There’s a new commercial production model in place at New York’s ADDigital, and it’s one 30 years in the making. A string of recent projects produced by the company for Porsche, created via Cramer-Krasselt and directed by Sam Ciaramitaro, are evidence that the model has hit its stride.

Since March 2015, ADDigital and Ciaramitaro have produced three docu-style branding projects for Porsche and Cramer-Krasselt. These include covering an endurance competition at Florida’s grueling Sebring International Raceway; a partner piece with Delta Airlines; and an event film shot at the Porsche Experience Center in Atlanta, a brand new track built right behind the carmaker’s corporate headquarters. That project marked the first time a film crew has had access to the track.  

“If you can replicate the million mistakes I’ve made trying to get this right,
you’ll be able to replicate our current successes.”
-- Tom Mooney, President, ADDigital Productions

The Test
“We triple-bid this job against A-list directors and companies, which was the real test,” ADDigital President Tom Mooney recalled. “We had to achieve the creative goals of the agency and client; do so within budgets consistent with today’s universe, and with a guy who was not yet a ‘name’ director in this world.” Ciaramitaro, previously an accomplished agency producer, now is an award-winning director of episodic documentaries like The Show for Major League Baseball.

“When looking into directors, I was super-impressed with the way Sam invested his heart and soul in The Show and how knowledgeable he was about baseball,” said Robyn Boardman, who produced all three projects for the agency. “He brought to this a similar expertise in automotive. Plus, he knew exactly how to make people comfortable; his ability to articulate his role as a fly on the wall and at the same time be present asking the right questions was exactly what we needed.” However, while Ciaramitaro had directed numerous spot projects, his reel was not quite there. “This shoot was new for me and the agency. It was a pilot project, and we could not leave this to chance,” Boardman said, noting that the leap of faith was bridged by Mooney and ADDigital EP Dan Klein. “Knowing Tom was involved, and the caliber of work and directors he’s been involved with, I thought, ‘He gets it, he knows what agencies and clients expect.’ Teamed with Sam, and with Dan, who brought his docu-style and sports background, I felt confident we could do this right.”

“Sam is a car guy with a passion for cars, a Porsche owner...he just nailed it, you could sense on the calls it was working,” said Mooney of the bidding process. Boardman concurs. “Sam has Porsche passion, and did a great job capturing that essence,” she said, “and it’s something that translates across the content to the viewer.”

One Porsche project turned into two, then three. With a fourth upcoming later this month, Boardman’s faith has been borne out. “It’s so cool to work with these guys, because they are very creative and they really tailor the production to what the budgetary needs are,” Boardman said, noting that challenges are exacerbated on car shoots, “given all the rigging, stunt drivers, transport and toys involved. The thing that's amazing about ADDigital is that you’re still getting the same quality output but working within the parameters of what the client is giving you. Sam was bidding against one of the most renowned documentary directors out there, who could simply not give me the number of days I needed for the money we had.”

“To win on price and do a better job than the more expensive people could do, that’s the objective,” said Klein, “and I’m proud to say we achieved that here.”

Everybody’s in the f*@#$n’ van!
“Every commercial director comes to the business with the dream of ‘If I just get a shot,’” Mooney said. “But in order to get the shot, you need experience and a modern model backing you up. Today’s reality is that only 5% of the work is big: 95% still needs to get done - and get done well. There’s a wealth of new talent out there who understand streamlined production, but they’re new, so how can agencies take that risk? And since every job - whether it’s 50K or a 900K - needs to look like a million bucks, you need experienced players producing the job. Those people are out there, too, but how can they streamline production when they’ve got sixteen offices all over the world to pay for?”

The solution became clear on the first day of a shoot for Coppertone, when the client and agency arrived on location. “We were a small enough team to all fit in one vehicle. I said, 'Welcome to the ‘everybody’s in the f*@#$n’ van’ model,'” Mooney laughed. “There’s no video village, no BS, you’re not gonna get the things you used to get but the end product will be up on the screen and you’ll be happy. Five years later, we know how to do this; in fact, it’s the way every production should be done. It’s fun being in the van!”

Mooney is also grateful to have liberated himself from the ‘roster’ model.

“For centuries, we believed you had to have a roster with a hundred directors screaming at you and your whole life was trying to keep them fed,” he said. “Necessity is the mother of intervention, and the financial realities let us finally come out and say that it’s about the job, stupid. I’ve been building relationships for 30 years, I know established talent, and new talent, and newly established talent and I’m not trying to find jobs for directors I’m trying to find the right director for the job.”

The Work
The first Porsche project ADDigital and Ciaramitaro bid on was set at Florida’s Sebring International Raceway, documenting the carmaker’s participation in one of the biggest events in endurance racing, on one of the oldest, grittiest and toughest tracks in the sport. Next was the Porsche Experience Center shoot, which was both an event for once and future Porsche owners and a filmed branding piece. “Forever Amazing,” shot at the Center event, turns on the notion that few things are as amazing the hundredth time as they were the first time. Taking a Porsche for a spin is one of those things. The 1:11 piece features real drivers and passengers; their excitement is genuine, and it is impossible to know who has been in a Porsche before and who has not. Porsche invited real people to the event, and “Sam was able to make them feel comfortable,” Mooney observed. “There weren’t a million crew and cameras.”

“Usually you choose one or the other - a successful shoot or a great event,” added Klein. “Here, we delivered both.” For Klein, it all comes back to Mooney’s willingness to “discard old conventions to become part of something so very different from what made his career in the beginning. He held on to the good will and the relationships, and said “let’s put the money where it benefits everyone.”

Mooney said he has been fortunate to find like-minded colleagues like Klein, directors like Ciaramitaro, and production partners like ContagiousLA, with whom ADDigital maintains a strategic alliance on the West Coast. “People say the agency vanguard is clinging to the old model, well the same is even more true in production,” Mooney observed. “And while we’re talking about agencies, thanks to Robyn and (CCO) Marshall Ross and the agency - they took a shot, they knew us individually, but not as this team.”  

“All I can say is that this was the first time in my career that I’ve worked with a director three times back to back like this,” Boardman pointed out. “The relationship is so good and it’s so enjoyable, and we’re producing great stuff, why wouldn’t you want to work together?”

The agency-client-production relationship continues this month with the fourth shoot, at Road Atlanta. For her part, Boardman can’t wait. “I love working with these guys,” she concluded. “It’s so great when it’s fun like this.”

About ADDigital Productions
We have been in the business from 2 to 30 years. We have people from all types of media: TV, web, commercials, documentaries, infomercials, music, short films and industrials. Our group has won Lions, Emmys®, Clios, and a Peabody. Since the inception of ADDigital in late 2009, the company has produced projects for The USGA, ESPN, Nickelodeon, The Sundance Channel, The NHL, Go-Gurt, and Sotheby's. Among our latest successes is a campaign for Big Lots that has, thus far, garnered over 3 million hits on YouTube. ADDigital also has produced award-winning short films and web series, including a film on veterans for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.