What I Did in 2021 – Roberto Serrini Year In Review.

Quite a year last year … amid a pandemic with an uncertain future I found myself having perhaps the most interesting and meaningful year of my life. Everything has been deconstructed and has us all a bit more focused on what is our own personal reality. Looking back all I can say is thank you, because each day is a gift. Thank you to everyone that made last year so special, and here is to this year, where hopefully more magic continues to find it’s way into all our lives.

What did i do last year. oh boy. Well, my pandemic project of launching www.onemanonecamera.com kept me busy, having 30 projects in the can so far. Some literally.

To save time I made the short All The Pretty Things which featured a dozen brands all in one action packed 5 minute festival film. I call it advertising multitasking. I mean all those episodes of Workaholics aren’t going to watch themselves.

One of the products was an ultra rare quarter of a million dollar bike which we I did a separate doc on.

I got up to do a tiktok tricky piece for buzzfeed which was fun.

Then got freaky with freakmount by hanging babies, filming strippers, Juggalo scientists and armchair jet dudes. its a quality product.

There was of course things with wheels, Like this launch I did for Indians new FTR bike,

A quick edit for my Honda friends with their new line of ATVs

and a quick piece for Wolverine cinema digitizer. I mean it’s kinda a wheel, deal with it.

I got into the real-estate game with AirBnB, one of which was Conde Nast’s best Airbnb in LA … there goes my friends and family rate.

And got very coochie coochie coo as I helped launch the new Ray-Ban stories with Facebook.

and if we’re dropping names I did a big project with Netflix which I’d love to tell you about but I’m under NDA so yeah.

Last year I think we all nurtured an unhealthy relationship with food and booze, so I starting off with a new series about home bars. Shelter in place never looked so good.

I did a quick jam for Absolute where COVID was just a dream.

Then developed a show for the History Channel that explored the fascinating history about booze in America. It had it all … stop motion, fanciful animation, hardcore gotcha journalism, and this guy who’s been training to be the Bourdain of booze his whole life. I knew all that drinking in college would pay off mom.

non alcoholic but just as addictive I did a romantic branded doc for La Colombe coffee featuring chef Tim Hollingworth of Otium and his signature blend he crafted with them. They gave me a crate of coffee and I had the edit done in 23 minutes. #lifehack #roastandrender #caffinecutting

Crashing hard I did a few tasty films for Tasty, like this brie and butter … oh …. oh man. This got flagged a few times on the tok no cap.

I put my laughing cap on for Sweetfin, getting very serious about their new bento box like it was a BMW commercial circa 2004. All tuna interior. mmm.

I brought it back to the boot with a few Italian inspired films for Butter Pat Cast Iron. This is one job I didn’t mind retakes.

finally my torrid romance with Allen Brothers boiled over as we completed 13 heritage recipes with chef Olivier Rassinoux. No one told me in college that I’d have to rib eye, roasted bone marrow tordelli, and wagyu beef cheek risotto for work. I would have gotten better grades.

Putting on my dancing shoes I did a very surreal music video for Chris Sullivan of Joseph the Spouse and got smoke in my eyes with French rap group Kame House out in the desert

quick rando break. I was accepted into the Explorers Club, which is like Soho House for nerds, I bought this red 80’s looker, and started to learn blender. I made a bench. I know it’s not going to win any awards.

But what did win awards are some of my films (now that’s a segway) With 88 official selections and 26 wins my IMDB page is getting downright respectable. I think. I have no idea what any of this means. I did get this dope poster, LADbible shared one of my films which put me over the 10k mark, and I won not one, not two, but THREE Taste Awards which is like the Oscars for food and travel, their words not mine. I knew high cholesterol would pay off.

Alright lets talk travel. Somehow I found myself exploring Utah for Get Lost Magazine which launched their new digital platform, and DC discovering amazing nightlife and whatever the hell this is and with the smokiest and most fire steak I’ve ever had. Over to the Twin Cities to Fargo it up for 3M, and then down to Guatemala for Jet Blue to do a story on their maiden direct flight from NYC, where I explore the colorful sanatoria depths of Atitlan, the vibrant explosion of life in Chichicastenagno, and of course get my Zacapa rum hat on in Antigua.

My last destination was good ol Italy where I did a series of films for The Gold Hotel in on the Ligurian coast. The papers claimed I was seducing American to come visit. Well I do declare. Then Felini’d down to Rome to win at the Motorcycle Film Festival at Cinecita. While I had my best friends there we thought we should film episode 2 of Italy in Bocca.

So first we rented a 500 year old apartment on the Tiber and planned the ultimate roman meal from the cookbook series.

From there we went to the birthplace of the most roman pasta, Amatrice, which was sadly destroyed by an earthquake in 2016. The mayor took us around to the absolute best purveyor of guanciale and roman pecorino cheese needed to make this ambrosia, and somehow got the local nonnas to share her secrets with us.

Then we jumped over to Arricia which is the home of the por por por porchetta, where we learned the secrets behind this mouth gift from the gods.

Back in Rome I met with epicurean royalty like the only female Roman Michelin star chef Christina Bowerman , the vanguard behind the carciofi judiche at Nonna Betta, the oldest restaurant in Rome la Campana to learn carciofi romani, and the charming Michela Di Maria of my favorite restaurant Due Ladroni to learn the impossible truths of real roman cooking .

Overloaded with this profound knowledge we hit up the best specialty shops and fresh markets in Rome before returning to our ancient apartment to cook. Lemme tell you cooking in a 500 year old wood burning hearth is not like my Brevel toaster oven back in queens. Somehow we had the courage to invite my Roman family to dinner who actually know how to cook, and one very special guest. Rodo, who was the original illustrator of the cookbooks, who not only came, but gifted us two new illustrations which are so special to me I don’t even know what to say.

The entire night was magic. The fact that Me and my friends, who are complete nobodies, could reach out to all these people that share this common love for food, family and culture and bring it together just with our own passion is amazing. In fact, it was so special, such a perfect example of what life should be, that I ended up proposing to my girlfriend Jackie. I never thought 2021 would be such an amazing year, and all I can say is thank you, you all mean everything to me. Here’s to us all in 2022, no matter what comes at us.

Filmmaker Roberto Serrini talks COVID production with Marketing Champions Daily Ad Brief.

So COVID, Omnicom, the pandemic, whatever you want to call it, has completely changed the way we do … well … everything … but this is how I survived, and dare I say thrived, as a commercial director in advertising during that time.

First, I got my hands dirty. That sounds more romantic then it actually was. If you were like me coming up in the business, you pretty much did everything at one time; you shot, you edited, you wrote your own content. At some point I was able to just focus on directing, which is the skill you have when you know what needs to happen by who to make a successful production. When crews dried up with the work, it was time to go back to the old ways and do it yourself.

So what are the two things I did?

  1. I rebranded. If we’re talking career path I wanted to continue to focus on directing, however, I had all these other skills that allowed me to produce content without needing a crew or producers and that is what brands needed. So I rebranded. Instead of putting only my director hat on I put on my protean hat, and showed off my full scale 360 turnkey production skills. I built a simple little website, threw some self produced work on there and got down to business.
  2. I reached out. I started with brands and products I had a personal desire to work with. Everyone was cooking so I reached out to Ooni because I really wanted to make pizza’s on my balcony. I reached out to Allen Brothers because I really love their meat. I said hey to MAX ID cause their glassware is stunning. The first jobs I traded product for concept and had the best time of my life creating unique, authentic content for these truly remarkable brands. Then, once they were out in the world, and the name one man one camera was with them others came knocking like Dosist, Indian Motorcycles and Aegis.

The end result is that perhaps I’m not making my director day rate, but I’m working more then I ever had, and whats more, on projects I am in love with working closely with brands to deliver content that would never get past the first round of an agency. The shoots are fast and fun, a fraction of the budget of an industry shoot, and perform well beyond and above what brands are expecting.

I’m not saying I don’t miss big budget commercial production, with big crews and working with advertising elites, after all that’s exactly what taught me everything I know to to pour into these hand crafted projects. What I am saying is that like anything if you want to not just succeed but be fulfilled, you have to adapt constantly. Sometimes like now with something like a pandemic you’re forced to transform yourself a bit faster then normal, but for me, a kid that grew up in a basement in Long Island with dreams of travelling the world, the best thing to happen is sometimes the worse thing. That might just be a Long Islandism but I’m telling you, it’s true.

The bloodhounds over at Daily Ad Brief caught wind of my goings-ons and we did a little skype interview where I break it down a bit more… check it out … if I can do it you can too.

Shoot’s DGA 2017 New Director’s Showcase & Me.

My short film about love, and loosing love, Unattended Baggage, was selected to be in the 2017 New Director’s Showcase presented by Shoot Magazine and the DGA. I was quite honored. Here is the film:

They gave me a questionnaire. I answered those questions about being a filmmaker. Those answers are here:

https://nds.shootonline.com/nds/profiles/roberto-serrini

Im very serious about my work. I’m very not serious about questionnaires. I enjoy living this dichotomy.

Anyway, if you care to find out what my favorite word is (protean, or, perhaps, quince) then by all means, give an eye.

It was an honor to have this film screen… also a bit strange, given how personal it was. In the end, just nice to have an audience and have your work acknowledged.

Pay First. Then Eat.

Anyone that works in the “Ad Biz” will know the concept of doing spec work. Basically is you create something, for free, and pray someone will pay for it after its done. Somehow this is the standard in the industry, and no one knows how this came about, but it seems like we’ve all agreed on it, and have an unlimited supply of crazy pills to take to upkeep the system.

So it was LOVELY to see Zulu Alpha Kilo make this AMAZING video documenting what this system would look like in other industries. Imagine if prostitution worked like this. No. No you can’t.

Brilliant guys. Bravo. Bravo. (The question begs to be asked if they payed to produce this video, or if everyone just did it as a favor;)

CREDITS
Agency: Zulu Alpha Kilo
Creative Director: Zak Mroueh
Art Director: Guilherme Bermejo
Writer: Nick Doerr
Agency Producer: Tara Handley
Production House: Zulubot
Director: Zak Mroueh
Production House Producer: Tara Handley/Daniel Kaplan
Director of Photography: Albert Huh
Casting Director: Shasta Lutz
Video Post Facility / Editing Company: Zulubot
Editor: Mike Headford
Colourist/Transfer: Roslyn Di Sisto /Smith
Audio Post Facility/Music House: Zulubot
Producer: Tara Handley
Engineer: Stephen Stepanic

And thanks to JM Jacobs for tipping me off to the brilliant Ad Week post.

seeing double never looked so good.

This is how advertising should be done.

Let’s talk about a dirty little word… story. I’m amazed how much advertising gets made without story. Sure in the olden days of men who smoked and their livers who drank, story wasn’t really part of the conversation. We were still in the infancy of what advertising was. Here is a car. Here are the things in the car. Here is the man who is happy with the car. Repeat.

A while back, maybe with Pepsi… maybe with Volkswagen… maybe it was asking where was the beef… we got wise that advertising could be stories. Films. Cinematic. There was no need to pander to the captive audience. We could now, dare I say, entertain them.

This little gem of a film won my heart today. It’s simple, clear, and most of all, entertaining. I know who it’s for, and I want to share it with people who have decreeing tastes.

Let’s take advertising back people. Let’s not sell products. Let’s offer stories, and let the products sell themselves.

[mic drop]

Rs

http://www.robertoserrini.com (my ad;)

introducing bella branded.

So it’s a special day today, as we launch the creative agency arm of no-frames, our humble, bad-ass production company. Bella Branded has been in the works for a while now, and as we have opened office in Los Angeles and Gothenburg, Sweden, now is a great time to announce this specialized department.

What is Bella Branded? It’s the creative component to an outstanding production company that creates original, fun, sexy, cool branding and identity concepts for any brand wanting to stand out. We work a little bit differently than most of the branding teams out there … We like to collaborate with scientists, buskers, graffiti artists, performance artists, and creative individuals that are actually making socially consumed art, rather than just advertising jockeys, so that our concepts are perhaps a little more fresher, and a whole lot more authentic.

Lead by the creative team at No-Frames, who has over 15 years experience producing high concept media for global brands in the advertising arena, we corral this raw talent into producing ideas that cannot be ignored. We are all only children, so we know a thing or two about that.

Anyway, do check us out. Even if you are not interested in rebranding yourself, the ideas and films we offer are pretty dope. Worth a peek.

Much love and happy birthday Bella! We’re sure you’ll grow up to be a stunning young lady.

Rs

 

Paint. Naked Girl. Shoes. What’s not to love?

It’s fall, and it’s a good time for reflection. So here is a good lesson in humility. Take heed.

Sometimes, I am lucky enough to be brought in a room with a bunch of other creative people and offer an idea to help sell their product. A while back I had a concept for a sexy shoe designer that I thought was particularly cool, if not sexy and cool. A winning combo. So I brought it in to an agency.

Here was the concept: a painter wakes up and seems to start painting a picture of his girl still lying in the bed. His brushstrokes wake the woman, and she begins to stretch and move in the bed, as if the brushstrokes are driving her. Soon the energy is frantic, and the paint on the canvas is now dripping on the woman in bed, as if the painter is magically painting her. The paint flows down her body onto her foot where it begins to form a shoe. The colorful shoe forms, she walks off, the shoe still “wet” from being painted leaves bright puddles of paint behind. The painting is revealed: he was never painting the woman, he was painting the shoe. Yes, the shoe, like the woman, is a work of art.

It’s a little Skinamax meets Twilight Zone, or Terry Richardson meets M.Night if you want to sound more smhat-like. Regardless, it was a simple, clean idea, that was visually beautiful, much like the dope shoes that Atwood designs. Lots of bright South Beach color against porcelain skin, sexy-euro undertones, and a wink at the end. All solid elements for eye-catching spot, or at least I thought. I brought it into the room and pitched the hell out of it (I was watching Mad Men at the time and was inspired to say the least, and yes I was wearing a hat) and the meeting went great. I actually got… applause. I thought, “oh, this went well.”

Then no one called. No one wrote. We called. We asked. Nothing was said. Someone was out-of-town, money was tied up, timing wasn’t right. After a month or so we stopped calling. I guess they didn’t like the idea that much, and didn’t think much of it, as these thing happen in the ad world. So be it.

Then, one day, in the back of the cab, I saw this:

Now… I believe in String Theory, so technically it is “possible” that someone else had the exact same idea as I had, usually though, it would be in a parallel universe and not my own. Nevertheless it stirred something inside of me. It was strange to see something you thought of done by someone else. The core concept was there, visually it looks fantastic, but I felt that the heart, the soul of it, and mainly the story, were gone. So I decided to remake my own commercial on my own dime:

I will be honest with you; it wasn’t out of hurt or some sense of revenge that made me want to remake the spot. It’s not like being dumped and then finding a supermodel to make love to, and posting it all over Facebook to show your ex that I was doing not just “fine”, but better, and the supermodel was rich and totally into me, and bi-sexual, very bi-sexual. It was something else, something that really comes out of the love of an idea, and hear lies the point:

If you work in an industry where it is your job to come up with ideas, you must resign that your ideas are not your own, and in so, people cannot steal them. They can hear them, and they can make their own versions of them, but your idea really doesn’t exist until you execute it. Until then, it’s just cosmic current moving creativity along, shared by everyone.

Some producers and account people at the office I worked at were not as zen as I was about this, and I suppose that is to be expected. I mean, we are a business providing a service, so it’s never nice to see your commodity taken from you. That however was not my concern, and honestly, I loved seeing how two people can take one concept and execute them totally differently. I immediately thought of Gus Van Sant remaking Psycho, or even better, my main man Haneke remaking his own film, Funny Games (seriously, go see Cache RIGHT NOW). Perspective like this is something that artists struggle with all the time since it is very hard to judge if you could have done something different, and if it would be better or worse. This was, in effect, a gift.

So what’s my take? Well, I don’t think one film is better then the other. I think that each film is totally different, with amazing qualities in different areas. For me, it really taught me how two different creative minds can birth a concept so obtusely, and how the same idea can be marketed to two very different segments. It’s not something they teach you in school, nor is it something you can easily learn out in the world, but when it does happen, it is a very sobering moment, at least on a creative tip.

In the end, I’m really happy the film I made because it came from a place where the best ideas should come from; the desire to make something exist. If necessity is the mother of all creation, it would stand reason that all the people who helped bring it to life did so for passion, not paycheck. We shot it at my office, on a 5D, with two friends. The painter, is a super talented editor Richard Mettler who isn’t even an actor. The model is the incomparable Natasha King who I’ve used in dozens of films. The DP is my business partner Mikko Timonen who’s work speaks for itself, and it was produced by Erin Judd who makes magic happen daily. Beyond that we had support from a few other friends who were just interested in helping out. Thats all it takes to make an idea come together. That and about $200.00 for some paint, canvas, and sheets you can throw out.

I would say everyone worked for free, but they didn’t; they worked for the idea they believed in which is always payment enough. Well, that and lunch; I am Italian after all, no one works hungry on my set.

In the end my only real regret is not to have been able to work with the agency that produced the real spot. I would have loved to collaborated with like minded artist and can only imagine what we would have come up with, together. The synthesis of creative combination. I will say it was sort of wonderful to anonymously write the Creative Director of their spot and ask him where they got such an wonderful idea. His response was poetry to the ears of the general consumer, and if nothing else, fortified my belief that you should never believe anything you see on TV.

Rs

P.S. If you’re wondering where I stole the concept from (as no ideas are ever original) I had done a similar effect for one of the first music videos I ever shot which, I say blushing, did the entire thing in my tiny East Village apartment on a greenscreen (this is how I taught myself After Effects). The idea came from Michelle Vergara who based the look on Maxi Priest’s “That Girl” by the genius Hype Williams. Again, a concept, some willing friends, and a few bottles of Tito’s and you too can have an award winning music video;)

If you wanna check it … the paint part is around 1m30s: