Viewing the works of Director Jonathan Reed, one becomes aware of one thing- that he is a man on a simple yet beautifully complicated mission, to leave the world a better place than when he found it. His personal and work philosophy are intimately intertwined and the result is a life of impact that extends past simple vision and words and into inspiration for change.
Jonathan got his start in directing after conceptualizing and producing a video series about training and rescuing dogs in the Portland area. He taught a philosophy that prioritized the relationship between human and dog above all else, mainly, that love, trust and respect are crucial to a healthy and fulfilling relationship. This filming experience brought to light a correlation of humans with all living creature, thus, inspiring Jonathan to use this medium at full advantage in an attempt of improving the lives of many animals and humans.
Soon after, he was met with the opportunity to direct, film and produce a documentary about a small orphanage in Haiti. This was an eye-opening experience which confirmed his resolve even more as he witnessed how one’s world can be broken, and how people can be divided and suffer (many alone).
In a film called Yellow, he tells a story about a man who is homeless, simply because of the pain that is caused by the ‘real world’. The streets are his attempt to escape pain and human interaction. Initially he is viewed as an ugly, miserable homeless man, with nothing to offer. By the end of this film, one can see how beautiful he really is on the inside, as many others are that have been shoved aside in a world that can be so cruel.
Jonathan doesn’t like to say he will change the world, but he will spend his future in efforts to making it better. One would say he is all about impact, and in the long run he will know that he did make a difference.
1. How did you develop this interest?
Since I was very young, my father and I would talk about everything.
Things I saw, experienced and everything I thought I knew. He would
always listen intently, but inevitably, no matter how simple an
observation may have been or what the conversation was, I could always
count on the same question to utter from my fathers mouth: “Why?”
Simple answers and interpretations of things weren’t enough. When
going for long drives, helping me with homework, or even just watching
TV, my father would not accept what could only be seen on the surface,
as he wanted me to analyze and think deeper into why things were the way
they were, and to know what was deep inside the motivations for someone’s
behavior. This, though unrecognized at the time, was the greatest gift
my father ever gave me.
I began interpreting life the same way. I would analyze the music I
listened to, which inspired me to start writing my own. Then I began
analyzing movies and TV and would always ask my self “Why did they
choose to do it that way?” or “Why are they motivated to do this in
the first place?” Most of the time it was very difficult to find the
answers. I couldn’t tell if most people just didn’t think about these
things or if their reasons were too advanced for me to comprehend at my
young age. Then the summer of 2009 (after I bought my first iPhone) I
was exploring the You Tube app and stumbled upon what I felt must
have been the greatest commercial to ever air. It was part of Apple’s
“Think Different” campaign from the late 90’s. With images of some of
the greatest thinkers, world changers and inspiring figures from the
past hundred years, Richard Dreyfuss narrated these beautiful words:
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers.
The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things
differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for
the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or
vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because
they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some
may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who
are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who
Never have I been more inspired by something I watched. A video
literally changed my life and my entire career path! We think of
commercials as annoyances, but Apple made commercials that you could
feel, and that you could get involved with emotionally, and which could really
change how you saw things! This inspired me to get into what seemed to
be the most influential medium our society has– film and photography.
2. Tell us a little about what you do in a typical day with a project?
When I’m working on a project, I always put a priority on finding and
promoting the message. After long talks with a client or writer, I
identify exactly what we want the effect of the video or film to be, and
what do we want people to feel. Then I ascribe to Simon Sinek’s Golden
Circle philosophy. It suggests that people don’t buy what you do, but buy why you do it. So I spend vast amounts of time trying to find the shots that say exactly what I want them to say, finding music that
will promote the feel I am looking for, and an editing style that
harmonizes with the message. Even though my days can easily range from
8 – 12 hours, I make sure to not overwhelm myself. The worst thing
that can happen in this work is to lose your creative energy, so I
make it a point to go for walks often, take pictures of random things that
I see beauty in, spend some time at the gym, or even just get a game
of ping pong in with people from the office. You have to find a way to
stay inspired and motivated by this work, and I can honestly say that
I love even the most tedious and stressful aspects of my job.
3. How have you evolved since first starting?
Patience is definitely a virtue. I had to realize that you don’t make
shots, you find them! I am constantly amazed by some of my
photographer friends who will just spontaneously pull their cameras
out of their pocket and take a picture of a peculiar leaf on the
sidewalk for no apparent reason. Learning from these talented people
has really taught me that a photographer isn’t just someone who takes a
good picture, it is someone who really and wholly sees the world.
These are people who can find beauty everywhere and are always in the
moment. I try to surround myself with these people and learn from
4. Who/what inspires you?
You do. By that– I mean everyone reading this and everyone still
breathing. We often see celebrities and political figures as inspiring, and though some of them are, how is it not equally as impressive that someone reading this may have just had a love one pass away, gone through a terrible break up and/or just lost their job? And yet–they are still fighting to reach their goals, and keeping a positive attitude about life. That is amazing! That’s why I love doing stories about regular people. There is so much out there to be inspired by–You just have to pay attention!
5. What has been your most memorable experience so far?
In the summer of 2013, I had the amazing opportunity to travel with a
small group from both Ncompaas and The Other Side of Basketball to visit an
orphanage in Haiti. We were warned about how difficult life is there
and the extreme poverty the locals suffer through. The Haitian man who
started the orphanage passed away just a few weeks before our visit.
This man was like a father to the kids. Things couldn’t be worse for
these kids who had just recently been eating no more than one meal of
rice and beans a day. We expected to see misery, but what we saw
instead produced tears just the same. Within 15 minutes of our visit,
not one of the 40 kids was missing an ‘ear to ear’ smile from their
face. They started to play soccer with us, dance with us, sing or just
attempted to talk–without a care for our language difference. These were,
by far, the happiest kids you will ever meet in your life. We expected
to come and help them, but instead, these children gave us much more–
a lesson in appreciation. It made us all look at our lives a little
differently and commit to do much more to help them. I had the
privilege of filming this experience and will soon be releasing a
documentary about the trip later this year.
6. What project are you currently working on?
Along with my Haiti documentary, I have also been preparing to direct
my first film this fall. It is called Yellow (and yes, it is inspired
by the Coldplay song). I can’t give to much of it away, but it is
based on the idea that most of us spend far too much effort hiding who
we really are and are so afraid of being judged, ridiculed, or just
ending up alone. Yellow is an attempt to show that who you are on the
inside is beautiful–and will bring you more good than hiding yourself
ever will. Look for it on Kickstarter very soon!
7. What would you say to someone considering this field? Tips/warnings?
Operate with the philosophy that beautiful photography/videography is
irrelevant without purpose. If you cannot explain exactly why you happen to use a particular shot, and what it means to the overall story, or understand the emotional effect it will have on the viewer, than you’re not honestly taking full ownership and responsibility over your craft. Understand that sharing something you’ve created – especially something as powerful as film – is a privilege someone is giving you to intimately enter their mind and influence it. This is of the highest and most important of responsibilities. What you do will effect lives – so make sure you are as aware of this fact as possible.
8. Parting Thoughts?
I want to create projects that move people and make them feel something. I want to become the best at what I do, not for recognition but for impact. It’s a challenging course to take, but it’s one I believe in wholeheartedly. It’s important to me that I have a happy life in this world and do what I love, but not at the expense of others – but to the benefit of them. One of my favorite quotes is “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Imagine what the world would be like if everyone thought that way!
Find out more about Director Jonathan Reed :
All photographs on this page are the property are the property of Director Jonathan Reed. You must have his permission to use them.