I Got This
1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?
The first professional work I made was with DDB for the Tribeca film festival. It was this experimental project that was a blend of a doc/performance. We asked people to wear these mirrored boxes as faces around New York. It provoked a curious interaction with the hope to literally see yourself through the eyes of someone else. The film turned out interesting but the experience was truly special. I got the opportunity to interview a wildly diverse group of people asking questions like, “what do you believe makes a hero?” and the majority of people would respond with similar responses that were quite profound. Like someone said, “a hero is someone who acts courageously at the cost of himself or herself in service of someone else.” These are stories I love. Opportunities to encourage others to stop and think differently about our differences and find common ground.
2) How did you get into directing?
I’ve always loved filmmaking. The whole process is such a unique collaborative experience and can’t really be compared to anything else. Films have always and continue to impact me. I kinda fell into directing because I love the process of creating with others. I’m still self conscious to call myself a director. I believe i’m lucky to be surrounded by people way cooler then me and somehow convinced them to collaborate together on passion projects that opened the door to directing. I have a passion for storytelling and hope to keep exploring film as a way to speak to the human condition.
3) What is your most recent project?
I just finished a film for Toyota called Greater Than. It was a wild experience with an amazing creative team at Saatchi about embracing life’s winding road. The idea was around Scratches > Polish. Experiences > Stuff. Risk > Refuge. Hopefully we can share it soon.
4) What is the best part of being a director?
I think being surprised through collaboration. I feel like the best work comes from loads of prep that creates space to be surprised. Discovering a color in a performance that was unexpected—watching a DP find an incredible reactive frame—an editor that mines a shot you never thought could work. It is an amazing feeling. When everyone finds something to share and offer I get to fully experience it with them as a director. That is the best part for me.
5) What is the worst part of being a director?
I think the fear of failing if I’m being honest. When something doesn’t work as the director you can’t pass the blame. Everyone is giving something for you of themselves – trusting you to take it and make something special. The first pass on an edit I almost always feel like a fluke. I’m working on the things I value and put stock in more. Hope it translates through the process because I feel like the process is constantly evolving. I am trying to give my best but don’t want to be defined by my work.
6) What is your current career focus: commercials and branded content, TV movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
For the past year it has been commercial and branded content but I hope to create a film or work in TV someday. I fell into commercials for work and enjoy it but I love narrative films. Story is the holy grail and I do hope I can find more opportunities to work with actors in a longer form.
7) 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?
Goodness, it’s hard to pick one person. New York fosters a great community of encouraging filmmakers that I’m lucky to be surrounded with. I come from working in production so I consider all these guys mentors that taught various things and work ethics: Khalid Mohtaseb, Salomon Ligthelm, Dan Difelice, these guys have helped me with the craft of filmmaking and make the best friends. But I’d shout out my homie Luke Atencio. He is a composer based in Colorado that I’m very close with and would call a mentor. We take time to step back and take inventory of our experiences. He reminds me to not be imitative but to try and do what is truly right both in life and for a project. He’s not a fan of references–but he always forms questions asking why am I doing this and what for? I think the most valuable thing is having someone who will ask the harder questions and not allow you to escape with un honest answers.
8) Who is your favorite director and why?
I’m torn between PTA and Derek Cianfrance. PTA is a fucking trip. His films get primal, barbaric, hilarious, and I can watch them in any mood. His view of the world is incredibly authentic through specific characters. Derek Cianfrance scars me. He explores these unflinching honest films with such reverence that I can’t shake the feelings. His stories seem to always contain experiences within grey choices and I really believe life to be grey. Those liminal transitions in ones life resonate the loudest for me and both these guys capture them with the most amazing POV.
9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
There Will Be Blood. currently rewatching Girls. Recently Equal Love from Absolut comes to mind.
10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I am from Ohio but grew up mostly in North Carolina. I’m a college drop out. I’d love to have finished school but I was on a 10 year plan with ever changing majors. I worked in production as an AC in New York and spent a little bit of time working as a Best Boy and Art Hand. I catered and worked as a bartender for a little. I also loved working at a motorcycle mechanic shop – Im far from a proper mechanic but do enjoy tinkering and working on bikes. They are a second love. My family is scattered between Ohio, North Carolina, and New Orleans at the moment and they are all great places to go back to. I’m very grateful to have an encouraging family and hope to make them proud.
Ari Kuschnir, M ss ng P eces
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