New Talent: Michel and Nico
Michel and Nico are brothers and former rugby players who hail from the rugby-loving South West France. How fitting then for their first commercial project to launch during the Six Nations and feature British Lions star George North. The film, which is for Gillette, is a gritty stunner that’ll resonate much further than just the rugby community. And with that first job under their belt, they show no signs of slowing down - they’ve already completed another gorgeous job for Mercedes Benz, featuring a pro surfer.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Michel and Nico to talk rugby, working as a brotherly duo, and why they would quite like a pop at a beauty commercial.
NB: Words by Michel.
LBB> You’re brothers from Biarritz in France – can you tell us a bit about your childhoods? What were you like as children? Did creativity play a big role in your life back then?
MICHEL> If we look back, yes, we believe that our lives have always been subconsciously creative. We have been educated by the constant search for our creative potential. That’s what everyone basically wants, we think, but we were lucky; thanks to our parents, we were able to develop it.
They are our best friends and what we do we share with them immediately. I think we are a mix of both of their qualities. Our father is an artist – a true one – everything he does with his hands is a masterpiece. He paints like a master despite never attending art school. And he can build and repair anything you need without any problem. Our mother loves the risk in life. She decided her life as a child, fleeing a culture that she refused, opting for a more appropriate destination for her ambition.
So we knew how to combine their two spirits. Thanks to them, we always travelled during our childhood, living a lot of family adventures, in a van on road trips where much of the time was devoted to discovering places, people, cultures. This education of aperture is what makes us as directors today.
LBB> How is working as brothers in a directing duo? Why do you work well together?
Michel> Although we share many things and passions – which is a good start when it comes to making projects happen – we are really different. People who work with us can confirm that. But we think that’s more complementary – in a duo we really think that it’s necessary to cultivate these differences to the maximum.
I like to write, to be able to easily organise a story in my mind, no matter the idea, I can tell it. Nicolas loves to find this idea, the one that will make the win. On top of that, he draws very well.
It doesn’t mean that I’m not able to find a good idea, or that Nico does not have a constructive point of view on the narrative, but generally we work on our strong points, Nico’s intuition and my emotion.
In public it is the same thing – we are different. I speak (too much sometimes), explain and argue more. Nico observes, analyses, always thinking about the new idea he can cultivate with new elements.
For me, it is a huge advantage to have his outside view when I explain something. And for him it is surely reassuring to know that whatever happens, I will always have something to tell.
LBB> Before dedicating yourselves to directing, one of you was an architect and the other a social worker. When did you first begin experimenting with filmmaking? How did you get into it?
MICHEL> If we had to tell a short and recent version of our journey, we’d say that it was only a few years ago that we had the idea to jump into this universe. I was this type of guy who was often walking around with a cheap camera, filming everything and making small edits on iMovie, without any professional thought. Nicolas saw the obvious way for us in our search for a new identity... it is true that these little stories were cool, with emotion and a positive side. So he told me, “what you do so well with strangers and that is shared so much on social networks, will maybe work more if we did it with more famous people…”
A few weeks later we were filming an embedded documentary with a pro rugby team (in which Nicolas had played). The new path was taken. I learned editing and post production with web tutorials, Nico sound design and mixing. And the basic idea became an obvious one – we were made to tell stories.
But if we were to be honest, we will say that we were already experimenting when we were very young. Because fortunately our father was a geek, and we were well equipped: camcorders, several VCRs, a mixing tablet. It took nothing else to film and edit short films, no need for software. We even managed to create some special effects, like in ‘Bewitched’. (I know real old school VFX!)
So sometimes, I told myself that we were destined to be directors. Thinking about our tastes and abilities we could have done comics, but, automatically and without thought, we started directing.
LBB> Your first paid work in filmmaking was making content pieces for Red Bull – how did you land that gig and what did you learn from the experience?
MICHEL> The first real work was actually the documentary we made for the pro rugby club during their European championship. They reached the final, so for us it was a wonderful experience, plus a great opportunity to take a lot of embedded footage and broadcast great sequences on the web. These were good things to do, and soon after brands, such as Orange, Renault and Red Bull, asked us for little digital works (always in relation with rugby).
It was not enough to earn a living but we quickly realised that there were two essential factors to success: being efficient, creative and reliable in our work and understanding how to sell ourselves. Today we do not change our rules and we will never change them. Our investment in projects we accept will always be irreproachable, and as we are represented today by amazing producers, we will always make sure to be the easiest people to sell.
LBB> You’ve just launched your first commercial project, a film for Gillette that’s allowed you to continue exploring your love of rugby. What were you thinking when the script for this job first landed with you?
MICHEL> We are both former rugby players and built our first video projects around this sport. It is a subject that we know perfectly – that's part of our south west France culture. There is a film made in 1997 about the British Lions tournament in South Africa which is the film that made us want to make documentaries. When I received the first email from James Covill, the EP at Believe Media, about that, we said to him that this project could not be done without us.
So with James’ help we were able to convince Jonathan Marlow and Charlotte Marshall at Grey London that we would be the perfect teammates for this film, even without any experience in advertising. It was not complicated – at Grey they were just as enthusiastic as we were to make this film, and gave us real trust in the project.
The script was simple and open. Jonathan is also a huge rugby fan, so like us he wanted something raw and organic. We saw this film being made by sport and rugby fans... it was our only wish! We will always be grateful to them! The first open door is always the most important one, the one that determines all the rest. For us it was Grey London!
LBB> Where did you look for inspiration for the overall aesthetic and vibe?
MICHEL> Everywhere, but for sure the Internet is a huge source of inspiration – there are so many incredible things shared on the web. We are connected permanently, we no longer watch a video, TV show, movie without noting, capturing, classifying. It’s the only secret, and back of the medal for people like us who are not experienced in a classic way. You have to be ready to work all the time, and seek inspiration everywhere. In music, photography, literature, video games. Fortunately we were educated in this way – to look around and know how to see beautiful things.
LBB> And how was it for you to shy away from your French loyalties to work with George North?!
MICHEL> Haha, not really a problem. True Rugby fans love the Lions, whether British or French. It's amazing for these players like George North to have the opportunity to have an experience beyond the national team. George was the perfect guy for this project, he did the job on set like he always does on the field.
We will never forget that the first real chance for us came from the UK. The British Lions have just won two more fans.
LBB> When you’re not shooting films, what do you both like to get up to?
MICHEL> We are family guys, we live in a place where everything is slow, cool. So when we’re not shooting, we take time to enjoy everything around us, our kids, our girlfriends, our families, our friends (but not enough), Netflix ( too much!). But being directors for us is more than just a job, we chose it and it chose us at the same time. So to be honest when we don’t shoot, we are always looking for a story to tell. Because it has been a very steep trajectory for us, this year we really want to shoot a lot and get the experience we do not have yet!
LBB> What have you got coming up for the rest of 2017?
MICHEL> We've just completed a short film for Mercedes Benz with a big wave surfer. We worked on it with a very cool surf photographer, Alex Laurel, and we were free to tell the story that we wanted! The result is so good and we are really happy with it.
We are also represented By Tempomedia in Germany and Believe for the US market, so we feel very lucky to have a good international reach now.
We receive very interesting scripts, always related to sport, so we mainly work on films related to this universe, because we understand this world, the sacrifices, the emotion. It’s also in us and I think we know how to translate it. We would also like to work on more storytelling scripts, to see people’s passions, culture and craft.
After that who knows? We are represented by Believe in UK and US, by Bandits in France, and these are legendary companies for fashion and beauty movies. I'm sure we could bring a new eye and style of storytelling there as well. We are closed to nothing. Because to close yourself does not give the chance to others to know you!