Award-winning filmmakers Tania Verduzco and Adrian Perez often use a vibrant mix of color, music and dance to tell their stories, whether short films, music videos or quirky commercial spots for international companies like Pepsi, Adidas, L’Oreal and Toyota. The prolific directing duo (and real-life couple) are known as Los Perez and recently signed with Santa Monica production company Little Minx. We asked them about their inspirations and how they work together before, during and after a shoot.
Q: How did you come to work with BBDO Ukraine on the Pepsi Retro “Daddy Cool” spot, and what inspired the Soviet-era spin on late 20th century cultural history?
The agency was looking for a specific aesthetic [and] a director who could develop visual contrast between two time periods: the Soviet era and today. In the commercial, you see young and old generations dancing together to Boney M’s 1970s hit “Daddy Cool.” BBDO invited us to the pitch and we loved the concept of the campaign. We didn’t know that Pepsi was the most popular soft drink in Eastern Europe or that Pepsi Retro happened to be a cultural symbol in the Soviet-era (it was the first bottled version of the product).
The brand wanted to make a tribute to that era, launching the Pepsi Retro bottle again for a new generation. The creatives explained to us how important products like Pepsi and songs like “Daddy Cool” were to anyone under the Iron Curtain, so we did epoch research on props, art and traditions. Even the dance moves were taken from Soviet-era films.
We wanted to connect the neighbors using this great track, so we had the music travel through the building’s walls, connecting each generation to the rhythm. In the end, the grumpy neighbor surprises us by cutting loose and dancing because he remembers this essential song from back in the day. We love when creatives go further than the usual kind of advertising and let us work with a deep, interesting concept.
Q: Is it more important to you that your spots be funny or just a little bit odd—or are both qualities necessary in equal measure?
We wouldn’t say that we only feel comfortable with comedy, but of course we love that visual humor is so universal. It’s more about having a good cast, creating interesting characters, and placing them in odd situations. Using the right cast is essential; it’s absolutely key to telling a good story! No matter what genre you’re working in, an expressive face in the right atmosphere can make anyone laugh or cry.
Q: What’s your collaborative process for planning and lighting a shoot, and how do you work together on set?
As directors we love to do everything, but we normally divvy up tasks according to our strengths: Adrian works behind the camera and with the DOP. He loves post-production in general and takes great care of color-grading and mixing sound. Tania works really well coaching and styling actors and is the lead on set design, production and managing the art departments.
We talk a lot during pre-production so we have a clear plan before the shoot and agree on locations and casting, then we split up on set and tackle our different responsibilities. After so many different projects, we’ve found this is the best way to work together. We say it’s like cooking: once we know the recipe and ingredients well, we can divide and conquer in the kitchen.
Q: Have your musical and dance backgrounds influenced your directing style, and how?
They definitely do. When directing, you have to keep in mind the tempo and the rhythm. Music and storytelling are structured similarly, and both can accommodate a variety of dark and light imagery. Our musical taste and opinions compliment each other quite well. Adrian is a singer and musician; he composes the scores in our work but also directs other musicians well because they speak the same language. Tania is a contemporary dancer, so she directs actors and dancers on set. Her background emphasizes the importance of body language and physical expression, and enables her to train other people’s bodies.
Q: Is there one piece of gear or tool that you can’t live without?
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