- Monday, Apr. 4, 2016
There’s something about breakthrough series and director Tricia Brock. One day while shooting an episode of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Brock got a phone call. She looked down at her cell phone and saw that it was from Jules Daly, president of RSA Films. The timing was right in that the call came in during a lighting setup so Brock was able to answer. “I remember telling Jules ‘I’m in prison right now’–which I was but luckily I was on just a prison set. Jules told me she had just gotten this really cool Nike branded project and asked about my availability.”
While Brock’s upcoming schedule was pretty tight, it began to loosen considerably as Daly shared details of the Nike gig–an online series titled Margot vs. Lily, written by Jesse Andrews, author of the novel and adapted screenplay for Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, the critically acclaimed feature directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon. Furthermore Gomez-Rejon was exec producing Margot vs. Lily. He had been slated to also direct it but a movie he had been developing for some time had just been greenlit so there was an opening for a director to take on the Nike series from Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
“The more Jules told me, the more I knew I wanted to do this,” recalled Brock who’s directed some of this decade’s most groundbreaking shows such as Girls, Orange is the New Black, Silicon Valley, Casual, The Walking Dead, Mr. Robot and Mozart in the Jungle. Now she can add to that impressive mix the recently debuted Margot vs. Lily, an eight-episode original series which has been an online sensation. Produced by RSA Films, the series follows the journey of a fitness-obsessed YouTube star named Lily and her exercise-averse party girl sister, Margot. Every Monday, over an eight week stretch which was still unfolding at press time, viewers can catch a new episode of the show along with Lily’s latest fitness blog, which walks viewers through a workout. It’s entertainment with a built-in exercise installment.
Throughout the eight-episode season, Margot (portrayed by Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Lily (Samantha Marie Ware) learn to find a balance between exercise and a social life–billed as a true transformation whereby each sister walks a mile in the other sister’s shoes.
In the first episode, the sisters return home for the holidays; 24-year-old Margot has just been fired from her job, while 22-year-old Lily’s YouTube channel “LilyNinja” is more successful than ever. Lily prioritizes fitness over friends, while Margot has a robust social circle and little interest in sport. On New Year’s Eve, tensions boil over and the sisters make a bet which calls for them to step out of their comfort zones–the onus being on Margot to improve her fitness while Lily has to cultivate more true friendships.
Margot vs. Lily is tied into the “Better For It” Nike initiative. The show and initiative serve as a celebration of athletes. “It’s about personal growth and pushing yourself to be your best,” said Kerri Hoyt-Pack, VP of global brand marketing for NikeWomen and Women’s Training. “This message embodies a relatable range of human experiences and emotion–from self-confidence to self-doubt–that women encounter with sport and fitness. Being ‘Better For It’ doesn’t mean accomplishing an unbelievable feat; it means being bold enough to take on a personal challenge, like the characters Margo and Lily do.”
Brock worked closely with Gomez-Rejon, the Wieden+Kennedy creative ensemble, RSA’s Daly and EP Jen Dennis, and cinematographer Mott Hupfel to develop an approach to shooting Margot vs. Lily like an independent film or cable series instead of a traditional commercial campaign. “The joy for me in this job was the collaboration,” affirmed Brock. “It pushes me to be the best.” The series is connecting with millennials as episode one, for example, has generated 16 million views and counting.
Meanwhile Brock’s bond with RSA now continues with her joining the roster of Hey Wonderful, a recently launched integrated commercial production company under the aegis of managing director/executive producer Michael Di Girolamo. Part of the RSA Films family, Hey Wonderful creates spots, branded entertainment, music videos, film and digital content.
Twin Peaks, AFI
Brock began her career as a writer, the big break coming when she got the chance to pen two episodes of David Lynch’s iconic series, Twin Peaks. While she continued to write, Brock harbored filmmaking aspirations which led her to target getting into the American Film Institute’s (AFI) Directing Workshop for Women. “I applied and was rejected twice,” she said, getting in on the third try. “It’s a really great program. A very large number of women currently working in the industry either in TV or features came through this AFI program. It has a cache in the industry and means a great deal in terms of career building. At that time, they gave you $5,000 to make a short film and you could raise another $15,000. For my short film, I got some great actors–James Franco, Brad Renfro, Meat Loaf.”
That short film, The Car Kid, was well received and then developed into Brock’s first feature, Killer Diller, which premiered at SXSW and was also screened at the Tribeca Film Festival. Taking notice was Showtime which brought in Brock to direct several episodes of The L Word. Her series exploits over the years have gone on to encompass episodes of such shows as Breaking Bad, The Big C, Community, United States of Tara, White Collar, Smash and Younger.
Brock, who recently helmed an episode of the NBC series Blind Spot, is currently developing with Rashida Jones a TV series called Rush. The show is based on a Brock documentary about Sorority Rush Week at Ole Miss. Additionally Brock is developing a TV project with Steven Soderbergh.
At the same time Brock also would like to step up her work in commercials and branded content, having built momentum with Margot vs. Lily. Earlier in her career, without a commercial production house affiliation, she directed some spot assignments for Jiffy Lube and Subway out of Boston agency MMB. She said that Hey Wonderful is now well positioned to procure high caliber creative opportunities for her in the ad arena while offering top drawer production support. Brock noted that she has developed a creative rapport with Di Girolamo, and feels an extra measure of comfort and security to be at a company in the RSA loop. “I had two-and-a-half months working with RSA on Margot vs Lily which was a real window to get a genuine sense of what they’re about. To have that boots-on-the-ground experience at RSA was a positive experience which I feel will continue through Hey Wonderful.”