Music and motion — director Benny Nicks
Benny Nicks is a Brooklyn-based director working in narrative, commercial and music video forms. Ben has collaborated with leading artists including Usher, James Franco, Daniel Arsham, Justin Peck, Juelz Santana, Jonah Bokaer and Abbott Miller. His work with Mr. Arsham saw the premier of their short film Future Relic at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival. Ben’s most recent video release, Chains featuring Usher, is focused on the issue of police shootings and was released in early 2016 to critical acclaim. In this interview, Ben gives us the details of his projects and tells us more about his company Magna Carta.
You’ve worked with some big names in the last couple of years like Usher and James Franco. How do projects like this come about?
It comes down to relationships and trust. Franco and Usher came about through my collaboration with artist/director Daniel Arsham. The project came up, I was in a good position to execute, and Daniel trusted me to see it through. Building relationships with artists working in another discipline can be incredibly rewarding.
You are part of Magna Carta with Matthew K. Firpo and Sean Dunne. How did you guys get together and how does the company operate?
The EP and co-founder of Magna Carta, Maximilian Guen, has been hugely supportive over the last few years. I was reevaluating my place as a freelance director and he happened to reach out about a role on the MC roster. Again, this was another case of fortuitous timing. I was happy to join the ranks of both Matt and Sean, both of whom are doing amazing work.
Do you think the relationship between agencies, production companies and directors are changing? How do you see if developing over the next few years?
It’s constantly shifting. Some projects prove the efficacy of the client/agency/director model. Others will drive you crazy. I appreciate the clients that take risks and push form and are willing to let an agency or director deliver something unique and untampered.
When you don’t edit your own project, how do you find editors and other creators to collaborate with?
Editing continues to be a big part of my practice as a filmmaker. I came up as a DP/editor so relinquishing that control has been a challenge. I look for editors who have an incredible ear; editors with a knack for sound design and music selection. I’m working now with Matt Schaff at Whitehouse Post and couldn’t be happier.
Do you think coming from a cinematography and editing background influences or affects your directing?
Absolutely. I think you’re made aware of options and choices or methods for influencing the form that might not have occurred to you. It helps me to pre-visualize the film and aids in conversations with DPs and editors. My editing background in particular has made me more comfortable skewing linearity within narrative.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently directing an Adidas commercial and prepping a long-form science fiction narrative.