US directing superstars, Josh & Xander, have arrived in AUNZ and signed to Exit. They come with a portfolio of work that is remarkable – richly cinematic commercials for famous brands such adidas, American Express, Apple, Budweiser, Ford, Gatorade, Honda, Twitter, Jeep, Samsung, Toyota and the US Army.  An HBO trailer for How To Make It In America that triggers binge-watching lust. A decade-old music video for Jakob Dylan’s Something Good This Way Comes that is as fresh as the day it was born.

The pair have become known for their “shared creative brain” and a vision that is unique to them. That vision is strikingly cinematic. It’s also enigmatic in a way that makes their work interesting to watch. They like to use the camera in a fly-on-the-wall manner. They capture pieces of a story for the viewer to put together so that the story seems unscripted and uncontrived. These contrasts in their work make their commercials remarkably compelling.

Josh and Xander took The Stable into the partnership that has allowed their striking visual style to develop. 

TWO MINDS AS ONE…

“People are always curious about who does what. Does one of you guys work with the actor and one with the camera? In the beginning it was a little like that. Josh has an editorial background and I [Xander] have more of a camera background. I came from photography. But very quickly, the boundaries between what we were doing blurred and we met somewhere in the middle. We always conceive everything together and so much of what is interesting to us about any kind of work is just the exploration and seeing where things take us, treating everything like a laboratory – whether it’s a music video, short-form documentary or commercial for broadcast.

“More than a few crew members and agency creatives have tripped out on hearing the same spontaneous directions or thoughts come out of our mouths when we’re not in the same physical space. One of us might be crammed into a bathtub out of the camera’s sight directing talent MOS while the other has eyes on a monitor on the other side of the location unwittingly sending identical direction through our AD.”

…APART OR TOGETHER

“It has actually helped when we’ve worked in separate cities. Time differences let us stretch the day out. We kind of share a brain creatively in so many ways and after working together for so many years there are incredible efficiencies in doing our work in what we call a distributed way (previously known as emailing). We’re quite used to working together at a distance and frequently on jobs one will be leapfrogging the other if it’s a multi-phase job or covers several locations; we’ll divide and conquer, while also working very closely together on set. We’re pretty interchangeable.”

DIFFERENT IDEAS? NO PROBLEM

“It’s interesting. So much of what we love about the process is how the early conversations on any project happen as we begin to develop our concept. We’re two different people, and though we do see the world through eerily similar lenses, the view isn’t always the same. But those little misalignments in the vision are fertile ground for some of the most interesting ideas. We’ve always loved the problem-solving aspect of the work and, for us, that’s an ego-free space, which keeps it fun. Where we’re not in total alignment it becomes, ‘Huh…what’s the thought there? Let’s play it out your way for a minute and see where it takes us. OK, what if we do it like this?’. By the time we’re on set our vision is crystal clear, but the same fluidity and flexibility remain for the kind of spontaneity and energy that’s so much a part of what we do.

“We really do see each project as a problem and we’re both good at getting into the Rubik’s cube of it without feeling like we’re personally invested in our own view.”

PROUDEST WORK

“A music video we did some time ago for Jakob Dylan called Something Good This Way Comes. A lot of our work is informed by documentary filmmaking and a part of us loves reportage. So we went on a road trip with a producer, a couple of PAs, our DP and a general idea. Nine days on the road. It was back on the days when you could say, ‘I can’t tell you what we’re going to shoot but it’s all going to be framed in a certain way.’ In this case, the horizon dissected the frame everywhere we went. It really did change our work and our experience of that work. It made us understand what it means to explore something in a visual systems way and find things that are a natural fit.”

WORK WE LOVE

“If it’s thoughtful, if it speaks to the human experience in some meaningful way, if it’s conceptually unique, we’re interested. Performance-driven narrative and lifestyle work with an authentic human dimension, automotive, and any opportunity for interesting, high-concept visual explorations, we love these. But at the end of the day, a great spot is a great spot.”

OUR NEW HOME

“We got such an amazing feeling from Leah and Declan in our first meeting. We’ve been doing this for a minute and for us so much of being happy professionally is being with good people who care a lot about the work but also run the business in a really human-centric way. There was also something about the nature of the work and the kind of directors they choose to rep, directors whose work we admire. Joining Exit was an easy choice. We saw the opportunity to make some really new and exciting work together in this market, along with the upshot of having work from their US clients produced here by Exit. But mostly the team just had a “gut feeling.”

View Josh & Xander’s reel.

To work with Josh & Xander contact Declan Cahill: declan@exitfilms.com and +64 21 445 592; or Leah Churchill-Brown: leah@exit.com.au and +61 2 8755 3755.

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