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.
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 (www.drugfree.org).
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
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 (www.luminafilms.com)
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.
MEET GEN RX
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.
COMPETING WITH YOUR CLIENTS?
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.”