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CRAFTING UNIVERSAL STORIES

Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a true artist is a signature voice and style. No matter what the medium, you recognize that there is something exceptional and memorable about their work, even if you can’t quite explain what it is. Director/producer/cinematographer Jonathan Bensimon’s possession of this trait is irrefutable. Whether being presented in full length films, music videos, or commercial advertisements, there is a depth to the stories he presents. While never seeming forced or frantic, the work of this acclaimed professional seems to offer hints of other plots and character possibilities, the type which implies more than the visuals may overtly present. Les Enfants (Canadian Production Company) has equipped Bensimon with the canvas to illustrate his grand stories and visually lyrical ideas. Jonathan was eager to work with Les Enfants. The company’s three pillars of passion, curiosity, and creativity have attracted the most inspired and inspiring artists in the business, including Bensimon.


A characteristic of Jonathan’s work is his well-travelled perspective. Growing up in multi-cultural cities like Toronto and Montreal in addition to his work with companies from across the planet has left a global imprint on his view. Creating a mood that crosses international barriers not only possesses its own manner of “speaking” but also facilitates greater communication. This is evident in the film Tokyo/Glow which Bensimon shot in Japan and greatly increased his notoriety through its success. Tokyo/Glow is built on a foundation of imagery, the mastery of which Jonathan used in his work as part of Les Enfant with Hitachi and Honda. Precisely because of his ability to communicate an array of emotions and ideas without the need for dialogue, Jonathan is often brought aboard in the very early planning stages to produce these spots; continuing on into the actual filming. The years long branding campaign for Hitachi allowed Jonathan great latitude in manifesting emotional stories. When Honda wanted to promote their newest motorcycle (the African Twin) Jonathan created an epic tale to communicate its ideal. In this commercial, a mid-twenties clean cut business man stands in his office and throws a dart at a map. Suddenly he is in the middle of rugged terrain, prairie like with mountains in the horizon, sitting atop a Honda motorcycle. He rides to the ocean, then across grassy fields, sometimes in solace and sometimes amidst new friends. He is travelling the world with only a small bag and his motorcycle. The scale is so grand in these commercials and the characters so personable that it’s not until they have finished that you notice barely a word (often no words) have been uttered. For a global company this is like finding buried treasure because the lack of spoken words is not obvious and not missed. This approach is something Bensimon adopted in his early days studying with Oscar-winner Vilmos Zsigmond. Jonathan recalls, “When I was in university, I applied and was accepted to a program held in Budapest. There were fifteen of us from around the world (it was sponsored by Kodak and Panavision) and we’d shoot every day and then watch it in 35 MM the following day. Vilmos was famous for saying a that with a good film, you should be able to turn off the sound and still understand what is happening. A lot of his teaching concentrated on how to tell a story visually and knowing what tools you have in your tool belt. As a cinematographer you need to understand you lights and your lenses. With these two elements you have an infinite amount of ways to capture a story.”


All of this does not dissuade Jonathan from including dialogue but he’ll admit to exploring its use creatively as he did in a series of PSAs for Colorectal Cancer Canada. Again serving as producer, director, and cinematographer allowed for the vision of this piece to be realized and to be done both masterfully and expeditiously. To create a sensitive, thoughtful, and engagingly creative message, Jonathan and his team worked with body painter Sue Upton who illustrated the design on a model’s posterior which was then shot under a precisely designed lighting plan (which was limited to shooting at a specific time of day for natural light to augment perfectly, which only lasted for fifteen minutes) and captured in a single shot. This was executed au natural by the model in -25-degree Celsius weather. The footage is as perfectly captured as it is planned, and very compassionately included a sense of humor for this important message. A plethora of acknowledgements for this PSA (including: Cresta Awards, AdForum's ACT Responsible Collection, and others) served to reinforce Jonathan’s already resounding acclaim among his peers. To exhibit great success in one area of an industry is a valuable achievement; to create an identifiable and attractive personal style in multiple areas is to influence the industry itself. Those who have seen the work of Jonathan Bensimon will remark on the clearly visible difference that defines him as the later.

Author: Kelly King


CRAFTING UNIVERSAL STORIES Reviewed by JaamZIN on 6:09:00 AM Rating: 5
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