You come from a design and art direction background, tell us about how this led you to become a director at The Mill?
Coming out of school with a portfolio in design and advertising, I put in some time as a more traditional art director for advertising agencies. I would moonlight as a writer when I could– copywriting for commercials, writing plays for small theaters, and screenplays for short films. When I would see ideas and stories I had loved and nurtured given to directors to bring to life, film and finish, I knew I had to switch teams. The turning point came when I was writing a spot featuring Jay Z with director Anthony Mandler. I was able to work closely with the two of them and get a real glimpse into the production process and life of a director. I ended up working with Anthony on a few other films and he inspired me to buckle down and begin directing my own pieces, which led me to build a reel as a director and eventually pave my winding road to The Mill.
If you had to pick 3 project highlights from your career so far, what would they be and why?
To me, the idea of ‘highlights of my career’ are moments that I realized I had pushed myself further than I had ever been before. A few of these that stand out to me were the following:
Moment 1: When the Toyboy & Robin “Save Me Now” music video I concepted and directed for Atlantic Records was given a Vimeo Staff Pick, I was floored. This had been the first music video I had really directed up until this point, and I also produced it. We used to wear many hats and fly by the seat of our pants. I’m still proud of this film, and honored it was so well received.
Moment 2: Being featured at the DGA’s New Directors Showcase with my short film Good Bones was a groundbreaking moment for me. Creating Good Bones was a unique project that blended poetry and production and post in a way that we rarely have an opportunity to do, and being able to watch it on the big screen in the DGA Theater, amongst all the other phenomenal pieces that were showcased that day was a special moment.
Below: Good Bones | Poetic Short Film | Anais La Rocca | Maggie Smith
Moment 3: The day my lovely and talented team at The Mill and I heard the news that we were green lit to make not one, but upwards of 12 films for Avocado, which we had tirelessly written with lots of love was awesome. Writing and directing the Avocado campaign and films for The Mill was an opportunity like no other. Eve Grissinger and I wrote from our hearts and told stories that we loved just as much as the client and viewers would. It is a very rare occasion that a director is able to work with an inspiring client and help build their story from the ground up, and that’s what we did, over and over again.
Below: Avocado Green Mattress
The Avocado Green Mattress campaign included writing and producing a series of commercials, as well as writing and publishing a children’s book for their brand. Tell us about this project?
The creative brief for the illustrations style and art direction of The Little Blue Planet came out of working session and meeting with the Avocado clients, where we all decided that this children’s book’s main goal should be to communicate the story of climate change to young readers, illustrate ways in which we can all be more proactive and live more green, and finally to become a tool for parents, caregivers and teachers to talk to children about climate change. Every choice we then made in developing the illustrative style was based around that.
There were inevitably a few challenges along the way, however the biggest creative obstacle that we faced was pushing ourselves to move past the computer as a tool, and get back to hand drawn illustrations. The temptation to work within a computer is very real when the deadlines are approaching, changes and feedback are easier to quickly address and everything is layered and saved for easy access in a Photoshop file. However after going down this road briefly, we pivoted soon after and decided to work with charcoal, graphite, a lightbox, and a scanner (that may or may not have been from the 1990’s). This process lent itself to accidents in the lines and characters that would not have been achievable inside a computer with a pen and tablet. It was much harder, more time consuming, more stressful and a seemingly endless process at time— but we could not have done it any other way.
Find out more about this project here.
Are you working on any personal projects during lockdown?
Yes, I became so buried in the news each day that one morning I just took a pair of scissors to the paper and tried to cut something beautiful out of it. It had been all so depressing. This exercise has turned into a project for the NY Times Op-Art in Isolation. I have been writing a poem every day during lockdown which is cut from the New York Times newspaper of the day. I have been sharing them on Instagram and hope to share them through other publications once the project is complete. I have also been working with the award-winning author Maggie Smith, on a new film based on her new poem called How Dark The Beginning. This poem is gorgeous, and very timely.
You can check out more of Anaïs’ work on her Creator profile or visit her Instagram @lalalalarocca.