“Hidden Figures” director Ted Melfi on his quirky new Atlanta project

Director Ted Melfi teamed up with a brilliant cast to bring a fascinating true story to the big screen with Atlanta-filmed “Hidden Figures.” His latest locally shot project couldn’t be more different: a series of decidedly quirky ads for the Atlanta-based Havertys furniture company.

Themed “Havertys Can Make Your Home Look Perfect, Even When Life Isn’t,” the campaign conceived by the Unbound agency showcases furniture in a uniquely memorable way. You know how furniture ads usually show people lounging all glamorously on pristine divans or enjoying the perfect meal in their serene dining room?

Well, check out this clip dubbed “Raccoon” for a very different approach:

“It’s original,” Melfi mused during an interview this week. “Furniture is something we don’t think about, but it’s part of the fabric of the family.”

The spots, which launched this week, were filmed here in March.

“I love things that are grounded in reality,” said Melfi, who was drawn to the genuine feel of the campaign. “It’s not trying to make you laugh, it’s not trying to be precious. It’s trying to be honest.”

In the clip above, a mom and daughter show off their furniture’s durability by standing on it – with good reason. They’re trying to help dad wrangle a raccoon in the attic above. It’s funny without being completely over the top.

“It takes a lot of courage,” to launch spots like these, Melfi said. “Ultimately it makes you remember Havertys.”

“Hidden Figures,” starring Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae as the brilliant NASA employees whose flawless command of complex math and engineering put astronaut John Glenn into space, was nominated for a best-picture Academy Award and Spencer earned a nomination for best supporting actress.

“I fell in love with Atlanta,” Melfi said of his time here working on the extraordinary film, based on the nonfiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. “It’s like down home and honest and hard working all at once. We had such a great time shooting there. Everyone made us feel so welcome.”

The movie not only triumphed at the box office but also became a cultural phenomenon as audiences packed theaters across the nation to learn about the crucial role Katherine Johnson and the late Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughan played in NASA’s early missions.

Johnson is among the honorees to receive honorary doctoral degrees at Clark Atlanta University’s May 22 commencement exercises.

Melfi has been gratified by the overwhelming reception.

“You never know when something’s going to strike a chord,” he said. “When we started the movie we knew the story was special. We knew we had to tell it but we didn’t know if anyone would care. The fact that it’s resonated so deeply is a blessing.”

Like most of us, Melfi was unaware of the story portrayed in the movie.

“I was like everyone else – I didn’t know about it,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing, all the stories that have been buried in history. We need these movies.”

“Hidden Figures” filmed at locations including downtown Canton, East Point, the now-demolished state archives building, Morehouse College and the Lockheed Martin plant in Marietta.

“I really loved filming at Lockheed Martin,” he said. “Those guys are phenomenal. No one had ever filmed a movie there before. They were enthralled with the subject matter and they willed it to happen.”

He’s currently out west filming “El Camino Christmas” but hopes to get back to Atlanta soon. Not only was he impressed with the local industry work force and diverse filming locations, but he made his way to the restaurant seemingly on every visiting celeb’s bucket list.

“I had the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. (He didn’t even have to name it; we correctly guessed he was talking about Antico).

“I’m from New York and I’ve had pizza all over the world,” he said. “I have dreams about it.”

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