Coming of age in the golden era of music videos, Danielle Sclafani was struck by their fusion of music, dance and storytelling and navigated her way to film school to get in on the action. Over a decade later, she has solidified herself as a dynamic talent in the commercial editorial world, enjoying the elusive joy that comes with a truly passionate career: losing herself in the work.
Continually drawing inspiration from music, film, art and travel, Danielle approaches her work with deep empathy and a keen stylistic eye. Being a superb video editor requires more than technical skills, and Danielle is constantly refining her vision to make her work more uniquely evocative and human. In 2017, Danielle joined bicoastal post-production boutique Uppercut and has quickly established herself as talent to watch in the advertising space today.
Sclafani has a distinct editing aesthetic that is rich in emotion and visually poetic. Since she joined Uppercut, her storytelling ability has been seen in many major branded campaigns including the powerful Fitbit “Kaiwiola” short and the vibrant “Deep City” spot for Google. Prior to Uppercut, she spent seven years cutting spots for such top brands as Starbucks and IBM.
Collaboration is a big part of Sclafani’s success as an editor, and why she continues to be a powerful creative asset for Uppercut. She values the creative partnership between director and editor, aiming to elevate each project and push creative boundaries to spark intrigue and discourse.
The studio has recently partnered with visual effects company ZERO to create a large, efficient, yet boutique-style post-production studio fueled by creativity and collaboration and will allow for Danielle and the rest of the Uppercut team to expand their breadth of creative work in advertising, film and beyond.
How would you describe the overall culture at your company and would you say that there is a separate female culture?
Overall, Uppercut strives to foster a culture of acceptance and diversity. Sometimes editorials can get a little fraternal; but Uppercut’s owner, Micah Scarpelli, works hard to cultivate a crew that is diverse, cultured and offers a variety of perspectives. In the end, we’re all about doing great work, and our culture reflects that.
In your opinion, what do you see as being the biggest change in the advertising industry since women have begun to break the “glass ceiling”?
Throughout my career, I’ve worked really hard to be taken seriously as an artist and a business woman. Every project was a new opportunity to prove myself to a room populated by men. But slowly, I’m seeing more female creative teams and more female directors have a seat at the table. Initiatives like the 3% Movement and Free the Bid have created awareness around these issues in a way I never dreamed would happen.
What are some of the challenges that women still face in the industry?
While we are getting more opportunities, I think it’s important to let our work speak for itself and not tokenize us. I want to be seen as an editor and creative storyteller, not just as a “female editor.” I also think we have to continue to fight for equal pay and top leadership positions.
What steps do you take to ensure you achieve a healthy work-life balance?
While I’m an especially hard worker, I think as an editor you’re only as strong as your life experience and perspective. So I try to enrich my life with travel, art, film and music, which ultimately make me a stronger professionally. I also find daily fitness and meditation are essential to preserving mental perspective during arduous edit periods.
What professional achievement are you most proud of?
Earlier this year, YouTube tasked a number of top ad agencies with retelling a classic fairytale in six seconds. I worked with an all-female creative team from Grey NY, who chose to flip the traditional narrative of Little Red Riding Hood, to make her the empowered heroine. After premiering at Sundance, YouTube made our story into an installation at SXSW and Cannes. It was a really unique opportunity to team up with other women who had overcome societal and professional adversity, to make a statement that our younger selves would have been inspired by.
Tell us about a mentor that helped guide you in your career. What made them so special?
I was really lucky to have Sherri Margulies, an editor and partner at Crew Cuts, as a mentor. She came up in a time when there were even fewer female editors, and found great success amidst substantial adversity. Sherri first noticed my talent as a young assistant, and made it her mission to foster my growth professionally and personally. She was unique in that she truly saw my success as her success, and I will forever be grateful for her guidance.
How do you as a successful woman plan to inspire the next generation of women?
I think my responsibility to the next generation of women is multi-faceted. I hope my success shows young women that there’s space for them in this business and that it can be done. I take pride in mentoring young editors and giving them a space to grow. And, I think it’s essential to make work that gives women a voice and shapes culture in a positive light.