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17th November 2017
Jewell in the crown
Title of film: Pixel 2, Ask More (Dir cut)
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
Production Company: Reset
Ian Pons Jewell was one of our favourite maverick directors creating searingly wonderful, distinctively original music videos. He used local casts in Bolivia, went on a journey through homeless New York, shot a bloodbath with Joanna Lumley in London, and then jumped from plot driven narratives to a VFX spectacular out of Tokyo. Then there was a period of quietness… until, supported by clever risk-taking production companies on both sides of the Atlantic, Ian began creating fabulously crafted, high-end commercials every bit as original as his earlier work.

Please fill us in how this transition from making music videos on a shoestring to high-end spectacular commercials came about and what motivated you?

The motivation was initially to be able to making a living. The only time I lived from my music video work was my year in Bolivia where my rent was 100 dollars a month. So it was very financially motivated and I had no intention of ever “making it” in commercials, I assumed I’d get some ok stuff in at some point to make some money before doing features.

It then came totally out of the blue doing my first commercial for Otello with Anorak in Berlin. It was during this that I realised just how creative you can be in what you think of as being a very constrained medium. The ECD Robert Krause, who gave me that huge break (along with the wonderful Christiane Dressler of Anorak), was so incredibly respectful of my opinions, totally collaborative, trustful and we set out to make a film we were really into. I honestly had no idea it was quite like this, I was very naive.

With Anorak we then won a Hornbach job, a film showing a man’s mind disintegrating into madness. We wrote a scene making quite an audacious visual comparison with Jesus carrying the crucifix. Another with him bent over a toilet on all fours in total sado masochistic style. The first line of the voiceover says “FUCK”. All my pre-conceived notions and secondhand myths of how advertising works really came crashing down. A great testament to creative director Guido Heffels of Heimat who has the Hornbach account. I’ll be forever grateful to Anorak, Robert and Guido for those breaks last year as they completely shaped my current course. Also Friend of course who made one of my favourite commercials ever happen for Finish!

Your commercials are slick and surreal using vfx as a device – was it your video for Valentino Khan which introduced you to thinking in an effectsy way and also the humour that can be created by using vfx?

It’s funny as I never really think about VFX being an “element” in my work, but I’m often asked about it. For me it’s just another equally important discipline alongside the cinematography, production design, styling and so on. It’s just that before I rarely had the budget to be able to utilise VFX.

It was also the introduction to the Time Based Arts team in London for our Hornbach spot that also really opened me up to the possibilities. Being able to work closely with them on various projects has been a really big part of my growing love and understanding of it. As well as the more obvious VFX moments in my work, it’s also an invisible aspect too. It allows you to maximise the often limited shooting time by not trying to do everything in camera when you’re really up against it. 

In terms of commercial success you’ve absolutely cracked it with Finish Dishes, Art Fund out of Friend London and The Dollar Shave Club out of Reset in the States. How has  your creative process changed and what are the key lessons you’ve learnt over the last couple of years? 

Well commercials are a totally different creative process, the script exists in some form whereas in music videos it’s a blank canvas. In music videos I’d be writing from scratch, or co-writing with Dobi Manolova. But what fascinated me was how different every commercial project is from one to the next.
Sometimes you have an incredibly tight script and you can focus purely on the execution. Other times I’ve had no actual shooting script but a really interesting mood direction they want to go in. With Maple Leafs for example they had a voiceover to which they let me write images to, so it was almost like the music video writing process.

There are more limits in certain areas, but also huge freedoms in others which I think a lot of people overlook and assume don’t exist. I also really enjoy the collaboration in writing with the creatives on the ones that have needed shaping throughout, such as Finish and Ask More. One of the biggest lessons has been to never hold back and second guess the agency and client. It can often be you, imagining that the client or agency won’t go a certain route, that creates a compromised piece of work.
 
What’s the biggest challenge in making high-end commercials – it must vary obviously from spot to spot?
 
Persuasion. In music videos it got to the point that I wasn’t really trying to get people on side with the creative. It was take it or leave it and once signed off, the train has left the station. So take a seat and enjoy the ride.

Years back of course it was a nightmare as people didn’t trust that I would pull off the stuff I’d written, or not understand the tone of it. But once that body of work is there, that becomes your armour. So taking that first step into commercials, initially felt like a step back into those early music video days. You have to talk things through with everyone.

But interestingly, all those years of making uncompromised music videos, really paid off stepping into commercials. I wasn’t invited to pitch so I’d make something in the way the agency imagined, it’s because they’re wanting my take on it. Regardless, you need to persuade, convince and instil trust in a lot of people who have a stake in it. 

Just when we thought we’d caught up with your latest commercial – Dollar Shave Club – out comes an even bigger production of yours – Google Pixel 2. We were anal and counted 37 location changes and scenarios. How did you do it?  Were you involved in the script development? Did it take forever to shoot / produce? Was it a breeze or a challenging production?

Yeah it’s been an intense year and a half, pretty much back to back. Dollar Shave Club was actually three spots, there’s another two coming out that are equally bonkers. Well that’s funny on the counting, I never did myself. If I had it might have made the project even more daunting.

It was certainly one of those jobs that when it got the official award I had the simultaneous feeling of extreme joy and utter dread. Reset are lauded for a reason, the production was airtight, so this made it all very smooth. We had Aris McGarry producing, who doesn’t miss a trick. He managed the whole thing like a rubix cube master, constantly re-assessing everything every time a scene would change.

After the award, we had two weeks till the shoot, which was six days. So it was quite crazy, but American jobs always have a very short amount of prep time. The script was already great and we then developed it all together. It was a very collaborative project throughout pre production all the way up to the shoot. Including a lot of input from Dylan Khan (production designer) and Christina Flannery (stylist). We had to be very reactive. I also had the genius Matilda Finn to second unit direct a few of the shots, adding to the mammothness (is that a word?) of it all.

You’re on a roll directing internationally  – who by the way are you signed with – and where do you now call home?

I’m with Friend in the UK of course, which has been so great to have gone through with them from music videos to commercials. Finish was an incredibly special project, it was perfect to be able to do that with the Friend family. We also just did a TK Maxx Christmas commercial which went great.

I’m then with Revolver in Canada who I did Maple Leafs with, Anorak for Germany and Reset for the USA. Those are the markets I work most in at the moment. Home is a strange idea for me but I think it always has been. The longest we (my family) lived in one house was four years. We also bounced back and forth between Menorca (where my dad is from), and England. So that definitely stuck with me I think, as I’ve never had a problem with moving somewhere new for a bit.

It’s been one of the most memorable and life changing things in my life when I went to Bolivia for a shoot and stayed. But now I find it hard to settle and decide on where to lay some roots. I have close friends in various countries, so I’m constantly missing people and places, but I also feel very lucky to feel this. But I’m waffling, the answer is Berlin, currently. Early this year I decided that not having a fixed address for over four years was enough, and decided to try Berlin. But I stayed one month, rented a place, then went away on a job with Reset and just got back a few weeks ago. So now I’m moving to LA. Seems rather cliche, but I’ve been going there for years and have lots of close friends there.

What’s in the pipeline?
 
Dreams I don’t want to jinx.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Seeing as I’ve said thanks to some people for the breaks I’ve had, I also want to mention a few more. Nabil played a huge part on getting me going in the USA, along with Holly and Jeremy at Red Rep. After some time at Swordfight, Nabil then shared my work with Dave Morrison, owner/MD of Reset, which ended up in me signing to them. Dave, Deannie O’Neil (EP) and the Reset team then treated me on the same level as their heavyweight directors (something some companies don’t do and should) and I got to work on incredible projects.

Another person who has been absolutely paramount to it all is Dobi Manolova who produced most of my music videos, and co-wrote many of them too. She made impossible projects happen, against all odds and always believed in my ideas. I know this is just an interview and not an awards show, but the shift to commercials has been a life changer for me and I feel it’s important I mention those people who made it possible.

Credits

Pixel 2, Ask More

Agency: Droga5
EP: David Cardinali
Senior Producer: Jason Heller
Creative Director: Toby Treyer-Evans & Laurie Howell
Senior Art Director: Kia Hennen
Senior Copywriter: Patrick Glorieux
Art Director: Tobias Lindborg
Copywriter: Felix Karlsson
Account Mannager: Jessica Kingsberry
Account Supervisor: Daniella Perez

Prod Co: RESET
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
Producer: Aris McGarry
EP: Deannie O’Neil
Managing Director: Dave Morrison
DP: Joost Van Gelder
Stylist: Christina Flannery
Production Designer: Dylan Khan
Make Up: Olive Meyer
Colourist: Tom O’Poole @ Company 3
Editor: Leo Scott
Casting Director: Dan Bell Casting
Additional Casting: Machette Bang Bang
2nd Unit Director London: Matilda Finn
EP/Bidding: Jen Beitler
Head of Production: JP Colombo
Production Supervisor: Daria Tarlow
Comm Coordinator: Giovanna Giangregorio
Talent Coordinator: Manar Humidan
NDA Coordinator: Francisco Hernandez
Production Assistant: Nick Shapiro
1st AD: Andy Coffing
2nd AD: Jimmy Brayl
Camera Operator: Baz Idoine
1st AC (A CAM): Jonas Steadman
1st AC (B CAM): John Takenaka
2nd AC: Seaton Trotter
DIT: Dan Skinner
Gaffer: Jonathan Guerra
Best Boy Electric: John Brook Shoemaker
Electric: Comilo Figueroa, Julian Najm
Electric Driver: Jeff Parkhurst
Key Grip: Jamie Lagerhausen
Best Boy Grip: Steve O’Hollearn
Dolly Grip: Mike Sapienza
Grip: Amos James, Fritz Weber
Grip Driver: Anthony Mollicone
Grip Driver (Cube): Dietmar Wendelin
Art Coordinator: Gina Nelson
Art Director: Chase Carter
Prop Master: Jon Moberg
Prop Assistant: Tony Alexander
Set Decorator: Christopher Coles
Shopper: Marianne Fulton
Leadman: Jeff Pestano
On Set Dresser: Chris Jones
Art Driver: Dave Skorupski, George Reddick, Glen Kennedy
Wardrobe Assistant: Jenna Ritter, Eric Luken
Make Up Assist: Tina Martinez
Scripty Supervisor: Lisa Bobonis
Sound Mixer: Mark Sheret
Boom Op: Alexander “AJ” Moseley
VTR: Howard Van Endem

EDITORIAL: CARTEL
Editor: Leo Scott
Edit Assistant: Chris Catanach & Grant Hall
EP: Lauren Bleiweiss
Head of Production: Meagen Carroll
Post Producer: Ana Orrach

VFX: METHOD
VFX: Stuart Robinson
VFX Supervisor: Doug Luka

Dollar Shave Club – Buttery Dunes

Prod Co: RESET
Producer: Aris McGarry
Production Supervisor: Andrea Panda
EP: Deannie O’Neil
DOP: Mauro Chiarello
Production Designer: Chris Gorak
Stylist: Elise Velasco
Make Up: Olive Meyer
Sound Design: Tim Harrison
Casting: Dan Bell & Machete Bang Bang
1st AD: Craig Pinckes
1st AC: Mike Blauvelt
DIT: Nathan Pena
Gaffer: Mickey Peterson
Key Grip: Jamie Lagerhousen
Asst Art Director: Tracy Gaydos
Script Supervisor: Lisa Bobonis
VTR: Howard Van Emden
Gang Boss: Chris Machado
Stunt Coordinator: Pat Romano
Production Assistants” Jeremy Jacobsen, Lesly Dashiell, Robert Lomeli, Otis Langford, Max McGarry

Editor: Tobias Suhm @ Whitehouse Post
Whitehousepost EP: Joni Williamson
Whitehouse Post Head of Production: Joanna Manning
Whitehouse Post Producer: Jennifer Mersis

VFX STUDIO: Electric Theatre Collective
EP: Kate Hitchings
HOP: Serena Noorani
VFX PRODUCER: Catherine Yi
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Adam Watson
FLAME LEAD: Mark Youngren
2D ARTISTS: Dave Damant, Kevin Jones, Gretchen Capatan, Brendan Smith, Nicholas Hiegel, Kenneth Quinn Brown, Young Mok, Thomas Smith III, Dylan Brown, Eric Mason, Phoebe Britton, James Aguilar
CONCEPT ARTISTS: Col Price, William Tempest
MATTE PAINTERS: Eric Mattson, Dark Hoffman
CG LEAD: Corinne DeOrsay
CG ARTISTS: Nate Lapinski, Huisoo Lee, Josh Matthews, Ian Ross, Jared Broddle, Katie Schiffer, Greg Gutkin, Ashley Anderson, Patrick Manning
COLORIST: Jason Wallis
COLOR ASSIST: Kaitlyn Battistelli

Finish – I Love Doing Dishes

Production company: Friend
Director: Ian Pons Jewell
DOP: Mauro Chiarello
2nd Unit Camera: Doug Walshe
Producer: Rob Leonard
Executive producer / MD: Luke Jacobs
Production manager: Jess Wylie
Production Assistant: Alexandra Michaels
1st AD: James Dyer
Runner: Gabriel O’Donohoe
Gaffer: Sam Alberg
Electricians: Seb Lamb / Dave Nye / Casper Jones / Alex Edyvean / Christian Hayes
Desk Op: Ed Riley

Production Designer: Mark Connell
Art Director: James Hamilton
Construction Manager: Scott Parish
Construction Assistant: Ed Shaw
Props Buyer: Hannah White
Set Dresser: Victor Jakalfabet / Bronwyn Opland
Set Builders: Paul Minderids / Tom Robinson / Charlie Burnes / Jamie Chatz / Joe Wilkinson / Sam Jellyman / Andrew Golding / Chris Westwood / Eoin Rooney
Scenic Painters: Aimee Paton / Ruth Gordon / Naoko Tagai

Costume Designer / Stylist: Ameena Kara Callender
Costume Assistants: Julia Drummond-Haig & Daniela Cazmal
Costume standby: Yannick Gondran
Costume daily: Jo Heng / Sophea Bailey
Make Up: Anna Thompson

Casting: Kharmel Cochrane
1st Washer: Chris Spyrides

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy London
Executive creative directors: Tony Davidson / Iain Tait
Creative directors: Carlos Alija / Laura Sampedro
Copywriter: Bertie Scrase
Art director: Christen Brestrup
Agency producer: James Laughton
Group account director: Nick Owen
Account manager: Holly Baker-Cliff
Planner: Indiana Matine

Edit: Cut & Run London
Editor: Ben Campbell
Edit assistant: Joanna Lewandowska
Producer: Ruth Minkley
Post production: Time Based Arts
VFX supervisors: Stephen Grasso / James Allen
Colourist: Simone Grattarola
Producer: Chris Aliano
Sound design: String & Tins / Tim Harrison @ Aumeta
Engineer: Will Cohen
Producers: Sam Brock / Matej Oreskovic
Music label & publisher: W Songs (Warner Music)
Music supervisor: Tristan Wilson
Composer: Pippa Cleary
Orchestrator: Simon Nathan
Mix engineer: Joe Davison

Art Fund – Miss Nothing

Prod Co | FRIEND
Producers | Lauren Havard & Siobhan Daly
Director | Ian Pons Jewell
Writer: Joe Bruce @ 101 London
DOP | Rina Yang
Stylist: Lucia Silva
Make Up: Anna Thomspon
EP | Luke Jacobs & Heather Firminger
Edit | Jack Singer @ Cut & Run
Grade | Luke Morrison @ The Mill Chicago
Grade Producer | Laurie Adrianopoli @ The Mill Chicago

Agency | 101 London
Executive Creative Directors | Mark Elwood & Augusto Sola
Creative Director | Joe Bruce
Creative Producer | Luke Judlin
Account Director | Georgina King
Account Manager | Katie Colhoun
Strategist | Joe Smith

Toronto Maple Leafs – Stand Witness (Dir Cut)

Director: Ian Pons Jewell
DOP:Mauro Chiarello
EP: Luc Frappier/Richard Cureton @ Revolver
Producer: Rob Allan
Prod Co: Revolver
Stylist: Stacy L Troke
Production Designer: Alan Fellows
Casting Director: Shasta Lutz @ Jigsaw
Agency: Sid Lee
AP: Jac Lazzaretto
ECD: Jeffrey Da Silva
ECD: Tom Koukodimos
Copywriter: Austen Morrow
Senior Designer: Alex Boland
Editor: Graham Chisholm @ Married To Giants
Asst Editor: Liam Crawford @ Married To Giants
EP: Denise Franceschini Shearer @ Married To Giants
Sound Design & Music: Tim Harrison @ Aumeta
Colourist: Luke Morrison @ The Mill
Colour Producer: Laurie Adrianopoli @ The Mill
Flame: James Andrews @ Wingman VFX
Comp: Trevor Corrigan Lev Puzzles Bravo Sean Douglas @ Wingman VFX
EP: Samantha Simpson @ Wingman VFX

Otelo – Choices

Director: Ian Pons Jewell
DOP: Mauro Chiarello
Agency: Scholz & Friends Berlin
Executive Creative Director: Robert Krause
Executive Account Director: Joachim Stücken
Creative Director: Jörg Waschescio
Agency Producer: Nele Siegl
Account Manager: Dirk Walendy
Production Company: ANORAK
Executive Producer: Catherine Baikousis
Producer: Björn Krüger
Assistant Producer: Felix Knabel
Production Company Copenhagen: Production Service
Service Producer: Mikkel Damkiær
Service Producer: Joakim Harder
Production Coordinator: Mads-August Hertz
Location Manager 1: Søren Dahl
Location Manager 2: Morten Wind
1st Assistant Director: Anders Barlebo
Steadicam Operator: Doug Walshe
Focus Puller: Daniel Parmo
2nd Camera Assistant: Søren Pedersen
DIT: Morten Berg
Grip: Mikael Kort
Grip Assistant: Philip Christensen
Grip Motion Control: Allan Luckow
Gaffer: Viggo Grumme
Best Boy: Thomas T2
Electrician: Claus Preis
Electrician: Gabriel Stefan
Art Director: Mads Jørgensen
Props Master: Christian Rathmann
Props Assistant: Camilla Vehje
Props Assistant: Dennis Bremholm
Stylist: Friedrich Ploch
Stylist Assistant: Rikke Feltmann
Stylist Assistant: Simone Rosenborg
Make Up: Louise Bruun
Make Up Assistant: Vivi Søderholm
Make Up Assistant: Cecillie Andersen
Runner: William Juul
Runner: Alexander Nyholm
Driver: Carl Johan Zinckernagel
Driver: Lea Sönnichsen
Filmbus Driver: Mogens Laursen
Post Production Offline: Slaughterhouse Berlin
Editor: Gaia Boretti
Producer: Eva Klaiber
Post Production Online: Sehsucht Hamburg
Producer: Andreas Coutsoumbelis
VFX Supervisor: Christian Reimann
Grading: The Mill Chicago
Executive Producer: Laurie Adrianopoli
Colour Coordinator: Jamie Hoskins
Colourist: Luke Morrison
Sound Design: Tim Harrison @ Aumeta
Sound Design Assist: Seb Bruen
Voice Over: Jack Moore
Music: Breton – The Well