BBDO New York recently commissioned Australian director and Ben Trovato favorite Ben Briand to bring a unique series of short films to life. Due to the overwhelming reach of Briand’s previous short films that were featured on Ben Trovato back in March 2011, the agency was keen to get Briand onboard for their client The Art Of Shaving. Based out of New York, the client’s aesthetic is a throwback to the 1950′s and 60′s when a straight razor was common place. The result is three wry and amusing short films that evoke the charm and style of remerging masculinity. The Reformed Troglodyte was the one film of the collection that stood out to us, and we decided to catch up with Briand to hear his thoughts on his latest project.
“The concepts for the three films had been scripted by a great team over at BBDO New York. They were wanting to tap into the language of French New Wave and silent movie physical comedy, yet still give the films a modern feel. I pitched my approach to bringing the projects to life with my USA production company, The Institute, founded by Michael Bay and Scott Gardenhour, and the job was on and in production very quickly. The client, The Art Of Shaving have a very cool brand feel which evokes an old style values with a contemporary take. So there was no question that the projects be shot in black and white and evoke an entrenched sense of style and mood.”
Briand also explains that the concept of masculinity was very important to the project as an older style of male aesthetic is currently reemerging: “- Jean Paul Belmondo, Alain Delon and Brando had scars, broken nose and were in some cases not ‘good looking’ by today’s media standards, but they exuded a brutishness and strength that was particularly interesting. Bernhard Forcher in Reformed Troglodyte had a young Paul Newman feel in many of his close ups.”
“Particular audiences have been very drawn to the sparse style of Reformed Troglodyte. The sense of space and mood is driving towards a point where the protagonist’s past, present and future are converging. The tone is wry and intriguing,” he says, before revealing that the second film (bottom of article) Gentleman Shaver is proving to be a favorite with a different tone: “- It is much more inspired by American physical comedy where the silent movie quality is much more overt, with our hero attempting to be the gentleman in the face of his girlfriend’s beauty.”
Obviously happy with the outcome, Briand says it of course was a result of the combination of having good ideas and an exceptionally good team: “- To find my head’s of department the project was briefed out to agents with examples of my previous films and was really excited with what came back. I knew cinematographer Eigil Bryld‘s work from In Bruges and You Don’t Know Jack starring Al Pacino. He is one of those amazing guys who works very fast and really listens to what you are saying. He had an interesting approach to shooting black and white that wasn’t simply desaturating a color image, rather using specific green and sepia filters to create an almost mono color palette which was then eventually desaturated. Amy Westcott designed the wardrobe and she was another collaborator who’s aesthetic I have been aware of for a while. Her work on Black Swan and The Wrestler was more recent, but it was actually an older film called Roger Dodger that stuck in my mind. Obviously having done Entourage she was overqualified for fitting actors in fine suits. Kiki Giet my production designer had a rich history in music videos and had created some of the imagery that formed my aesthetic whilst I was a teenager. Having worked on clips such as REM’s Strange Currencies and Nine Inch Nails Closer, she brought so much enthusiasm and taste to the project that we clicked very quickly.”
“The shoot was a really enjoyable experience and everyone was on the same page creatively, so hopefully it shows in the result.“
Since his debut on Ben Trovato, we’ve followed Briand’s progress closely, and we’re excited when we ask him to describe what life’s had in store for him since we last caught up: “- I am most happy when I am working in different mediums. Over the last year I have been busy with a number of projects. After the completing my short films in 2009/2010 I began writing a couple of my feature film projects.
Writing is such a joy, as it is the only stage of creativity that isn’t hampered by restrictions such as schedule, time or the cost of pulling a light out of the gaffer truck.
One script in particular is at a good point where we are starting to attract finance and talent. I am currently mid way through the draft of the next script.”
But also commercially Briand’s had chance to explore his creativity: “- I collaborated with fashion label Benah to create a multi screen video installation to replace a runway show. We were keen on stepping away from the sort of fashion film we had seen over the last few years and mix raw interview footage with majestic landscapes and double exposure performance footage. The themes for the Pale Ryder collection were destiny and fatalism, so we looked to build spoken philosophy in to the films. With an emphasis on a gallery experience the press such as Vogue Australia and Pages Digital, buyers and fans experienced music, film and fashion.”
In addition to this Briand recently completed a commercial shot in Uruguay with the DOP from Apricot, Adam Arkapaw: “- Using in-camera effects such as refractions, this was a little romantic moment shot on Arri Alexa and 7D. I was intended to be a voyeuristic and sensual memory of kiss.”
Here’s the second film in the series: Gentleman Shaver