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You recently re-entered the advertising scene with your latest adidas campaign, how did this come about?

Yeah, my first big advertising job was with Instagram and that was so much fun. Next, I did the adidas commercial. I can’t say enough how much I love working with adidas and to have a partnership with them. In addition to designing shoes and clothing, I am also directing campaigns for them. 

Getting to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the adidas Superstar was a great honour. I also am a massive fan of Ruth De Jong and it was incredible to finally work with her and and her brilliant team to make this space come alive.

Adidas – Superstar

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What was the concept behind the adidas campaign?

The concept changed so much but the core of it remained the same, which was: what if all these talented artists, that do all these different art forms, who are all adidas brand ambassadors, worked out of this adidas Institute for artists. Where the OG’s would mentor the new talent and the young talent would teach the OG’s in return. 

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Above: Jonah, Christopher Blauvelt and Christoph Schröer on the adidas set; Jonah jokes with Blondey McCoy and Mariah Duran.


How was the shoot? How did it differ to shooting a music video?

The shoot was incredibly fun and challenging. The major difference from the commercial was the amount of talent we had. On a music video it’s one or two artists. In this it was like 20! 

I was humbled to be at the helm but also trying to make sure each artist felt comfortable to perform. At the same time, there was a lot of people from JL and adidas there that also had to be happy. They were genuinely all amazing and cool and creative people. It was a great experience and one of the things I pride myself on, is if I’m directing, people walk away with a really good and creative experience. 

Danny Brown: Ain't It Funny

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What was the treatment for the Danny Brown's Ain't It Funny music video?

That still is my favorite music video I’ve made so far! I’m a big Danny Brown fan and I knew his manager, Paul Rosenberg, and told him I’d love to make a video. 

 I immediately had this terrifying idea of a sitcom from hell. 

The song was incredible. It’s called Ain't It Funny and is about really dark stuff and Danny is winking by using that as the chorus. I immediately had this terrifying idea of a sitcom from hell. 

Getting director Gus Van Sant to play a sitcom dad opposite Joanna Kerns is still my best casting. 

Vampire Weekend – Sunflower ft. Steve Lacy

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You lensed two brilliant videos last year, both nominated in our music video of the year category. How did the Vampire Weekend originate, and is that Jerry’s local deli?

First of all thank you. That made my day. Secondly, Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend has been a close friend for over a decade. We’re getting old! And finally he asked me to make a video. It was after he saw mid90s, so maybe he had to make sure I wasn’t gonna to blow it. It all happened at the right time. The song is called Sunflower and is super-happy-California vibes so I wanted to juxtapose that and make an ultimate Upper-West-Side-jew-gray video. Ezra and Steve Lacy loved it so we got it going. 

I try and provide a cozy set where people can come hang out

Getting Zabars and Barney’s Greengrass was amazing. Iconic New York establishments, and Jerry Seinfeld is a fan of mid90s, which to this day is the highest compliment ever. We got to know each other and I texted him and he said YES! He’s such a legend and so casual and approachable but so brilliant. He came, he hung out, his wife Jessica is amazing. I try and provide a cozy set where people can come hang out. Thanks Jerry. That was so cool of him. 

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Above: Jonah on the set of Sunflower with crew members and comedian Jerry Seinfeld.


Rapper Travis Scott’s music is pretty eclectic, so how did you come up with the treatment to suit the vibe of the track Wake Up? How involved in the post VFX were you?

Travis is brilliant. You don’t need me to tell anyone that, and in my experience, a man of few words. Travis has a magical presence, and it’s not a loud one but it’s a special presence. He was a fan of mid90s and his team called me and asked if I would direct a video for that song. Of course I wanted to. 

Travis has a magical presence, and it’s not a loud one but it’s a special presence.

My idea was because his videos are so ADD explosive and energy energy energy, I was like, maybe I can get DP Rodrigo Prieto to shoot a slow gorgeous black and white video that just is off. And Rodrigo said yes! What a gift. When I’m an old man, I will still pinch myself that I got to work with Rodrigo. Aside from being brilliant, he is a beautiful beautiful person.

I gotta give it up to the team at Artjail, they are great and smart people. Creative Director Steve Mottershead and I worked very closely on trying to make the floating aspect feel different and elegant and more off than most floating you see in “magical” kind of stuff. I wanted disturbing floating. Steve and I have a very funny relationship. I adore him but we drive each other nuts. Love you Steve. 

Travis Scott – Wake Up

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Your feature film debut mid90s is arguably your directing jewel in the crown right now, loved by critics and audiences alike. How much of a labour of love was this project?
 
Thank you again! Wow. This is so nice. It was totally a labour of love. I look forward to watching it as an old man. It was a beautiful experience and a cathartic one. 

mid90s – mid90s - US Trailer

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You mentioned your work for Instagram earlier. What's the story behind the Un-filtered work? What was it like shooting for vertical?

My first big advertising job was with Instagram on a series called Un-filtered and that was so much fun. They let my DP, Christopher Blauvelt, and I build this really cool LED screen dome kind of thing where the room changed colors based on the emotions of the conversations. It was beautiful to hear young people talk so openly about their feelings and issues.

It was beautiful to hear young people talk so openly about their feelings and issues.

That's a good follow up about shooting vertical, I think it’s scarier than it sounds. Blauvelt and I were a little tripped out about what that would do but you have tape on the monitor so you can see what the vertical shot will be and you just find a nice shot within those parameters. 

Instagram – Un-filtered: Monty, Travis, Derrick

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Who are your major film making influences?

Too many for this interview. Some are Spike JonzeBennett MillerMartin Scorsese, Milos Forman, Shane Meadows, Lynn Ramsey, David O. RussellAri AsterJohn Landis, Francis Ford Coppola, Howard Hawks, Greta GerwigHarmony KorineKathryn BigelowBarry Jenkins, Hal Ashby, Gus Van Sant, Albert Brooks, Nathaniel Hornblower, and of course Paul Thomas Anderson.   

Any projects in the pipeline you share with us?

I can’t! I wish I could! Ahhh! So soon I promise. Thanks for being so kind and for your kind words!

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