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.

New NERDs Signed! Director Duo Karni & Saul on Building a World of Casual Fantasy

Exciting is an understatement! We are honoured to have Karni & Saul from Sulkybunny join our diverse roster! It is a pleasure getting to know them even better and treating you to a few bits on their style, most recent work and balancing their life as a working couple with kids.

What have you been up to during summer with all the heat waves we’ve had this year?

We’ve been busy with our BFI mixed media short Wild Summon. Trying to keep our two kids happy and busy in a huge paddling pool, working on an eye mama photo book and project about the mother gaze. And of course, eating a ton of watermelon, while quietly panicking about the environment and global warming. A good summer overall!

You describe your style as casual fantasy. What is the best example of this, and where do you find your inspiration?

We find it in everyday life. Casual fantasy is not typical, but it appears naturally in live action in the details where it is merged perfectly into life because life and fantasy are interconnected. Every day of our life can be fantastical, it’s down to your point of view and imagination. Sometimes, life can be stranger than fiction.
In our shorts Turning and Flytopia, fantasy is a part of the narrative. Like a boy’s imagination or a man losing his mind, we love the play and the surrealness this brings. It is a visual medium after all, so it has to be visual pleasure and magic.


You make quite a lot of music videos! Is the realm of music and entertainment a particular niche you feel passionate about? 

Absolutely! Music, visuals and fantasy work so well together, like tea and biscuits. They improve and amplify each other when it works well, when we love a song and it resonates. We have images pop into our heads like magic.


Working together as a married couple must have its perks. Do your kids play a role in your creations? If yes, who is the first one to give you feedback?

They definitely inspire us by being playful and imaginative. Interacting with our kids can be magic, but also hard work. We make things we want them to see or be inspired by even if its in the future. Being a directing duo and couple with kids is our reality and we have never known any different. It comes with power and also compromise, and again, we wouldn’t have it any different.

Over your whole career, what was the project you enjoyed the most? Not only by the outcome but everything starting from the client, brief and up to the final delivery.

One of our first ever commercials was for a project for BBC Digital Radio with Larry and Dave. We played a lot and had loads of fun experimenting with stop-frame animation, had a big laugh and were very creative. It set the standards high, our three short films for BBC, Film4 and BFI were a long and joyful ride. Super hard work but full of creative satisfaction and freedom.

What motivated you to join the NERD Productions roster? Why are they a good fit for you? 

We have known and liked Milana from NERD for a long time. We like female leads wherever we can and we like companies that support artists and creativity. It was a no-brainer.

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 Colourful Multi-faceted World of Mono Ghose

An exciting new addition to the NERD Productions family is Mono Ghose! He grew up playing sports, reading books and watching TV, sometimes too much. But, without a particular taste for science and math, Mono stuck to exploring his artistic side, and here we are.

Interested in football, gaming, reading, and quietly being urged to play the piano, which he never enjoyed, Mono inadvertently fell in love with the Spanish guitar. 

Having Indian heritage, Mono considers Indian storytelling and film tradition a formative part of his upbringing. It’s also a source of his passion for travelling and a diverse perspective. Adding to his already colourful heritage, growing up in the UK and having the experience of being an outsider meant, by will or circumstance, I didn’t have to follow the crowd, which helped me develop a sharp outside-of-the-box thinking and broadened my cultural awareness.’

Mono graduated with a MA in Scriptwriting from Goldsmiths. He studied the best filmmakers from around the globe and learned how to structure and write screenplays across various media. The takeaway was seeing the film as a language for the first time, which has drastically changed how I approach the art form.’

His first industry experience fell on a two-week summer school at Publicis Advertising Agency in Baker Street, London during his Bachelor studies. It was an intensive introduction to the world of ad agencies and how to plan and manage a campaign from scratch. Focused on account management Mono quickly gravitated to the talks and sessions with the creatives, which is where he got the first insight into what was the real direction and this is where he wanted to take his career.

One of the most important lessons he took away since the beginning of his directing career was how to deal with failure and rejection.Whether it’s a pitch, sale or script feedback, I learned to see it as an opportunity to develop my skill set and resilience. It’s also a good test to see how badly you want this as your career including all the ups and downs.’

Mono’s first professional project was a spot for Selfridges with BMB Agency. It was a 60-second spot he directed to advertise Selfridges’ new personal shopping ‘Wonder Room’ area in-store. It was his first big spot and he remembers how everyone waited patiently for Mono to call action, which he eventually did. It was challenging to juggle the different stakeholders from the agency and client-side while maintaining a creative focus with actors and crew. ‘ This balance is something all directors must go through and is a technique I’ve come to excel at and enjoy. ‘


Like nearly every director, Mono had his life/career-changing moment when his short film ‘Lost Bullets’ was long-listed for Oscar. It opened a lot of doors in Mono’s career and got him in front of some industry heavy hitters. The story still resonates with people today and stands up in terms of cinematic quality to other leading shorts.

In directing, Mono loves working with talented people to craft and tell great stories.

I want to achieve impeccable storytelling, draw tight performances and create atmospheric, stunning visuals to match the narrative.’ To keep himself fresh and caught up with everything in the industry Mono watches a lot of ads, good and bad from all over the world. Not hitting the skip button on YouTube and varying his tastes, for example: keeping up to date with exhibitions and art galleries, music, world cinema, NFTs and gaming. 

The creative industry, like any other, is full of good and bad. Mono is not a big fan of the “traditional” route to becoming a commercials director. This is changing with directors coming from other disciplines and backgrounds. The industry could also take calculated risks in storytelling and casting.

On a positive note, the creative industry has never-ending opportunities to tell stories across new formats and media. I’m excited about working with brands open to fresh ideas and storytelling methods.’


Everyone takes their inspiration from somewhere, for Mono, some of it comes from his favourite director Bong Joon-ho. His movies are on the list of those you want to watch again and again to see what’s running underneath (literally in ‘Parasite’) and feel like you’ve been in a filmmaking masterclass after it’s over.

Outside of work, Mono likes keeping fit, reading, playing the guitar and indie games when time permits. Apart from directing, Mono takes time to perfect his travel photography, creating his own game and poetry. He also particularly enjoys the following creations that you might take a note of:

Film: Bong Joon-ho. His stories are thought-provoking and original. 

Ridley Scott. A master of blending visuals, music and story to create iconic cinematic moments. 

Books: George Orwell and Milan Kundera: 

They write in an accessible style which is also ironic, prophetic and timeless. 

Gaming: the creators (Playdead) of the games ‘Inside’ and ‘Limbo’. These indie games show how the atmosphere and a mysterious style with little to no dialogue can carry an entire story.



Lastly, ‘I’m sure, like most artists, I’m driven by the impulse to create a great piece of work that resonates both with the audience and personally.’ We hope you enjoyed an insight into who Mono Ghose is and are looking forward to seeing what NERDy things he creates in the future.

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.

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.

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.

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.