To celebrate director Ariel Danziger joining the Allday roster, we spoke with him about his life as a filmmaker and what the future holds.
We are very excited to have you join the Allday family! If you wouldn’t mind taking us through a brief timeline of your film career - how did you get your start directing?
I graduated film school from (SVA) in NYC a couple of moons ago and soon after moved to Barcelona. I got really lucky out there and began working for a small production company that was focused on creating content. Mind you, this was at the beginning of what we understand to be digital content today in 2016. I basically didn’t know anyone and had no idea what f*** I was doing. Slowly I began hustling and meeting people that would give me opportunities to shoot for them. In the almost 3 years I lived there I was able to shoot original content for some really great festivals and brands like: Sonar festival, MTV, Motorola, Beck’s Beer, shooting mostly short form docs and commercials for sponsored brands. I never went into film school thinking, “I want to make commercials” it just sort of happened and I quickly fell in love with the process. I later moved back to NYC and approached every production company and got rejected from all of them. But I wasn’t giving up, so I shot a few spec-spots and with 3 spots on my reel l I got signed. I’ve been directing commercials ever since.
The most important thing for me is that it needs to make me feel something- jolt me, move me, shock me, make me uncomfortable, or sooth me.
What kind of films inspire you? What kinds of projects do you wish you could get involved in?
The most important thing for me is that it needs to make me feel something - jolt me, move me, shock me, make me uncomfortable, or sooth me. Something in the film needs to triggers or flip a switch inside of me when I’m watching. Those are the types of projects I love to be involved in and those are the type of films that inspire me. It can come from the soundtrack, the cinematography a performance and if it's perfect, the story or creative are spot on.
You've done a lot of commercials that appeal to family values and innocent fun. There has been a tonal shift in your work recently. What triggered this new approach?
I think the most important shift was me realizing that it’s okay to strip everything away. To be nimble, simplify, less is more. It can be really hard to do and that has been a big challenge, especially in commercials.
I was out shooting a small doc in Mexico about my cousin in-law, who has Down syndrome, special Olympic gold medalist in swimming, Record breaker, has a fascination with Mexican Wrestlers and dances like Michael Jackson. I mean you can’t write this sh** It was so profound to just be there, capturing him. Nothing was forced, planned or felt contrived. Everything was just so simple, so real and human. And it caused me to realize that sometimes or perhaps most of the time everything you search for us right there in front of you. People just being who they are. I think that has been the biggest shift and challenge in my style and tone. I’ve taken little bits and pieces from what I love aesthetically about Fashion, Lifestyle and Music Videos that I’ve worked on, and added the more human and behavioral element and channeled it, into a more funneled storytelling structure.
Specifically in the i-D/Maybelline shoot "Make it Happen" the featured woman says "New York is the land of misfits".
I’m all about the “Land of the Misfits”. I’ve been here for almost 20 years and sometimes still feel like an outsider a nonconformist. I’ve had many different lives in this city, not always being able to follow the rules but somehow still here, hustling, breathing and living in what I think is the most exciting city in the world. On a side note, I was traveling a lot for shoots, always outside of NY or overseas and about a year ago I started shooting a lot more locally. I’ve lately been reminded how amazing and beautiful this city is once you throw a lens up to it. How many stories, memories, certain blocks and street corners remind you of who you are, it really puts sh** in perspective about my time in NYC.
I like texturizing an everyday action with context and purpose.
Motion is a defining characteristic of your aesthetic, especially in your transition to more fashion films. What do you think, for example, slow-motion, can do to evoke an impression or tell a story?
My feeling regarding Motion, body language, action and in relation to camera movement can be told most of the time in real-time at 24fps but sometimes heightening the viewer's senses at higher frames rates are an excellent way to underline a feeling, an emotion and to stretch out an action that might take only 2 seconds in real time into say 10-20 seconds or more all for the benefit of the story.
A good friend once told me one of the most important things in becoming a great director is to master “Behavior divided by time” So I have really tried to keep that present in my approach and stay as true to what I’m shooting as possible. I like texturizing an everyday action with context and purpose. Exposing the beautiful reality rather than always trying to fabricate it.
"You can't control inspiration, you can't control art" is a quote from the film you directed for Bacardi. Do you agree with this? Do you have any films or directors you are particularly inspired by / have influenced your creative self-discovery?
I personally feel like I can’t control anything in life. I can only manage moments and make decisions. So Yes, I absolutely agree with Zoe’s quote. Films and Music have been the two main sources of inspiration in my life. For example: when I saw, David Lynch’s Lost Highway for the first time I was in my teens and remember not understanding what the f*** I had just seen. But how the film made me feel was something totally new. To able to tell a non linear story, with images that captured such strong emotional weight in composition, lighting, sound, etc.. I was blown away. I watched it many times trying to decode it. I was fascinated by it. I remember my younger self saying “I want to make a film like this” one day…Still to be seen. ;-)
Everything has almost been like a learning experience that has been leading up to this new phase in my career.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
I think I share the same dream as most Directors to make a narrative feature. As I mentioned before, I re-routed into commercials and music videos at the beginning of my career. Everything has almost been like a learning experience that has been leading up to this new phase in my career. This transition into a re-invention of myself with a more mature and disciplined approach in storytelling that I feel has caused a major shift in myself, as a person and as a creative being. So I hope to continue with the growth, the learning and eventually very soon be able to finish what I started when I first began this journey.
To shut up and go shoot!