The Self Made concept couldn’t be better timed to the artisan revolution taking place in New York right now. It was the perfect backdrop to this the next stage of the Bench campaign and the inspiration for our first foray into creative film. Director Ben Fries believes it’s affecting message is something that resonates with us all.
‘People don’t want to get famous any more,’ agrees Director Ben Fries. ‘They want to get good. Good at making whiskey, at crafting chairs, at designing wallpaper. They’re not doing it to cash in or sell a business; they’re doing it for the pleasure of putting their all into something and producing the best possible product. They know that if they keep their head down and work hard success will find them.’
Needless to say, finding upcoming talent such as Fries to produce a film that would inspire a generation of creative and hard working individuals while celebrating our latest SS13 collection was a lucky move. And a partnership made in Bench heaven.
Fries went off to explore the life of five New Yorkers determined to make their own way. The film (see above) offering a portrait of each one through their daily routine. In the energetic and fast paced piece, we meet clothing designer Jack Greer (pictured top), rapper Kilo Kish, photographer Sunny Shokrae, sculpture Jack Henry and illustrator Jeff Henrikson.
The inspiration behind this documentary Fries says came from his own personal journey as an aspiring director in New York City. Knowing how the city defines a certain type of attitude and motivation. ‘I want the subjects be our guide, so the film could reveal a unique view of the city through native eyes.’
‘I have a friend who is a furniture designer. She works as a carpenter’s apprentice in Gowanus,’ begins an energetic Fries as he summates what it means to be Self Made.
‘Every day, after work, she heads straight to her studio in Clinton Hill to work on her designs. She often eats dinner at her drafting table. On the weekends, she uses the carpentry studio to fabricate her designs, which she sells on consignment in Williamsburg. She has had so much success with her furniture sales that she no longer needs her day job. But working with the carpenter provides her with access to the equipment she needs to make her work and refine her craft. Every waking hour is focused on a singular goal: To make the best work possible and share it with the world.’
Like her, our Self Made protagonists are intelligent, ambitious and motivated. They are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They are inspired and inspirational. They are tomorrow’s taste makers. They’re on the cusp of achieving their dreams.
A Day In The Life
So why should we care about these people? The key to character is specificity, argues Fries. ‘Our first step is to research the visual details that tell our story in the most evocative way. If our subject is a furniture designer: what type of tools does she use? what time of day does she turn on the lights? what kind of food is she eating at her drafting table?’
And the energy of their lives constantly drives the story forward. We watch them commute through the subways, taxies, ferries and cycle through streets of New York finding an almost mediative space to watch their days unfold.
‘Commuting is one of the most common shared experiences in a city, yet there is so much variety that the experience is also very individual,” says Fries. ‘One bikes across the bridge, another takes the ferry to the subway.I see the commute as a great way to both explore the subjects’ individual journey as well as show off interesting and lesser seen areas of the city.’
Fries passion for film is apparent: ‘One of the things that I love about film is the physicality and texture of it. It breathes and undulates. The grain crawls like a living thing. Film’s idiosyncratic nature is what makes it feel so vital and that vitality what makes it such a perfect fit for the story we are telling in Self Made.’
Shot in Cinéma vérité style, the film is underexposed and push processed to enhance the contrast, grain and saturation; exaggerating the personality of the film. Fries explains: ‘The look is classic New York but the subjects are fresh. The point is not to make the film look like it is from another time, but rather to show today’s lifestyles within the context of a timeless city.’