- Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2016
- SANTA MONICA, Calif.
Daniele Anastasion, whose critically acclaimed documentaries and television series have taken her from the track and the basketball court to postwar Liberia, has joined ContagiousLA (CLA) for exclusive representation on spot and branded content projects. This is her first roost in the commercial industry. Anastasion’s series Run Mama Run, currently available on espnW.com, follows an elite runner whose unplanned pregnancy occurs while training for the Olympic trials. Anastasion was also involved in writing and creative producing Belief, Oprah Winfrey’s tent-pole exploration of spirituality around the world. However, it was the filmmaker’s ESPN 30 for 30 Short I Am Yup’ik that brought Anastasion and CLA together.
“You meet a lot of people at festivals and in LA, and when I met Natalie I just trusted her,” said Anastasion of her first exposure to CLA founder/EP Natalie Sakai. “I sensed, this person is a straight shooter.” Sakai was at Sundance with CLA director Andrew Laurich, whose comedy short A Reasonable Request was screening in the same program as I Am Yup’ik. “I’m a big fan of Andrew’s work,” Anastasion said. “It’s bold and daring on a level rarely seen in any medium.”
Anastasion has earned her laurels in the bold department as well. Her first feature, The Redemption of General Butt Naked, follows a former Liberian warlord as he seeks forgiveness from his victims. The film received the Sundance award for Best Cinematography and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.
“Daniele’s storytelling is courageous and deeply thoughtful. She takes great care in her visual choices and highlights the internal struggle of her subjects,” said Sakai. “Run Mama Run made me fall in love with her work; the way she can make our failures beautiful is inspiring. Advertising needs more authentic storytellers like her.” Sakai added, “Daniele’s not going to like me pushing this because she wants to win on merit and not the gender movement going on right now, but the fact that she’s a woman is an amazing win for us. I’m a staunch advocate for launching female voices in the industry.”
Over the course of seven 10-minute episodes, Run Mama Run follows runner Sarah Brown as she deals with the challenges of an unexpected yet welcome pregnancy, while continuing her attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team. The series asks whether anyone can really have it all and delivers an emotionally powerful ending. “I really like to make people cry,” Anastasion said with a smile.
In I Am Yup’ik, a 16-year-old Alaskan native teenager leaves his tiny village and travels across the frozen tundra to compete in an all-Yup’ik basketball tournament. Anastasion and co-director Nathan Golon spent weeks as a minimal, two-person crew in a remote Alaskan village. “A lot of documentary directors look at narrative projects and marvel at the scope and resources,” Anastasion observed. “But many of the best narrative filmmakers are trying to make things feel as real as documentary work.”
For Oprah Winfrey’s Belief, Anastasion experienced storytelling on an epic scale for the Planet Earth-style series. “Sometimes we had 30 people on set, which is gigantic for a documentary shoot,” she recalled. “There was this great tension between creating high-end visuals and preserving the intimacy of the storytelling.” It is a balancing act that prepared her both for narrative filmmaking and advertising work. She has directed work for O&M and currently is bidding several projects through CLA. “Regardless of size or platform, branded projects have to attract and keep an audience,” Anastasion observed. “That means giving people something real and meaningful.’”
Anastasion joins a CLA roster comprised of directors Laurich, Jeff Jenkins, Benjamin Arfmann, Ben Ketai and Andrew Renzi, and photographer Diana King.