In times like these, we could all use a good laugh. For brands and agencies thinking just that, there’s good news: Director Melissa Silverman, whose comedy and performance chops have won her fans in both advertising and entertainment, has joined the directorial roster at Tessa Films.
A graduate of Northwestern, Silverman got her start as a director in MTV’s legendary On-Air Promos department, where creatives would develop often wildly over-the-top promo concepts and then carry them through to production, post and delivery. During this period of her career she worked with everyone from Madonna to Conan O’Brien to Dave Grohl, along with dozens more, writing and directing campaigns that turned heads and won awards. She also jump-started the career of a then unknown actress named Jennifer Lawrence when she cast her in a promo campaign for the reality series “My Super Sweet 16,” earning the future Oscar winner her SAG card.
Silverman co-created and co-directed the comedy series, “All Over It,” along with fellow director Ted Pauly. The series, which would later be picked up by Funny Or Die, featured a group of young artists cohabitating and co-creating in Philadelphia, eager to sell out and make it big.
Her flair for casting and her innate sense of what’s funny made an immediate impression at Tessa Films. “What I love about Melissa is that she knows talent when she sees it, and knows how to get the most of it,” says Founder and EP Lisa Masseur. Click here to view her reel.
Silverman’s ability to coax natural performances out of every kind of talent imaginable – from comedy improv players to celebs to arena rockstar legends – was a natural fit for the commercial genre, and Silverman transitioned easily into working with agencies and brands. Her reel includes work for Panera Bread, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter (starring the one and only Fabio!), Breyers Ice Cream, United Way and the Cooking Channel, the latter starring Mo Rocca, who’s shown how to make treasured family recipes by a series of grandparents. Among the awards her work has garnered are honors from the Art Directors Club (ADC), D&AD, PromaxBDA, RESfest, the Telly Awards, and an Emmy nomination for her Nick Jr. campaign.
Silverman connected with Tessa Films through Amy McIntyre, the production company’s Head of Sales and EP, with whom she’d been acquainted. “Amy was familiar with both me and my work, and I felt really comfortable with her insights and trusted her point of view,” says Silverman. “Knowing the nature of the work I like to do, she felt Tessa would be a good fit. The way they nurture talent and get on board with the creative projects their directors are passionate about really spoke to me.”
Her goal in signing is to broaden her exposure to agencies and brands. She’s also eager to take advantage of Tessa’s director-centric approach to the business: “I’m looking forward to working with Amy and Lisa to find projects that match up with the kind of comedy and character-driven work I love to do,” Silverman says. “And I like how they’re supportive of the kinds of creative projects that lie outside the advertising realm, but which offer an opportunity for me to use my skills in new and different ways.”
Masseur sees lots of potential for Silverman at her boutique company: “She’s got a style of quirky comedy that’s both unique and fun. And besides having great performances, the art direction in her work stands out as well, which is no surprise, given her start in the art department. And with her longform comedy work, we can see her making great contributions on branded content work as well.”
If anything, Silverman says the creative-first shift in advertising has made filmmakers like herself a more appealing option: “Coming out of MTV was the best education you could get, as that’s where I learned the importance of the idea,” she observes. “We’d start with that, and then see things all the way through. And the skills we acquired are now more valuable than ever, as I see both brands and agencies that are looking for directors with whom they can partner.
“And so when the collaboration is warranted, I’m there for it,” she continues. “But I also respect the process, which means at times you’re stepping more into the director’s role, and bringing something that feels right and looks great. Being able to offer both approaches is something I’m really keen to do, and that’s what I feel will define my experience at Tessa.”
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