Video pranksters Van and Casey Neistat have been making movies together since 1999 when the debut of the iMac spurred the brothers to start editing videos at home. Over the last decade the duo's provocative antics and DIY aesthetic has taken them from early viral fame (2003's guerilla anti-Apple campaign "iPod's Dirty Little Secret") to the Bicycle Film Festival entry ""Bike Thief," in which Van repeatedly steals his own bike—obviously and in public without any argument from the hundreds of passersby. Now the subjects of their own HBO show, The Neistat Brothers, the series launched earlier this year and chronicles the video adventures and artistic short films of the team.
Most recently, Casey joined forces with Kanon Organic Vodka, traveling to their Swedish headquarters to explore the history and process of the brand behind the spirit. We're pleased to present to you the exclusive debut of the resulting love-letter that combines documentary footage with homemade stop-motion animations. The short officially premieres tonight at NYC's Jane Hotel, also kicking off a weekly party called Jane Doe and Kanon Vodka Mondays. Below read what Casey had to say about the filmmaking process, his feelings about vodka advertising, and why NYC natives will suffer after the apocalypse.
How did you get involved in the project?
I've known Harry [of creative agency The 88] for a really long time and we had been looking for fun projects to do together. The brief was extremely vague, which I always find very exciting. We wanted to do something cool and we didn't want to do anything "advertisey." Putting an advertising label or a commercial label on this project would be a misfire.
A vodka company is literally just booze in a bottle so what really differentiates those booze in a bottle companies it is branding, it makes them who they are. And that's why so many vodka companies are so douchebaggy, because its just stupid advertising, but I think there is some interesting stuff with Kanon. It was explained to me that there is a 100 year old farmhouse that used to be run by a family of only five people, and that the CEO is a molecular biologist who is the head of the distillery. The whole thing just sounds romantic and interesting. It's surreal.
What was the process like?
Seeing the physical distillery was nuts. They built it inside a building from the 1600s and they retro-fitted it with the most modern technology. My favorite shot in the video is of the mad-scientist dude that drives in a fancy trunk—that's the guy that owns the distillery—he's a really awesome dude who is crazy smart who just dropped a breadth of knowledge, and is extremely well-versed. There's very little he doesn't know about, we talked to him for like two days and we never got sick of what he had to say. He built the company from his own heart and own two hands. But anyhow, to see this guy keep this thing running covered in grease, it was very romantic, crazy, and sweet. The whole thing is understated almost.
What's your advice for aspiring filmmakers?
Learn how to work with your hands; I'm totally serious. I won't hire someone or date a girl who has not worked in a restaurant, and that's the honest truth. I don't think you know how it is until you've worked in a restaurant. The reason why I'm sending my super intellectual 12-year old kid to tech school is because I don't believe he would succeed in this world unless he first learned to work with his hands. I'm not a cynic, but don't you get frustrated when you meet all these NYC born-and-raised kids and they are super academic and are really crazy smart and so worldly because of their experience in the city, and they are totally fucking incapable? If the apocalypse were to come, they would totally just die immediately because they would have no idea how to do anything. They're helpless. One of my first questions when I interview prospective employees is "do you know how big a sheet of plywood is?" Most people don't, and say they are different sizes, but it's 4' x 8' Anyway, working with your hands is a very American thing that we kinda lost here, but it's an important skill to have.
With additional reporting by Margaret Kaminski