The Joneses Sign Directors John Bonito, Anniken Lien
June 12, 2012 by Screenmag
The Joneses have signed two new directors for exclusive U.S. representation, John Bonito, known for his work in comedy, sports and action, and Norwegian Anniken Lien, the award-winning, British- and American-educated commercial director whose credits include work for such brands as Volkswagen, Nivea, Kraft, L’Oreal, Nestle and Lego in association with agencies and production companies across Europe.
Mel Gragido, executive producer of The Joneses, called Bonito a storyteller par excellence who brings a rare combination of wit, design and intelligence to his narratives. “He has enormous talent that hasn’t been fully tapped,” Gragido says. “Given the right opportunities, there is no limit to what he can achieve.” Gragido added that Bonito’s experience in working with celebrities is another big plus.
Bonito’s current work for Unilever and NBC/Universal (produced via Moving Parts and Executive Producers Matt Van Buren and Chad Cooperman) consists of a series of broadcast spots and web-based videos. The online component, which is appearing on NBC.com, MyStyle.com, Oxygen.com, Eonline.com, Bravotv.com and DailyCandy, centers on a fictional couple with gorgeous hair with viewers having the ability to control the narrative by selecting from a variety of plot options. 30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski, What Happens Live’s Andy Cohen and Saturday Night Live alum Tim Meadows appear in the campaign.
For his part, Bonito said that he was seeking broader exposure in the advertising industry and felt that Gragido had both the right strategy and the necessary resources to help him reach that goal.
“Mel is intelligent, sincere and extremely motivated,” he notes. “We clicked immediately.”
Bonito began his career with NBC where he wrote and edited most of his directing assignments, and eventually rose to Director of Special Projects for The NBC Agency. During his ten years with the network, he won numerous creative awards, including the Brandon Tartikoff Award, given annually by Promax and the Broadcast Design Association to honor the best marketing and design in entertainment advertising. In 2006, Bonito was tapped by Twentieth Century Fox to direct his first feature, the action/ comedy The Marine.
Bonito began directing commercials via Hollywood production company, Level 7. He was later repped by Go Film. Bonito’s comedic skills, well-honed from his days at NBC, translated well into commercial advertising and resulted in a series of successful campaigns, many involving high-profile celebrities. He directed Ron Perlman in a series of hilarious ads for the movie Hellboy II in which the actor, in his role as the film’s title character, has scenes with James Lipton and other well-known television personalities. Gragido said that he was impressed by the immediacy of Lien’s storytelling skills including her ability to tackle difficult and in some instances controversial subject matter. He cited in particular, Lien’s work for a unique, even for Scandinavia, 7-Eleven campaign in which two women openly discuss dating and sexual liaisons.
“Women directors in the U.S. are, sadly, often confined to health care, beauty products and other soft subjects,” Gragido said. “Anniken challenges those stereotypes and has shown that she can pull off stories that, if they weren’t handled by a woman, might come off badly. She sets just the right tone.”
Lien was introduced to The Joneses by the well-known feature film and commercial director Hans Moland, who is also represented by the company.
“Hans is a great director and he has worked with Mel for a long time and has had wonderful experiences,” she said. “I feel very much at home.”
Lien trained as a fine artist at Parson’s School of Art in Paris, the Art League of New York, Scuola Lorenzo de’ Medici in Florence and at the Royal Academy of Arts in Oslo. She studied filmmaking at the London International Film School. She got her start as a director with MTV Scandinavia and then leveraged that into an ascending career in commercials. She was shortlisted at Cannes for her spot Drink for Norwegian Pollution Control.
Lien’s taste for provocative concepts is evidenced by her work for the European body lotion Fenjal. In one spot, a woman is standing in a hotel lobby when her dress slips off, leaving her naked. (The product has given the woman “dangerously smooth skin.”) In another spot, a woman’s panties slip off when she stands in church. The campaign won European Directors Club and Epica awards.
Lien likes to build stories organically. For the 7-Eleven campaign, she had the actors improvise scenarios in rehearsal before filming them. “I like to create characters and then see them spring to life, much like they do in a feature film,” she said.
Lien adds that casting plays a central role in her method. “I am very interested in the casting process and love to find people who are warm, charming and sexy,” she observed. “Every director has his or her strengths and I think on of mine is to find the right characters.”