Industry Mourns Dir. Jhoan Camitz

NEW YORK-Director Jhoan Camitz of bicoastal/international Satellite was killed last week, struck by a sports utility vehicle in the SoHo district of Manhattan. He was 38.

The driver of the Range Rover, 27-year-old Ivory Davis, had been mortally wounded by two gunshots while behind the wheel at around 4:30 a.m. on Thursday (8/10), outside a rap nightclub called Club N.V. It's unclear if the Range Rover was parked or moving when the early morning drive-by shooting occurred. The shots were fired from a Honda Civic sedan. When fired upon, Davis either continued or started driving the Range Rover. The vehicle careened out of control for a couple of blocks before hitting pedestrian Camitz. Davis was dead at the scene. Camitz was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital where he passed away three hours later.

It's believed that Davis was the victim of a revenge-motivated shooting, but that could not be confirmed at press time. Shots had been fired at him in two separate, earlier incidents, including one that took place reportedly in February. Davis was an owner of a boutique record company label that specialized in rap releases. His assailant or assailants in the Honda Civic had not been apprehended as SHOOT went to press.

The tragic chain of events ended the budding yet already accomplished filmmaking career of Camitz, a Swede who split his residency between Stockholm and the U.S. He spent considerable time in Los Angeles and recently secured an apartment in New York.

Camitz initially established himself in European advertising. However, he made a major stateside splash shortly after signing with Satellite for U.S. representation in late '97. Among his first American spots were "Meat," "Marathon Man" and "Rejection," part of Nike's "What Are You Getting Ready For?" campaign in '98 out of Wieden+ Kennedy, Portland, Ore. Collectively these commercials teamed with four others to win a Gold Lion in the shoe and apparel campaign category at the '99 Cannes International Advertising Festival. Additionally, "Meat" was honored with an individual Gold Lion and much of his Nike work scored impressively at numerous other award competitions. The Nike fare helped bicoastal/international Propaganda Films and sister company Satellite win the Palme d'Or at Cannes in '99.

"Meat" depicted a boy using an inventive means to train for soccer. The youngster plops his soccer ball on the kitchen counter, takes a piece of meat out of the refrigerator and squeezes the prime cut's juices all over the ball. He then goes out onto a dusty road, sets the ball down and waits—but not for long. Suddenly, a pack of hungry dogs— drawn to the scent of fresh meat—descend on the scene and begin chasing after the boy whose ball-handling ability is put to an extreme test. The ad debuted during coverage of the World Cup soccer tournament and humorously shows the harrowing lengths to which a dedicated kid will go in order to rigorously hone his soccer skills.

By sharp contrast, Camitz didn't consciously prepare himself for a directorial career. He initially studied to become a lawyer but left that pursuit to get into furniture design. To make a living, Camitz began doing some offline editing, and got more into photography. His first professional ad assignment—a point-of-purchase piece which had him shooting behind-the-scenes coverage of a Levi's print campaign for Stockholm agency Ronnberg McCann–generated some industry interest. But his big break into directing came, strangely enough, at the Stockholm wedding of his friend, Maria Tamander, the founding partner of Stockholm-based MOD:film, a production company in which Camitz later became a partner. Camitz had been assisting some directors at MOD:film, and Tamander was grooming him to become a director. Camitz directed and shot a short film of the wedding. Joakim Jonason, creative director of Paradiset DDB, Stockholm, and a guest at the wedding, was favorably impressed with the film; so much so that he hired Camitz to direct some imaginative ad work for Diesel Jeans in '93.

Via MOD:film, Camitz helmed his first ad, Diesel's "Magic 55." The spoof of Japanese detergent commercials was a hit. Camitz's career took off. He directed 10 Diesel ads and found himself very much in demand throughout Europe, landing international work for such accounts as Orangina, Virgin Cola and Volkswagen. He then caught the attention of the Spice Girls who convinced him to direct their clip "Wannabe," which took best dance video honors at the '97 MTV Video Music Awards. The same year, Camitz won a Bronze Clio for the Arla Milk spot, "High Jump," produced by MOD:film for agency Forsman & Bodenfors, Goteborg, Sweden.

Sam Walsh, general manager of Propaganda Films Commercial and Music Video Division—which includes the Satellite label—said that Camitz "was irreplaceable as a friend to the people here at Satellite." From a directorial perspective, Walsh described Camitz as "a wry observer and an insatiable consumer of pop culture. He loved it. He lived it and that's reflected in his work, which had elements of quirkiness yet was irreverent in a gentle, profound way. I've been trying to compare his sensibility as a filmmaker to others—and the names that come into my mind are Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin. Jhoan was not a comedy director per se even though there was humor in his work. But the humor had a profoundness because it was based on the human condition, like the feelings evoked in Chaplin's work. Jhoan's casting was extraordinary."

DP Adam Kimmel, who worked regularly with Camitz over the past two and a half years, said of his late colleague: "I never worked with a director as concerned about the quality of the work and as unconcerned about the frequency of it. He would wait months for the right project, something he felt he could put on his reel."

Kimmel noted that Camitz "created the most creative, collaborative atmosphere I've ever been in. He surrounded himself with people he liked and encouraged everyone to be a contributor. He was a great clown in a conductor's suit. But it wasn't a playpen where the experience was considered more important than the work. That's clear when you see the end result, which was simply some amazing work."

Camitz's last endeavor at Satellite was a three-spot package for Internet-related company marchFIRST out of McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C. Shot in Paris, each of the three commercials depicted a first: the first cubist art exhibition; the first mini-skirt; and the first man to walk on the moon. "I think the work showed a different dimension to him beyond humor—it was very visual, very subtle yet cinematic," assessed Kimmel who shot the spots. "It was a wonderful image campaign."

In addition to being handled for spots by Satellite in the U.S., Camitz was repped in the U.K. by London-based Outsider and in France through Paris-based Entropie Films. He was also available for work in Sweden via Moma, a Stockholm boutique launched by Tamander after the closure of MOD:film.

Tamander worked with Camitz for nearly 10 years. "He made so many friends," she said of Camitz. "He was truly amazing. You look at the reaction to his death and you realize that here was a person who didn't have any enemies—only friends."

Camitz was poised to make his feature film directing debut. According to Walsh, Camitz was slated to helm an adaptation of Denis Johnson's book, Already Dead: A California Gothic, produced by Propaganda Films.

Camitz is survived by his parents and three brothers. Funeral arrangements are pending in Stockholm. A memorial service will also likely be held next month in the U.S.


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