Scott Pioro may be to the real world what Austin Powers is to world cinema - an international man of mystery and every bit as hip as Mike Myers’ alter ego.
For the final year Parade College student of 1991, home is anywhere between Brooklyn, Los Feliz and Richmond where the Chief Financial Officer and Founder of cutting edge film and digital production agency NB Content these days conducts his business.
That’s when he’s not playing guitar for atmospheric rock outfit goodbyemotel, at gigs like Rockwood Music Hall on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
The Big Apple is or course a long way from Thomastown, where this son of Polish-Maltese parents once called home. But to steal a line from Frank Sinatra’s famous ode to New York, these vagabond shoes were longing to stray.
Recently, Scott set aside some precious time to reflect on his time at Parade, and what can only be described as his meteoric rise from the backstreets of Melbourne’s outer north.
What were your memories of the Parade days?
I really enjoyed my time at Parade. I was a Thomastown boy, I was part of St Clare’s Parish in Thomastown and to get into Parade was a significant thing. You had to get the sign-off from the local priest as to whether you were a good boy or not – and I remember being at primary school after being accepted thinking “This is really awesome”. I was genuinely excited.
There was a group, maybe three or four of us, who were accepted – Mark Grech and Stephen Weeks amongst them – and we were all really enthusiastic about it. I got my first job at 15, at Myer, and I’m sure having that little association with Parade was helpful in getting that job, because the College presented well.
I was pretty obsessed with music. I was in bands since I was 13 years old. I was involved with a bunch of guys in music at the school too and we had a band which included a couple of Parade guys Adrian Bortignon and Dave De Guio. We actually won a few little band competitions and we did all right – All the big band stuff at school didn’t really interest me - but I remember convincing my music teacher that I’d play the drums because my brother had a drum kit at home and I could practice every day. That was my way of getting that role because I didn’t want to play the cornet. A few of us at school put a band together in year 10 for a special performance at the (Rivergum) Theatre for some sort of assembly, and we played Guns’n’Roses’ Sweet Child O’ Mine. Anyway, we played it, everyone reacted really well and I remember thinking ‘Wow, this is kind of good’.
At the time I was also playing football, training three nights a week and playing for Parade and for my local club - but I thought ‘I like playing guitar more than running around in the freezing cold every second night and getting injured’, so I took to music and kept playing in bands.
What happened immediately after the Parade years?
After Parade, I pursued a course in economics at Vic Uni, and while I majored in marketing. I was still very focused on music at the time. In truth I completed the course to keep my parents happy that I had a degree to back my music up.
I started a band called Anything for Lucy just out of school, we toured Australia and had a lot of fun, we even landed an independent record deal. I then stated another band called Space like Alice with fellow Old Paradian Christian Bianco on bass and keys, which was signed to Sony after Killing Heidi – who was the biggest band in the country at the time.
Everything was happening with the band back then, but I always had the economics degree up my sleeve and I always thought that advertising would be an interesting field to get into because it was creative. Funnily enough, through all the bands I was involved with I was always the guy left to look after the money and the legal stuff. Through Space Like Alice’s record deal with Sony over a couple of years we were all over radio, we bobbed up in Rolling Stone and lots of international magazines, and we did lots of touring. But let’s just say our manager had a few issues, and it all imploded.
I then started managing a couple of artists because I was enjoying the business side of it. I learned a lot from doing that and began to apply my business skills. In the meantime I hooked up with another band, goodbyemotel which is where I met Tom (Marks), a bass player and my business partner for more than ten years now. He and I decided to start something together because he wanted to try something different and I was tired of managing artists. We called the company Nice Bike, which is now NB content. We came up with this crazy name “Nice Bike” because it didn’t have to be “Such and Such Productions” – the name could encompass whatever we wanted to do, whether music, cinema or whatever. But in saying that, we did get many phonecalls from people wanting their bikes repaired.
What was the turning point?
We started doing film clips for Universal Music, we began to pick up more and more clients and eventually we were very fortunate to get the Fiat Chrysler contract – and that was what really propelled us to the next level. At that time I was producing the work and Tom was directing and filming. We were a small operation that just grew and we’ve kept evolving.
We also started our own record label which we put our own music through. We toured America, Japan, Australia and the UK which was an incredible experience, something I had always wanted to achieve. We still have our band in the background as that’s our passion as well. We still play together in goodbyemotel, although the focus isn’t what it used to be. The band got us into America as artists first, through our music which landed on shows like Covert Affairs, Suits and Gossip Girl. We then worked out how to set up our business in America and we now have an office in New York and a smaller one in LA.
Were you flying blind? How risky was it?
We didn’t know what we were doing really. We just put ourselves out there to see how it all worked. The American production industry is very different to the Australian production industry, and it took us longer than expected to get the business where it needed to be. It took a lot of time and effort and I’ve lived over there these past 3 years.
Normally I’ve lived between Melbourne and New York, but for the past 3 years mostly New York in a place in Brooklyn called Williamsburg - the hipster area I guess. It’s the first stop in from Manhattan. It’s next door to our studio location in Greenpoint Brooklyn right on the water where they do all the HBO stuff. There’s so much production going on. If I walk from my apartment to the office I make my way through three or four production sets.
Growing up I always wanted to live overseas and travel a lot. As soon as I got out of school I did a year’s backpacking. I’ve always had the travel bug and I’ve always pictured myself living overseas. The desire was always to be global if I could work out a way of doing that. We’ve taken a lot of risks and it is very competitive, but now we have a bunch of Americans working for us there and including two Aussies there as well. I’ll be there again next month then return in August, but now that we’re more staffed up there’s less need for me to be there all the time.
And there’s a California branch also?
Yes, which relates more to our film department. We put a film out last year called Sugar Mountain. With this business we’re into robotics, documentaries, feature films and of course our bread and butter which is TV production and digital content.
So what productions in Australia currently carries the NB content stamp?
Basically every ad that appears here through Fiat Chrysler is produced in our Richmond office – and that means all of their brands including Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge. We have also produced the Australian cricket ads for last summer and the summer coming including the Ashes and One Day Internationals, and were doing something now for Melbourne Metro and a whole bunch of other clients. The attraction for us here is that we’re still involved in the creative process.
You’ve achieved so much these past 15 years, but do you ever ponder what you might be doing 15 years from now?
I do think about that stuff. It hasn’t been easy to live across two sides of the planet because of family, logistics, business - all those things. Ultimately I think I’ll end up back here. In the end, we’ll always have something going on in New York which allows us to go back as much as we choose.
How do you keep ahead of, let alone up with, the ever-changing electronic media landscape?
We do have to keep on top of that as much as we can. Social media has undergone a huge explosion in the content world – it’s created a whole new world in fact. There are so many platforms, all part of brand marketing, that we have to be on top of, but we’ve basically done that – and it’s also got a lot to do with having a great staff. Tom and I love this place (NBcontent) as a creative hub, we like to nurture up-and-coming camera guys who become directors or DPs (directors of photography), and we represent a roster of directors both here and in the US. In the meantime we’re thinking about robots and cameras, we’re getting crazy into that world, and we’re also getting passionate about a documentary we’re working on.
This place is also set up as a recording space as well, so of a weekend we might get a drum kit in, set up and record some “demos”. When I get back to New York our band (goodbyemotel) is playing a gig on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, at a place called Rockwood Music Hall. We’re still playing, but it’s more of an excuse to get our crews and friends together, as all the guys in the band, apart from the singer, are involved in the production business.
That’s a very Italian thing isn’t it?
What, keeping it in the family?
Yes. So is the name “Pioro” Italian?
It sounds very Italian obviously, but it’s Polish, and the story is a weird one. My father was actually born in a Polish workers’ camp in Germany. His parents were both working in Germany when the war broke out, and were rounded up and put into the camp. My father was born there during the war, lived there for the first three years of his life, and came here with his parents after they were offered the chance to resettle. As it happened my grandfather had one friend in Australia, so Australia was the option ahead of America. On arrival my grandparents were separated. My grandfather was sent to a camp in “Broady” (Broadmeadows), while my grandmother and my father were sent to a camp in Mildura. That upset my grandfather, who orchestrated a mini-rebellion to get his wife and son back. Some guy then offered my grandfather some cheap land through the fence, which he bought and built a house on. That was in Fawkner, it was where my father met my mother who is Maltese, then they settled in Thomastown.
I had a really good upbringing in Thomastown. I grew up in a good neighbourhood, the family house was in a court and there were a lot of good people of a similar age around me. Together we’d play cricket and football – those great Aussie sports – but I always wanted more. I wanted to see the rest of the world, I was very interested in the American pop culture and I also had a love of music, and I wanted to see all my favourite artists and where they came from. That interested me a lot.
In the years since I have been to Poland – to Warsaw where my grandfather came from, and to Kraców where my grandmother came from. Unfortunately there’s not much known about the Polish side and the story does really interest me – but my father died four years ago and my grandparents are unfortunately no longer around to ask questions.
If you reflect on our time at Parade, what impact do you believe the College had on you?
I think Parade gave me the friendships. I had some really good friends at Parade, some of whom I am very close with still now and others I still keep in contact with. I don’t see them all the time, but when we do catch up it’s as if we’d only bumped into each other yesterday.
At Parade I knew I wanted to do something creatively even though I studied accounting and legal, because my family wanted me to pursue those subjects, and at that time media studies weren’t even on the radar although today it’s completely different. Right now I’m the CFO of this business and all those courses I undertook at the College and later university have come to help me. I suppose my message to any student would be to build friendships and be prepared to take risks because you only get one crack at it in life.
Thinking back on it now, that moment of playing at the assembly was where I realised “I’d like to do this, this is fantastic”.