It's always great to feature talented folk and this week is no exception. In fact we got to 'Sit Down With' an extraordinarily talented Director and Photographer, Jason Lowe of 2AM Films.
We've been lucky enough to feature many films by this tour de force of gastronomic direction and each time he pushes boundaries of creativity and technique to new levels.
So, we couldn't have been happier when he agreed to share some of his insights and work for this focused piece.
So enough from us and over to you Jason Lowe...
You were a stills photographer for many many years, but how did you cross over into commercials?
I’ve been shooting stills for almost 30 years concentrating on all things gastronomic, from one of the fanciest restaurants in the world to the most humble fisherman.
A wonderful man called Matthew Kitchin (former 2AM producer, sadly now deceased) rang me out the blue one day and asked if I’d ever thought about directing for the moving image, making commercials and I said yes I’d often thought about it but I had no clue about how to go about it, how to break in, and that was that and it was with 2AM that we first made some test films, they were in fact with St John the restaurant whom I’ve always have done all the books for and am currently working on their 25th anniversary edition.
Your latest film for Rowse Honey was mesmerizing. Apparently everything you see in the film is Rowse honey, how did you manage to capture honey in such an original way?
The brief was to look inside honey and to discover the extraordinary detail that lies within, so my instant reaction was to want to make it with only honey, exploring ways of seeing honey that have never been seen before. So we went about exploring all the ways that we could look at it without any VFX trickery.
So we took honey apart we looked at the comb, we looked at the wax, we looked at the formations, what happens when you move two honeys together under a microscope, what happens to the crystal forms of honey under microscopic magnification, what happens when you squeeze it, what happens when you pull it apart, what happens when you pour it, what happens when you sandwich it between two pieces of glass and all the things that happen to honey when it's been taken out of the comb, the centrafuse so spinning it at high velocity in order to separate liquid from the wax, looking at the forms of the wax, looking at the hexagons, travelling down womb-like through a hexagon.
So that was deeply fascinating, we used microscopes attached to cameras, crazy long lenses, we used the phantom camera and extreme high speed and then also perspex and glass domes, pouring honey, mixing honey, joining honey’s together and often very very simple manual stirring and pouring techniques so it was a complete mixture of high tech and low tech and bravado and suggestions the boys from The Machine Shop and DOP Tim Spence.
We experimented and tested with all these different forms and many of them didn’t work, well they didn’t not work, but weren’t visually mesmerizing enough until we came up with this kind of variety of differences, of different ways of seeing that once feels intergalactic at some kind of miniscule level.
We’re taken on a journey with a beautiful Wolf Alice soundtrack.
I am very proud of the result. And I think also the bravery of the Rowse client, combined with the wonderful collaboration with the creative team Harry, Alex and Ben at BMB was a winning combination.
JFOODO - This film was crafted beautifully and was really fun to watch, what was the idea behind it and how did you craft the film?
This was a very very interesting and different brief from Angus and Kousuke at mcgarrybowen. JFOODO are from Japan and with great fortune the Japanese government sponsors JFOODO to sell and promote Japanese food and drink products abroad. They wanted to make a film that showed that there were many varieties of Sake and they match with many different types of food not just Japanese food. And that’s an exciting idea in and of itself.
So, we set about talking to the choreographer Alexandra Green as I wanted to make a dance of the hands. Hands are essential in eating and we had a list of food stuffs that included oysters and cheese and salami and sushi and fish and chips and it had to satisfy the western market primarily America and Europe.
We looked at what we could do with each of the food stuffs, and the way that we eat them and decided that simply there wouldn’t be camera moves and also not to describe faces because I didn’t the audience to make judgements about how they looked. It was simply the choreography of the hands, what they were doing and how they interacted and beauty that flowed from, that made a narrative or a whole dance from the beginning to the end.
So it was decided that we would shoot from above the table and there would be some close up action moments and cutting points but essentially we practiced a dance to a beat and fitted it into the time frame. And produced this kind of fun experimental tight little film.
Maille is visually very different – how was this created?
So creating Maille, the difficulty, the initial difficulty was that I was working with Ogilvy the same agency as Hellmann’s and the same creative directors Johnny and Angus. And whilst they liked the idea of me doing it, one of the things that the client didn’t want at Maille was something that looked like Hellmann’s.
Really this film is about gorgeous, high-end home food, cooking great delicious food at home. There were amazing quality ingredients. There was a wonderful sea bass, oysters, scallops, fine cuts of rare breed pork. And what I wanted to do was to find real chefs. So I cast from my wide selection of known restaurants and chefs and cooks and we cast a male and a female. These people are extremely talented and good with chopping and cutting and slicing and it really shows in this film and really worked very well.
We also decided to shoot a portion of it in black and white which means that it gave us a chance to experiment and to use the Alexa monochrome camera which is an amazing piece of kit, the sensor is purely monochrome as the name suggests. This gave us the variety of some really crunchy black and white shots to give us variety in the edit and really adds to the film I think along with the great techniques, again it’s not just about chopping and slicing from chefs but the ease and the natural way things are oiled, basted, salt and peppered, tossed in the air. There’s a real effortless fluency in the actions of the two cast. Their eyes, their concentration, their abilities, their techniques that are just natural because that’s what they do day in and day out and I think it really shows. There is a luxuriousness to the quality of the cooking techniques, and therefore it makes a great pitch for the usage of Maille, across a wide spectrum of ingredients and cooking methods and recipes. And that, you know, that’s what we do. We’re selling mustard, we’re selling Mustard in the best possible way. It was great.
It was great this campaign because also I shot the stills campaign alongside the TVC and we shot them on the Phase One medium format camera, there is a monochrome version of that as well. And so we’re able to join forces between stills and moving images with the highest technological equipment which is obviously a great pleasure. Very very very happy making that film.
Also from a home economy point of view I worked with some very very talented people and Fergal Connolly was the home economist on this job, it was a very fast turnaround in a very small space and I wanted to, I needed somebody who would be able to turn on that great quality at speed. We had an enormous amount to do in a very short amount of time and we succeeded.
In terms of the lighting, I’d just seen Woody Allen’s ‘Wonder Wheel’ and I loved the combination of daylight and blue and tungsten orange and that was a major influence in the treatment and a desire for the film and Pedro Cardillo the Brazilian DOP, great friend and collaborator brought that to life really effortlessly and brilliantly. It was gorgeous.
You live between London and Sao Paulo in Brazil, does this have an influence on your work?
Living between Sao Paulo and London only broadens the experience, its living in both hemispheres, the world is small, there’s little time difference between the two places it’s a night flight and I can be in both placed within 12 hours. So I love that, I have itchy feet, I’m a global gypsy, never sitting still so it satisfies my life desire to be in as many places as I possibly can. And I work in both places.
And I’m fortunate that my partner in Brazil is Paola Carosella and she is a chef, restaurateur, Masterchef Brazil judge, and supporter of local communities and great ingredients, she champions those that produce, so I’m enormously fortunate and surround myself with the things that I love.
Is there a brand you'd love to work with?
There’s many campaigns, I’d really like to get involved in a supermarket campaign to impart a Lowe / 2AM feel upon it. I haven’t got involved in a long campaign or a campaign over a year or a season and that would be very interesting to do. There’s a lot of things out there to do both coming from an editorial or documentary point of view but also in the commercial world the challenge of the new is always interesting.
You’re very active on Instagram, what do you think of this medium?
The modern world of Instagraming is fantastic and I’m not very good at it but I do love it. I don’t follow any of the rules of the grids and the patterns that you’re meant to, it’s very much like my portfolio of my work the things that I find interesting, funny, titillating, amusing, inspiring get posted – people, things, jokes my versions of natural get posted. It's like an online diary. I know the young or new generation of photographers use it really much like an online portfolio and mine is just like an online chit chat, it’s a way of connecting with those that I know and love and sharing moments of my voyages.
Finally, what would your death row dinner be?
HA! the last meal is always a tricky one, I guess my current favourite chef in the world is a guy called Magnus Nilsson, he has a restaurant that only serves 16 people in the North of Sweden, it’s called Faviken and we’ve worked together and travelled together and wandered together and he is an extraordinary man. He knows his place, he knows his world, he knows the foods of the land where he cooks and he is an exemplary human being especially when it comes to gastronomy because of the detail that he goes into, his obsession with detail and care and production is second to none.
He writes his own books he takes his own photographs, he exhibits his photographs, he grows his own vegetables, he hunts his own game and fish, he’s absolutely intricately linked with the food that he puts on the plate. For those that make the extraordinary effort to get to Favikan which is no mean feat in itself, and I was privileged enough to go once as a commission for a an American magazine and in fact and have been several times since and we have travelled together and he’s an inspirational gastranomic hero of mine, so I’d eat there, or I’d have him cook. No I’d eat there.