Tag Archives: JJ Skutnik

JJ Skutnik: A “Rising” Star

You may have seen the short film. People dance together behind a screen; their X-ray silhouettes are projected on it. When they emerge from behind, the audience sees who they really are.

The skeletons turn into human beings. Each group is unique. There are 2 women; 2 men with a baby; 2 little girls, one with Down syndrome; a Muslim and a Jew.

The video — first posted in 2015 — went viral. It’s been seen nearly 170 million times.

You may know that the film is part of a broader “Love Has No Labels” campaign. Another project includes “We Are America.” Professional wrestler/rapper/actor John Cena offers fascinating statistics about our country. Describing our numbers — by gender, race, religion, physical ability, age and sexual orientation — he notes, “Labels don’t devalue us. They help define us.”

That video has been viewed nearly 100 million times.

You may have seen last year’s video. Filmed at football’s Pro Bowl in Orlando, it turns the usual stadium Kiss Cam — focusing mostly on young, straight, white couples — on its head.

This Kiss Cam zeroes in on older couples of all ages. On same-sex couples. On a young kid with a developmental disability kissing his friend.

You may even know that all these videos are sponsored — pro bono — by the Ad Council. The goal is to fight “implicit bias” — the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our thoughts, actions and decisions, often subconsciously.

But what you probably don’t know is that a Staples graduate has been working with the Ad Council on these projects.

And that he played a huge role in the newest launch: a very impressive long-form video that asks, why does it take disaster to bring us all together?

JJ Skutnik

The Westport native is JJ Skutnik. A state champion volleyball player, he graduated in 2005. At James Madison University he majored in corporate communications (and played volleyball). He focused on the design aspect of marketing and film, and turned an internship at Story Worldwide in South Norwalk into a full-time job.

He moved on to R/GA, the international ad agency that produces the Ad Council’s “Love Has No Labels” campaign.

Skutnik is particularly excited about “Rising.” Far longer than the other videos — nearly 10 minutes — and directed by David Nutter (“Game of Thrones”), it dramatically and emotionally shows that in times of great stress, labels don’t matter.

Skutnik’s role was lead producer. He worked with the high-end crew — all of whom donated their time — on the Warner Brothers’ Burbank, California set. He also helped with post-production, music scoring (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic), the website and launch.

The video launched earlier this month. Showtime features it on demand, and throughout the day. Clear Channel is promoting it with billboards; Google and Facebook have donated ad space. It too has gone viral.

“Rising” shows how people pull together during a flood. But, Skutnik notes, the same thing happens during other crises — like the current wildfires.

“We don’t need to drop our biases only during disasters,” he says. “We should do it all the time.”

Thanks to JJ Skutnik, R/GA and the Ad Council’s efforts, maybe we will.