Tank + Bunker
1) How did you get into directing?
Tank + Bunker is the directing partnership of Judah-Lev Dickstein and Justin Liberman. We met at Columbia University Film School and bonded over daily morning coffee and the ability of an image to send shivers down our spines. From a young age we were both mesmerized by film’s ability to present new worlds other than the ones we saw around us, and we both were drawn to that alone, the ability to step into a new world.
2) What is your most recent project?
We both just directed narrative films. Justin directed Tobacco Burn which is based on a slave narrative collected by the W.P.A. writers and Judah directed a film called The Book of Ned which is an anxiety-fueled dark comedy about one man’s attempt to avoid conflict at all costs. Tobacco Burn is playing in film festivals around the world while The Book of Ned is going through postproduction now. It was great to step away from the short form of commercials and dedicate some time to a longer format where you can really craft a nuanced story, its relationships, and its emotions.
3) What is the best part of being a director?
For us, we just like being in the mix and working, and creating stuff and learning about cool things. With every new job, a new opportunity to learn about something emerges. We really respond to that process of learning and educating ourselves. That and there is always a steady stream of coffee around directors, which we are into.
4) What is the worst part of being a director?
When you hear people say, “can’t we just use a GoPro?”.
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.?
We can find cinema in any project that comes our way so we try to stay nimble and open to different genres and forms.
We are prepping our first feature film right now which is really exciting as we find that the drive behind a narrative film inspires our commercial work and pushes us to try new things and refine our storytelling abilities.
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 most with you?
We both were lucky to work with some great people. Justin worked for both Michael Mann and David Mamet at a young age and he really absorbed a lot from those two guys- Michael’s cinematic sensibilities, and Mamet’s strong point of view and use of language. Recently he was a shadow director for Allen Coulter on an episode of Boardwalk Empire.
Judah spent his early days editing documentaries and had the good fortune of working alongside editor David Zieff, who taught him that if you’re not scared before a job it’s probably not worth your time. And from editing for director Barbara Kopple, he learned that you can’t stop until you have the footage you need to make your movie.
7) Who is your favorite director and why?
What’s great about the two of us is that we have very different taste in films, which helps our process greatly. While Justin digs the visceral style of Sam Peckinpah, Judah is all about the dark precision of David Fincher. That said, there are a few filmmakers they meet in the middle on, like the Coen Bros, James Gray, and Martin Scorsese.
8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
It’s so hard to call any film a favorite but the film that we have gone back to more times than any other is A Serious Man by the Coen Bros. The film handles some really complex cinematic techniques in a real classical way. As far as spots, the most effective one for us is still the “Parisian Love” spot for Google. It is a perfect marriage between narrative and product. The other hits for us are the Dick’s Sporting Good Baseball spot “Every Pitch” directed by Derek Cianfrance, anything by Rupert Sanders, and of course our boy Danny from the Nike “Practice” spot directed by Chris Milk.
9) Tell use about your background (i.e. Where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
We both grew up with Jewish mothers, which is a greater commonality than our location.
Between us we’ve worked as a bartender, a waiter, a salesman, a landscaper, a baker, a painter, a host at Chili’s, and a house cleaner. Directing is definitely the most fun, though baking isn’t bad.