Q: Tell us about yourself… What got you into directing commercials?
A: Essentially I was the YouTube generation, but before YouTube. When I was a kid, I was always gathering my friends in the neighborhood to make silly videos. It started out where we were just trying to make each other laugh, but then it became inventive. We started inventing camera tricks and our own special effects. From there the hobby then grew into a passion.
I first went to a community college in Arizona (our mascot was the Artichoke) and had an instructor that really inspired me.
Then I found myself at the ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA.
In the beginning I cut everything myself and learned how to do all the visual effects because I wanted to know every aspect of the process. It's all about understanding everybody's roles and problem solving.
After college, I got a job in Russia directing and became a big deal in Eastern Europe. I lived there for close to two years and I shot everything there was to shoot; American brands, Russian brands, any big campaign. It was there that I learned how to fail and how to succeeded. Eastern Europe segued into shooting in Europe and then finally I made my way back to America. My friend from college put me in contact with Kristen Forrest at Porchlight and we hit it off right away. She said to me, “I like that you’re not a one trick pony. We can think outside the box.” I’ve really embraced that in my career.
Q: What’s your favorite commercial you've ever worked on and why?
A: I did a commercial in 2006 for a German milk company, Müller. It's about a horse race where suddenly a jockey riding a cow takes the lead and wins the race. Essentially, only the best cow wins. I think that commercial is my favorite because it was such a pivot in my career. The spot was hypervisual with intense storytelling and comedy. Comedy is so subjective to every culture and country, so we had to get it right. The odds were against me on this one, but I pulled it off with an impossible budget and probably some divine intervention.
Since then I've done two Super Bowl commercials for Planters Peanuts and Skechers. I've worked on a lot of spots and I’ve put 100% of myself in every single project.
Q: What makes your directing style unique?
A: Ultimately I'm a storyteller, but masquerading comedy, as a genre, is my thing. I like to treat each scene very seriously with real people, real drama, and real life scenarios happening to them, BUT then throw in a twist. My favorite tone is when I can take the trope of one genre like horror and blend it with another genre like comedy because then you're playing on expectations. I love to challenge what the audience expects to happen. They either laugh or they say, “That's clever.” I'm always thinking about how I can take a scenario and best communicate it to the people sitting in their seats, but with a twist. What would they be surprised by? What would make them laugh? It’s all about finding the story from there.
Q: Who is the top actor you'd love to work with?
A: I gravitate toward actors that are effortlessly funny, but are able to play it straight, like Jason Bateman. I also love Jesse Plemons, who started off on Friday Night Lights, because he's real, he’s funny and he can play those beats ever so slightly… off. I could also list actors like Jenny Slate, Maya Rudolph, Ricky Gervais, and Jordan Peele.
Q: Where in the world would you want to shoot and why?
A: When I travel it's all about getting to know the people and cultures that are unknown to me because as you travel more, your perspective on what you think you know starts to change. I enjoy being in any environment that helps me immerse myself in storytelling.
I’d love to go back and shoot in Eastern Europe because that’s where I started my career and there are so many mysteries in that area of the world. The people there look like me, but they have a different way of living that’s very special. It’s amazing to see that come to life.
Q: If you had a film about your life, what would it be titled?
A: I would call the film, “A Story and a Cookie.” My dad is a storyteller, which is probably where I get it from. He would always sit us down (I have three brothers and one sister) and the only way he'd get us all to sit there and listen was to give us a cookie. I try and emulate my dad’s example in my own life. If I could, I’d give everyone I came in contact with a cookie, so they could slow down for just a second and be entertained with a story. I enjoy taking people on a journey and hope they see it as a treat.
The Kendall Family Holiday Card: