The New Yorker's "The Right Question Changes Everything"

Dave Maruchniak

1stAveMachine Buenos Aires

What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
I had the pleasure to co-direct a couple of fun commercials with the amazing Nano Benayón near the end of 2018, while I was still learning the craft. We made cakes explode in slow motion, dressed dogs as astronauts and even made tables talk! Those times were innocent and fun. Then, around the end of 2019, I was officially announced as part of the roster of 1stAveBA, and my first solo breakthrough was an ambitious three-part mini-doc for British Gas, called Life of an Engineer, entirely made in traditional 2D cel animation. That was definitely the beginning of my love for animation, I got hooked on how beautiful the whole process is, from storyboard to clean-up, it’s a really magical endeavor.

Since then, almost every project I got involved with had some sort of animation, be it 2D, 3D, abstract, character driven or motion graphics.

How did you get into directing?
I guess my curiosity got me here, of all things. I started off my career as a graphic designer, and after being everything from art director to visual artist, I spent several years working as an editor for different directors, until I ended up working with Tomi Dieguez, who, together with EP Lautaro Brunatti, saw something in me and gave me the opportunity to put my skills to the test as a director. This is where I comfortably find myself now. I am forever grateful to them for letting me unleash my heart and my brain in this medium and for giving me the chance to learn this role by their side.

After all the years my journey took to get me here, I feel like there was always a place waiting for me in the director’s chair since the first moment I watched Jurassic Park at a movie theater as a little kid.

What is your most recent project?
During the last couple of months I found myself trying to reconnect with the DIY artist in me, and had the pleasure to work side-by-side with Max Zas in an animated music video for Ezequiel Flehner’s musical project EUI. It was all self-financed and the whole team was just the three of us, but it’s that exact context that gave us a level of freedom and joy that I haven’t had in a while. It’s an experimental, abstract, geometric, black & white, 5:30 min madness, and I am really happy with the end result. It got selected for the Latin American Short Film Competition in this year’s BitBang Festival here in Buenos Aires. As I’m writing these lines it’s hours away from being premiered. I’m extremely excited!

What is the best part of being a director?
Working with other people, teaming up, creating room for ideas to crash and smash, mingle and grow larger together is the moment that I enjoy the most about my role. It makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger than myself. It’s truly beautiful to see the pieces of the puzzle fitting together, or struggling to fit, or magically fall into place... whatever happens, it’s the process and the journey that always excite me.

If you don’t have room to fail, to explore, then you don’t have room for something unexpected to happen either. Something that found its way during the process because you let that door open. I’m always in the search of creating that safe space for the team around me.

What is the worst part of being a director?
It’s stressful. Plain and simple. If you’re passionate about what you do, you’re gonna obsess over little details. The more you want to reach any sort of fictional “perfection” the less you’re gonna enjoy the process.

Sometimes you just gotta learn to let it go and choose your fights wisely. You are required to have a clear head almost all the time. People you team up with count on you to be sharp and effective, eloquent and precise, and that pressure sure puts a toll on your mental health, sooner or later.

I will always advocate for empathy and kindness, and I’ll do my best to foster the creation of an environment where we all can have room to be the best version of ourselves.

What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, television, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre--comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I’m particularly attracted by the kind of projects that require a nice amount of character design development, specially if it is inserted into a context of absurdity and/or irreverent humor.

I also find myself very inspired when I have to tell a story only with abstract shapes, using metaphors and subtle movement to convey complex ideas in a short amount of time. This is a place where I feel I thrive. With a heavy background in graphic design, I can’t hide how much I love typography and abstract motion graphics.

I would love to make more music videos though, both animated and live-action. It’s what ignited the fire in the first place, and I will always love working with musicians.

Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
If I ever had something like a mentor in this industry that person has to be my friend (and fellow director) Sepia. I learnt a lot about the craft just by watching him work.

He always encouraged me to aspire for more, to dream, to be passionate. To keep a positive attitude, to stay focused while being calm. Sepia taught me how important it is to build honest friendships with the people you work with.

I also gotta give credit to my ex-gf and forever friend Yamel who is an inexhaustible source of knowledge and advice... the countless hours spent passionately discussing movies, dissecting the work of our favorite directors, going to film festivals together... I can’t stress enough how much I learnt and discovered through her eyes.

Who is your favorite director and why?
I could honestly write entire paragraphs for each of the directors I love!

Quentin Dupieux, Jim Hosking, Sergio Caballero, Roy Andersson, Carlos Reygadas, Nicolas Winding Refn, Yorgos Lanthimos, David OReilly, Don Hertzfeldt, Genndy Tartakovsky...

Every time I watch one of their films I feel an immediate rush of “man, I wanna do that!” and it sparks in me such a sense of joy, an innocent wonder... I love it every time a film takes me to that warm place, like the first time I watched Jurassic Park in a movie theater as a kid and couldn’t believe my eyes... many genres, many styles, many ways of telling a story can trigger that in me... and when that happens I feel an unequivocal calling.

What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Let me turn this into a Top 5...

  • Movies: Finisterrae by Sergio Caballero / Rubber by Quentin Dupieux / Post Tenebras Lux by Carlos Reygadas / A Pigeon Sat on a Branch... by Roy Andersson / Waking Life by Richard Linklater
  • Shows: The Shivering Truth by Vernon Chatman & Cat Solen / Primal by Genndy Tartakovsky / Tarantula by Carson Mell / Too Old to Die Young by Nicolas Winding Refn / Undone by Hisko Hulsing
  • Commercials: I love Juan Cabral’s compelling way of telling stories. Martin Kalina’s sense of humor. The craziness of directors like Keith Schofield, Oscar Hudson or MeatDept. Pablo Maestres’ world building... but one of my favorite recent commercials has to be Nalle Sjöblad’s work for Etisalat, “Moonwalk”.

I also recently became obsessed with Kasper Häggström music videos.

Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I started my career as a graphic designer. Then I felt the need to see my designs come to life, so I got into motion graphics. Then I had an affair with visual arts for a couple of years, which eventually led to video art installations and touring with bands as a VJ... which led to some DIY music videos, where I started to play around with the idea of directing, and where I learned how to edit.

In the end, I just want to create new worlds. To make you forget about the reality around us for a while, and take you on a journey somewhere else. I want to take the viewer to that special place inside their hearts where they let themselves be marveled by the experience.

I haven’t mastered that magic trick yet, but if I can keep this enthusiasm alive, I hope someday that desire will be fulfilled.

How has the pandemic impacted your career, art, craft, shaped your attitudes and reflections on life which in turn may influence your work, approach, spirit, mindset?
Might sound cliché, but most of all, the pandemic reminded me to appreciate what we have and enjoy it while we have it. The need to learn how to more meaningfully embrace the present moment led me to the practice of transcendental meditation, and even though I’m just starting, I found out there’s an actual reachable not at all metaphorical infinite pool of consciousness that connects us all. Learning how to access it, even for a tiny glimpse, has proven to be a catalyst for creativity to flourish and a teacher of how to appreciate our waking life in a more innocent, joyful, almost childlike way. Finding the time to reconnect with my inner self has been a real gift and one of the few positive outcomes from this whole sad weird last couple of years.


1stAveMachine Buenos Aires:
Contact Buenos Aires EP, Lautarto Brunatti, via email   |  Contact U.S. Partner/EP, Sam Penfield, via email