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At the end of a project, we simply want to walk away knowing we’ve done our very best work, creating the strongest film we could make. But between the start and finish, there’s nothing that simple. There’s the anxiety of pitching your vision to strangers, the unpredictability of production, and the tension of navigating post-production expectations from multiple stakeholders.

Sometimes it pays to work in the trenches and do the DIY grind. You not only get the same experience as the film school folks, but you also get the personal experience of making it on your own. Building your own empire. Making your own mistakes. And then, one day, after this long and harrowing process, The Chainsmokers give you a call to shoot their newest video.

Ian Pons Jewell isn’t someone to mince words. As you’ll see right from the beginning of our conversation, he’ll say exactly what’s on his mind, which also says a lot about his creative work. There’s not much in the way of compromise. He’s directed surrealist music videos and short films, and translated that style into commercials that are equally as surreal, for brands ranging from Nike and Audi to Apple and Xbox.

Director Phil Wall works across the commercial and narrative space, with films like The Book Keepers, The Passing Game, and more. One of his commercial clients, GORUCK, is behind one of the most rigorous and challenging athletic competitions on the planet, called GORUCK Selection, which puts athletes through more than 48 hours of physical, mental, and even spiritual torment. So, when they brought up the idea of capturing the competition, Phil knew there was an opportunity. He just didn’t know what kind.

We talk to a lot of talented filmmakers at Musicbed, but not all of them win Oscars. And we all know that you can be a world-class filmmaker and not take home the golden statue—Spike Lee, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Lumet, are a few great examples. In other words, not all great filmmakers have won Oscars. But, we can probably agree on something else: All Oscar-winners are great filmmakers.

Brands are always looking for the holy grail of advertising: Authenticity. But, it’s one of those tricky pursuits where the more intentionally you grasp for it, the more difficult it is to acquire. By its very nature, you can’t manufacture something that’s organic. And, that’s why brands bring in talented directors like Jane Qian. She’s quickly becoming a prominent name in branded content, through her work with Arm & Hammer, Nike, Paralympics, Chevrolet, and more, and a big part of that is because her work doesn’t seem branded at all.