October 26th, 2021
DIRECTOR OF A DAY IN THE LIFE OF NADIA
HONORABLE MENTION AUGUST 2021
A.J Kamdar, where did your desire to be a director come from ?
Being born and raised in New York and growing up in the 1970s and 80s, I was a big fan of NYU Film Alumni – Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee.
These 2 directors (whose cinematic styles are at the opposite ends of the film spectrum) captured the realism of NYC through in-depth layers of character development and deeply penetrating content that struck a nerve. I am also impacted by other visionary NYU Filmmakers, including The Coen Bros, Ang Lee, M. Night Shyamalan, and Oliver Stone. I even went as far to apply to NYU in 1987, but decided that it was not the right timing.
Fast forward 35 years later and after launching 2 Food Companies, I really wanted to integrate and meld my cinematic and technology passions by creating an Industry First – the first AI Interactive Shoppable Food Film that integrated the Art of Visual Storytelling with the Science of Behavioral Psychology..
My first recollection of being attracted to the World of Marketing and Advertising was back in 1983. I was 13 yrs. old and my Dad was the WW Director of Marketing Strategy and Analytics at General Foods. They owned the iconic Maxwell House brand and he was involved in the Jerry Seinfeld TV commercial where he famously is delivering his comedy routine and segways into this commentary about coffee.
I remember him talking about it and I was fascinated about this entire world. He mentioned how they were using his career as a stand-up comic as the platform for this new campaign. It was a huge hit! Fast forward to the year 2000 and I was offered my dream job. To work directly in Brand Management at Capital One, where I would be involved in the creative, narrative, new product marketing and work directly with Ad Agencies.
In my prior job, I worked in advertising research at Nabisco. I never got close to this side and was “pigeon-holed” as the numbers guy. I recall being up in NYC working on the very first iteration of the “What’s In Your Wallet Campaign” and brainstorming on the creative/ direction for our very 1st commercial ever. The company spent over 100 million dollars over the next 2 years supporting the campaign in market. That campaign is still running 20 years later and it’s surreal to think I was involved in something that is regarded to be one of the most successful campaigns ever. I mean you can’t go 5 minutes watching TV without seeing Jennifer Garner in a Cap One Ad!
What were your reference and your inspirations to make your film ?
I am a huge fan of cinema and inspired by Directors who made the crossover into Advertising. The three that come to mind are Spike Lee, David Lynch and Wes Andersen.
I remember seeing Spike’s “Do The Right Thing” and being from NY, I thought he captured the tone, visual and racial dynamics of NYC in the late 80’s brilliantly. Huge fan of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” and love Wes! My wife and I have watched every Wes flick and “The Royal Tenenbaums” is still one of our favorite movies of all time! Now when I think about how each applied their unique skills in storytelling, it is rather profound.
Spike Lee’s, Nike commercials with Michael Jordan, were raw, gritty and captured the street essence of NYC that I remember. David Lynch and the Black & White Calvin Klein Obsession commercials of the late 80s were visionary. And I remember seeing both the Prada and Stella Artois commercials that Wes did and saying this is pure brilliance. Everything is precise. From the framing, symmetry, typography, color palettes, fashion, music, storytelling, it’s completely his own. And to answer your question, I am highly influenced by all 3 and there are elements of all 3 you can find in the film if you look very closely.
It’s funny you say Nadia Mejia, Miss USA! Nadia was a 2016 Miss USA Runner-Up and voted Fan Favorite. When I first was doing research on Nadia, there is a lot of content on the internet that discusses her “flub” on the question she was asked at the Miss USA Pageant. She was asked about economic inequality in the U.S. and was ostracized for her answer.
I have a MBA in International Business/ Economics from George Washington University in Washington, DC. It is a Top 20 University in this field. I can tell you unequivocally, that the entire media/ press/ judging panel owes her an apology. Her answer to the question was “I think that the rich need to be able to be giving and I think the poor need to work hard and I think the middle class need to come together and find an in-between”. That is essentially the premise behind Pigou-Dalton’s Theory Of Welfare Economics on the transference of wealth from the rich to the poor and the stigmatism attached on lower-income groups who receive these free funds.
I would highly suggest that if you are going to ask questions on Economics, you better have a subject matter expert on the panel! Nadia is such a sweet girl, that she played it off. But that is a lesson on how people with no expertise/ background in any field can cast premature, hurtful commentary that is totally unjustified.
Now back to Nadia and why she is absolutely the perfect brand representative for Kitchen Crafted. Let me share some context first. My last corporate job was running WW Consumer Insights for Transitions Lenses [owned by Essilor/ Luxottica] – the world’s largest eyewear company. We had retained 4 Global Brand Ambassadors to represent their professional segment where we saw high usage of our Transitions lenses.
That’s where I witnessed the benefits of having a long-term, authentic representative for your brand. I leveraged my experience here and initially we were in contact with a very well-known TV Star/ Musician about partnering with her. It did not come to fruition, as she wanted her likeness on the brand and we wanted to build the “Kitchen Crafted Brand” organically. A few yrs. later [after having success with Kitchen Crafted in the early stages], I wanted to identify a long-term Brand Ambassador, similar to how it was done at Essilor Luxxotica.
It was an interview that Nadia Mejia had given as part of her Miss California press tour that sealed the deal for me. She talked about having a love of food. She spoke of her heritage of being from a fusion culture of Latin/ Mediterranean and exposure to many flavors. She spoke of her passion in the kitchen at an early age, opening a restaurant and was even on her way to the legendary Cordon Bleu Culinary School [I found out later]. I knew right there she was the one!
Nadia is a Millennial, Female, Foodie, Active Lifestyle and into Health & Wellness. Right now in the US, Spices and Seasonings has grown 32% YOY amongst Gen Z. Millennials are now experimenting more in the kitchen due to COVID. Also, GOYA was the #1 performer in E Commerce and they increased their customer base by over 8 Million Users! The Female Latin segment is one of the fastest growing populations with high purchasing power.
We also work with retailers like H-E-B in Texas (4th largest grocer in the US), which has a huge Latin base. Their former spokesperson was Eva Longoria. Not only is Nadia highly relevant from a business perspective. She also is a woman of many passions and talents! She is a highly sought-after fashion model. She is a musician. She is a cook. She is into living a very active and healthy lifestyle.
She is recently engaged and embarking on a family life. She is dedicated to her faith and family. She is ultra-positive, upbeat and it has been an absolute pleasure working with her over the past year. She is an incredibly talented young woman that we have been blessed to showcase her in many different angles and perspectives. I know from my work in the past, you have to tread with delicacy when selecting someone to the be the “face of your brand”.
They are an extension of your vision and represent what you want your brand to stand for. I can say with 100% conviction, she is the epitome of a Modern-Day Renaissance Women. We look forward to many more projects and I have in fact just penned the screenplay to our next film. The company and brand has evolved into many different forms and was a ship without a captain. We are ecstatic that we have Captain Nadia to take us to unchartered territory, like we did with her film, “A Day In The Life Of Nadia”.
We soft-launched the Film back in May and were strictly using this as more of a Brand Awareness/ PR tool. When we started receiving recognition/ awards, we pushed the Film out on a global basis. YES! The numbers on all metrics are up by 600%! The film is now on ROKU. We are showing the film on the big screen at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles and we are a Finalist at Cannes for “Best Artificial Intelligence” Film. All the global attention we received is generating a tremendous of interest and we expect those numbers to increase dramatically.
I have a very unique background. I am extremely well-versed in Advertising and Marketing Technology. My vision was to meld the two together and create engaging narratives with stunning visuals that are rooted in Advertising Science principles. Also, i worked at Nabisco and my brand consultancy did extensive work with Mondelez, Nestle and more Food Companies.
That intimate knowledge of having this experience, has helped tremendously in our brand and communication strategies. To my knowledge, we are the 1st ever Food Company to create an AI Driven Interactive and Shoppable Film. Keep in mind, we are a self-funded, bootstrapped company that launched in 2019 and we are now in many of the top grocers in the US. We do not have the 100 Million Dollar Ad Budgets like some of the big players in the space. So, you have to get really creative on how you Advertise.
Great question! Let me provide some context. An Interactive Food Film did not exist prior to the creation of our film to the best of our knowledge. And certainly no one was using AI (Artificial Intelligence) Cloud-Based Platforms to create Shoppable Films. This is a 1st to our knowledge in the U.S. Food Industry. We were seeing a lot in traditional social/ digital approaches to brand / product advertising. Lots of Tasty/ Buzzfeed video-style recipes. In today’s society, harnessing and leveraging immersive technology puts you at the forefront of creating engaging experiences for your audience, especially the Gen Z and Millennial audiences. Our partners, DCCAPTL, are at the forefront of this technology working with many musicians and high-end fashion brands. Which is a further proof point this medium is helping to shape the future of shopping.
And it reinforces how Nadia, who plays in many adjacent and complimentary spaces to Food (Fashion, Music, Fitness) allows us to build storylines around her and move in many directions. And we went counter to popular culture that focused on quick :15 to 30 sec spots and tries to consolidate a wealth of visuals/ product benefits and push it out on social/ digital/ tv and other channels. I wanted to build a Short Film that is engaging and has a deeper narrative. And where you can Shop The Film! Which is also based on my experience with System 1 Research – who I was introduced to through Teri Hoffman and Bianca Pryor who were at the forefront of System 1 Science at the time. Rooted in Nobel Prize Psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking. Fast and Slow, its premise, focused on the instinctual, intuitive and spontaneous decision making of the human mind. And which is the basis for this Interactive and Shoppable Food Film.
Can you tell us more about the method of producing your ad ?
We are based in South Florida and I work exclusively with Nadia’s Talent Agency. The owner, Jules Newmark, has been a very trusted partner since the onset of this fruitful relationship. People around me joke that I live on the Moon. And I prefer to think more like the Rings of Saturn! And Jules is a fellow astronaut! For our very first project, I crafted a very detailed photo shoot and Jules, Nadia and the iconic celeb photographer Jorden Keith, nailed it. Jorden, BTW makes a special cameo in the Film. It is also important to note, that I was heavily inspired by our AI Technology Partners, DCCAPTL. I had worked with their Co-Founder, Hasani Wharton 10 years back for a Washington Post sponsored Ed Tech company and kept in contact with him. He showed me this unbelievable and magical video they shot with Ted Baker and Valentino.
It was the first time I saw a Shoppable Film that was blending stunning visuals, whimsical music, an emotionally connecting and immersive experience, leaving me to watch again and buy some of the items! I think I watched it at least 50x over. I was mesmerized. I knew I needed a locale that represented this magical and mythical environment. I landed on the iconic Vizcaya Gardens and Museums in Miami. My screenplay played to “What Would A Real Day Look Like For Nadia Mejia?” I wanted to blend all her passions into the film in a way that was real, authentic, and captivating. The idea was to create 4 separate vignettes that highlighted Nadia’s 3 passions: Health & Wellness, Modeling and Cooking. As you see, the estate is stunning, and the aesthetics are breathtaking. It was the perfect backdrop to show Nadia in her modeling capacity while integrating our products throughout the shoot. The 2nd day, we located a house with a beautiful modern kitchen to shoot Nadia in her cooking element. And wrapped shooting with her morning stretch/ yoga routine on the exterior of the property.
I believe the locations selected affect the narrative and have an influence on the overall perception of the product. I loved bringing that outside whimsical element from the Ted Baker video to transitioning to the interior with change in tempo and bringing out Nadia’s pure love of flavors and cooking. She is energized, dancing and absolutely enjoying the moment. I am so honored and privileged I could create a nostalgic film that allowed her to revisit her younger self. I must point out, that none of this is accomplished without my incredibly talented Cinematographer, Joey Newell. Do you know that the version you see on Film, is the 1st draft he sent and we never edited the film. That’s the sign of someone who is immensely gifted!
Good question! As mentioned, I have more film projects in the works. I am working on the storyboards for the “The Spice Of Life” and can’t wait to show it to Nadia, Jules and the rest of the team. It is very ironic. The subtext for the film is “Do you blend your passions”? I just saw this amazing bold, colorful, animated commercial with Dua Lipa and Truly. David La Chapelle directed it and it’s premise is to show “No One Is Just One Flavor”.
That is the exact narrative I seeded a year ago with Nadia. She is a Model. A Musician. A Food Lover. A Fitness Enthusiast. It was essentially the plot behind “A Day In The Life Of Nadia Mejia”. Be prepared to embark on a magical, immersive global journey through the eyes of Nadia as she takes you through our “The Spice Of Life”. We are targeting early 2022 as our production date.