If you’ve ever been to Italy, you know that while it is a country of beautiful art, architecture and landscapes, it’s the food that takes your breath away.
Actor Stanley Tucci is intimately familiar with that experience, having written several cookbooks based on the place and starred in the movie Big Night, which is about brothers preparing, serving and ultimately indulging in a giant Italian feast.
Now Tucci is bringing his passion for Italy to an original six-episode travel and food series for CNN. To promote the series, which premieres on Sunday, Feb. 14, CNN teamed with New York City-based creative agency Loyalkaspar.
“The show has three main tenants: Stanley Tucci, Italy and Italian food,” said Stephen Krill, marketing director, CNN. “It’s easy to put Stanley up front and Italy sort of becomes its own character, so we really wanted to have something that really put the food front and center.”
To do that, Loyalkaspar worked with food stylist Maggie Ruggiero to create the beautiful plates of food shown above. Some of the shots are just of fresh produce, such as the pile of green artichokes or the bursting red tomatoes, but others required some cooking, such as the plate of risotto and beef marrow or the shot of simple fresh pasta.
“She created everything with real ingredients from authentic Italian recipes and she made everything look good on camera,” said Krill.
“We wanted to get the freshness and realness of the food, but not have it be so stylized that the food didn’t feel real,” said Loyalkaspar Executive Creative Director Anna Minkkinen.
Music also is important to CNN, Minkkinen said, and the above spot is scored with Major Lazer’s poppy and familiar “Light It Up,” while the below “Meet Stanley” spot includes classic Italian track “Via Con Me.”
As has become common during the pandemic, Loyalkaspar had no ability to travel or access to talent, so its team had to work with what they had and get creative.
Having a spot that introduced Tucci to audiences was important to CNN, said Minkkinen, just in case anyone interested in the show wasn’t familiar with the actor or his body of work, which includes The Hunger Games, The Devil Wears Prada, Julie & Julia and Supernova, with Colin Firth, in theaters now. And even if audiences knew Tucci as an actor, it was less likely they knew about his love of Italy and his expertise around the cuisine.
Loyalkaspar had to accomplish that storytelling spot without access to Tucci, so it relied on clips and footage provided by the show’s London-based production company, Raw. The series’ first four episodes were shot before Italy went into lockdown and the last two episodes were shot later last summer, but travel between the U.S. and Europe never really opened up. Tucci himself lives in London, making it easier for him to return to Italy to finish up the project.
“When we started, we thought we might have access to him,” said Minkkinen. “He did weigh in on things, though, and he recorded voiceover for us,” like in the below spot.
Loyalkaspar also took celebrated Italian foodstuffs—Napoli pizza and the San Marzano tomatoes that make up its sauce, massive wheels of well-aged parmesan cheese and fresh sardines—and turned them into a series of effective short teases for the food-focused series.
“The idea [for these teases] had been kicking around for a long time and people liked them,” said Minkkinen.
Even producing those short spots created some logistical challenges. For example, the night before the sardines shoot, a storm blew in and it looked like Loyalkaspar wasn’t going to be able to get the fresh fish on which it had planned.
Loyalkaspar didn’t just produce the spots, it also helped select the music as well as did the motion graphics, key art, compositing, color correction, editorial and storytelling, making it a full-service production partner to the 24-hour news network.
Going forward, Loyalkaspar is continuing to produce clip-based spots and other episodic promos for the series, leading into its Valentine’s Day debut on CNN.
Chief Marketing Officer: Allison Gollust
Senior Vice President: Rick Lewchuk
Vice President, Group Creative Director: Whit Friese
Creative Director: Ned Reid
Marketing Director: Stephen Krill
Writer/Producer: Ike Anyachonkeya
Marketing Assistant: Melissa Simpson
Senior Director of Production: Matt Barnett
Senior Production Manager: Nichole Goralnik
Production Resource Manager: Denise Patierno
President: David Herbruck
Chief Creative Officer: Beat Baudenbacher
Executive Producer: Scott Lasko
Executive Creative Director: Anna Minkkinen
Creative Director: Chris Harmon
Producer: Sarah Keshishian
Line Producer: Richard Schwab
Production Supervisor: Jon Simonetta
Cinematographer/Technical Director: Chris Webb
Production Designer: Alison Melillo
Food Stylist: Maggie Ruggerio
Editor: Bill Saunders
Colorist/Compositor: Christian Mangual
Mixer/Sound Design: Tyler Wenzel
Communications Manager: Cassie Wilkinson