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Jason Van Bruggen | SHOOT New Directors Showcase Event
Jason Van Bruggen

Greenpeace’s “Traveller” (PSA)

Jason Van Bruggen


1) How did you get into directing? 
Directing was an organic extension of my passions and interests. I have spent a lot of time exploring the most remote landscapes on this planet. It seemed a shame not to document the impossible beauty of these pristine places, as they were often undergoing significant and rapid transformation. First through photographs, and then through moving pictures, I created a visually arresting treatment of the landscapes I was so fascinated by, and documented the human narratives I encountered. I developed an ability to elicit range and emotion from real subjects. My concern with environmental and social causes allowed me to collaborate with actors, athletes and artists the world over – these including Jane Fonda, Rachel McAdams, Feist, Arcade Fire, and many others. As I spend more time on commercial projects, I want my work to remain full of innate beauty, truth, substance and a clear appreciation of the natural world.

2) What is your most recent project? 
I’ve got some a number of exciting ongoing projects on the go, involving the landscapes and cultures of the Far North. I’m looking forward to some amazing journeys and brand collaborations this summer. One recent project I am proud of is an ode to one of my favorite ways of exploring the world – paddling. Working with Canada’s Olympic athletes, as well as recreational canoeists and kayakers, I imagined and directed an ad for Canoe Kayak Canada. It embodies the magic of traveling the lakes and rivers found in my native Canada by boat, and references our unique cultural history and tradition of exploration. I enjoyed that experience and excited to be working on more exciting and cinematic sports projects in the future. https://vimeo.com/144704731

3) What is the best part of being a director? 
It’s a great job. It has afforded me some wonderful access to the parts of the world that I want to experience and the opportunity to immerse myself in the stories I want to tell. It allows me to express my natural curiosity, and to work on a huge variety of projects. This diversity of subjects keeps me intellectually engaged. It also allows endless exploration at a technical level. The film industry is full of amazing technology and I love being able to understand it and realize its full potential on the projects that I work on.

4) What is the worst part of being a director? 
Nothing really comes to mind. It’s not a stable or predictable job, but those are upsides to me.

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
My current focus is working on commercials and branded content, as well as continuing to work on the personal projects that have occupied me for a number of years and were the initial gateway into directing. My work will continue to be visually striking and interwoven with rich, immersive narratives, or at least I hope. Ultimately a feature film is of great interest to me, and I think I’ll recognize and work towards the right opportunity when it comes along.

6) 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?
I have a number of influences on that front. My EP, Geoff Cornish, has been a great help to me as I got my career started. He consistently offer sage advice and guidance about how to navigate this new landscape. My wife and partner, Blaine, has also been a huge influence on my career. Our shared passions and values have been a starting point for so much of my work. Her unique capacity for both inspiration and curation has made my work consistently better. I have gotten some really helpful and generous advice from good friends, especially Zach Math, who have been successful commercial directors for some time.

7) Who is your favorite director and why? 
There isn’t a single director whose work I would hold above all others. There are so many talented people out there. When I was first starting out in the industry as a production person, I worked with directors like Fredrik Bond, Tom Kuntz, Nicolai Fuglsig, Dante Ariola and many others. The work those guys did in the commercial world really set the bar for me.  Looking at the process and attention to detail on those sets, as well as the immense pride that the entire crew took in their work gave me a sense of what was required to succeed at the highest level. The rigor, effort and fastidious processes on those campaigns felt like a natural cultural fit for me. It’s sometimes harder to access great work in a smaller market like Canada, so knowing what was out there through exposure to larger markets was helpful.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
Also a tough question. My favorite film is one that likely hasn’t been made yet. There are so many stories and books that I have come across that I imagine would jump off the screen. I love so many films that I have seen but find some of the more classic films really left the most indelible impression – “Deer Hunter” comes to mind.
My favorite TV shows include “The Wire,” “Wallander” and some of the more recent Netflix murder mysteries like “The Killing” and “The Fall.” TV just keeps getting better and better, although I really limit how much TV I watch.
My favorite commercial is also tough to answer.  Every time I tune in, something new and exciting has happened. There are so many great stories being told in a minute or less, it’s hard to know where to begin.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I grew up between Toronto and Amsterdam. After completing a Masters Degree in history and traveling for a couple of years, I worked in international development in various parts of Africa. Working as a consultant to military and NGO operations, I spent time in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and some of the most difficult to access parts of the world.  My first exposure to TV production was working as a production manager a while back. After taking some time to pursue other interests mentioned above, I revisited production more recently by starting a company. I eventually left that business to focus on creative projects as a director. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time in over 100 countries and am a fellow international of the Explorers Club. My experiences in the world, coming into contact with last frontiers of the planet, have inspired me to become a director and film-maker.


Contact Suneeva EP Geoff Cornish via email