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Behind the scenes on a star-studded fitness campaign with director Amir Noorani

Interviews • Written by Tash Petry Khan, Community Manager

Based in Los Angeles, Amir Noorani is an award-winning filmmaker, and the founder of Noorani Films. Commissioned via Genero, he teamed up with Optimum Nutrition to direct an energetic and inspiring campaign for the sports nutrition brand’s ‘Building Better Lives’ program.

With a goal of improving community access to fitness resources, the BBL campaign saw NFL stars Davante Adams and Justin Jefferson take to the streets of their respective hometowns to share their fitness journey and inspire others to do the same.

We caught up with director Amir Noorani to go behind the scenes on the high profile cross-country shoot, and hear about his creative approach to the production process.

Firstly, this was an amazing production, so congratulations. Were you an NFL fan going into the shoot? How did you find directing high profile players?

I’ve always been a sports fan, but admittedly, originally I was more of a basketball fan. Previously, I had a chance to work on some other projects with NFL talent prior to this, so it all felt very comfortable by the time the campaign came around.

Ironically, I was also in a fantasy football league at the time and had Justin Jefferson on my team during his sensational rookie year so I was super excited to meet him in person. Then of course Davante Adams has a 99 rating in Madden, so how could you not be excited to direct arguably the greatest receiver in the NFL?

The client had a clear story they wanted to tell for their Building Better Lives campaign- so what was your creative process for approaching your treatment and vision? What do you find most helpful when sitting down to write a pitch?

We looked at other examples of best in class work that was related to the BBL campaign and we used that as a template to build around. We started with a really detailed list of reference videos and images. It also helped that the client liked some of my previous work, so we knew we could lean into that aesthetic.

You shot this work in both New Orleans and East Palo Alto with the players. What were the highlights of the shoot? Were there challenges to travel during the pandemic?

It was definitely a challenge hiring crew and actors in two different locations, on top of that we also had to rely on a lot of photography and maps for location scouting before we arrived. Throw in a pre-vaccine pandemic into the fold, and we definitely had to be creative! I remember one day counting all our luggage at the airport and being mesmerised that we actually pulled everything off just the way we had intended. Despite these challenges I think we can all agree that the food we ate in Louisiana between shoots was the highlight for us!

The final content is a striking mix of documentary style and manifesto film, but you’ve brought the same high energy creative approach to each asset. Did the post-production process bring it all together?

To be honest, pre-production was key for us. We had really great storyboards to reference and a lot of good visual material to inspire us so once we got into the edit, it was pretty easy to find a rhythm. We shot so much good stuff, it was harder to find what to cut than what to use!

You’re not a stranger to creating this type of impactful fitness content with work for Nike, the LA Rams and Oakley. Do you have any notable career highlights? Have there been challenges you’ve had to overcome?

Even though it was one of my earliest pieces of work, my short film SHAYA, which was nominated for a student BAFTA is still my favourite. I’d like to return to narrative filmmaking sometime soon, but most recently I just finished a couple spots for the NFL App. My experience on the Optimum Nutrition project really helped guide me through that project.

"The best advice I have for anyone wanting to direct or produce is to stay prolific. Just keep doing it."

Are there any production teams or creative individuals you look up too and take inspiration from? Do you have any advice for budding directors/producers starting out in the industry?

A lot of my inspiration comes from filmmakers like Alejando Iñàrritu who also started with commercials before branching out into feature length narrative projects. The best advice I have for anyone wanting to direct or produce is to stay prolific. Just keep doing it. Not everything is going to be great, but you learn every time you do something and failure can be its own lesson.

What changes do you think we’re seeing in the creative industry in 2022? And what can we expect from you this year?

I think we’ll see a return to practical filmmaking. The post production revolution during the pandemic has been wonderful, but I think audiences and brands alike are craving the real world. I hope to have a draft of a feature length film ready to go by the end of the year, but in the meantime, I am working with an agency in Hollywood on some exciting marketing projects for Netflix and the NFL.

Thanks so much to Amir for chatting to us. Watch the full campaign video below and join Genero here to work with us as a creator and find briefs for projects like this.

Credits

Director: Amir Noorani
Producer: Eric Bergemann
DP: Will Stone
AC: Mark Quintos
Editor: Matt Litwiller
Colorist: Brian Singler
Sound: Jeff Yellen
First AC: Mark Quintos
Gaffer: Phil Matarrese, Matt Araquistain
Key Grip: Joe Matarrese
Storyboards: Diego Lopez
Camera Prep: Navjot Kaur
PA: Ashli Smith, Lauren Ewell, Arion Johnson and Louis Wales
Sound: James Page, Dan Jaspar
2nd AC: Danika Andrade
Wardrobe: Summer Moore, Alison Cohen
HMU: Courtney Jarell, Mandie Brice
Medic: Kris Butler
Talent: Alex Morton, Cedric Kasongo, Jeremiah Smith , Jamari Ross,  Cameron Brown, Brady Huang, Hanna Huslysta, Yamarie Nunez, Brittany Taylor,  Jamar Sturns, Marisol Mora, Justin Beacham.


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