Issue: August 1, 2006


NEW YORK — Are we running into more director-editors today? If so, remember you heard it here first. Mark Richardson, the founder of New York-based Lumina Films, is just such a hyphenate.  He’s also a creative capable of conceiving big marketing ideas and successfully pitching them to large organizations. 

Lumina’s recent work for the Partnership for a Drug Free America is a case in point. For this new campaign, Richardson not only pitched it, directed it and edited it, his writing partner did the research to pinpoint a critical new problem: teens’ growing abuse of prescription drugs. The PDFA was so impressed with the pitch and its accompanying savvy research that Richardson not only won the job, today the crisis of teen prescription abuse is all over the front page of the Partnership’s site ( 

The TV campaign and the Website are rife with disturbing statistics like, “One in five teens has abused prescription pain medication to get high” and they dub such youngsters “Generation Rx.”

But does Richardson’s success providing agency-style creative as well as production and post make it more difficult for Lumina to attract traditional post work from agencies? More on that later.

Richardson came out of the NYU graduate film program in 1990 as an independent filmmaker, and in ’92 he entered the commercial production world as a producer for DMB&B. There he began to educate himself in the many NLEs that were available at the time.

By 1996 Richardson had founded Lumina Films ( as his own production entity with a Media 100 editing system. One aim for the little shop was to continue editing for the clients he’d established while inside DMB&B. Today Lumina Films is a Final Cut Pro house offering After Effects services and an Avid room, and they operate much like a traditional post house. But they also can create total soup-to-nuts campaigns. 


The anti-drug campaign brought Richardson’s directing, editing and storytelling strengths to bear as he worked with his long-time creative collaborator, Arlene Jaffe, to come up with the spots’ content. Each of the seven spots centers around a cold, hard fact that threatens youngsters’ health, future and lives. The central :30 demonstrates three scenarios in which teens can bamboozle prescription drugs from their unsuspecting parents. Realistically shot scenes depict an innocent-seeming boy at his parents’ medicine cabinet; a cute girl pretending to borrow her mom’s lip gloss; and a sly teen opening his grandma’s medicine bottle for her. The action is intercut with stark title-card text providing riveting statistics meant to grab parents with stats such as: “Teens think getting high on prescription drugs is safe — but they can end up in the emergency room.” 

The :30’s three scenarios also spin off into shorter spots featuring one of the young actors; each resolves to the kicker: “Your kids are part of generation Rx.” Jaffe came up with the clever twist in “generation Rx.”

“Arlene is the one who gets the credit for researching on her computer — what aren’t they talking about that they should be?” Richardson says. “The whole concept was, ‘educate the parents first.’ They are just not aware there’s a drug den right there in their own bathroom.”


Beyond the central :30 spot, the Partnership’s deputy director of creative development, Rebecca Shaw, found that the networks welcomed shorter PSAs — like :20s, :15s and :10s. So Richardson and Jaffe designed each of their teen scenarios so they could be configured at different lengths and have the same impact.

Since the PDFA job was pro bono, Richardson had to shoot all the scenes and actors, who worked for free, in one day with DP Glenn Mordeci. Kodak contributed the 35mm film stock and Richardson was able to elicit favors from many of his vendors and loyal crew people. Walt Lefler at Rhinoceros Post performed film-to-tape transfer.

Richardson cut the various spots himself in Final Cut. That meant dispensing with some choice bits of acting in order to make room for the all-important black title cards. “The Partnership felt very strongly that, because these were the very first ones coming out, the message was more impactful if we just cut to black and force everybody to read it,” Richardson says. “And ultimately I think they were right. The spots are kind of chilling to anybody that has kids of that age.”

Shaw credits Jaffe and Richardson with researching and targeting the teenage prescription drug abuse crisis even while her own organization was still planning to move on it. She salutes Lumina for coming up with insights that were to form “the backbone of the campaign.” Lumina also delivered one version in Spanish.


So does Richardson feel his one-stop-shop might be competing with some of his own clients? 

“With certain clients it does compete,” he allows. “When I came out of producing, everything was so segregated” meaning that a client’s agency, production and post services were always distinctly different companies. “With the high-end A-list, things haven’t changed that much, but for the smaller agencies, ones that do not have that much TV work, the one-stop-shop is very appealing to them — having a creative team that’s not competing against them but working with them. We come in with ideas that they can use as their own when they talk to the client.”