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The Directors: Alex Orma


CZAR Brussels director on absurd consequences of mundane acts, exploring new territories and being a big fan of '90s advertising

The Directors: Alex Orma

Born and raised in Spain, Alex Orma has lived and worked in his beloved Brussels for a decade. His work takes a lot from humour and bold concepts, creating an original cosmos inspired by many things, such as comic books, horror films, and daily life nonsense.

His enchanting music video Du Sang Du Singe for band La Jungle has received extensive recognition; most recently, it was awarded ‘Best Rock Music Video’ at the UKMVA 2022 and reeled in Bronze as ‘New Director of the Year’ at the Shots Awards EMEA 2022.

Name: Alex Orma

Location: Brussels (Belgium)

Repped by/in: CZAR Brussels

Awards: Best Rock Music Video -Newcomer at the UKMVA 2022, Bronze - New Director of the Year at the Shots Awards EMEA 2022.

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Alex> I'm interested in the absurd consequences of mundane acts; everything that, starting from something relatively ordinary, turns up being extremely bizarre. I often imagine how a stranger to our civilisation could interpret some of our regular lives; I mean, imagine what an alien would think if it spotted us queuing for miles in front of the latest Nordic bakery, what our pets would think about us spending most of our day sitting in front of a screen, or what God would think when he discovers a teenager having some intimacy with a sock. The potential to look at the world from the perspective of permanent strangeness is unique. I play not taking anything for granted, and it’s an exercise I enjoy practising regularly.

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Alex> Until now, my background has been more linked to music videos, but since the end of last year, I have had the opportunity to work on several treatments for brands, mainly in Belgium. Although none have come to fruition, I’ve found my way to perfect this art on my terms.

I like challenging myself with each new script rather than settling for a recurring approach. For instance, I greatly value the first idea or image that comes into my head when I read a proposal; I respect how out of the blue, honest and irrational they usually are. From this first crush, I rewrite the idea several times to iron out details, make it reach its full potential, and picture how it will look and sound. This step being solved, I capture it as clearly and visually as possible in the treatment. That’s my recipe there.

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Alex> My starting point is always the script I receive. Once satisfied with my proposal, I learn more about the brand and readapt the idea if necessary; it works this way for me. I follow this maybe unusual map in reverse because I prefer to avoid feeling conditioned by what has been done previously for this band; I reckon the client values a fresh voice for their story. Here comes the first threshold: if, for any reason, I have no affinity with the brand, I prefer not to continue with the project. I wouldn’t be the best choice for them, I guess.

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Alex> I appreciate the feedback I get from the production company (Czar). Since arriving in Belgium, I have always wanted to work with them, and therefore I very much trust them. Beyond them, in every meeting with the agency's creatives, I always try to understand what they expect from me and what they don't expect but would be happy to achieve. 

I work in a similar scheme: I surround myself with professionals who understand what I need from them, and, in the same way, they always surprise me with proposals that enrich the project.

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter, or style you are most drawn to?

Alex> I'm a big fan of '90s advertising. I like that mix of absurd humour, risky ideas and certain poetry - ads like Jonathan Glazer's 'Dreamer' (Guinness) still inspire me greatly. And something more contemporary, I loved the mix of raw energy, fantasy and madness of the music video for Harry Styles, Music for a Sushi Restaurant by Aube Perrie. 

What interests me most about shooting music videos or commercials is their potential to develop unique and elaborate universes, which are maybe too expensive to carry in longer formats. In this sense, I loved Nick Ball's Jumping Through Hoops. I saw it and thought, "This could be a commercial or an adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s universe".

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Alex> The most common one is that many people assume that I am Belgian. Otherwise, until now, my work in music videos has always been peppered with the occasional splash of blood and gloomy, dark atmospheres, and although I love this kind of universe, I would enjoy working on new things. As long as the result makes me laugh, I'm more than interested in exploring new territories.

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Alex> Shooting Du Sang du Singe was a bit of a challenge. We had to fit a lot of locations into two days, plus many scenes with dancers, and on top of that, we shot everything during one of the peak Covid months in Belgium. Every night I was very anxious to imagine getting an email from someone on the crew who had been infected and having to reschedule the shoot, so I had to be as effective as possible during the whole thing. I visited the locations several times in my spare moments, rehearsed the choreography separately with extras and dancers and drew a thorough storyboard. Thanks to this and the talent of the whole crew, the shooting was actually pleasant.

LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Alex> Some proposals are difficult to explain and, therefore, riskier when it comes to being taken on by the creatives or the brand. However, these types of submissions are the fewest, and I work on solving the occasional tensions or misunderstandings by communicating more effectively, giving references or helping them to visualise better what I have in mind.

LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse talent pool? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Alex> It is exciting when new voices challenge old narratives; I think of a whole bunch of characters that have been invisible and are increasingly gaining presence. How we listen and tell stories redefines how we perceive the world. Any storyteller is responsible for their environment.

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Czar BE, Wed, 10 May 2023 09:31:05 GMT