Award-winning director Diane Paragas has joined Accomplice Media for exclusive representation in commercials. Paragas's work spans commercials, documentaries, narrative films and branded content with much of it rooted in the stories of real people. On the advertising side, she has directed campaigns for American Airlines, the New York State Department of Health, Care.com and Proust.com, the latter a First Place winner in Google's TV for All Contest. Her documentary work includes Brooklyn Boheme¸ a 2012 feature-length documentary for Showtime that she made in tandem with writer and critic Nelson George.
"Diane is an exceptionally talented filmmaker with a gift for telling stories in an insightful and powerful way," says Accomplice Media executive producer Mel Gragido. "She brings unique skills and a creative vision that, we believe, will resonate with a lot of brands."
Paragas was born in Minneapolis but was repatriated to the Philippines when she was a year old. She returned to the U.S. at age four and spent the rest of her youth in Lubbock, Texas, where she studied painting, music and film. She began her career as a producer with boutique ad agency LLT. She later joined MTV and helped to launch MTV Asia, and also worked for Discovery Asia. It was there that she began to focus on documentary filmmaking.
Paragas's films have appeared on BET, Discovery, MTV, Bravo and PBS. Brooklyn Boheme, which premiered on Showtime in February 2012, celebrated the Afro-American arts renaissance centered in Fort Greene Brooklyn and featured Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Rosie Perez and Saul Williams, among many others. While working on that film, Paragas was contracted by Burrell Advertising to direct, shoot and edit a web-based travel series for American Airlines. That series, which also featured Nelson George as well as actor Laz Alonso and recording artists Laura Izibor and John Legend, eventually spanned three seasons and some 30 cities worldwide, including Beijing, Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro and Paris.
"We were writing and directing on the fly," Paragas recalls. "By the third season, people were telling us where to go, so it became very interactive. It's a different kind of advertising-the agency took its entire ad budget and made a web series. That's where I believe advertising is moving, more value-added content."
For Proust.com, an online community that allows users to build family histories, Paragas wrote, produced and directed 14 spots in which people relate deeply personal stories about themselves and their relatives. Paragas elevated the work above simple testimonials both by getting her subjects to open up and by using personal photographs to place them in stylized environments.
"I wanted it to have the feel of a family album come to life; it's meant to appear very handmade, antique," she explains. "My aim is to bring real people spots into the realm of cinema, to make them more stylized, more artistic. I believe that is a message that every brand could use."
Paragas's most recent work is an inspiring documentary commercial for CoverGirl focusing on an empowerment camp for teenage girls promoting leadership and beauty from within.
Currently, Paragas is developing a narrative feature film, Yellow Rose, about an Asian-American woman pursuing a dream to become a country music star. She is also working to establish a charitable foundation to support the work of Asian-American filmmakers. "To me, commercials, documentaries and narrative films are all about storytelling," she says. "I don't distinguish between them. Whether I'm working with a big crew, a small crew or by myself, it's all storytelling."