist Anthea Billet. We took to the Newcastle beaches in Australia to get some moody fashion snaps and I convinced poor Renee to get into the freezing water and make floating look effortless and ethereal. Turns out floating in a sequin dress is actually really hard, so we tried some standing shots.
By a stroke of pure magic, the sun came out and beamed through the misty sky and lit both the sky and water up like liquid gold. It was the most perfectly timed shot I’ve taken to date and I’m so proud of it.

Tell us about your women empowerment strategy while shooting.

Before I started shooting more editorial and fashion-based work, I shot as a female empowerment boudoir photographer. I spent 8 years as a pole dancer so female empowerment was a huge message that threaded through this experience and kind of subconsciously made an impression on my work. I really thrive helping women see a side of themselves that they’ve never seen, it brings me so much joy for them to look back on their images and say “holy shit, is that me?!” 

I think there are so many photographers out there who give no direction or positive reinforcement (a lot of them definitely don’t shout ‘YASSSS QUEEENNNN’, mid-session) which can have a huge impact on the result of the shoot. 

I really enjoy making people feel comfortable and eliciting genuine reactions at a shoot, so I am lucky to say that empowering people comes very naturally to me. 

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

I’m actually a massive introvert. I can come across as very extroverted to people but I recharge best being on my own! Give me cartoons in bed by myself any day over a social function! 

See more of Gabby’s work here.