Director Ben Steiger Levine joins Greencard
Known for his work with design, visual effects and animation, he’s equally adept at narrative, performance and storytelling.
His signing was announced by Founder and Executive Producer Emily Wiedemann.
“Ben’s an amazing filmmaker with such strong capabilities in so many disciplines, and we’re delighted to welcome him to Greencard,” says Wiedemann. “On top of his directorial chops, he’s also a great writer, so we have very high hopes for him not just in his advertising work but in both short and long-form films as well.” Prior to signing with Greencard he was with 1stAve Machine.
Steiger Levine’s work has netted him everything from a Cannes Lions to a Grammy nomination, and is characterized by a lighthearted story told in a visually compelling way. Supporting the organic feel of much of his work, he prefers to find in-camera solutions rather than rely on heavy CG whenever possible.
A great example is his Intolerance project for Natrel, a Canadian lactose-free line of dairy products: In a faux documentary, we meet Miles Granderson, a towering man who explains his love of dairy and appears like a giant in his too-small house. There’s no CG in it at all, Steiger Levine admits; the actor playing Miles is a regular-sized guy. “It’s mostly just camera tricks,” he explains, “along with a lot of careful compositing.”
The director says he was attracted to Greencard ironically because the company is not known as an effects and design studio, but rather has impressive credentials in narrative, long form and other genres and categories he’s interested in pursuing. “I didn’t want to get pegged as a design and effects-oriented director,” he says. “I love the diversity of Greencard’s body of work, and I’m confident I’ll have a place here. I’ll bring my expertise to their roster, while they’ll open up opportunities for me in the areas of film and live action commercials.”
Steiger Levine has directed for such brands as Coca-Cola, Samsung, Sprite and Nintendo (in a spot which blends live action and stop-motion in an easygoing, organic way), and his video for the Canadian duo Beast, which was Grammy-nominated for Best Music Video, will give anyone afraid of bees nightmares for years.
Asked to describe his work, Steiger Levine shies away from too many VFX references and adopts a more ethereal tone; it’s not surprising, given that Michel Gondry was a huge influence. “His mixed media approach interested me, and his films have this dreamlike quality,” he notes. “I like work in which you can transform reality and enter a magical world where things look and feel different.” Working in advertising, he adds, gives him the opportunity to bring multiple disciplines to bear on a script, from art, design and cinematography to his ability to build complex sets that almost become characters on their own. “They can help elevate and enhance the performances I get out of my cast,” he says.
Currently, Steiger Levine is working on a short narrative VR project that’s been funded through Canada’s Telefilm, ARTE in France and the Belgium film fund. Using primarily CGI, it will offer an immersive viewing experience unlike anything he’s done before.
At Greencard, he hopes to continue working in the highly collaborative style he’s accustomed to. “I believe now more than ever agencies are looking for creative partners, not just someone to execute an aesthetic vision,” he observes. “I love taking part in this process of shepherding the concept into reality in a way that preserves both the agency’s and the client’s vision. It’s very rewarding to be part of this bigger team effort.”