Last summer, Los Angeles-based production company Paxeros launched its inaugural Women of Color Commercial Directing Program (WCCDP), an initiative to amplify marginalized voices in advertising. After receiving over one hundred applications, a distinguished panel of influential advertising creatives awarded Stacy Pascal Gaspard and her Suburu spec project “Isadora” as the winner of the program, with Elitia Daniels and Julia Elihu as the second and third place finalists. Now after several months with the aid of the program’s mentorship and sponsorship, the finalized spot ‘Isadora’ released on Father’s Day.
The impetus for the WCCDP originated in Paxeros’ executives seeking to fill a void of minority voices in the industry. As they were building a roster of their own directors, they saw the gap in opportunities afforded to POC creators in building a foundational body of work. “We realized the odds were stacked against women of color, and as an ethos-driven company, it was our job to help create more opportunities in this space,” notes Paxeros co-founder Chelsea Bo.
The first-place finalist Stacy Pascal Gaspard – a current AFI Fellow – was selected for her spec script ‘Isadora’, and through WCCDP, the spot was funded and produced while Gaspard received one-on-one directorial mentorship. A tale of overcoming insecurity, the heartwarming commercial follows a young ballerina and a tradition of impromptu dances with her father lit by the glow of their Subaru’s headlights.
Gaspard comments: “The program allowed me to make a commercial that was deeply personal. Many Black and Brown communities don’t highlight the support of father figures when it comes to the arts, but my dad was one of the first to invest in my Hollywood dreams. When you’re a young artist, that act of support means everything. To cast a little girl who looked me at that age, dancing salsa… highlighting that representation was so important to me.”
Paxeros chose Subaru as the automotive brand to represent this story due to their messaging of equality and love. Chelsea Bo and fellow co-founder/executive producer Sean Drummond also noted that while car companies frequently seek to hire female directors, there is a notable lack of women with previous experience in this space. With both of these ideas in mind, the company decided that Subaru’s Love Promise would be the perfect campaign to create a spec for.
“I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by commercials, especially the ones that have made me cry within two seconds,” Gaspard remarks. “Talking to people from all areas of the advertising world, now I have a better understanding of all the steps that go into delivering that content. It painted a map of how the industry works, including the balancing act of delivering what the client wants while staying true to your voice, and remembering that your unique point of view is the reason your pitch was chosen.”
The second and third place finalists received one-on-one mentorship calls with the judges, and a free rental of Paxeros’ ALEXA Mini Camera package and Angenieux EZ zoom lenses for their upcoming projects. Runner-up Elitia Daniels proceeded to be awarded as a finalist for the Indie Short Fest at the Los Angeles International Film Festival 2020. Paxeros also aided Daniels in booking a job on the upcoming film Black Adam with Dwane “The Rock” Johnson, which just began production in Atlanta.
Finalist Julie Elihu went on to shadow Chelsea Bo while slowly taking over projects, and has now officially joined Paxeros’ roster as a director this April. The Iranian-American writer and director strives to tell underrepresented stories through an intimate lens. Currently, Elihu is in post-production on a short film which is based on her family’s stories of escaping Iran.
Ten major sponsors donated their services to the initiative SirReel, ARRI, AbleCine, JL Fisher, FunTon, ARC, MPC, Kearny Mesa Subaru Dealership, AP Camera Cars and APM Music.