Brown Director, Jonathan Desbiens, talks about inspiration, taking the leap into commercial film, and the beauty of carte-blanche creative direction

"It’s not a passion; more of an obsession, really," says Jonathan. He began “playing” with Photoshop, After Effects and a VHS camera at age 11, but didn’t put down the Lego until age 14. His work has become a continuation of that play, and he is dead serious when he says his 24/7 job is to keep that childlike creativity alive. After establishing himself in the music video scene, Jonathan made the jump to commercials in the Montreal market. He has enjoyed a busy year shooting spots for Bell, the Government of Quebec and a gorgeous music video for Deftones.

What was the first ad you shot?

The Bell commercials for the Montreal Canadiens’ games.

How has a music video background helped you with your commercial work?

To simplify complex ideas that can't be expressed with words. It's obvious and cliché, but commercials are short and need to send a clear message, but most importantly to me, this message has to be charged with clear and perfectly aimed emotions to make sure the product connects with the viewer. I think that music videos are a good way for me to resume these really abstract emotions and it allows me to develop an efficient cinematographic language based on that.

I love the CREA spot. Tell me about how the project developed

and did you contribute or shape the creative direction?

First off, this project was a co-direction with a Montreal director I respect a lot, Yan Giroux (we have complete opposite directing styles and I like that). The client, Infopresse, gave us a blank card. We simply brainstormed crazy ideas and were kind of studying the concept of portraits, and came with this idea concerning identity, and about what's real and not, since advertising is all about playing with the perceptions. So that's why we decided to play all the characters by ourselves and digitally paste the faces of the juries over our green masks and outfits.

Where did you go to school?

I studied french literature, arts and communication at the college Laflèche in Trois-Rivières (for a DEC diploma), and have a degree in fine arts from the UQTR (University of Trois-Rivièr

es). I tried to study cinema in Montreal but got turned down by all the universities there, I was frustrated for 24 hours then I realized I didn't want to study cinema, but make my own cinema. So, I went to a bank and ask for a mortgage and bought a camera the next week. I told myself that one day I will gladly turn their teaching proposal down. This experience taught me that if I am to "purely" create, make a living out of it and offer valuable content to the viewer, I have to free my mind of all pre-built concepts. I can explore the technical aspects by myself without problems.

Do you have a particular approach when you are planning out and shooting a project? Take me through that process.

The last answer explains it partially. First off, when possible, I always go out and drive my car in the countryside to think about the project, it's a way of making my mind feel in continuous motion! Then images, colours, rhythm and actions are automatically taking place in my mind according to the brief. Then I come back home and write everything down. Then for the shoot, I have only one rule: to make sure it's fun and intense. I don't mean it has to be a party, but it has to be an intense experience to make sure every single person feels involved and important, because they are! The most simple shots have to be intense and valuable, cause otherwise they'll end up being used as fillers in the edit.

Live action, or graphics/animation - what comes first when you are planning a project?

Technically live action, but from a creativity point of view, it's all the same to me. Paintings, drawings, 3D, traditional animations, live footage, are all ways to express something through images. I'm interested by images in motions. But live action is more important to me, first of all because it's a lot more fun and intense. It's the moment in a project where you can create a momentum and take of advantage of it!

Who in your life has directly inspired or motivated you?

My girlfriend is the person who allows me to be myself everyday, but from a creative and professional point of view, nobody in particular. I'm a lot more interested by what's going on around me, by the simplicity and beauty of life. I think mountains and trees inspired more emotions, stories and images than anybody could.

I think I'm motivated by the simple fact that I have a vision and opinions about life that I haven't really seen elsewhere. But don't get me wrong, I don't pretend to invent new ideas, concepts or techniques cause we are all influenced by movies and art that is all around us, but I deeply pretend that I can bring people into worlds of my own that will make them feel emotions they have never felt before. Maybe this is something that I haven't been able to do so far in my work, but that will happen soon.

Finally, it also means for me that the technique will never become a concept, simply because that's not how my brain work: technique will always serve a purpose and not the opposite. To put it simply, impressions are timeless and last; techniques will always get old.

Any new projects you'd like to talk about?

I'm working on a music video for Underoath, a Grammy-nominated band I've been listening to for years. It's like a teenager dream that became true, and I also had a great time discussing, hanging out and shooting with them in the freezing cold of Montreal (they're from Florida). They gave me a blank card so it's gonna be very personal.

For more information on Jonathan Desbiens or Brown Entertainment, visit http://www.brown25.com/



TORONTO, CANADA – December 6, 2010 – Brown Entertainment and Beef Films today announced that Brown will be marketing Beef Films’ roster of directing talent in Canada.

The affiliation between Brown, known as one of Canada’s top production houses, with Beef Films, a leading production studio based in Los Angeles, creates new creative possibilities for advertising agencies looking for spot-helmers.

Brown executive producer David Cranor has a longstanding relationship with the founder of Beef Films, Nick Spooner, dating back to 1999.  David comments, “Nick and I have stayed in touch over the years and appreciate the common ground we share both professionally and personally. There’s a good vibe between our companies and we’re thrilled to align with Beef Films.”



Brown Director Michael Maxxis recently directed a music video for Canadian Indie rock band Hot Hot Heat’s single titled "Goddess on the Prairie." In the video, a man smuggles Mexican women in the U.S. and sells them out of an ice cream truck. A band, drinking and driving, buys one of the women and takes her into their trailer one by one.

Commenting on the controversial subject matter, Michael Maxxis says, "I’d say that more than anything what happens in the video is a tongue in cheek portrayal of the issue. It’s basically portraying Mexicans as alien commodities, much like how they are portrayed by mainstream media. In the news it seems like these people are dismissed as aliens, so that’s how I portrayed them in the video. The video is ridiculous, much like the portrayal of Mexicans in the media."



Brown director Sean Wainsteim’s visual storytelling skills are tapped for a second time with a new music video for the Canadian dancepunk band, You Say Party’s new hit single, "Lonely’s Lunch".   Sean is interviewed about his creative process and shooting on location in India below. 

Q: How did you get involved in this project for You Say Party?

A: The band, whom I’d collaborated with previously on "Monster" shot in Prague, approached me with the notion that they wanted to take their videos in a different direction. Lead singer Becky was less interested in doing performance pieces and more interested in opening up their videos to artistic collaborations - letting filmmakers freely explore a visual pairing to accompany their musical narrative. They offered a level of trust that was very inviting (and a great track) and lured me out of music video


Brown Director Michael Maxxis discusses his creative influences, film-making style and recent big win of Director of the Year at the MuchMusic Video Awards

Brown director Michael Maxxis’ original, raw style of filmmaking that employs in-camera visual effects has penetrated the music video scene and created an identity that stands on its own. Recent works have garnered him three MuchMusic Award nominations and five Alberta Film Awards. In 2010 Michael was named the MuchMusic Video Awards Director of the Year.

Interviewed here, Michael speaks about his first break into the advertising business, his creative and aesthetic approach to directing, and working with the late David Carradine on his most recent film ‘8 For Infinity.’

How would you characterize your approach as a director?

I would just say that I take every production very seriously all the way up until the shooting day… then during the shoot, I’m very relaxed and loose.  Once we hit post, I’m back to being very serious again.



Canada-based commercial production company Brown has recently added award-winning director Jim Owen to its team. Jim has written and directed numerous short films that have played at various film festivals around the world. Most recently, his short film "Can We Talk?" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2010. Written, directed, and edited by Jim, "Can We Talk?" is about a guy who tries to dump his girlfriend... again. The 10-minute short was incredibly well received by audiences everywhere and won an Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking at Sundance. 

Larry Charles, the director of "Borat", "Bruno", and "Curb Your Enthusiasm", described the film as, "Hysterically funny. Brilliant performances. Cuts so close to the bone that the laughs come at a price."

To watch "Can We Talk?" click here

As a commercial director, Jim has created ads for several brands in the UK, including BlackBerry, O2, Innocent Drinks and Howies. With a talent for infusing understated comedy and irony into his work, Jim produces films that are both compelling and entertaining.

For more information please visit http://www.brown25.com/ and www.jamesowen.tv/work.



Two of Brown director Joseph Nanni's short films are enjoying immense success on the horror film festival circuit. The first short, titled "Elder Sign", is a spoof infomercial for the cure you need "when suffering from an overwhelming sense of dread brought on by the realization of your own insignificance in the universe." After appearing in nineteen festivals in 2009, it is still being selected for festival screenings worldwide.

"The Necronomicon" has been selected to screen this year at over twenty festivals, including the Chicago Horror Festival, the NYC Horror Festival, and ShockerFest LA. Another spoof infomercial inspired by horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, "The Necronomicon" satires an old commercial for the Book of Mormon. Two characters seated in a diner discuss books they’re reading, and one pulls out a book to show to the other. This time, instead of the Book of Mormon, it’s the Necronomicon Spellbook.

DreadCentral.com describes "The Necronomicon," screened at Fantasia Montreal 2010, as "a hilarious infomercial length satire…A perfect bite-sized joke with pitch perfect marketing-speak dialog. Tailor made for horror fans."

This past Friday "The Necronomicon" was the opening film at The Toronto After Dark film festival.

To view both films, click here

For more information please visit www.brown25.com