Brazilian Director Airton Carmignani of Stink Films Captivates Global Audiences with Powerful Commercials

Director Airton Carmignani (aka Tino) scouting a location for AXA’s Speak Up commercial

Multi-award winning director Airton Carmignani, who’s known widely around the world as Tino, one half of the unstoppable directing duo Jones + Tino of Stink Films, has made an indelible mark on the world of advertising with his innovative films and commercials.

As the director behind commercials for some of the world’s most notable brands, such as Nike, Leica, Orange, Ikea, Bodyform, Kaiser Permanente and more, Tino has been praised for his ability to think outside of the box and ahead of the curve. Over the past decade, Tino’s visionary talent and capacity to direct groundbreaking work has earned him unprecedented international recognition that includes numerous Cannes Lions, including the Grand Prix Award and three Gold Awards, two Gold British Arrow Awards, three Gold Clio Awards, the Grand Prix Ciclope Award, and dozens more.

Tino recently directed the powerful Speak Up film that launched the British health insurance company AXA’s Sharing Makes Us Stronger campaign. The film dives into the personal stories of four people experiencing difficulties with their mental health, and the relief they experience after sharing those feelings with their friends and loved ones.

Tino on set of the AXA Speak Up commercial

Tino says, “[Speak Up] highlights the need to talk and the benefits of sharing our thoughts and feelings. People often find it difficult to talk about their mental health, so it’s a bold move for AXA to put this front and centre of the campaign.”

Poetic and empowering, the beautifully crafted film is not as much about a health insurance company, as it is about the real life people that AXA insures. Speak Up depicts what often goes unsaid, drawing the audience’s attention to just how important the things that people often find difficulty talking about are to their overall mental health. In essence, Speak Up urges everyone to stop sweeping their emotions under the rug and to actually start voicing how they feel without fear of whether it’s pretty, cool or socially acceptable.

Tino and his partner use brilliant cinematic devices from the pacing to the colors and the angles of the shots to capture the chaotic feelings of mental instability and how those are magnified in loneliness juxtaposed against the relief that comes with sharing ones inner world with others and gaining the support they need.

“Football(s),” one of Tino’s other recent works, which he directed for the global communications brand Orange, is infused with culture, rhythm and dazzling imagery, which all combine to convey the emotional connection that draws so many communities across the African continent, and the world for that matter, to fall in love with the sport.

Tino says of his work capturing this emotional connection, “I’m from Brazil, a country that takes the love for football really seriously. It was interesting to see how other cultures relate to football and how universal it can be. We shot in South Africa and Morocco, two totally different African countries and that also gave me a broader understanding about African culture. I had a similar experience shooting basketball in the Philippines a couple of years ago, a country that is completely obsessed with the game.”

Released in June as part of Orange’s sponsorship of the Africa Cup of Nations, the commercial, which aired in Africa and Europe, earned international praise, including the Grand Prix Award from the prestigious Olympic International Committee in the 2019 Sportel Awards.

For the past three decades now, the Sportel Awards have been the leading international competition that judges and rewards the most outstanding sports footages of the year. “Football(s)” was also awarded in the editing category at the London International Awards, and the project is expected to bring in numerous more accolades.

Though Tino is a hugely sought after director in the advertising industry where clients like Honda, Volkswagen, Ford, Toyota, FaceBook and more vye to work with him, what remains so unique about Tino’s story and the overall progression of his career is the fact that he’d never actually envisioned becoming a filmmaker.

“I got into the film business through an unusual path. I didn’t go to film school and I never worked on a set before I was a director,” admits Tino. “After years of working as an art director in advertising I started directing small projects for agency clients. DSLR cameras like the Nikon D90 and Canon 7D opened up a lot of possibilities for amateur filmmakers. Suddenly you could produce really cinematic images using an accessible cheap camera.”

Growing up in the Brazilian countryside of Piracicaba, Tino discovered his passion for images early on, and though going to film school never really crossed his radar, his early love for images got his creative juices flowing. It is arguably from there that the unique path that’s since taken him to the top of the advertising world began.

“Images always had an effect on me. First, drawings — as a kid I wanted to be a comic book artist. Then, photographs — as an advertising art director I was always more attracted to photographs and images then to design and typography. And later, almost like a following step, the moving images got my attention,” Tino recalls.

“It wasn’t until my early 30’s that I started to consider filmmaking as a way of living. I never went to film school so my approach to filmmaking is basically self taught.”

Tino’s eye for visuals and powerful edge as a leading art director at agencies such as F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi not only brought him quite a bit of attention in his own right, but it meant he was working on massive campaigns with the industry’s best talents. Working as a creative beside award-winning advertising directors, Tino quickly recognized what was working and what wasn’t, and it wasn’t long before he started directing projects himself.

He explains, “After years working in advertising and being part in numerous productions as a creative, there was a moment where I just thought, I can do what these guys are doing.”

Tino first met his directing partner Ricardo, aka Jones, at F/Nazca Saatchi & Saatchi in Rio.

“We say we met on a blind date… He was transferred and we started working as a creative team. We met the same day and we started working together,” recalls Tino.

In 2012 they founded the Stink Films São Paulo office, which changed the game for them as filmmakers and became a new working model for other production companies, as well as Stink Film’s other branches around the world.

“Most production companies didn’t foment a creative working environment. When there was a film being produced there was talented and creative people working as freelancers on the project but as soon it was over, everybody left. Most of the time the production company was a boring and non-inspiring place,” explains Tino. “We were used to the agency model with a lot of creative people coworking 24/7, sharing ideas and collaborating on many different projects and we wanted to replicate that environment in our company.”

Together they created an atmosphere where a group of talented creatives could continue to work together and build upon each others strengths as a team, and soon enough that model became the benchmark for the Stink Network and inspired the creation of Stink Rising, a division that nurtures an international roster of up and coming directors.

Tino and his partner had made a strong name for themselves in the industry prior to founding Stink Films in Brazil though. In 2008, Jones + Tino directed their first project together, a stop motion anti-smoking commercial for a health insurance company. The commercial, known as “War,” which they made using only the butt and filter ends of hundreds of cigarettes to create an innovative series of moving images of warships, tanks and bombs passing over the screen, was a huge success. Tino and his partner’s genius were instantly recognized throughout the industry and the commercial went on to win the Bronze Award from the Cannes Lions Festival, considered to be the Oscars of the advertising world, and the Film Grand Prix at the Wave International Festival in Rio de Janeiro.

The immense success of “War,” foreshadowed the strong impact Tino and his partner would make with their future work. And they have.

Directors Jones (left) and Tino (right) (Photo by Gabriel Bianchini)

“Our experience as creatives made us obsessed and respectful about the concept behind the scripts. That’s the backbone of all our projects. No matter our vision for a specific project it’s always intrinsically connected to the core idea,” Tino explains.

“Our way of working is very unformatted. It’s definitely an equal partnership, but we don’t specify specific roles for each one of us when working together. Both of us approach the film as a whole and that gives us much more critical mass to discuss and to get a more unique creative result at the end.”

While “War” quickly put Jones + Tino on the map in a big way, it was followed by their even more successful 2012 “Addiction” commercial for Nike, as well as the Nike “Before and After” film that featured the 2-times FIFA World Champion Brazilian footballer Ronaldo. In 2012, Tino’s work went on to be featured in the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase at the Cannes Lions Festival, the benchmark festival for recognizing creativity in advertising and setting the standard for the industry’s current trends.

Tino says, “Power visuals are definitely something I always look for. I want people to be impacted by the images I produce. I think it comes a lot from still photography. My first approach to a scene is always, ‘what’s the most amazing picture I can find to portray this situation?’ ‘How will the emotional stakes on the scene and the characters’ emotions influence this picture?’ From that, I start building the camera work, lighting and the block of the actors and so on.”

Tino’s trained eye and passion for powerful visuals is arguably one of the reasons that the Leica 100 film that he directed alongside Jones was such a massive success in 2015. A branded film created to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the first Leica camera, the work earned Tino and his partner a level of success no other Brazilian director had yet achieved — the Grand Prix Award in the film category at the Cannes Lions Festival. The press and advertising industry had something of a field day over the monumental achievement; and anyone who didn’t know Tino’s name in the industry prior, definitely did after. And, rightfully so.

Making of Leica’s 100 short film on location in Montevideo, Uruguay (Photo by Stink Films)

From the burning monk in Viet Cong to a nude Yoko Ono embracing John Lennon, the Leica 100 film replicated some of the most iconic images in history, while geniously attributing the collective imagery to the inspiration the Leica camera brought to the field of photography.

“The idea was to represent iconic photography from the past 100 years. The concept was very straightforward but at the same time we had a lot of freedom to build the narrative and the visual approach,” explains. “Leica was the first real portable camera that allowed photographers to leave the studio and hit the streets. The images were represented in many different ways and the narrative created a constant and almost seamless flux moving from one image to the other. One image after the other, influencing and inspiring the next one.”

The film tells a story that is brilliantly captivating, but also dark and funny. It’s clear to see Tino’s talent when it comes to imagery in the way that he was able to effectively reproduce some of the most respected images while turning them into a seamless, moving story. Naturally though, there was quite a bit of pressure that came along with recreating such respected photos and doing just to their original photographers.

“The biggest challenge was to capture all the iconic pictures in a way that they would hold something true to the original and again do them justice. That was scary. We were afraid Cartier-Bresson would come back to haunt us at night,” admits Tino laughingly.

Henri Cartier-Bresson being the iconic French humanist photographer, who’s credited with being one of the early masters of candid photography, and whose iconic photos, such as the boy on the street with a glorious grin and two wine bottles in his arms, are replicated in the Leica 100 film.

Aside from taking home the prestigious Cannes Grand Prix Film Award, the Leica 100 film also earned Tino and his partner two more Cannes Lions Gold Awards and three Silver Awards, two Gold Clio Awards, as well as a Silver and a Bronze Award, two D&AD Awards, three LIA Awards, five One Show Awards and two Ciclope Awards. To top it all off, the project also ushered Tino and his partner into the Gunn Report’s Top 3 Most Awarded Commercial Directors in the World list, as well as the Top 2 Most Awarded Film Commercials in the World.

Tino speaking an the 2018 Brazilian Creative Club Festival in São Paulo, Brazil (Photo by Clube Online)

Since then, Tino has been viewed as a definitive expert in advertising, invited to be a juror for the same awards ceremonies that honored him early in his career, including the AICP Show in New York, the Ciclope Latino Awards in Mexico City and the Ciclope Festival in Berlin, the Creative Club Awards in São Paulo, the D&Ad jury and others.

From growing up in nature back home in Brazil to being one of today’s most awarded commercial directors in the world, Tino has clearly made a powerful mark, keeping the industry on the edge of its seat with each new project.

Portia is a journalist & poet from Los Angeles. You can find her work through №3 Magazine, ElephantJournal.com, Gypsyrich.com, Stillstoked.com and more.

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