Magazine article American Cinematographer

A Formula for Creating Award-Winning TV Commercials

Magazine article American Cinematographer

A Formula for Creating Award-Winning TV Commercials

Article excerpt

A volatile director/cinematographer team talks about the methods used for garnering top honors in the competitive commercials field

With millions of dollars in sales riding on TV commercials, every national advertiser strives to hire the most creative and skilled agencies, directors and cinematographers. Yet, each year, certain advertising campaigns rise above the rest, launching new products, and helping established brands become firmly entrenched.

Many of the spots produced by New York City-based director Bob Giraldi have established themselves in the latter category. In less than eight years as a television commercial director-producer, Giraldi has garnered more than 150 major awards, including an average three to five CLIOS per year. In 1978, Giraldi commercials, including the "Lite Beer from Miller" series, earned seven CLIOS.

Giraldi's track record is made even more phenomenal by two other facts. First, he produces more than 100 commercials a year, an almost unheardof pace. second, unlike most of the top directors, he has worked with just one cinematographer, Eddie Barnett, for more than six years.

American Cinematographer's correspondent sat down with both Giraldi and Barnett during a break in shooting a spot in the financial district headquarters of a major New York City bank. The two men shared their thoughts on the making of their favorite commercials.

QUESTION: What is it about the Bob Giraldi style that makes his commercials award winners?

GIRALDI: When I think of the top directors in the field, I am the only one who does not have a style. After we are given a creative concept from an agency, Eddie, and I, and everyone on my staff go to work to see how we can make that piece different from everything we have done before. We may work all day to get the lighting, direction, or choreography just the way we want it, and then one of us will come up with an idea that works, and we will start over.

QUESTION: You're able to remain fresh without a constant influx of new people to your organization?

GIRALDI: We do add new people all the time, but the backbone of my staff-my partner Phil Suarez, Eddie, Dick Ashe, my assistant director, and Danny Kirshoff, my property master, have all been with me six years or more. That is something of a unique situation in this industry.

QUESTION: Charlie Chaplin worked with RoIlie Totheroh for decades, but today directors seem to change cinematographers frequently. What makes you two different?

BARNETT: The situation is even more unusual because Bob and I are both strong-willed, volatile people with a strong creative urge. I joined Bob when Giraldi Productions was formed because I wanted to get away from table tops into doing the dialogue and reality-oriented spots Bob specializes in'.

QUESTION: How did you each get into television commercial production?

BARNETT: Cinematography seemed to me to be a perfect marriage of my technical and creative interests. It was a lot more appealing than many other careers. I put together my own curricula at NYU until I had learned enough about filmmaking to try and break in. I met Bob on my third job, and we clicked.

GIRALDI: I began as a commercial artist and designer, moved into print advertising as a creative director, and was lucky enough to work with Young & Rubicam, and Jerry Delia Femina during their rapid growth in television commercial productions. After I directed two award-winning campaigns-for H. R. Block and WABC Eyewitness News-I decided I had found my calling and phased out my print work.

QUESTION: If your work doesn't have a specific style, what does tie it together and brand it as a Bob Giraldi production?

GIRALDI: I like reality-l never do tabletops or fashion work for that reason. Probably my commercials emphasize a human quality, above all. Rather than try and sell the product, I sell the people, and let their connection with the product rub off favorably on the sponsor. …

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