Bully Pictures’ Dustin Lance Black Combines Activism with Advertising

Academy-award winner directs advertising projects with powerful social themes for Tylenol and Coca-Cola.

LOS ANGELES — Dustin Lance Black soared to international fame in 2009 when he won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the film Milk and inspired millions with his stirring acceptance speech invoking LGBT rights. He went on to become a leading spokesperson for the LGBT community through his play 8, about the fight against California’s anti-same-sex marriage proposition, and as one of the founding board members of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, whose efforts led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision striking down the discriminatory proposition. That ruling is viewed as an important precursor to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision making same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

With marriage equality now the law of the land, Black is refocusing his energies on his filmmaking career, without, however, lessening his commitment to equality and activism. Currently working on a mini-series for ABC about the early gay rights movement, he also finds himself suddenly in high demand as a commercial director through Los Angeles-based Bully Pictures. Black recently directed projects for Tylenol through JWT New York and Coca-Cola through Pereira & O’Dell that evoke powerful stories about acceptance, tolerance and equal rights.

For Tylenol, Black directed a commercial featuring a variety of non-traditional couples, one a male couple with a newborn child. “Family isn’t defined by who you love,” concludes the voice-over, “but how.”

“I respond to stories that are impactful, that can help people out,” says Black. “With Tylenol, I thought it furthered the conversation. It’s not just about LGBT families, it’s about a whole slew of families who might be treated differently because they don’t fit a certain mode. To have LGBT families included with mixed-race families and adoptive families also built on love…it’s inclusive and accepting in a way that could be very helpful to a lot of parents and kids out there. I thought, that’s worth making time for.”

More ambitious is Black’s work for Coca-Cola, which includes a series of three short films for Latin American markets. Conceived by Pereira & O'Dell, the films center on teenagers facing “crossroads moments” where friendship triumphs over cruelty. The first two films deal with spiteful rumors, broken romances and misunderstandings that are often deeply hurtful to young people. The third film, The Text, centers on the friendship between two Brazilian boys and what happens when one learns that the other is gay.

“I direct these spots because I feel that they can have an impact,” says Black. “Yes, they are selling a product, but you can sell a product while influencing society in positive ways. These are ads that are doing that.”
Black sees little difference between his work as a filmmaker and as an activist. “To me, it’s one and the same,” he explains. “Whether you are filing a Supreme Court case or making a film, it’s all about storytelling. If you want to win in court, you need to tell your story well and in an emotionally compelling manner. When you make a film, you do the same thing.”

Black’s work for Tylenol and Coke are garnering wide media attention and stirring debate. Bully Pictures executive producer Jason Forest is not surprised. He says that Black delivers something often lacking in advertising: truthfulness. “He’s making his mark in the commercial world by telling stories that touch upon the LGBT community culture with authenticity,” Forest says. “He’s dispelling the clichés and the stereotypes and replacing them with honesty. He is just a fantastic storyteller, and I have had the wonderful pleasure all these years as a friend and commercial collaborator to watch him develop into a brilliant director.”

“I’m turning a mirror on the societies where these ads appear to show them what is already there but isn’t often discussed or embraced in an open manner,” says Black. “I’m reflecting back the best of what we are.”

About Bully Pictures:
Bully Pictures is a full-service commercial broadcast, web viral, branded content production company located in Santa Monica, California. The company’s roster includes Javier Aguilera, Dustin Lance Black, Fredrik Callinggard, Peter Care, Anne Fletcher, Gaute Hesthagen, Dave Klaiber, Jonathan Nyquist, Justin Simien, Johan Stahl, Taylor Steele, Morten Tyldum and Tripp & Tyler. For more information, write info@bullypictures.com


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