Q&A: Helen Hunt | Adweek Q&A: Helen Hunt | Adweek

Q&A: Helen Hunt


Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt recently directed her first commercial, a 60-second documentary-style spot via StrawberryFrog that told the story of Lisa Nigro, a former Chicago police offer who runs The Inspiration Cafe, a nonprofit that provides restaurant-style meals and support services for the city's homeless.

Nigro's story beat more than 2,000 submissions in Frito-Lay snack brand TrueNorth's search for the "Most Inspiring TrueNorth Story." The spot debuted during last month's Academy Awards telecast.

Here Hunt, who also directed and acted in the 2007 feature Then She Found Me, discusses her first experience as a commercial director, where she finds her greatest inspiration and what's next for her in the world of advertising.
Why direct a TrueNorth commercial?

Everything interested me about it: the chance to make a 60-second movie about somebody doing something interesting in the world; shooting in Chicago; shooting with the DP that I made my movie with [Peter Donahue]. I thought they would have a plan B if they thought I didn't know what I was doing. They really did let me do it and I had good chemistry with the woman.
Had you considered commercials before?

I didn't quite know which first step to take and this sort of fell in my lap. Then when I learned I didn't have to interact with the product at all, that I would just be making this little movie, that was really a relief. Only because I've never done that before; but what I had done is make a little movie about someone. This woman, her past is unlikely, what she is doing is unusual and the city she is doing it in is fantastic to photograph, so everything about it looked like an opportunity. Plus, the DP that shot Then She Found Me, Peter Donahue, has made a lot of documentaries and a zillion commercials, so he was the perfect person to walk alongside me and help me capture this part of this woman...who runs The Inspiration Cafe [and] serves breakfast to people who want to be treated with integrity and respect.
How did you approach capturing her story?

Knowing I had 60 seconds, it became pretty clear to me I better go for one thing and whatever else I get will be extra. It's actually true in a movie, too. I like to have one sentence that the whole movie is about. I spent years trying to figure out what that one sentence was for my movie. And [Nigro] talked about the gift of being expected [and, conversely] what it is like to not have someone who would be worried if you did not show up. That was a new thought to me, I hadn't thought about it in that way.

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