The Work behind Rudy: a film by Shona Auerbach

Amidst busy working days for Shona, we managed to grab her and tell us a little bit about one of her most recent creations – Rudy.

Rudy is an award-winning coming-of-age drama set in the heart of rural England. It follows the emotional journey of a teenage girl who finds herself being tested by her relationship with her father and responsibility for her younger siblings. She feels increasingly pushed out when her home gets opened up to a paying guest. Through a newfound friendship with a boy from Coventry, she discovers fun, freedom and autonomy.

“Rudy” is a film that centres on love and loss, youth and innocence, holding on and moving on. What inspired you to create this film and pursue these themes?

The initial story was triggered by me losing my dad and also losing a friend who left a teenage daughter. The months after this I would drive past a house in the countryside every week, I started creating a story about a girl who lived in that house, dealing with her own loss and trying to find some kind of reconciliation with her own feelings, whilst also trying to get on with life. 

You collaborated with Akira Kosemura on the musical composition for the film. How did you two meet and what was it like working so closely with one another?

My son loved his music and suggested I ask Akira if he would give me permission to use one of his tracks or even possibly compose a track for the film.  I got in touch with him and after seeing the film, he loved it so much that he offered to compose all of the original soundtracks.  I was bowled over, his music is so wonderful and I loved working with him.  Because of the time difference to Japan, he would compose in his day and send over the tracks and I would put them into the edit and feedback, and although we were a long way from each other we worked really well together. 

The visual style of “Rudy” looks beautifully natural and nostalgic, somewhat akin to Sean Baker’s aesthetic. What led you to choose this style?

Graeme was the cinematographer on Rudy and I was originally both a photographer and cinematographer before I started to direct.  Both of us are drawn to visual storytelling.  We didn’t have much in the way of budget or crew so we had to be inventive, improvise with camera moves and often embrace what light we were given. We chose particular times of the day to shoot, when the light was right, and so operated in a more organic way.


Most of the production was done locally and with minimal crew, do you always approach your work this way?

Over the years I have had the good fortune to work on projects with decent budgets, which in turn has allowed me to have bigger crews.  However, I often think it is because Graeme and I originally came from film school, that if there is no budget, we slip quite comfortably back into shooting in a simpler way. Rudy had a minimal crew because of the lack of financial resources. Some may see this as a limitation, however, in many ways it was very liberating because it allowed us to be very light on our feet and getting what we needed in simpler ways.

What were some of the hurdles and challenges you faced while putting all the pieces in place for this production? 

The main difficulty was the lack of money to throw at situations to help resolve them. 
We knew from the outset that this was going to be a labour of love film, and once we accepted that we did not have funding to make things go quickly, we embraced the fact that we had to make it at the pace we could afford.  We managed to get over most hurdles, finding inventive ways of shooting and we were given a lot of generous support from lovely people along the way.

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.

artwork

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.

artwork

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.

NERD’s Airwick ‘Breath of Nature’ wins ‘Best Animation in a Commercial’ at BAA 2022

AirWick

Our photoreal film took the ‘Best Animation in a Commercial’ award at BAA2022 last Thursday. Crafted in collaboration with Havas London and directed by Peter S., this nature-inspired commercial made a lot of noise since it first aired last March. Its incredible high-end animation and whimsical sounds take the viewer through a sunny garden inspired by the director’s local flower market.


One of the most magical features of this spot was the focus on sound design to create a Zen zone that we are witnessing virtually. To accompany the mood of the commercial our team focused a lot on the pace of the animation to dissolve movement and create tranquility of the piece.

Our Executive Creative Producer, Milana Karaica (who is soon to have a lovely baby boy) and Director Peter S. accepted the award on the night:

The rest of the team joined to celebrate:


NERD’s team is incredibly grateful for the recognition of hard work and talent. We are proud to be a part of the community like BAAs as they are the only awards to recognise all forms of animation and reward the work of both new and established animators across all aspects of the UK Animation scene, from student work to commercials, children’s entertainment, short and experiential films, music videos and new technologies.

Women and their allies at NERD on IWD2022

NERD has always been a creative bunch full of diverse talent with strong values at our core and we are on a mission to help our industry be a more diverse & inclusive one for all!


We’ve seen the power of diversity and varied perspectives in our own NERD team and talent roster – more than 75% of our squad is female – but wouldn’t it be great if we could live in a world where this number is not something impressive, where it is just normal? For us IWD is all about breaking the bias, supporting the underrepresented and being surrounded by the proud allies of women!

At NERD we believe that our differences make us stronger! This International Women’s Day we would like to share our thoughts on what this day means to each of us:


Margaux, Social Media Assistant :

‘IWD lets us reflect on the successes of women throughout the years. This is the best day to celebrate and appreciate everything women have achieved and are still trying to achieve.

At NERD, we celebrate women everyday. We celebrate the talent, the passion, and the dedication of the beautiful women that are a part of this team.

The IWD has never just been celebrated one day out of the year. It is celebrated everyday because in every day, there is something for us to celebrate and appreciate in the women around us.’


Lydia, Head of Talent & New Biz:

‘I’ve worked in media sales for over 20 years representing some incredible female directors. At NERD it is so exciting to see so much female talent rising up in animation & live action. A great example to young women making their way through what was a male dominated industry. Keep going girls!!!  I am excited about what is yet to come #wehavegotthis’


Maria, Head of Talent & New Biz Europe:

“IWM is a good moment to remind us of the huge importance of feminine presence in leading roles in society. 

We will always need the equilibrium of masculine ideas, but with all things happening in the world right now, it is evident that the planet Earth is urging for the compassion, sympathy, loving essence of the feminine forces. The world needs us now as leaders!

NERD’s team, including our executive producer, Milana, is a reflection of what compassionate and mindful leaders are, even in a tough industry as advertising could be”


Ira, Creative Producer –  proud ally of women everywhere:

‘International Women’s Day is a great time to celebrate all the courageous and persevering women of the world who endlessly strive to do good and make the world a better place against all odds. 

I see it as the perfect opportunity to be still and reflect on all the women who’ve shown me love and helped me become everything I am today. My heart goes out to my mum, my grandma and all my titas (aunties) and ninangs (godmothers) – today is for you!


Viktoriia, PR Executive:


‘On this day I would like to say THANK YOU to every woman who made a difference in my life. International Women’s Day is after all, just like any other day – a reminder to show your love to everyone and everything around you. I love being a part of a strong female community and on this day, I am insanely grateful to be working in one myself!’’

Shay Hamias, Animation Director & Talent Mentor:

I love finding opportunities to make change happen in the industry, often by simply helping clients discover the importance of inclusion and diversity. I find there’s a benefit to everyone involved!

I usually suggest considering portraying women as heroes, and not just picture-perfect glamorous models but actual women with real body types, skin tones and gender identities. Advertisers and agencies are slowly but surely catching onto the benefits of being more inclusive and forward thinking but it is also our role as creators to help shift perspectives, spark new ideas and allow hearts and minds to grow in love and understanding.


Milana, Executive Creative Producer & Founder:


‘I never had female role models in advertising, I also didn’t notice more than a handful of ethnic individuals in senior positions or those that came from ‘non-traditional’ backgrounds. Bearing in mind that I’m all of those things, my inspiration stemmed from many male-dominated meetings and my fondness for craft and filmmaking.

Together with our male counterparts – there is no reason why we can’t make the industry a more equal one for all talent! As a woman, I don’t want to take away anyone’s opportunity, just an equal chance to try for the same.’

This IWD we are celebrating NERD as a female founded business and pledge, once again , to empower and support women. We encourage you all to celebrate this day or simply say ‘Thank you’ to all the incredible women in your network, from partners and family to your lovely clients and team members.

All illustration by Esther Lalanne.

Diablo II: Resurrected – A real labor of love and respect by Billelis

Diablo II: Resurrected is a remastered port of the classic dungeon-crawler and we got to craft some truly spectacular labors of love for Blizzard’s iconic franchise.

​While working on this fiery set of artworks, Billelis focused on the importance of the franchise’s heritage, its lengthy history, and endless fan love while also managing his own creative needs and ideas. The combination of all these elements has shaped Bill’s voice within the artwork itself.

Billelis was an obvious choice for this project as there’s no one better suited to portraying such recognisable characters in this distinctly dark, mysterious, and powerful visual style!

The key visual art took around six months to create as there was a lot of back and forth communication with the client to make the piece true to the brand’s vision and legacy the game already has. Blizzard’s original artwork was created over 12 years ago and Billelis nailed the rebirth of the artwork shaping it into a whole new, contemporary style. 

For NERD Productions it was one of the most exciting projects that Billelis has worked on and we were extremely excited to support the creation of such iconic pieces. Once again, an unbelievable collaboration with the artist who truly loves the franchise and his craft.

See more from Billelis here.

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.

NERD Productions’ Roman Bratschi crafts mouth-watering visuals for Sephora

Sephora is launching its first natural ingredients perfumes collections this September. Roman Bratschi, tastefully designed the gorgeous CGI ”DO NOT DRINK” key visuals for the campaign – so good; we want to taste these!  

The collaboration between Roman, NERD Productions and Sephora is a splendid one, just like the mix of elements inspired by nature and texture details that ultimately enhance the overall aesthetic of the products. We spoke to the team about the ways they brought these mesmerising concepts to life.

Continue reading “NERD Productions’ Roman Bratschi crafts mouth-watering visuals for Sephora”

Billelis Crafts Key Artwork for Xbox Blockbuster Franchise ‘Gears of War’

We’re amping up the action with our latest creation for notorious Xbox gaming franchise, Gears of War. With brand new gaming modes, an almighty terminator and an on-going battle for Kait’s soul, Gears 5 is readily anticipating its launch at the ‘Gears Ink’ event this September. But who created its killer rock and roll logo? Our team here at NERD.

Continue reading “Billelis Crafts Key Artwork for Xbox Blockbuster Franchise ‘Gears of War’”