Big agency chops, production company savvy gives Valiant its unique flair

By Chandler Atton
Posted February 14, 2024

Valiant Pictures is a lot of things. On one hand, they’re an independent production company of diverse creatives. And on another, they’re a creative agency that seeks out the unique perspectives of up-and-coming and experimental filmmakers.

Founded by Vincent Lin and Matthew D’Amato – Vincent, with roots in agency work and in-house production for the likes of BBDO, Resource/Ammirati and Octopus Creative Group; Matthew, working in production at SMUGGLER NYC and NYPS – the two combined their respective agency and production experiences and formed what we know now as Valiant Pictures in 2015.

Any way you slice it, they’re certainly true to their namesake.

We caught wind of how Simian impacted Valiant Pictures’ workflow via Matthew’s recent column on AgencySpy’s Tools of the Trade. After that, we had to hear the rest of his story – and he didn’t skimp on details.

How did Valiant Pictures come to be? How did you and Vincent meet? Did either of you have previous experience in the advertising or film & tv fields?

Vince and I met at the receptionist’s desk at SMUGGLER in NYC. We kept in touch through the years and made a few short films and commercials on our own, some good, some terrible. But it turned into more work to the point where we decided it made more sense for us to open up our own shop. The old adage goes, "work begets work.” So, with my producer experience, Vincent’s agency contacts and direction, and my axe, thus came Valiant.

What does the name “Valiant Pictures” mean to you personally? What kind of flair should someone expect from a VP-produced project?

Valiant means courage. It takes a lot of courage to be making Super Bowl commercials and then the next minute be shooting dog food commercials and try and convince people that it’s art. But in seriousness, it takes a lot of courage to stick to what you believe in and tell stories that are unique and memorable. We’re filmmakers at heart, and strive to champion work that inspires, entertains, challenges, and moves an audience. Commercial advertising is a very creative and client-driven endeavor, which we always push to elevate.

We pride ourselves in a “VP-produced” approach to utilize our years of production and agency experience and resources, to maximize impact and minimize headaches. I think the reason people continue to work with us, though, is simply because we’re nice people. Believe it or not, while this should be standard, it’s not always the case. I like to believe we’re creative, fun to be around, dedicated, have hors d’oeuvres on set (just kidding—only sometimes), and we’re collaborators and mentors and listeners, all in one. We’re risk-takers. We’re Valiant.

In addition to your diverse roster of directors, there’s also Vanguard, VP’s guest branch. How do you typically select talent to partner with on Vanguard projects? Have any Vanguard talents eventually been added to the Valiant Pictures roster? How does this division differ from VP itself?

Something we really believe in is to always have a growth mindset—not just from a business standpoint, but a creative mindset. We pride ourselves in finding fresh voices from various backgrounds because we believe that’s where we find untold stories, unique perspectives, new skill sets and weird shit. We love weird shit. Vanguard gives us an opportunity to bring in some of these voices and offer them opportunities, it serves like a testing ground.

There are some experienced directors that come with an already substantial reel who may be interested in working with us or are between reps, while others may be newer or come from a different background altogether and need some guidance/mentorship transitioning into Commercials. Our goal is always the same: to find the best brands and projects to team them up with. These directors can come from anywhere; sometimes an article catches our eye, sometimes a film or spec commercial, sometimes they’re referred to us, sometimes we reach out directly.

And like dating, if we get along, make each other laugh, respect and admire one another, and see a bright future together, there could be a spot on the roster for them. Most recently we added the directing duo BWTV, who did the Liam Gallagher music video for “Too Good For Giving Up”.

How did you come to partner with FreshFly? Do you work alongside them and frequently collaborate on projects, or do you have a different kind of relationship?

We met Chayne Gregg, Sean Maher, and Phil Bradshaw from FreshFly a few years ago through one of our executive producers, Adam Zimmer. They are like-minded in their work ethic, humble, kind, and provide a body of work that complemented ours. Chayne and Sean are taller and Vince and I are shorter, so they are like a bizarro multiverse version of us but stretched out vertically, and not as handsome. While we do a majority of our work in New York and California, their reach expands to many eastern and southern states. Also, they have experience in the film and TV space, which Valiant is stepping foot into.

We’re able to collaborate on projects, or refer each other’s directors, based on skill sets, vision, or location, sort of like our own sales agents. We respect each other and always push for the strongest candidate and options for our clients’ and agency’s needs. One of our latest projects has been the sequel to our Myrtle Beach’s “Beach with the Best” campaign, where their live action skills and our comedy acumen really came together for a series of tongue-in-cheek ads.

What are the projects you feel best define VP and its spin on the industry?

Among our longest-running campaigns would be the CarMax “Call Your Shots” campaign, directed by Danny Corey, under agencies Wasserman and The Martin Agency. The campaign made comedy stars out of basketball greats like Candace Parker, Zach LaVine, Kelly Oubre Jr., Stephen Curry, Sue Bird and more—the latter two actually went viral on Twitter in 2021 for the impact of their ad together, using humor and misdirection to elevate female athletes who have faced decades of underrepresentation in the media. Seeing your ad become a hashtag and trending on Twitter was a fun thing to wake up to!

From 2020-2022 we produced over 100 PSAs and public service assets for the NYC Department of Health. While not the most glamorous work, it is the most impactful, in a time of distress and uncertainty, providing critical information that hopefully impacted the health and safety of the entire 23.6 million NYC metropolitan area population.

In 2023, I produced and Vince directed his first feature film, “Chopin,” starring Eddie Liu (“Kung Fu,” “Never Have I Ever”), Violett Beane (“Death and Other Details,” “God Friended Me,” “The Flash”) and bridging Taiwanese superstars Leon Dai (“Your Name Engraved Herein”) and Wu Min. The film is to be completed in 2024.

Your roster works often in areas such as documentary and narrative film. How does this benefit or influence your work for brands and agencies?

Adaptability is a key strength in the ever-changing world of advertising. By having a diverse roster of multidisciplinary directors from various backgrounds, it allows us to bring new light and fresh perspectives to potential campaigns. No longer are we stuck to traditional TV :30 and :60’s (while that does account for a majority of our work); there is a hunger for content that sometimes doesn’t fit within the traditional confines and structures. And with budgets all over the place, we’ve been able to utilize directors with documentary and narrative film backgrounds to thrive in these projects. Having an arsenal of tools gives our clients options.

Since we’ve already read in Adweek about how essential Simian is to Valiant Pictures’ workflow, is there anything else we could be doing right now to make your job even easier? What sort of tools would be most valuable to you?

We agreed to bring up Simian for the interview in the first place because it worked so well within our process—there isn’t much more to add! That said, we always have the need to better collect, sort and assimilate our various contacts, and we want to start a consistent company newsletter this year to showcase our work. Maybe a future Simian product could do a bit of both, since they go hand-in-hand.





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