The student videographers polish their work with help from Emmy® Award-winning producer, director and LSU alum Robert Zimmerman.

Director and LSU alumnus Robert Zimmerman returns to campus, mentors students


It was a black-tie affair, held on a fall evening in New York City. In his pressed white shirt and black jacket, director and LSU alumnus Robert Zimmerman was attending the Public and Community Service Emmy Awards. His invitation arrived with a nomination for the 2005 Public Service Announcement in a Sponsored Commercial.

As president and executive producer of his company, Piranha Pictures, Zimmerman created a PSA about the dangers of driving drunk, sponsored by the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.


Fightin' Tiger Rap by Caitlin Cleveland

The commercial, “Booze it Enforcement: Kick a Bear,” features a live grizzly bear sleeping peacefully in a lush forest. That is, until a bored camper marches his way and gives the bear a swift kick. The message—kicking a bear is about as smart as driving drunk.

Zimmerman didn’t always have his heart set on making Emmy Award-winning commercials. In fact, there were many days he questioned what to do with his career.

Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Zimmerman said he’s been a Tiger fan from his earliest memories. The youngest of eight kids, he looked to his siblings and father for guidance.

“My father was a chemical engineer, which wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he said. “But even three semesters into LSU, I had no idea what to major in.”

His brother asked him what he was interested in; Zimmerman knew that—movies and music. So he opted for journalism.

“I got good grades in my journalism classes because it wasn’t like work to me,” he said. “It never has been.”


LSU is...Forever by Elizabeth Scott, Leah Stevens

In 1986, Zimmerman left LSU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and several opportunities before him. He worked an internship with KALB TV, the CBS/NBC affiliate in Alexandria, La. There, he made contacts in the creative services department and was later hired as a page for NBC in Los Angeles, Calif. There, he spent a year writing, acting in and producing commercials as a production assistant. He was able to meet directors and later worked as an NBC producer for a large advertising company.

But after years of working for many companies in states across the United States, Zimmerman wanted to take the initiative.

“I really wanted to get out on my own,” he said.

So in 1994, Zimmerman and his wife Tracy started Piranha Pictures in Nashville, Tenn. Robert said Piranha Pictures offers a “big bite,” producing pieces based on what the creative calls for.

Years later, Zimmerman opened a second production company—Spot Producers. Like Piranha Pictures, Spot Producers is located in Nashville and focuses on servicing small and mid-size advertising agencies that have no broadcast department of their own. Clients of Spot Producers include Home Depot, Pizza Hut, Chevrolet and Blue Cross, among many others.


Forever and Ever and Ever Rap by Mac Alsfeld, Brandon Hicks and Jay Grisoli

Zimmerman visited campus during winter break to mentor the finalists of the Forever LSU Student Video Contest. The finalists—junior Caitlin Cleveland, senior Mac Alsfeld and sophomores Elizabeth Scott and Leah Stevens—received advice from him, along with access to equipment to reshoot and re-edit their creations.

Zimmerman said students interested in film have an advantage now, more than before, because of the available technology.

“Students here are working with the same programs and equipment I use as a professional,” he said. “There are tons of places for them to be a part of communication.”

Zimmerman left campus with a piece of advice for students interested in the film industry.

“Only look to do this if this is what you want to do,” he said. “In any endeavor, if it’s what you love, it’s what you’ll be best at.”

Editor's note: Forever LSU would like to thank Communications Across the Curriculum (CxC) for providing video editing equipment and space.

 

Holly A. Phillips | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
February, 2010