2 Minutes With … Jerald Roberts II, Director/Producer at The Variable

On releasing two EPs during lockdown and Oklahoma Joe's 'Real Smoke Flavor'

With nearly a decade of experience in filmmaking and music, Jerald serves as a director and producer at The Variable. He got his start at DC-Camera, a motion picture rental house in Washington, D.C., before jumping into production and freelancing as a cinematographer. Following a two-year stint as a music producer during the pandemic, Jerald joined The Variable in 2021.

We spent two minutes with Jerald to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Jerald, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Maryland, moved to Northern Virginia when I was eight, and lived in Hawaii for five years. Now I live in Winston-Salem, N.C.

How you first realized you were creative.

I always knew, even as a kid. I've always enjoyed doing creative things, mostly music, photography or filmmaking. But honestly, I didn't consider myself a "creative" until very recently. Creativity was something I did. I'm just now accepting that it's who I am.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

John Frusciante, guitarist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. We often think of rules as "limitations" but he has a way of using the "rules" of music theory to make his creative process better instead of limited.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I started college with no direction until I discovered the Music Club and decided to major in Music. I had my doubts, but I knew it was something I loved. When I called my parents to tell them, I was hesitant because I didn't know how they would react, but they gave me unwavering support. That decision set the tone for my career by leading to opportunities in audio production, which led me to filmmaking, which led to advertising.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett of Gorillaz. I admire how fearlessly they pursue their creative projects. They inspire others, make great work with diverse individuals and have fun. Fun fact: "On Melancholy Hill" from their album Plastic Beach was my wedding song.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

David Goggins' Can't Hurt Me changed my life during a challenging career phase. Looking back, moving states as a freelancer during Covid lockdowns with few connections probably wasn't the best idea. But the book's principles helped me rebound. I realized that facing adversity is inevitable, but how we respond to it is within our control. So now, when I find myself in a sticky production situation or a creative block, I know I can get through it.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

During the lockdowns, I released two EPs: Uncharted and Strangers. The first delves into my old songs, some dating as far back as 2013. Strangers includes four entirely new tracks inspired by Tame Impala's style, resulting in a collection of EDM/House music. I'm really proud of the EPs, because I wrote, recorded, performed, mixed and mastered both projects all on my own.

Playlist with both EPs:


Uncharted EP:


Strangers EP:


A recent project you're proud of. 

Oklahoma Joe's "Real Smoke Flavor." This was a home run across the board. We had an A+ team, the shoot went great and the final product was wildly successful for our client, smashing all of their performance metrics. It's one thing to make great work. It's another to make great work that gets results.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Inception directed by Christopher Nolan. I remember when this movie came out. I walked out of the theater and said: "I don't know what I just saw, but I want to do that." It was the first time I understood the power of cinematography as a storytelling device. Everyone knows that hallway scene. It would have been so easy to do it with CGI. But Nolan went practical, and that makes all the difference.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

@milesmusickid on Instagram. People throw the word "prodigy" around a lot, but this kid is legit. At 6 years old, his creative process is years ahead of seasoned professionals. He trusts his instincts and just goes for it. His point of view and ability to communicate that point of view are so inspiring!

Your main strength as a creative person.

I trust my instincts. I know how to turn ideas into action and follow through when it's the right time.

Your biggest weakness.

Communicating my ideas is an area I can improve on. They're vivid in my head but by the time they go from my brain to spoken words, something gets lost in translation. It's frustrating, which is why I'm a big believer in AI. It's much easier to show someone what I'm envisioning than trying to explain it.

A mentor that helped you navigate the industry.

Ken DuPuis, rest in peace. He helped me get my start in the production industry and gave me a ton of opportunities to shoot and cut videos. I developed a lot of experience, opportunities and relationships from working with him.

Keith Rose, the former VP of production at The Variable, is another. He hired me when I was struggling during Covid and taught me how to play in the big leagues.

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

I'm an internship mentor at The Variable. Last summer, I mentored two production interns, one of whom was an HBCU grad from Winston-Salem State. Seeing the wonder and excitement in their eyes reminded me of how much I love what I do. And they blew me away with what they knew and how quickly they learned. I'm also the chairman of The Vanguard, The Variables' employee-led DEI board. We've spent the last two years working with executive leadership to identify and align on goals that further diversity, equity and inclusion.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I love what I do, so it's hard to say. But if my life blew up and I had to start again, I would probably move back to Hawaii and live the beach bum surfer life. I lived there for five years in my early 20s and there's something special about the relaxed, low-key lifestyle and being in the ocean every day. I loved it and I wake up every day asking myself: "Why did you leave?"

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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