Justin Casselle Teams Up with PETA for Impactful Comedy Spot [Exclusive Interview with SCREEN]

Justin Casselle continues his rise through the commercial directorial ranks with his latest work for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which brings you an unexpected comedy twist. Midwest native Casselle’s career path has included stints with FCB and DDB Chicago as a producer. Justin is now directing commercials with his company Great Guns, and burst onto the national scene with the historic first campaign for Pearl Milling Company, formerly known as Aunt Jemima. Justin stopped by to chat with SCREEN about his latest work with the venerable animal safety organization.

Before we chat with Justin, let’s take a look at the spot…

SCREEN: Thanks for stopping by, Justin! What was your creative approach with the crafting for this spot?

JUSTIN: My initial approach was: What’s going to make me laugh? And then from there I began figuring out how to layer comedy atop PETA’s message. Thankfully my team at Great Guns were all ears anytime I had questions or needed to just think out loud. But overall, I was just making sure that the message and the comedic tone of the spot fit. How many laughs is too many laughs? How serious does this need to be? It may sound obvious but it was a balancing act the entire way through. But as always, I aimed to stay true to myself and my comedic sensibilities. I made sure I pitched, wrote, and directed scenes in a way that made me laugh knowing that if I could get behind it, then others would likely follow suit. 

SCREEN: What about this spot do you think will resonate most with viewers?

JUSTIN: I think the subversion! I was a bit surprised at first that PETA wanted to lean into comedy for their next advert. I feel like I might’ve asked Oliver, “are we sure?” a thousand times. But I really thought (and now know) it could be something special if we nailed it. I imagined people thinking, “PETA… doing comedy?” Like I said, I loved people being hit with something unexpected and different from a brand we’re all so familiar with. Because ultimately that’s what’s going to stick in your head long after the commercial finishes. And what we wanted – something people would remember.

SCREEN: What did you enjoy most about the creative process with this project?

JUSTIN: Honestly, just being able to collaborate with people I know and trust. Ramone (line producer) and Taylor (DP) and I go way back and so to have those two guys next to me collaborating and breathing life into this project was so much fun… it really meant a lot. And honestly, along the way, the team at PETA were really open to my ideas and my pitches. It’s not often a director gets to write the commercial script they’ll be directing, so I really took advantage of that. So with the room I was given to play, I pushed it. I got a little weird. Had some fun.

As Justin mentioned above, his team included the Production Company Great Guns USA, Line Producer Ramone Hulet, Cinematographer Taylor Russ, 1st AD Kali Mann, Editor Andrew Henry, Colorist Ron Sudul, and Post Sound Mixer and Designer Batsi Zesaguli.

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