Tami Shelly on Benny & Joon, Love in the Time of Corona, and Diversity in Film and TV Marketing

Our chat with the Greenlight Creative leader

Tami Shelly is the owner and creative director at Greenlight Creative, Inc. Situated in the NoHo Arts district, her women-owned design agency specializes in print and digital for the entertainment industry. With a diverse portfolio, Greenlight delivers a broad range of strategic and creative solutions to achieve their clients' goals. Holding both an executive and creative position allows Tami a unique approach to preside over creative endeavors at a high level. 

One of her many career highlights included Greenlight Creative's name and graphic design contributions projected on the iconic arc of the Hollywood Bowl at last year's Disney's Little Mermaid Live

As a testament to her work, she has achieved numerous award-winning projects, working with a wide-range of clients at Warner Bros., Lionsgate, Fox, Disney, eOne, Amazon, NBCUniversal, McCann, Grey and many others. She attributes her 20-plus year success to the commitment, agility and talent of the Greenlight Creative team. 

We spoke with Tami for our Backstory series, where we chat with folks in the entertainment industry about their creative inspirations and more.

Tami, tell us...

Where you were born, and where you live now.

I was born in Queens, New York, and came to Los Angeles by way of San Francisco.

Your first job in the industry. 

I was fascinated by the entertainment industry and came across an ad looking for a freelancer at an L.A. agency. I was contracted to work four weeks as a graphic designer. I jumped at the chance to work in entertainment marketing, leaving behind a full-time, six-year job as the director of an art gallery. It was a small office, but I loved every second of it, and I knew right away that this is what I was meant to do.

A breakthrough moment in your career.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to befriend Fred Tio, Disney's former evp creative director of worldwide marketing, which was definitely a breakthrough moment for me. His encouragement was motivating, his enthusiasm contagious, and the generosity of his time was never lost on me. He collaborated with Jon Alvin, Greg Gorman and other great talents. It was such an exciting opportunity to hang out with him, observe his process, and learn from his wisdom. It was definitely a wonderful breakthrough moment.

Three movies you couldn't do without, and why.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish original). Noomi Rapace was amazing and stole the show. Such a hardened character: strong, bold and untouchable mentally. The film was a perfect film noir. 

World War Z. This was the first film I remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat. It was exciting and engaging—I love a great story that makes your hands sweat. We had the opportunity to work with the director Marc Forster and to hear him talk about the swarm of zombies scaling the Israeli wall in relation to creating a human anthill. It was so fascinating to hear his inspiration.

John Wick. A cool action movie with Keanu Reeves—what's not to like? The art direction, the fight scenes, the undeniable coolness of John Wick! I love the stunt coordinator David Leitch's work and look forward to seeing what he does with Ryan Gosling in the upcoming stuntman movie. 

Your favorite movie quote.

For the workaholic in me: "Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine." —Imitation Game

For the romantic in me: "I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." —When Harry Met Sally

Your favorite movie poster.

Benny & Joon by Concept Arts. While in high school I wandered into a dusty collectable movie shop in Burbank. Under a messy pile I stumbled upon a press-kit folder for Benny & Joon. I had no idea what I was looking at, but I couldn't stop looking at it. Turns out it was key art. The image and the graphics were so playful and irreverent. I loved it. It may not be recent, but that poster designed by Concept Arts impacted my life. I think I still have the folder. 

A classic TV show and a recent TV show you loved.

I loved sitting on the floor watching Taxi with my dad. He was a cab driver in NYC, so I don't know if he could relate to the show or if he was laughing at the dialogue. It's a sentimental classic.

I'm obsessed with all the Nordic series. I just finished, and loved, a show called Borgen. Terrific writing, strong male and female women roles, and lots of conflict.  

A recent project you're proud of.

Freeform's Love in the Time of Corona from Good Trouble's Joanna Johnson. My initial thought was, how is this going to work? How do we find the love during this awful time? But the stories are entertaining and really quite sweet. Freeform Brand & Design team picked two final pieces that best reflected four love stories from six feet apart, for both digital and OOH. Work can be a nice distraction from the craziness of 2020, but with this theme, it wasn't much of a distraction.  So, we leaned in to it with a WFH shoot, exploring fun conceptual ideas and highlighting the characters' isolated moments. Freeform was open to so many possibilities. The process was great. Look for the artwork, and of course the limited series, on the Freeform app and Hulu.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

Woody Allen's new film, A Rainy Day in New York. The image is simple and sweet. Coming from New York, and having been caught in sudden NYC summer rains, this poster grabbed my attention. I like the two unknown characters sharing a moment behind the umbrella with the beautiful skyline of New York. A lovely bit of key art designed by Cardinal Communications.

One thing about how entertainment marketing is evolving that you're excited about.

I'm excited about the evolving efforts to bring awareness to diversity and women in entertainment marketing. I'm hopeful that with awareness will come opportunity. Greenlight Creative Inc. is one of the only certified women-owned design agencies in the entertainment industry, which means we're primarily owned and managed by women. We have a POV that is uniquely relevant.

Monthly, I attempt to be social and meet up with the women in entertainment marketing at Soapbox Women. It's a cool, supportive group started by marketer Jen Weg, and made up of all types of women in various marketing departments of our industry. 

Also, every year we connect with top female artists to create and make available a collection of women's march posters for free. This year the talented women of Greenlight designed posters alongside Clio winners Caelin White, Akiko Stehrenberger, Germany's Eileen Steinbach of SG Posters, and Brooklyn-based artist Samantha Dion Baker—who had just finished illustrating Gloria Steinem's book The Truth Will Set You Free, but First It Will Piss You Off!

What would you be doing if you weren't in entertainment marketing?

A photo editor or researcher. I love putting together the puzzle pieces that require a solution. Both of those jobs demand an attention to detail that affects the emotional impact of a story. And doing either in NYC would be delightful.

Backstory is a weekly Muse series where we chat with folks in the entertainment world about their creative inspirations, their favorite movies, trailers, posters and more. For more about Backstory, please contact Jessie Garretson.

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