Director Adriana Cruz Makes a Serious Mark in the Comedy World

Bringing the funny for brands and beyond

For director Adriana Cruz, Funny Or Die isn't just somewhere she worked early in her career. Instead, the comedy website proved a transformative experience, informing her style and helping shape her fast-climbing career. So far, along with videos on FOD, she's contributed behind the camera for Saturday Night Live, Powderkeg Media and MTV's Comedy Central.

Represented by Tool, Cruz's most recent commercial work includes two spots for Invesco's "Agents of Innovation" series. One finds a robot serving hot dogs in a sports arena during March Madness. Another focuses on celebrated former hoops coach Jay Wright.

Other notable work includes a Tanqueray short called "It's Not Tea Time, It's T-Time." Running on Netflix, the clip spoofs Bridgerton and stars Joe Jonas, Phoebe Robinson and Jonathan Bailey. 

Comedy has been a driving passion from Cruz's youth, when she devoured reruns of That '70s Show and SNL. While a college student, Cruz took classes at comedy schools during summer. She hasn't looked back since.

Cruz spoke with Muse about the landscape for women directors and continuing her journey into film.

MUSE: What do you love most about your work? 

Adriana Cruz: What I bring to the table the most with my SNL background is pulling out as much comedy as possible. That includes doing some improv on set and pitching things as we go.

What's it like being a female director in what is still a man's game?

At Funny Or Die, we [Cruz's longtime collaborator Hannah Levy] were able to bring something different to a very burly company. One of the bigger pieces we did was a play on the sports tampon commercial, our Tampax Titanium spot with Jillian Michaels.

At SNL, entering that space where you have crew members who have been there since the '80s and '90s, you have to really claim your space. Hannah and I were often referred to as "The Girls," and that was something we definitely felt like we had to overcome. I was comfortable telling our crew that while we knew it wasn't intentional, we wanted to be respected. People don't always realize there's inherent sexism in all of us. Overall, though, I feel really embraced by the industry.

Are you seeing any significant changes leveling that playing field?

Free the Bid (which advocates for women directors) is one of the most important moments in advertising. I'm relatively new to it, but that was why I felt like I had a fighting chance when I first started out. Its founder, Alma Har'el, is such an inspiration. Her films are beautiful. So, for somebody to create something that would help everybody, even people like me who were coming from a very different place—it was truly inspiring to enter the advertising industry during that time.

How did you get your start?

I'm from Ocala—all of the weird Florida news stories about people marrying alligators are from my section of the state. And so at the very least I knew there wasn't opportunity in the industry there. I had interned at The Onion, and worked freelance for them and [sibling site] Click Hole when I was still in school [at the University of Florida]. My supervisor moved to L.A. to become the post supervisor of Funny Or Die. So I called him to ask for advice. And he said, "You were a great intern. Would you want to be an assistant editor for me? You'd have to move here in two weeks." I was actually graduating in two weeks, so I literally walked the stage at my ceremony, went home, packed up my car and drove out to L.A. the next day.

Can you speak about how Powderkeg and Broadway Video are important platforms for your career?

Powderkeg: Fuse is a directors' incubator created by Paul Feig. We [she and Levy] were in the first cohort in 2018 where we pitched an idea for a short and they gave us the funding to make it. Paul mentored us during that time. And he specifically suggested that we pitch our idea as a show. Now, almost five years later, we are taking that out into the world. Paul is one of the best examples in Hollywood of men in positions of privilege who're actively supporting diversity in the industry.

I was at SNL for four years, Hannah and I got hired together as a team. Then, another directing position opened up. We had been splitting a salary, so we said: "Let's see if they'll let us direct separately." And they did. Lorne really takes care of his people. I think Broadway Video is an amazing company, because once you're part of the family, you stay that way.

What's next for you?

I am attached to a couple of features that are still in development that I'm very excited about. I can't say much, but right now both of them are in a phase where we're looking to attach talent. Hannah and I are pitching our show, Frances 2.0, based on the short film [about a woman who becomes a Lyft driver and tries to reinvent her life]. I'm also writing a couple of screenplays of my own. So it's very much a time of new beginnings.

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