The Art Of Shaving: Ben Briand’s Director’s Cut

by Brodie Lancaster SOURCE Portable TV / Vimeo

Ben Briand‘s name was on the lips of many in the online film-making community last year when his short film Apricot premiered on Vimeo. The short went on to be showcased in a slew of film festivals, winning the Community Choice Award for Best Narrative in the inaugural Vimeo Film Festival and screening at the Moscow International Film Festival.

It’s no surprise, then, that Hollywood came knocking at his door not long after. The Sydney film-maker was recently selected by marketing agency BBDO to direct a series of wry short films for New York-based manscaping megastore The Art of Shaving. The resulting trio of videos are sophisticated and cinematic, set in Los Angeles (“[The city] isn’t horrible lights and cheap smiles that a lot of people think it might be,” Ben told us) and referential of the classic Hollywood touchstones of slapstick comedy and French New-Wave in the silent film era. The films will soon be playing in the backseat of New York City cabs, and we’re proud to premiere Ben’s director’s cuts here.

In The Gentleman Shaver, our protagonist attempts to give himself a straight-razor shave over the spraying, blow-drying and general gussying of his female bathroom-mate. Star Mario Didonato’s back-bending acrobatics as he politely steers himself out of her way and locates other reflective surfaces in which to study his handiwork are reminiscent of the performances of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, whose work Ben tried to push as far from his consciousness as possible. “I prefer to create from my memory of what those styles are, rather than studying them in great detail,” he told us, “That way, hopefully, they feel a little more like my own versions.”

Familiar with his dreamy work on video campaigns for partner Brenda Harvey’s jewelry label Benah, the wholly masculine aesthetic of the films (the other, titled The Reformed Troglodyte, documents a man reforming his lifestyle from his rollicking, bearded past into a clean-shaven potential fiancée) initially threw us for a loop, but Ben explained that he has “always had strong notions of both femininity and masculinity in my aesthetic”. He continued, telling us that the appeal of this concept lay in its representation of a often-unseen (in advertising, that is) breed of man.

“It is rare in commercial projects related to masculinity that you get to do something masculine without it being a beer commercial with dim guys standing around in a pub. So the opportunity for that to come through with me hasn’t perhaps been there before, but you can see it in my personal work such as Some Static Started.”

The team that assembled around Ben was one any director fresh off the plane at LAX could’ve dreamed of. Amy Westcott, the costume designer on films like Black Swan (remember that debacle?), The Squid and the Whale and The Wrestler was on-hand was in charge of the wardrobe on the trilogy, while Kiki Giet handled production design. Says Ben of Giet, who worked closely with seminal music video director Mark Romanek, “[She] had been involved in some of the music clips that defined my childhood, Nine Inch Nails’ Closer, REM’s Strange Currencies.”

“It totally changed my preconceptions of shooting in Hollywood,” Ben says of his experience working in the city with his accomplished team. “Everyone I worked with just seemed to be interested in doing interesting work and not being a prima donna.”

The lack of that prima donna element is surprising, considering how easy it must have been to slip into demanding, diva behavior when working on such sleek and impressive productions in the heart of Hollywood.