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Welcome back to our second article in a series exploring The Commercial Directors Diversity Program, or CDDP. In this installation, we had the opportunity to speak with Vanessa Black and Jane Qian about the specifics of their productions and how they overcame challenges to make them a reality.

At Musicbed, we’re passionate about CDDP’s cause because we get it. The commercial industry can be an intimidating place. Beyond being underrepresented, there’s a whole set of skills needed to navigate a professional career. There are clients and collaborators. There are pitches and revisions. It’s a whole different beast.

On certain levels, developing a production budget is the same regardless of the type of film, whether you’re diving into a personal project or developing branded content for a client. We’ve already tackled a few notes on developing a production budget on the personal side, but after speaking with producers Sarah Schutzki (Feral Creative) and Zanah Thirus (BBDO Atlanta), we decided the commercial side deserved its own article.

We’ve been fans of Diego Contreras since before his breakthrough film Islands nabbed a Vimeo Staff Pick in 2013. Since then, his career has been on the rise, taking him briefly through one of the most well-respected ad agencies in history (BBDO), and more recently into the realm of professional filmmaking. Not long ago, he directed two stunning short films for The Lincoln Motor Company, Bloom and Open Your Eyes. And he’s done it all within two years.

It’s very hard to tell what makes a film great. Students spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to learn the secret. Critics write hundreds of thousands of words trying to explain it. And still, it usually remains a mystery. But we had a revelation recently while talking to Diego Contreras about his “Unimpossible Missions” series for GE, an ad campaign meant to show off GE’s ingenuity by accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks. What makes Diego’s work great is how he invests a staggering amount of meaning into even the smallest details of his films. There is nothing trivial in his work. Even the snowballs have backstories.

Like any good story, our careers often make sense only in retrospect. In the moment, the way forward is anything but obvious. It’s only when you look back that you can see how one thing led to another: how you were preparing for your next big move all along, without even realizing it. That’s how things worked for director Rob Chiu who’s now directed commercials for brands like McLaren, Lexus, and Toyota — just to name a few.

The tagline at the end of Volvo’s new ad, “Moments,” says: Sometimes the moments that never happen matter the most. If there’s a corresponding idea in filmmaking, it might be this: Sometimes what you don’t show is the most affecting. In “Moments” — an ad as heartwarming/heart-wrenching as any we’ve ever seen — a young girl speculates about the rest of her life before starting her first day of school. What friends will she make? Where will she travel? Who will she meet? What unfolds is a fantasy within a fiction: an entire life in less than four minutes. What you see is beautiful, striking even. But ultimately, it’s just a stencil for what you don’t see. The story — the girl’s life — is the negative space.