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NYU alumna Jenn Shaw directs heartfelt commercial for all-new Hyundai IONIQ 5

NYU alumna Jenn Shaw directs heartfelt commercial for all-new Hyundai IONIQ 5
Photo courtesy of Nicole Mondestin Photography

Jenn Shaw was raised in Lexington, Kentucky and is now a filmmaker based in New York. Shaw graduated from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and went on to establish her career as a director and writer with a vision for crafting new-age, sports-related stories.


Shaw is excited about her new path in painting the story for the new Hyundai IONIQ 5 electric vehicle.


What inspired you to want to be a director and study at NYU film school?

I was one of those lucky people [who] knew that I had a creative vision as a child and that I wanted to share it. From my teen years, I just really was always thinking of stories, and how could I tell them in a way that include people [who] look like me. I grew up in Kentucky and wasn’t surrounded by that element of getting to see people of my community move forward as a Black woman. So, it was really great to see films and be inspired by a lot of the great artists like the Spike Lees of the world that were piping out content that showed it. It felt like a natural match. I went to the University of Kentucky at first and knew I wanted to move forward and be around entertainment.


I applied to NYU, got in, and it was like one of those great moments where you feel like you were given an opportunity. So, I took advantage of it, did internships, and did what I could to make sure that I was doing work and pressing forward to build a career and shape it. I actually started off as a producer. Besides training and understanding every role on set, which I think is really important to be a great creative lead, I learned all the ways to troubleshoot and work with talent. That helped me to transition to a director.

What is it like to sit in the director’s chair?

The role starts way before the chair, the chair’s the best part, though. It’s really just being someone who ideates a concept. So, whether it be commercial or narrative, [it] usually starts with the concept that needs to be fleshed out into a script. For us, it’s usually collaborating either on the commercial side with a creative director or a team that helps you overall. They have an idea of the concept, the look and feel, but they want your take on it. A lot of being a director is not only just getting an agency, brand or a studio what they want, but also they want you to make sure you make it your own.

What does the storyboard look like for the new Hyundai Iconic and what is the relationship between the two individuals in the commercial?

You rarely get boards in a script and this is just a nod to Eunique Jones [Gibson}] and the team of Culture Brands that already comes to you with so much layering involved in the Black experience. You have this really beautiful story that came to me about a little boy and his cool uncle having this really great car that encompasses sustainability. The car is about being a leader, just feeling like it owns the road, but it really cares and it is conscious about the community. It’s something really great that could easily parallel to our characters. My approach was to take that coolness of the car, all those flashy things about it, but have that bounce back to who my characters were, and build the arc that felt like something relatable to a lot of people in the Black community.

A lot of times we have these extremes like Black excellence, and then, we show trauma and [I] like to have stories that show everyday Black people in joyous states. For me, it was really just developing this language of quick and cool as we see Blake go through the hall and he gets to his uncle who’s even cooler. They have this bond that’s very clear from the moment we see them, the way his eyes light up, the way even though there are kids in the background. Of course, it’s a nod to the car. The car is amazing looking. It looks like a spaceship, but it’s also about their relationship and what that means. They go on this journey in this really amazing car, but along the way they do some recycling and saying hi to friends.

You can also tell that Blake is a kid we’d want to be and we’re really proud of. So once they get in the car together, it’s just about taking them through a journey where we see them being conscious and aware of their environment, how they move, how they act, and their love toward each other. Then they have a really warm moment playing a video game out in front of the house using the car as a tool to show their kinship, but also fulfill their journey and make it an evolved journey. And that’s exactly what we were allowed to do. It’s an amazing opportunity and there were some parts I think that were already there and I tried to add and really elevate some of the content, and visually create a world that just felt premium and I think that we were able to do that.

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