AIR spotlights unsigned talents in diverse showcase


They got their moment in the sun, virtually of course, and they all took advantage of it. A sextet of directors, ripe with talent yet currently unaffiliated, had their work displayed in front of an assembly of independent reps and production company owners and EPs at the recent Unsigned Diverse Directors Showcase, presented by the Alliance of Independent Representatives (AIR).

The culmination of AIR’s first outreach effort to highlight the work of unsigned diverse directors, the showcase took place on July 25.

With an introduction from AIR President Veronica Lombardo of VLM, the attendees were introduced to these talents by members of the Alliance’s Diversity in Talent committee: Isabel Echeverry of Kontakto Reps, Sonia Blum of Sonia Reps and Mary Saxon of Saxon + Partners Presents.

Inclusion in the Showcase was limited to the top five directors, as determined by members of AIR. Submissions were open to directors who identified as women, AAPI, Black, BIPOC, Latinx or LGBTQ+ and were currently independent and not represented by an established commercial production company or post house.

The six directors featured (the showcase was expanded, as there was a tie for one of the coveted slots) were Ilanna Barkusky; Utsab Giri; Jose Ho-Guanipa; Antonio “Tronic” McDonald; Paul Moore; and Mike Palafox.

Each director showcased three pieces of work, then took part in a spirited Q&A session with the EPs and reps in attendance.

The featured talents were also awarded the chance to take a class offered by Director Jordan Brady’s online Commercial Directing School. Brady, who attended the showcase and provided insightful commentary on the directors’ work and techniques, directs through Kaboom Productions.

Echeverry noted that AIR received over 50 reels in response to their call for entries, which was gratifying “We’re happy to introduce these dynamic unsigned diverse talents to our members and their respective EPs,” she said. Citing the AIR DIT Committee’s mission statement, she noted that “the lack of diversity remains a complex problem in advertising. The goal of our committee is to facilitate opportunities for talent among underrepresented groups.”

Ilanna Barkusky

Barkusky is a director, photographer and drone pilot originally from Vancouver but now living in L.A. Her work both editorial and commercial leans toward outdoor action and sports, with an emphasis on winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing. She’s shot for an extensive client list that includes Red Bull, The North Face, Billabong, Quiksilver and others, as well as for pro sports teams such as the L.A. Clippers.

Utsab Giri

Giri is a writer/director from Nepal who’s based in New York. Named to the SHOOT New Directors Showcase in 2021, he recently won a Telly Award for directing Virtual Reality/Immersive commercial content. His work reflects  a strong skill set encompassing VFX, CG and Virtual Reality.

Jose Ho-Guanipa

Ho-Guanipa was born to Venezuelan and Chinese parents in Montreal and grew up in San Diego. A graduate of Duke University, he got his start working in music videos and brings a varied background to his work as a filmmaker. He was featured in the SHOOT New Directors Showcase in 2019.

Antonio “Tronic” McDonald

McDonald got his start in the famed On-Air Promo department at MTV and brings a wide-ranging set of skills to his work as a filmmaker. He’s created and produced everything from commercials to branded content, original programming, social media content and interactive advertising. His reel shines in lifestyle and celebrity campaigns along with docu-style and real-people work.

Paul Moore

Moore is an Asian-American director currently based in Vietnam but relocating back to the US. With a strong knack for visual storytelling and a deft touch with high technology, he’s worked with an extensive roster of brands including Samsung, Toyota, OnePlus, ASICS, and the drone giant DJI. He brings a multicultural perspective to his work having lived in several Asian countries as well as in Los Angeles.

Mike Palafox

Palafox is a tabletop specialist with a flair for food and beverage cinematography. Originally from Mexico, he now lives in Barcelona but shoots all over the world. A second-generation production veteran (both his parents were commercial directors), he studied filmmaking in London and is one of the few tabletop directors to also be a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.

“Providing a platform for a showcase such as this is exactly what Simian is designed to do,” added Kellie Atton, Partner and Head of Sales at Simian. “We’ve been happy to work with AIR as a supporting sponsor, hosting the video submissions for this competition, and then providing an easy format for accessing and sharing the winning directors’ work, is true to our mission of helping creative companies work more efficiently.”

To view the work presented on the showcase, go to here.