Friendly Competition

Jonathan Barenboim

1) How did you get into directing? 
I got into directing through cinematography. As a cinematographer, my strengths are in helping a director visually communicate what’s on the page and in their mind’s eye through lighting and camera work. After one difficult job, the producers approached me and asked if I’d be interested in directing. The manner in which I worked and how I led my team was very similar to how a director operates; the main difference was that I had to practice how to communicate my ideas to actors. After that conversation, I decided to create a spec commercial for Diet Coke. That commercial gained traction on the web and led to my first paid directing job. One job begot another, and I haven’t looked back since.
 
2) What is your most recent project? 
My latest project was an April Fools’ Day campaign for Reebok Spartan Race that spoofed Google’s Project Loon and included Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter.
 
3) What is the best part of being a director? 
Proving to myself that just about any crazy idea I come up with is visually achievable in some way shape or form. I really enjoy collaborating with a team of creative hardworking people who love their individual crafts.
 
4) What is the worst part of being a director? 
I can’t say there is a worst part, but the most difficult part is keeping my blinders on and continuing to strive to find unique, inspiring, and challenging stories to tell.
 
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.? 
Currently, I’m heavily focused on directing commercials and branded content. I really love the challenge of trying to tell an emotionally engaging story in a very short amount of time. I specialize in drama and real human interest stories as well as visual effects heavy commercials. My work spans from slice of life character pieces to blockbuster commercials, such as my national commercial for Sony PlayStation’s 2014 holiday campaign. Aside from commercials, I’m also working on getting my first feature film funded.
 
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? 
Not at the moment, but I’m currently looking for one.
 
7) Who is your favorite director and why? 
Danny Boyle is among my favorite directors because of his visual versatility, masterful command of actors, and most of all his ability to find his voice in almost any genre. It’s incredible to me that the same person directed Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and Slumdog Millionaire.
 
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
My favorite movie is Pan’s Labyrinth, and my favorite commercial is Spike Jonze’s Adidas spot called “Hello Tomorrow.” I’m a huge fan of magical realism, and both of these projects use it in such incredible and creative ways. In Pan’s Labyrinth I was struck by how Guillermo Del Toro externalized Ofelia’s fear of the world around her through such a dark imaginative fantasy world. In Spike Jonze’s commercial I loved the wonderfully magical element of surprise that the runner experiences through a midnight run in his neighborhood. Both the works not only visually engaged me, but more importantly used those creative fantastical elements to captivate me emotionally.
 
9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?) 
I was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida and born to Argentine parents. I earned my Bachelor of Arts at Tufts University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Afterwards, I was awarded a full academic scholarship to the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts where I graduated with a Masters of Fine Arts in film production. My thesis film went on to win a number of honors, including recognition as the Best Student Film at the Cannes Emerging Filmmaker Showcase, earning the Golden Starfish Award for Best Student Short Film at The Hamptons International Film Festival, and was nominated for a Student Academy Award. However, following graduation I began working as a cinematographer on features, commercials, and television series.