The New New Business: NERD Productions PART 1


Meet a few of NERD’s Talent & New Biz team – Lydia Kaufman, Maria Leal and Lorena Perez!

They are responsible for discovering new talent, executing NERD’s new business strategy and pitching to our agency & brand partners across the globe. Let’s dive deep into how they work their magic and help make NERD what it is today!

What was your first new business win?

ML: My first win was with a lovely team from an agency in Spain around 12 years ago. While it was my first ever project and I got a little stressed, everything went swimmingly and to this day the team from that agency are good friends!

LP: It was around 12 years ago when I was working on breaking into the Spanish market. It was a job for the local government in Barcelona and my first ever win! I remember how frighteningly exciting it was, and even though I felt a little anxious I soon realised that everything was going fine and there was really nothing to worry about.

LK: My first ever business win was on a job for Sony with the team from Saatchi and a directing duo called Si & Ad. It was my first job in the industry, and it was their first job too – overall very exciting and a great start to doing what I love!

What was the best piece of advice you got early on? 

Everyone: Do your best, be honest and never give up! Persistence is key.

How has the business of ‘selling’ in the creative industry changed since you started?

ML: Budgets used to be bigger and the projects were less fast-paced. Nowadays we have to work quicker and with fewer resources but in a way that’s had the added bonus of making us even more creative than before 😉 

LP: We are presented with plenty of new opportunities as businesses adapt to the needs of the market – a bigger online presence with new platforms like TikTok and other forms of social media. Working from home in a way has made things easier as you can connect with just about anyone from around the world. 

LK: The main change happened with the rise of digital- these days we can just send a link with a showreel! When I was starting out one had to visit all agencies in person, find a TV to show the work and make sure everything is in working order.


How do you usually find new talent, is there a secret NERD recipe to it?

LP: I always think about creativity, diversity, passion and innovation. We need to be at the top of the game if we want to do well in the market!

LK: There is no secret recipe for finding new talent. I always look at various publications, socials, and awards, as well as just explore new work from everywhere. I also like to look into different festivals where up and coming directors usually come from.

ML: When I think about NERD’s talent, I think about freshness, a very open and receptive mind, bold and adventurous creativity, and of course a huge dose of professionalism and heaps of team spirit.

What are your thoughts about the process of pitching that the industry largely runs on?

ML: I think pitching is ok as it’s a way of communicating creatively with the agency and the client, sharing with them how we see their “baby” materialised. 

LP: Clients are trusting us with their brands and they want to make sure we will take care of them. NERD’s approach is bespoke and carefully crafted for each creative brief we receive. 

LK: I always thought that every company pitching for something should get a fee out of it – it’s people’s time, money, effort and I have always said that. However, we all know – you’ve got to be in it to win it!

How do you tailor your approach according to the kind of person or business you’re approaching?

ML: You always need to adapt your approach – either creatively, economically or even technically. It’s a kind of psychological test and an opportunity for you to learn and grow. 

LP: I do some research on the client, the work they have done and then I choose to present what is the best for them. Then you adapt and learn to prepare for the next round. The main advantage we have is the sheer volume of visual styles and approaches for almost everything.

LK: Research and tailoring for each specific brand – every time, all the time!

New business can often mean hearing ‘no’ a lot and quite a bit of rejection – how do you keep motivated?

ML: Never take things personally. Motivation comes from being with a team and trying to bounce ideas between each other. I also find it good to do explore things outside of my professional life which helps me to remain passionate about all aspects of life. 

LP: Always be positive and take the learning opportunities – always keep the relationships with the client open and continue to pitch to them. It all works, as well as the importance of understanding that there are so many reasons for not moving forward and you should not take it personally.

LK: There is always a risk of rejection, worth remembering that it is a numbers game and the good will come.

How important is the alignment between the talent and client in your opinion?

ML: It’s absolutely key, talent and client should be completely aligned! There should always be a dose of differing opinions, as this is a sane way of evolving a super creative project, though, they should always have a sense of alignment between them.

LP: If the client and talent are not aligned the project could be in jeopardy. The talent will advise the best way of achieving the results but the client needs to agree on the concepts. Teamwork makes dream work!

LK: It is vital! We have nothing without the alignment between the talent and client, the best work is created by having a perfect match.

The advertising and marketing industry often blurs the line between personal and professional friendships and relationships… does this make it easier or more difficult and delicate for you?

ML: If you act and work with honesty and integrity it can’t be difficult. 

LP: You need to learn how to separate the personal and professional. Always be transparent and honest so you don’t generate false expectations. 

LK: If you are friendly and can build good relationships it makes it all easier. It is always nice to know someone more personally rather than keeping it strictly professional.

NERD is known for its diverse and inclusive roster, what goes into matching the talent and client briefs ensuring you make just the right pairing?

ML: There’s a delicate balance to be struck when it comes to finding the right talent for a brief. There should be a combination of the right styles and techniques, but also there are specific briefs that require shared values and ways of seeing life – that’s when finding the perfect pair make all the sparks fly!

LP: The important thing is to really understand who is the right talent for the brief – and having diversity in the team helps bring very different ideas and perspectives.

LK: It is all about understanding what the client really wants and what their brief is about. To have the best pairing, I look at the personalities and their creative brains. A lot of it is also about gut feel – when I see a script I always have some directors pop up in my head as I am going through the brief.

In your view, what’s the key to winning projects?

ML: I think the key is trust. Your clients always need to feel that they are in good hands.

LP: The clients always need to know that we have the right solution for them and that we will do anything we can to make it work! 

LK: Remaining professional, being honest, approachable and knowing that you are going to give it your 100%.

What’s your advice for anyone who’s not necessarily come up as a salesperson who’s now expected to sell or win new business as part of their role?

Everyone: Truly believe in what you are selling and try your best!

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.

Getting Down and NERDy: Light + Mathematics – Animals & Nature

NERD’s CGI-sharp Light + Mathematics mirrors his infatuation for creating imaginary, child-like worlds full of billowing birds, scintillating squirrels and lustrous lions through each of his passion projects, as you may have seen in his roster of blockbuster movies such as Ice Age, Shrek, Harry Potter and Madagascar. But we wanted to know more…

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