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Can a 14-Year-Old Make a Better Vitamin Commercial Than a Pro?


IDEA: It's so obvious, it's taken as fact: Experienced directors are better than inexperienced ones. But what if that's not always true?

Take, for example, not just young directors but child directors. Children see the world differently. It stands to reason that with the freshest of eye and rawest of talent, they might make something unique, even if they lack technical chops.

Ramaa Mosley believes this utterly, and opened a production company, Adolescent, in January to develop and represent directors 13 to 25 for ads and music videos. Among her early protégés is Lily Eliana Walsh, a 14-year-old who just shot a simple, sweet 60-second spot for SmartyPants Vitamins.

Giving the keys to the car to teens isn't an easy sell, but SmartyPants vp of brand Clay Nichols got it right away. "I spent a number of years teaching film and video to teens, and even wrote a book about it, so I knew that kids have an eye-level access that adults just can't match," he said. "They can be incredibly expressive and honest and vulnerable. … We put our brand in the hands of a 14-year-old and could not be happier with the result."

COPYWRITING: The creative brief was broad, mostly about the brand's values. "I used words like honesty, playfulness, simplicity, health, wit, premium quality, transparency, creativity," said Nichols. "We envisioned a series of vignettes possibly encompassing a variety of people and ages."

Walsh wrote out ideas for scenes and worked with Nichols and his team on a script and shot list. The spot opens on a little girl holding her mother's hand and spinning in a kitchen. There is no dialogue. Scenes overlap and echo—boys climbing trees, girls playing dress-up, kids at home, at the beach, playing sports.

At the end, the girl from the beginning reaches out and takes a gummy vitamin from her mom. "Health. Simplified," says the on-screen tagline, followed by the brand name and owl logo. "SmartyPants all-in-one gummy vitamins. For kids and adults," says a girl's voice.

FILMING/ART DIRECTION: This is Walsh's first spot. She started out taking photos, getting involved with Instagram at 11 and discovering video at 12.

"I felt she had an innate ability to tell stories and capture moments that reflected what it was to be a young person," Mosley said.

Walsh and a crew of 15 shot for two days at several homes in Los Angeles (including Mosley's) and at Santa Monica Beach and Temescal Canyon. An adult cinematographer, Will Dearborn, helped her with visuals, equipment and technical points.

"I thought a lot about what angles, composition and action I wanted," said Walsh. "The first day of shooting was very busy. We had so much to do and it was a little overwhelming. … The second day I was more relaxed and had a moment where I looked around the set and thought, 'I'm supposed to do this.'"

TALENT/SOUND: Maryclaire Sweeters in Los Angeles handled casting, choosing 32 actors over three casting sessions. The soundtrack is quiet piano; the sound design is subtle and realistic. On set, Walsh played music from her iPhone to create a rhythm and pace for the talent to respond to.

"I loved working with the younger kids, even though they didn't always do what I asked," she said. "Working with people my age, I felt I could give them a couple little bits of action or inspiration and they would jump right in."

MEDIA: The spot is running only online, but has "a degree of artistry and professional polish I could not possibly have anticipated," said Nichols. "This could clearly run on TV."

Client: SmartyPants Vitamins
Production Company: Adolescent
Creative Director: Ramaa Mosley
Director: Lily Walsh
DP: Will Dearborn
Editing: Homestead Editorial
Editor: Kevin Palmer

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