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YouTube, Facebook Creators Tapped as Directors by Ad-Production Firm Launched by Jonathon Ker, Larry Shapiro

Variety logo Variety 7/12/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

Will internet-video creators emerge as the next generation of directors in the advertising biz?

That’s the hypothesis of entertainment industry veterans Jonathon Ker and Larry Shapiro with their newly formed production company, dubbed A Separate Entity. The duo have assembled a roster of “commercial-ready” directors — adept, they say, at creating content for consumers weaned on YouTube.

“Advertisers reached out to directors of music videos to make their commercials in the 1980s,” said Shapiro, former president of AwesomenessTV’s Big Frame talent division and Fullscreen’s head of talent. “Now they’re going to come from YouTube.”

A Separate Entity’s current roster of directors includes: Scott Winn, known as ScottDW (pictured above), who has more than 1 million followers on his YouTube channel and has produced work for brands including Oreo, Fanta, Toyota, Macy’s, Mattel and Budweiser; A. Todd Smith, who recently directed a video for Chatbooks that garnered more than 70 million views on Facebook; Matt Enlow, a comedy director who has worked with brands such as Aquafina, Whiskas and Degree; Aaron Hatch, who recently directed the “Beat Scout” video series for FedEx’s latest online campaign.

The firm’s director pool also includes Facebook comedian Laura Clery, who has worked with Breville, Nerd Skincare and Baidu, as well as Penn Holderness, Tonio Skits, Jason Schnell of Reckless Tortuga, and Patrick Scott.

Shapiro and Ker aren’t necessarily looking for big-name digital stars with massive internet fanbases. Instead, they’re looking for impact: ScottDW — who describes his YouTube videos as “short, comedic, musical nonsense” — regularly produces videos that generate views that are a large multiple of his subscriber base, according to Shapiro.

Moreover, Shapiro pointed out, internet video creators are accustomed to producing content on relatively small budgets. “A lot of production companies have huge offices and huge staffs… Agencies are looking for a new model,” he said.

The creators on A Separate Entity’s roster are also clients managed by Shapiro’s Ensemble Digital Studios, which he started in 2015 after leaving Big Frame. “We wanted to create a separate company, so when we talk to agencies and brands they are dealing with a production company,” Shapiro said.

Ker, who has 20-plus years of commercial film production experience, said the new production shingle will present internet creators as directors — rather than on-screen talent, as has been the prevailing model among brands trying to tap into the online-video world. “In the past, people have gone to the influencers,” said Ker. “Nobody has looked at them and said, ‘Which ones can you actually put in the mix as good directors?'”

In the late ’80s, Ker cut his teeth in the business by recruiting music video directors to the commercial world and recently started his own commercial production company, Hobnob Productions. His credits include working with Francis Ford Coppola at VH1 Films, as well as producing HBO’s “Always Outnumbered” starring Laurence Fishburne. Ker also has collaborated with directors Alex Proyas, Michel Gondry, and Gore Verbinski, and has executive-produced projects for music artists including Michael Jackson, Eminem, Black Eyed Peas, Tom Petty, Gwen Stefani and U2.

A Separate Entity, funded by Shapiro and Ker, is based in Santa Monica. The company currently has a staff of four, in addition to sales reps working on a contract basis.

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