Earlier this year, production company REVERSE signed Cali Bondad for her first U.S. commercial representation, in which she quickly wrapped three campaigns for Sparklight out the gate. Before joining REVERSE, she was a prolific freelancer, directing campaigns for AT&T, Nike, YouTube, Google, Secret, Georgia Power, and Uber. Bondad's exprience as an editor in her early career and mixed ethnic background as an Asian American inspires her story driven work, which has led to her being featured as a “New Female Director”t the 2017 The One Show Film Festival, kicking off the trajectory of her career.
Can you tell us a bit about your art style and your journey to directing?
The strongest attributes to my artistic style are the rhythmic, visual energy and the emotive quality to my work. These aspects go hand-in-hand for me. I aim to create more than a “cool looking ad”, but a unique visual presentation that makes you feel joy, fear, love, or even discomfort. It should leave a visual impression and bring on the feels.
Much of the spirit in my directing style is due to my background as an editor. When I worked at Mekanism ad agency, I cut my teeth editing countless pitch videos and then worked my way into cutting major broadcast spots. Starting as an editor, it was always clear that I was meant to be a director. As my family recalls, I have been directing short films in the living room with homemade costumes and my dad’s camcorder since I was six years old. So, when I started directing and editing projects at Mekanism, it was the best of both worlds. It exercised my storytelling skills from concept to delivery. After a handful of years working within the agency, I expanded into the world of freelance directing. For over seven years, I have worked with various production companies and then recently signed with REVERSE!
Sparklight "The Sound of Sparklight"
How does your heritage help to better influence or inspire your work and what parts of your daily life are you able to incorporate into your work?
As a biracial person of Asian descent, I developed a complex of feeling like “the other” in my younger years. I believed that I didn’t quite fit in – I was neither here nor there. It’s like I was this ghost image of my Asian lineage, not quite Asian enough. But as I got older and my world expanded, I realized that I was very much not alone in this. Once I started truly embracing my heritage, and after meeting many others of multi-ethnic backgrounds and experiences, I became driven in telling others’ stories. I wanted to share their feelings of being an “outsider” and the joy of finding their own unique identities. My heritage has influenced me to celebrate a breadth of voices, diversity, and range of faces on screen (and behind the camera). This is so important to me and resonates throughout every project I take on.
When approaching a new brief and bringing a concept to life, where do you start to get your creative juices flowing?
Having a background in the ad world, I know that every good spot (or story) is based on a fundamental human truth. It’s about getting to the root of an observation, a common problem, or a universal feeling that we can all relate to. When it comes to my own process of bringing a concept to life, I start from a point of observation and empathy in how it relates to my own experiences. I ask myself questions like “what can I bring to this script that is unique?” “What do I have to say about this that others may not?” Or, “how can I personally relate to the brand, product, or story?”
After the initial point of inspiration, I like to expand and deepen the creative by talking with others, hearing their real-life stories, adding small details, building multidimensional characters, and letting my imagination soar. In the end, it’s not just about telling my story through a script, it’s about finding a deeper, collective message that can resonate with many while still having a unique impression.
Amazon Fire "Build Your World"
What are some of your creative influences?
As a hyper observant person, I find that a lot of my creative influence is in the everyday, especially people watching. My experiences living in major cities like LA, Chicago, and San Francisco/ Oakland, have offered up the most amazing scenes, conversations, and snippets of overheard dialog. There are nuggets of storytelling gold around you every day if you just stop and pay attention to it. I’ve been keeping journals with true-to-life anecdotes since I was a kid. I love looking back through them and finding inspiration for a particular theme. These random quotes, thoughts, stories, and jokes have worked their way into my creative influence as a director.