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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.

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