There’s so much potential for connection through food – a well-prepared meal can bring together a family, change the tone of couple’s day, ease the loss of a loved one, or bring life to a party. In her five-part campaign for meal kit delivery service Blue Apron, director Paola Morabito (Knucklehead) reflects on the multitude of ways in which cooking can bring people together. Through the intimacy of her vision, Paola makes meal preparation personal, humorous, and tender in a series of vignettes taken from each day of the work week. Although she’s racked up lots of experience in the Australian market, this campaign is Paola’s first commercial project in the US, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store next for her!
Coming from feature film making alongside Jane Campion and after completing a masters in directing at the AFTRS, Paola’s first commercial for Guidedogs saw her win numerous awards and since hasn’t stopped creating beautiful work that makes us feel. Paola has a gift for creating complex and authentic performances and bringing them to the screen. She tells a story in every frame.
We got to chat with Paola about working with agency Droga5 on the Blue Apron campaign, the work ethic & efficiency that women bring to set, and getting her start by cutting Jane Campion‘s hair!
Congratulations on your first US ad campaign for Blue Apron! Can you describe your experience of the bidding process for the campaign? What was the initial brief and what sparked your interest in it?
I was given an extraordinary deck from Droga5 that beautifully presented the idea of wanting films for Blue Apron to tell a story for each day of the working week. What I loved about their approach to the campaign was that they wanted each day to feel like scenes from a film. For me, the Blue Apron campaign represented my two greatest loves, crafting cinema and cooking fresh food!
What specific ideas did you bring to the campaign?
The films relied on beauty, the nuance of our characters, their situations and great performances, so I was very focused on this part of the collaboration.
The spots feature such a refreshingly diverse cast, interacting with such a genuine feeling of warmth and camaraderie. How did you approach casting? Was inclusive representation on your mind during the process?
Inclusivity for me is a given when casting. Finding the right characters and cast helps our audience relate and reflect on their lives. The creatives, Ben, Brian, and Julianna, were also wanting to represent as many people as possible. My belief was rather than going in with specific looks and ethnicity in mind, I wanted to work with the best actors who understood the part, and our casting was built around that.
What strategies do you use on set to coax strong, natural performances out of your cast?
I always rehearse the cast; we had a very long rehearsal day. I like to build characters and play lots of games to help actors flex their muscles and give them the opportunity to do their best work on set. I generally stay away from the script and focus on character. I improvise a lot and my job is to adjust the temperature of their performance on set while building an atmosphere for them to be honest in their action and delivery.
Did this shoot pose any particular challenges as a director? Were there any elements of this campaign that were a departure from your previous work?
Well, I’d never shot food before and that was a lot of fun. Blue Apron is a premium brand whose ethos I respect, so I really loved preparing the food shoot elements, too. What was great about this campaign is that it was very focused work, as we had five interior kitchens to tell the stories in. Advertising trends in the past few years have been fast-paced montage films, so it was great to be able to hone scenes that explore character using classic cinema language.
There were no real challenges, other than having to work fast without compromising the beauty and performances, and this is the work of any director. There are solutions to be made every step of the way – from locations, to casting and storyboarding and shooting, it’s an ongoing challenge, but I love a challenge.
As a director with lots of experience in the Australian ad/film industry, do you find that there are many differences between working in Australia and working in the US market?
No differences at all! For me, life’s all about creating beautiful things and building authentic relationships.
This is not only your first job in the US, but also it’s your first as a director on the Knucklehead roster! What advice would you give to a young director looking to sign with a production company?
It is a great start, I feel very grateful for to have had the opportunity to pitch with Knucklehead on this Droga5 campaign.
The advice I would give to anyone working with producers or a production company is that you must love who you’re working with. It’s a partnership, friendship and sometimes feels like a marriage, so you’ve gotta be kind.
Let’s go back to the start of your career. Have you always been interested in directing, or was it something that you found your way to unexpectedly?
Yes, I loved working with character from a very young age; I wanted to be an actor. I loved the theatre at a young age, I read lots of Chekov plays. Nature led its course, though. I listened to my instincts. I worked in the fashion industry for a bit, and my agent said she thought I’d actually be better suited as a director. I was 21, my heart skipped a beat because it was something I had considered, but I’d only seen men do it. But that didn’t stop me. My first application to film school got rejected, but I kept writing ideas and shooting stuff on Super16 with friends, fashion films and music videos. Then finally I met Jane Campion, who took me under her wing, and several years later I completed my masters in directing.
You got your start working with the legendary Jane Campion! How did that connection come about? What did you learn from working with her?
I had become a hairdresser after finishing high school, as I loved cutting hair. I met Jane in year 2000 as I was cutting her hair! That day, she asked me to be her assistant. What I learnt from her was to be tireless in the pursuit of serving the story.
Aside from Jane Campion, who are some noteworthy women you’ve had the opportunity to work with throughout your career?
On Jane’s films I’ve worked alongside extraordinary actors, but in my own work, most of the women I’ve worked with behind the camera and in front of the camera have been noteworthy to me. From DP’s, to agency creatives, actors, choreographers, writers, casting directors, production managers, producers, and assistants. What I love about working with women is our efficiency and work ethic.
Working with Serena Williams last year was definitely a highlight, she embodies what it means to be a great human!
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects in the works?
I have a few things simmering away that I’m dreaming about.
What are some of your goals as a director? Any dream projects/brands you’d love to shoot for?
To keep learning, keep challenging myself, and always to work with people who want to create magnificent work.
Free The Bid is committed to advocating for diverse perspectives and points of view. What do you think are some of the benefits to diverse representation on both sides of the camera lens, including the crew?
A diverse crew means a better time!
Any parting words of advice for the Free The Bid family?
Keep going, keep growing. If you throw a party, see me on the dance floor.
Title: “What Cooking Can Do”
Agency: Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman: David Droga
Chief Creative Officer: Ted Royer
Executive Creative Director: Neil Heymann
Group Creative Director: Juliana Cobb
Associate Creative Director: Ben Grube, Brian Eden
Copywriter: Abe Chuang
Jr. Copywriter: Karly Brooks
Jr. Art Director: Candice Drakeford
Sr. Designer: Jaymes Barone
Chief Creation Officer: Sally-Ann Dale
Co-Directors of Film Production: Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman
Assoc. Director of Film Production: Ruben Mercadal
Sr. Producer: Alen Grebovic
Associate Producer: Carlos Valdivia
Music Supervisor: Mike Ladman
Director of Business Affairs: Jocelyn Howard
Business Affairs Manager: Abigail Press
Co-Directors of Interactive / Experiential: Justin Durazzo, Tasha Cronin
Global Chief Strategy Officer: Jonny Bauer
Group Strategy Director: Jonathan Gadd
Brand Strategy Director: Sam Matthews
Head of Communications Strategy: Colleen Leddy
Co-Head of Strategy: Colm Murphy or Harry Roman-Torres
Communications Strategy Director: Justin Schneider
Senior Communications Strategist: Samantha Sutantio
Chief Intelligence Officer: Amy Avery
Data Strategy Director: Lily Ng
Junior Data Strategist: Amanda Kwong
Group Account Director: Ed Rogers, Sascha Uzzell
Account Director: Ali Cornford
Account Manager: Tara Fatemi
Associate Account Manager: Jeff Winsper
Client: Blue Apron
Chief Marketing Officer: Jared Cluff
Vice President, Marketing: Rani Yadav
Director, Content: Yaran Noti
Director, Design: Stephan Hoefnagels
Production Company: Knucklehead
Director: Paola Morabito
DOP: Sharone Meir
Executive Producer / Line: Cathleen Kisich / Tim Katz
Producer Production Manager: Catriona Irving
Editorial: WAX Editorial
Editor: Stephen Jess & Jason Sager
Assistant Editor: Drew Balke
Executive Producer: Toni Lipari
Producer: Annabelle Cuthbert
Post Production: MPC
Executive Producer: Jesse Kurnit
Producer: Catherine Fischer
Telecine: Jean Clement
(Song/composer/etc. to suit)
Sound: Heard City
Mixer: Mike Vitacco