- Friday, Oct. 6, 2000
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I've been pigeonholed into doing a lot of sports and action stuff," says director Jason Smith of bicoastal Bob Industries. True enough: spots for Puma, Major League Baseball, Volvo and Sony PlayStation are among the Venice, Calif.- and London-based director's credits.
Smith, though, points out that his music videos for a couple of U.K.-based bands are more representative of his capabilities. He cites "Late at Night" for Electronic, as well as "Peakin" for Bleachin, both completed out of London-based Flynn Productions, which represents Smith for music videos in Europe.
The Electronic video is a narrative, performance-based piece that follows a band of young men as they wreck havoc about town in the course of one night. The video begins with the foursome in a car en route to a nighttime hot spot. They joke coarsely with each other, while the driver holds the wheel in one hand, a beer in the other. Along the way, they have a minor run-in with another car. Exiting their vehicle, the four pounce upon the other carayelling, hitting the hood with their fists, and spilling the remainder of their drinks on the windshieldaas the "offender" sits fearfully within.
With this incident kicking off the evening, the music begins, and the team moves on to the next in its series of exploits, including physically harassing women in a nightclub, and starting up a fight by the bar.
"I'm moving more into character-based storytelling, with [work that has] an overall cinematic look," says Smith, using "Late at Night" as an example. "What I want to do is direct movies."
Although in the U.S. he is frequently called on for action-oriented work, Smith notes that his commercials often have "quite a lot of storytelling in them." One of his recent spots out of Bob Industries is Nike's "Covert Texas" via Wieden+Kennedy, Portland, Ore. The commercial opens with two-time Tour de France champ Lance Armstrong biking on a panoramic, mountain road. As he pedals along, a cargo truck approaches from behind and, honking wildly, tries to pass. Annoyed by one another's presence, the trucker and the biker begin a game of who can pass whomamuch in the tradition of the film Duel, the '71 made-for-TV movie helmed by Steven Spielberg. At one point, when Armstrong is riding alongside the truck, it crowds him off the lane. Armstrong then races back up to the truck, bumps it with his armathe one wearing the Nike watchaand sends the multi-ton vehicle over the side of the cliff, where it explodes. The spot ends with a shot of Armstrong's Nike XTR Covert watchawhich survived the battle unscathed.
"I like to push the look, and create an atmosphere in everything I do," states Smith. "With Nike, I [accentuated] the intensity of the battle. At first the camera's really in tight with a close-up on Lance Armstrong. Then you cut to a really wide shotafor the audience, that's like a breatheraand then, bam, you're in close again. I deliberately left out the medium shots. It's a technique in action that creates energy."
One of Bob Industries' managing partners/executive producers, T. K. Knowles, points out that "Covert Texas" was done in-camera, without visual effects or much other postproduction. So the truck falling off the rock, the crash, and Armstrong's body double riding in the two-foot space between the truck and rock wall were real.
"Problems had cropped up all over the place [in production]," Knowles explains. One key obstacle surfaced two days before the shoot. The local government of Almeria, Spain, where the spot was to be filmed, denied Smith a permit to throw the truck off the mountain. The officials cited the environmental hazards of the demolition, as well as its proximity to a public roadway.
Utilizing his problem-solving skills, Smith quickly found another location for the truck dropaa privately owned rock quarry, also in Almeria. "Jason's been directing awhile," comments Knowles. "He's very versatile and creative in his approaches to getting things done."