Magazine article American Cinematographer

Voluntary Commercial for AIDS Battle

Magazine article American Cinematographer

Voluntary Commercial for AIDS Battle

Article excerpt

One of the sad truths facing a world marching toward the 21 st Century is that there still is no cure for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - the AIDS virus. Some progress has been made against the disease, which has been likened to the bubonic plague of the Renaissance. But amazingly, now as then, ignorance may be the true plague.

Recently, under the auspices of AIDS Project L.A., members of the Hollywood community got together to do a :30 public service announcement aimed at fighting ignorance - and hopefully saving lives. The spot, called "Let's Talk About It," was written, directed, and photographed by Domenic Mastrippolito.

Mastrippolito, a director with award-winning HISK Productions, was first approached to do the project by production manager Sandy Martin and APLA staffer Paul Kirchgraber. "Paul runs APLA's educational department and told me they were really interested in doing something that would educate the kids on a level they could understand. He didn't want a piece of fluff or another celebrity endorsement. Those approaches seem to be very ineffective," Mastrippolito explains.

"I started meeting with him and talking about ways to approach this subject. And for me, the way to approach it was to take my commercial experience and apply it directly to all phases of the spot, including marketing. Who is our target market? Our target market is young adults who are out there having sex. Those are the people we wanted to get to - so those are the people we portrayed in the commercial."

Mastrippolito is one of a few true Southern Californians. He was born in Burbank and came to photography at a very early age. His filmmaking talents have been put to good use on commercials for United Airlines, Coors, MacDonald's, GTE, Busch and Marriott. He has been nominated for a Clio for his work on a Peace Corps commercial. Mastrippolito is well-versed in the art of telling a story with a beginning, a middle and an end in the span of :30. But tackling a controversial subject like condoms and AIDS - and doing so with grace, honesty, and humor - was a real challenge.

The spot begins with the camera peering in through an open doorway at a young couple obviously intent on making love. As they become more involved, they work their way to the girl's bedroom. In between passionate kisses, the girl asks the guy, "Haven't you forgotten something?" He can't think what it would be. "You don't have a rubber, do you?" "I hate that word," he replies and asks her if she thinks he has AIDS. Maybe he does or maybe she does-the important thing is to be safe, she says. He appears angry and gets up apparently to leave, saying that the situation doesn't feel right any more. She's upset and disappointed as she watches him dress. "Yeah, I'm leaving," he says, "there ought to be an all-night drug store around here somewhere." She kisses him goodbye.

Mastrippolito realized early on that the script he had come up with was controversial, but Kirchgraber reassured him. "Paul said that he could not predict what the networks would show and what they wouldn't. So his attitude was that we couldn't even think about the networks. We just had to do it and see what happened afterward, if we started second-guessing ourselves about what might be played and what might not, we couldn't do anything."

One of the first hurdles was casting the spot. Mastrippolito was amazed to find that many of the commercial actors and models he normally works with would not be associated with the project. "They didn't want to be involved in something like this because they were afraid that later on, if it did air, it might tarnish their image in terms of selling another product. After all, is an agency who sees an actor doing an AIDS commercial and talking about rubbers going to want him to sell their hamburgers next week?" Of course, it was debatable whether or not the spot would receive any air time, much less whether or not it would become well known. …

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