THEJACKSFIRM is a boutique film production and branded content company, operating out of New York and managing projects internationally. Frontrunner recently sat down with Ben Jacks, Founder and Director, and Scott Welch, Executive Producer to discuss projects, brand partnerships and the process.
Q: Your most recent project, I Will Never Stop aims “to portray ballet and modern dance as an unstoppable force set against a non traditional landscape, to make a hero of movement.” What was your creative strategy for this project and what type of cinematic opportunities were uncovered along the way?
A: I have always been thrilled with the act of movement be it martial arts, racing, dancing or skateboarding. And of course, film directing is movement through space so out of this I set out to create a film that pulled these elements together – dance, martial arts, and heroism. As THEJACKSFIRM we are a company that strives to create content that tells a bold story or a slice of life moment whereby the brand becomes the hero. We have a lot of respect for ROGUE as a fashion company with a unique design palette. We wanted to take the paramilitary aesthetic they created for men, place it on a strong female figure – Drew Jacoby – and make a new hero for ROGUE and possibly open up a new demographic for them to pursue.
Cinematically we wanted to create a harsh and epic world so we shot in many areas of Brooklyn that have beautiful, weathered, Eastern European qualities, then we matched this with a 2:35 aspect ratio to submerge the viewer into the space. The film is designed to show a woman escaping impending danger and ultimately reaching freedom through her movement, we shot high frame rates and then furthered this with Twixtor in post. We did not have a Phantom camera but a genius editor who yielded us similar results at a fraction of the cost. As a Director/DP I did a lot of location scouts to assess placement for Drew and where the sun would move for the day, after I plotted a good course and knew what I wanted to get I let everything be as organic as it could be day of shooting, I don’t story board and love finding beautiful frames on the day, once I’ve done my homework. This shoot yielded some incredible movement and photography that I will always be proud of. You get your best results by staying in the moment of production and OF COURSE by your team. We had flawless styling by Francesca Cerullo and I have a fantastic producer/EP – Scott Welch who always had our back in run and gun environments.
Q: How did this effort unfold as an international production? How did you facilitate collaboration across multiple countries?
A: I met Drew at a loft party a year ago. She was the most striking, tall woman at the party. After exchanging some words she revealed she was a modern dancer and I told her that in the not so distant future we had to make a film together. Cut to about a year later and the time was right, we did not rush it. The project became international when I came across David Lindberg our soon to be editor via Vimeo and based out of Sweden. David had created the film Years of Silence in which he mimicked Phantom footage with a GH2 and Twixtor.
What he accomplished and the fact that he was only 18 years old blew me away, it’s exactly what I love about film where you find someone self-taught, young, and so inspirational. I knew immediately he was the man for the job and would be a cornerstone to the film. With him and Drew locked in we shot in Brooklyn, then David recommended our sound designer – Joe Fletcher based in London, then we finished off the film with scoring by our long time collaborator Jess Stroup based in Los Angeles. Communication was very easy with Skype, Vimeo, and old school email, in post I am a details/timecode specific Director with changes so all went very smoothly, much in part because everyone had such great heart for the project.
Q: What draws your team to Rogue as a partner brand? How will this video be used by Rogue?
I was originally introduced to ROGUE through Scott Welch, he’s always had a good pulse for emerging brands that command respect and have the appetite to do big things. Primarily the film is being used as alternative advertising for ROGUE. At THEJACKSFIRM we love branded short films. We think all branded content should tell an interesting story and make the brand a hero, it’s just that simple. The film has been featured on ROGUE’s blog. It’s been tweeted all over their boards, and we are organizing screenings as well. To this end our next piece is a dramatic action film shooting this month and we’re going right back to ROGUE as a partner.
Q: How was the film shot? What type of format, equipment, etc? We understand you will be embarking on production of a series of shorts in the coming months. Can you tell us a little more about the vision, goals, etc?
A: We love exploring emerging technologies and at the time of production the Canon 5D Mark III was just released. The Mark III was the perfect choice for IWNS because of its compact nature and the fact that it’s a full frame camera in ALL frame rates, thus allowing us to get the wide 2.35 scope we needed for our story. As THEJACKSFIRM produces more branded films we will always choose the best technology to uplift the story being told. For example via new partnerships and stories in development, all of our projects over the next four months will be shot on RED EPIC.
Our most recent film – Among Wolves is a beauty piece which explores the animal condition in us all and we’re thrilled with the results. Our goal for these films, whether branded or not, is too push ourselves creatively on the story. We strive to push the envelope so the viewer says, “I adored that story, I want to know more, I have to watch it again.” All the while, we aim to seamlessly integrate the brand message in a manner that does not hit the viewer over the head. We know people are smarter than that…
I Will Never Stop is the first in a series of films produced by THEJACKSFIRM, in partnership with Rogue, and shot on the RED EPIC. Frontrunner will continue to follow the story.
Reporting by Michael Fasciano, Twitter: @Fasciano