Category Archives: Commercials

Before Lights, Camera, Action! You Need Set Design.

For a director to let go of the reigns and trust a set designer without the nagging impulse to micromanage is a sign of true excellence on the part of the decorator. That’s at least the sentiment expressed by most every director who has worked with seasoned set decorator, Nancy Niksic.

Niksic, owner of a most impressive roster of achievements, just wrapped working alongside acclaimed film director and screenwriter, Azazel Jacobs (“Terri,” “Momma’s Man,” and “The Good Times Kid”) who raved about her invaluable work. “Nancy Niksic worked as my set decorator, and possess an exceptional ability to find unique and fitting set pieces, then decorates the set with a realism that adds to the character development. Nancy has true artistic talent and is an asset to work with. She understands my vision, which is incredibly beneficial to me as a director and to the success of my shoot.”

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Nancy Niksic is one of today’s premier set decorators who has crafted the look of many TV, film and commercial sets.

 

With 24 years of experience under her tool belt, Nancy has seen a variety of TV, film and commercial sets to visual perfection as set designer and decorator. Niksic’s versatility and adaptability are part and parcel of what has earned her keep amongst the greatest in the entertainment industry — including the Canadian “Amazing Race.” Niksic worked as the art director on the 1st season of the “Amazing Race,” and as production designer on the 2nd and 3rd seasons.

Niksic is the ultimate multitasker on set, with a strong comedy leaning as her niche. “ I look at it as an opportunity to have fun and really expand my creativity” says Niksic about her comedic set decorating sensibilities. “I’ve alway been super passionate about this niche market, especially the quirkiness and how odd some pieces have to be. Being a set decorator is all about contributing, and that takes understanding the joke and the tone and the subtleties of comedy. To make comedy work, there’s a tricky balance, knowing when to be understated and when to go big and in your face.”

Niksic nails the unassuming, keeping the audience unaware of the set decor, but at the same time having the pieces contribute to the comedic tone. “The audience won’t be able to put their finger on why it’s working, but it does. Directors like that I understand this. I love to scour the city for the perfect pieces,” adds Niksic.

Her comedic touch garnered her work on two seasons of “The Jon Dore Television Show” on The Comedy Network, as well as the short film “The Truth About Head” directed by Dale Heslip, which won several awards at Cannes.

Niksic recently worked on content for the comedy web­series by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim & Eric, and Reggie Watts called “JASH.” The content produced by co­founder Daniel Kellison (original executive producer for “Jimmy Kimmel Live”), was about three CIA agents living in horrible quarters in Aleppo, Syria, so the set had to look believable. “I had to make it look real, while also finding space to add comedic elements,” said Niksic. “I collaborated with the directors on the nuances of the set, trying to play it so the audience gets a real feel for the environment, while also putting in elements to accent the comedy.”

What sets Niksic apart from her competitors is that she is not limited to the entertainment realm alone. Niksic handled the decor and design as well as the styling of a renowned rock & roll inspired hair salon in Toronto called “Grateful Head” [pictured below]. She truly does it all. Whereas most designers who work in film wouldn’t normally venture in this space, Niksic will not turn down creative work, making her one of the most multifaceted designers in the game.

 

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Nancy Niksic is a set designer extraordinaire, willing to work in any creative environment necessary. She knows what she, the audience and director/client want, and she stops at nothing to get it.

For Niksic, it’s about quickly understanding the director and the direction, and about establishing immediate trust while shouldering some of the weight the director carries. Her evolved sense of humor certainly comes in handy on any kind of set, keeping the list of opportunities running endlessly.

Spotlight: Award Winning Cinematographer Martin Kobylarz

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Cinematographer Martin Kobylarz

Cinematography is a delicate balance between the technical and the creative, and Polish director of photography Martin Kobylarz has mastered the art of walking that fine line. Known for his work on both films and commercials, Kobylarz’s projects often raise questions about issues facing society in the past, present and future.

Born in Denmark to Polish parents and educated at the prestigious American Film Institute in Los Angeles, Kobylarz uses his vast and worldly experience to raise the bar for his craft. Recently, he was the cinematographer in charge of the National Autistic Society’s awareness campaign commercial, “Can You Make It To The End?”

“The whole commercial is seen from a first person perspective of a child with autism so it was up to me to find the right gear to give this a realistic feel,” Kobylarz said. “When reading about autism they give very specific definitions as to how they feel and perceive the world when they have sensory overload.”

The public awareness campaign was highly effective, and Kobylarz’s first-person approach played a large part in that success. The commercial’s frenetic and tense style is especially impactful, as if the viewer is experiencing the sensory overload as the child would.

Kobylarz has worked on a wide variety of film productions as well, including the 2012 drama “Wolves From Another Kingdom.” Directed by Christopher Carbone (“Mother Nature’s Son,” “Revivify”), the film centers around a group of children trying to survive after the end of the world. The project holds a rare 9.1 out of 10 rating on IMDb, and brought with it the unique challenge of strictly adhering to the child labor laws governing the cast of “Wolves From Another Kingdom.”

 

“My role included being a key creative figure and maintaining production efficiency, whilst working under strict child labor laws,” Kobylarz said. “My responsibilities also included overseeing and ensuring on-set safety rules and guidelines within my department were upheld.”

With more than 25 actors aged 5 to 17, safety standards were obviously a big consideration on-set. However, it’s a very different story within the ravaged world that audiences see in the film. Tasked with keeping his little brother Daniel safe, Aiden must navigate the ruins of a post-apocalyptic hellscape. When the duo meet a band of children living in the wastes, Aiden must decide whether or not to settle down with the group of dystopian Lost Boys.

“We worked very hard in prep across all departments. Plus I had time to read the script 100 times over and really get into the world of the film, and align myself to the director’s vision. I feel like every shot we made was discussed and thought about in prep,” said Kobylarz, who described the project as his favorite to date. “Of course we were open to spontaneous moments of inspiration when we got to the shooting, but because we were so prepared we knew if it was something that fit the project or not.”

Among Kobylarz’s myriad of other projects are the darkly-romantic drama “Do It Yourself,” as well as the upcoming historical drama “Adrift In Soho,” a period piece about a 1950’s artists’ movement in London to end nuclear proliferation. “Adrift In Soho” is currently in post-production and is scheduled to be released to eager UK audiences this July.

Using Nottingham as a stand-in for London, “Adrift In Soho” tells the story of the activists who pioneered the counter-cultural anti-war movement which evolved into a phenomenon that defined the 1960s Vietnam-era. The exceptional period piece also has the distinction of being the first film to document the origins of a now iconic symbol.

“‘Free-cinema filmmakers’… were documentarians who wanted to film the real people on the streets and everyday life. Coincidentally this was the same time that people started protesting about nuclear bombs and this was when they invented the peace sign that we know today,” Kobylarz recounted. “They used the symbol in their March to Aldermaston, which was a protest march the filmmakers captured. Our film is the first film ever to portray the origins of the peace symbol.”

Because of his unmatched passion for his work, Kobylarz’s projects run the gamut from film to advertising. He learned early in his life that his love for cinematography was a love for all film, and he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to genre or subject. In fact, the productions he’s been a part of are so diverse and his skills so varied that the only thing they all share in common is the exceptional talent and vision of his expertise as director of photography.

Producer Richard Moore Makes His Mark Across Platforms

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                                                      Producer Richard Moore shot by Charlie Hyams


Producer Richard Moore has been responsible for some of the most thought-provoking films, powerful documentaries and successful advertising campaigns of our time. He got his start while still in high school, has spearheaded hugely profitable production companies, and has worked with award-winning directors and multi-billion dollar corporations. Through all of it, he has maintained a level of professionalism and natural talent, which have allowed him to maintain stringent standards when choosing all of his projects.

The roots of Moore’s drive and determination can be seen in the beginnings of his career, when at just 19 he personally organized the funding of a full-scale Universal Records music video production for all-girl band The Saturdays. In addition to overseeing budgeting and set building, Moore was tasked with hiring and managing more than 70 cast and crew members.

“This was my real introduction to what it to took to be a producer,” Moore said. “With managing pressure, dealing with a lot of people in different positions and different environments, while simultaneously supporting your director and helping him or her to achieve their creative vision.”

Moore served as the senior producer at Big Balls Films, the company behind the wildly popular Copa90 YouTube channel. Funded through an investment by Google, Copa90 quickly became the most successful sports YouTube channel in Europe, in no small part because of Moore’s prowess as its head of production. Geared toward the much sought-after 12-to-30 year old audience, Moore was in charge of courting advertisers for the channel, which received a hefty annual operating budget from Google.

“For Copa90, I was responsible for the launch and channel management, with an annual budget of $3 million to spend on programming,” said Moore, describing his critical role in the project.

“I, alongside the creative team at the channel, was key in pitching, selling and executing brand-integrated shows while also building our original slate of programs, which we would then sell to third party platforms.”

Among Moore’s other notable advertising productions are campaigns for clients including the financial services group HSBC and Mexican tequila giant el Jimador.

Working with the cross-platform production company Unit9, Moore produced the #ispossible campaign for HSBC, a London-based international banking and financial services company. The campaign consisted of three commercials, each of which follows a young entrepreneur who found success through the backing and guidance of HSBC.

“The campaign documents [the entrepreneurs] as they reveal the people that helped them realize their ambitions and explain how to achieve yours through inspiration and mentorship,” he said.

Also while working with Unit9, Moore produced the “Mexology” campaign for el Jimador tequila. Moore, who admits that a huge factor for him in choosing a project has to do with his impression of the director, was personally requested by the director of the “Mexology” campaign, Martin Stirling. Moore had previously worked with Stirling on the Most Shocking Second A Day campaign for the Save the Children Fund, so when Moore was contacted by Stirling for the “Mexology” campaign, he promptly accepted.

“I worked with the recent Cannes Gold Lion-winning director Martin Stirling, who specifically requested me on the project due to my background and experience in documentary-style films and as someone who has the ability to manage global clients in a very high-pressured and time-sensitive environment,” Moore said.

The campaign took an innovative approach through its examination of Mexican culture in America, which ultimately promoted el Jimador’s trademark laid-back appeal to youthful consumers, which comprise the company’s target audience.

Mexology was a commercial campaign for el Jimador tequila about four artists who were challenged to collaborate on the creation of an event that embraced the Mexican spirit of enjoying life,” Moore said. “They were tasked with re-imagining the legendary Michigan Building, an abandoned theatre in Detroit, without a script, storyline and within 48 hours.”

As a major player in the production field, Moore’s name drew the attention of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson himself. When Sir Branson’s mother Eve began a project to assist women in North Africa, Branson reached out to Moore to produce a film about the charitable endeavor on behalf of Virgin Unite.

“When we arrived at Eve’s house, she asked us within the first 10 minutes of our meeting if we wanted to help her ship a herd of cashmere goats from England to North Africa to help bring stability to women in the region through creating jobs in the textile trade, specifically in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco,” recalled Moore. “It sounded so far-fetched and bizarre that we had to do it, and two weeks later we were filming with her and her beloved goats in Africa.”

With such a wide array of projects, encompassing everything from advertising and sports media to music videos and charitable works – not to mention his extensive work as a producer for film and television – Moore has shown himself to be a leader in an incredibly competitive field, and we look forward to what he has in store for us next.