Deutsch LA is the first agency to jump on board with a program that will cast underrepresented talent to direct a big-brand commercial.
The agency is teaming up with the Commercial Directors Diversity Program (CDDP), which has been a place of mentorship and support for people who don’t fall into Hollywood’s typical casting of the white male director. Established in 2013, the program offers workshops, networking and funding for spec ads. However, a missing link emerged: getting these directors on the sets of actual commercial shoots.
“There really isn’t a reason for them to not be working,” said Tamika Lamison, executive director of the CDDP. “Saying the talent isn’t out there doesn’t fly. And, honestly, it never did.”
Deutsch has committed to sign a CDDP fellow to direct a commercial for one of its clients within four months. This week, Deutsch production staffers are viewing a reel of 11 CDDP directors’ spec work, with Lamison as their guide over Zoom. From there, the agency will choose three finalists to submit treatments for a client spot. Then, it’s lights, camera, action.
“There are systemic issues within advertising that make it difficult for underrepresented voices to break in and build their careers,” said Diego de la Maza, Deutsch LA’s EVP and head of production. “We’ve come to a place as an industry where material change is undoubtedly required, and we’re proud to be a part of this movement.”
Many of the CDDP directors have worked in film, but simply lack track records in commercial productions.
“We have a group of vetted directors. They have created work, they have production companies or they are underrepresented directors that have been vetted and proven [by us],” said Lamison. The CDDP advisory board includes a range of behind-the-scenes talent including Lisa Rich, Caleb Dewart, Ned Brown and Byron Fitts.
Lamison explained that she’s also reaching out to other agencies, including Team One and Saatchi & Saatchi. John Lick, who handles brand building integrated production at Procter & Gamble, introduced Lamison to executives at the two agencies, who went on to sit on panels and speak at workshops.
“Our directors said having agencies and clients telling them these kernels of information … was like getting inside information,” said Lamison.
“We’re excited to be joining them in making our industry a better, more equitable place,” said de la Maza.
The CDDP advocacy is one of an emerging group of nonprofits, including 600&Rising and ADCOLOR, that are calling for more diversity in advertising.
The CDDP was founded as part of negotiations between the Directors Guild of America and the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. Lamison is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter who previously helped develop the Academy Gold Program, a diversity internship program at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts.