What does Ben want to do today? The same thing he does every day; try to takeover the world! And he’s doing it one television and computer screen at a time. The self-taught commercial director and visual-effects artist has been plotting his world domination for the over 15 years, and after having highly successful turns at the helm for shoots with IZOD, Van Heusen, NASCAR, and Indy Car, Ben may not be that far from reaching his goal.
Named one of Shoot magazine’s “Best New Directors” (2007), Ben Orisich is already a highly accomplished artist that has shot spots on three different continents. His work was viewed in over 200 countries across the globe when not one, but two of his commercials aired during Super Bowl XLI. Like the high speed automobiles he loves, it may be hard to keep pace with Big Ben, so catch up with him now in this exclusive interview.
-Yohance Kyles: When did you first discover your voice as an artist?
Benjamin Orisich: I believe my voice has been evolving since I was a small child. Both of my parents are artists and have been encouraging me to be creative in whatever medium I happened to be into at the time.
YK: As a self-taught filmmaker, how did you learn to master such a technical field?
BO: It all comes down to time, practice, and opportunity. I was blessed with access to a lot of technology and I had the drive to learn. It all starts with picking up a manual and going to town. You get stuck and make mistakes but that is where the learning ‘gold’ is. The knowledge gained through exploration and mistakes sticks with you for life.
YK: Your work has a bright and active aesthetic. Is this an extension of your own personality?
BO: That is an interesting thought. I would say that if it is, visually is where it gets expressed. I like clean graphic compositions and bold imagery. I also like for there to be energy in the visuals. It is a kinetic story telling medium that the audience has to understand on first viewing. You don’t often get a second chance in the commercial world. So maybe that ties into my short attention span. I’m not sure if bright is the right word, but active is certainly a part of my personality.
I am lucky to be involved from start to finish in most of my projects. Many commercial directors don’t have that opportunity.
YK: What part of the directing process do you enjoy the most- creating the treatment, filming, or post-production?
BO: It is hard to separate the pieces these days. I would say that shooting is probably my favorite part of the process because of the immediacy of the challenges, but I love both the creative development part and post. The treatment is in many ways the most difficult part of the process. You have to really throw out all of the logistics and baggage and focus on what creatively works best for the story you are trying to tell. Then you focus on how to make it a reality. Post is fun because it is where all the pieces come together. The edit, music, vfx, color correct, all play a huge roll in the success of any project. I am lucky to be involved from start to finish in most of my projects. Many commercial directors don’t have that opportunity.
YK: What was your reaction the first time you saw one of your commercials on TV?
BO: It has been too long to give a solid answer on that, but I would say I was super ecstatic like a six year old on Christmas morning, on the inside and stoic on the outside. This is how I am even now when I see something on TV that I worked on so hard. I don’t generally let a lot of emotion register on my face, but I’m sure I was feeling it on the inside. I was excited when I saw my super bowl spots air, and I always love watching the opens I do for some of the big motor sport events, like the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Chase races because they are special event projects and only air once.
YK: You’ve travel all over the world. What locations stood out as the most fun places to shoot?
BO: I would say Iceland and Kiev stand out as unique, amazing experiences. Also stepping onto the Indy Motor Speedway at dawn when it is empty is like being on holy ground. Every time I’m there I can feel the history of that place.
YK: You’ve done a lot of work with IZOD and Van Heusen. What is it about those brands that seem to make a great match with your production style?
BO: Those brands have been great to work with because it is a truly collaborative process, and while I think those two brands have completely different looks, we have worked hard to give them identities that stand out on air. I try to push the visuals as hard as I can and still stay true to the brand. I’ve been lucky with IZOD and Van Heusen that they want to push their brands in exciting, creative ways.
YK: Is directing a super bowl ad considered like winning a championship ring in the commercial directing world?
BO: Hah, yeah it is pretty cool. Basically you are putting your work out there to be judged by a HUGE audience and in the one commercial forum where the audience has a very public opportunity to judge your work. Most of the time commercials are more or less anonymous outside of the industry, but you never know what kind of press a Super Bowl spot will get. For instance, the IZOD spot that aired during the Super Bowl, ended up being talked about on The Daily Show with John Stewart. So in that regard you just pray that you don’t get beat up in the press. I basically didn’t sleep trying to finish the Van Heusen spot in the two weeks leading up to it. There was definitely an added pressure knowing it was going to air when a 100 million people were watching.
YK: How is directing a 30-60 second commercial different from directing a television show or feature film?
BO: It is technically the exact same process. You work on the script and the story, you cast, you rehearse, shoot, edit and color correct. The big difference is that films, and to a lesser extent tv, take up so much more of your time. The process is extended because the amount of content you have to create is exponentially more. I think commercials are unique in that there is a lot more freedom in visual story telling techniques employed since you have such a short time. Visual impact becomes a huge part of the equation in making that happen.
YK: Are you interested in directing for TV or movies?
BO: I am certainly interested in longer format story telling. I think that it is a natural next step for me. It is important to continue to grow as an artist and directing films and/or tv shows is certainly part of that growth. Currently, I am in the development stages of a movie and the challenge is a welcome one. I think that with my commercial and visual effects background that I am ready to make a great film.
YK: Who are some of the directors that inspire you?
BO: There are some incredibly talented filmmakers out there, and I am influenced by quite a few of them- all for different reasons. I think the Cohen Brothers are always doing amazing work. I’m a big fan of Michael Bay, Tony & Ridley Scott, Tim Burton, Michael Mann, and David Fincher, whom all are huge influences on me. Mark Romanek’s music video and commercial work is all very cool, and I like his approach to story telling. I also love what Christopher Nolan is doing. He is such an incredibly smart director. In the animation world I have always loved the Brothers Quay and of course John Lasseter and all the geniuses at Pixar. The list keeps going. There are so many talented film makers that I continue to learn from and be inspired by.
YK: You’re really into motor vehicles. How did you become such a big car fanatic?
BO: It is hard to put a history to that. As long as I can remember I have always loved cars, car racing, and basically all things automotive. It has been a real dream come true to be able to work on lots of projects that involve both Indy Car and NASCAR. Truly, I feel blessed to be able to combine my professional and personal passions. It doesn’t get any better than that.
YK: What’s next for Ben Orisich?
BO: What comes next is a good cappuccino and a Cuban cigar. Then I will continue my quest for global domination.
To connect with Ben follow him @benorisich
Check out the Ben Orisich directed spots for IZOD & Indy Car: