Jonny Mass

BMW’s “The Journey”

Jonny Mass

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1) What was your first professionally directed work and when was it?

That’s a tough question to answer as I’ve been into filmmaking since I was very young. I’ve been working with the same group of people since the very beginning and the only thing that has changed are the size of the projects we get to work on together. The first full union project I directed for a major brand and agency was Michelin a little over a year ago. It was a film to launch the new PS4S high performance tire with Sera Trimble. The film was fueled by adrenaline and passion and turned out great. Launching the car off the loading dock was a highlight!

It was a great first experience working in a traditional sense with an agency and client. TBWAChiatDay was amazing and it was a pleasure to get to share such a special moment with them.

Since then I’ve directed spots for BMW, Porsche, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, and many more.

2) How did you get into directing?

Directing, for me, was born out of necessity.

I had been heavily involved with action sports my entire life and started to film a bunch of my friends within their respective sports for my YouTube channel. At the time I was heavily inspired by a few major action sport movies which lit a flame deep within me to discover new ways to capture my friends at the skatepark. From there, I was obsessed with learning about technology and how to apply it to the stories I wanted to tell.

I came up in the age of the internet where everything I wanted to know was instantly available which made the learning curve very quick. I’d shoot all day and come home at night to research as much as I could for the next day that I’d go out to shoot. From very early on, I became addicted to the process and was starting to figure out where I wanted to be within the industry. Then it really just came down to narrowing it down and committing to directing and spearheading it.

3) What is your most recent project?

I recently directed a national broadcast campaign for BMW to launch their new X5 with Goodby Silverstein and Partners. It was a wild 10 day shoot across the country with over 20 scenes, loads of talent, every type of animal, demolition derbies…and much more. We traveled with a crew of 40 people and in each location we’d have more crew showing up to help execute this wild vision.

The highlight of the shoot for me was when we drove the X5 through a demolition derby with cars crashing around it and a massive crowd cheering at the top of their lungs with pyro going off in the background. Fun times!

4) What is the best part of being a director?

I love it all truly. From the pitch process to postproduction I’m all in and the projects I get the opportunity to work on are always epic.

It’s hard to not get excited when I’m shutting down massive streets and locations throughout the world to shoot big action scenes. It never gets old. Showing up to set early in the morning watching the arm car being unloaded from the semi and the helicopter sitting next to it never fails to put a smile on my face.

However, without question my favorite part about directing is getting to meet and work alongside the most amazing people. Traveling with those amazing people and getting to experience different cultures has deeply influenced and inspired me.

5) What is the worst part of being a director?

I can’t really say there is a definite worst part of being a director to me. I’m extremely blessed to be able to get to do what I do and I don’t take any of it for granted.

I’d say the most important thing I’ve learned is that I have to make a conscious effort to take care of myself and my relationships outside of work. It’s easy to get inundated with work and to live solely in that world but it’s toxic for the mind, body, and soul. Taking a step away every once and awhile provides me with fuel for every aspect of life. I’ve learned that if I’m just focused on work my creative abilities take a hit. It’s inspiring to take time away to walk outside to explore the world.

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.?

My current career focus is commercials. I direct quite a lot of car commercials however I don’t think that defines my body of work in totality. I’m obsessed with creating worlds that have a sheer sense of scope and scale and then moving an audience through that space in a visceral way. Whether or not it’s a commercial or a feature film, it’s rooted in my directorial style to create stories larger than life and charged with adrenaline.

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?

I’ve had many mentors all of which were in various industries both inside and outside of film. It’s been amazing to have guidance within this industry but I’ve also focused heavily on surrounding myself with people in my life that preach work ethic, business strategy, and understanding how to harness creative energy.

The answer to this question changes weekly.

Currently, the best advice I’ve been given is to not wait for opportunity but rather to create opportunity. This has been paramount to my success as it’s resonated deeply and through the application of this exact advice I’ve achieved so much. I figure for every person that decides to truly do something about chasing their dreams there are about 100 people that decide to give up at the sheer overwhelming scale of the unknown to get from point A to point Z. To create opportunity is very easy but creating the right opportunity…that’s the tricky part. Being confident in what I want has allowed me to reverse engineer the point A to Z process and to form targeted opportunities like a heat seeking rocket.

8) Who is your favorite director and why?

That’s tough, I don’t think I could pick just one. I’m really inspired by three; Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, and George Miller.

Although their movies couldn’t be farther apart they all have something in common. Each of these directors have an incredible attention to detail from wardrobe to production design to auditory cues directing the audience’s attention through the worlds they create. They create a full sensory experience utilizing every possible storytelling device they have and that’s what makes them special.

Edgar Wright created a gun fight that was all timed to the beat of a song and had ear pieces in his talents ears when performing the choreography…come on?! Need I say more.

9) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content?

Mad Max Fury Road.

I remember walking out of the theatre feeling intoxicated from the experience. George Miller did a phenomenal job at bringing together all of the right people to create a masterpiece of visceral performance, epic cinematography, and mental sound design.

It struck every chord for me as a director. When I direct a movie it’ll be charged with adrenaline and expressed eloquently through all of the senses like what Miller did with Fury Road. I love the intricate depth he went into in everything from wardrobe to the texture of the environments they shot in. To say I was inspired the first time I saw it is an understatement.

10) Tell us about your background (i.e., where did you grow up? Past jobs?)

I grew up in Scottsdale, AZ riding motocross from the age of 4. My entire life has been rooted in action sports from my earliest childhood memories. I recently found a photo of me on a super mini as a toddler and that pretty much defines me as a human and my existence on this earth. No matter how young I am I will always be there willing to push the boundaries for what’s expected and possible.

Every day as a kid I’d get home from school and grab my bike to ride outside with the older kids pretending we were race car drivers. We’d put playing cards in the spokes of our rims to make it sound like a motocross bike. We’d have Airsoft battles in all of the homes still under construction. Everything was born out of imagination and that’s what I’ll always hold onto.

The most important thing I’ve learned from my childhood was to never grow up. Life becomes a lot more fun when you’re not worried about fitting into a mold society has deemed as normal.


Contact Ari Kuschnir , Founder/Managing Partner, m ss ng pe ces, regarding Jonny Mass via email
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