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The Directors: ANIMAL


CASEY high fashion director duo on finding the intersection of story and visual universe

The Directors: ANIMAL

The product of a longstanding creative partnership by screenwriter Romain Choay and creative director Benjamin Grillon, ANIMAL's work distinguishes itself by a high concept approach to projects always with a campaign in mind. The duo is represented in the U.S. by production house CASEY and is a longtime partner of brands such as Hermes and Gucci. Selected clients include Hugo Boss, Cartier, The Ritz Carlton, Nanushka, Claudie Pierlot & Valextra.

Combining its directors' complementary talents, ANIMAL's mastery of the idea that is matched only by a razor-sharp aesthetic, honed within the high-end luxury world in Paris and London. Benjamin and Romain tell LBB about their meticulous take on research, which starts at the intersection of story and a visual universe.

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

ANIMAL> There is always a key element in a script, a hook of some kind that allows us to be creative. Sometimes they’re harder to find, but it’s just a matter of looking closely.

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

ANIMAL> Everything comes from the intersection of a story and a universe. The fact that one of us a scriptwriter on the side while the other is an art director is highly complementary and allows us to tell a story within a given world/aesthetic.

We also like to create twists at the end of a film that make sense of everything you've seen before. It’s a great way to tie things together and finish on a high note.

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?

ANIMAL> No matter how unsexy a brand can seem, they all have something interesting about them, and the only way to find it is to do research. It’s usually during the research phase that we find a detail or angle that informs us through the creative concept. Research is essential for us; in fact, Benjamin is working on a personal publishing project that is all about research and archives-- so, the one feeds into the other in a very organic way.

The nature of creative people is to be curious and observe everything around them. I guess we also digest things unconsciously. We can talk about an idea, and Romain will suddenly excavate a reference to an old film he had watched as a teenager that suddenly is a perfect fit!

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

ANIMAL> The most important working relationship is in between the client and the creatives-- because it takes two to tango! If there is no trust between those two parties, the result will not be as good as it could have been. Don’t get us wrong, the trust must come from both sides; client can push and challenge creatives as much as the other way round.

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?

ANIMAL> We mainly make fashion films because we met while working in the fashion world. But Romain is evolving in feature films in parallel, and Benjamin is flirting with the art world. But at the end of the day, what we really enjoy is story telling.

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

ANIMAL> We hear that it is too contemplative and minimal or intellectual. I guess we just like when the elements in a film have reasons to be there. Most of the time, there is no need to add extra layers or camera effects; they can easily dilute the original idea and are often just a way to conceal a missing concept.

LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

ANIMAL> Yes, and it isn’t always easy. But it’s part of our job to explain why we need what we need, and that some costs cannot be compressed, or they will harm the film creatively.

We try not to be unreasonable-- especially as one of us used to be head of production when we first met! We have a pretty good understanding of what’s possible and what’s not. We always come up with realistic creative solutions adapted to the reality of the budget to avoid any disappointment on either side.

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

​ANIMAL> Once, a client decided to change an entire concept during the editing process. The problem was that the concept was based on a single shot, so, there wasn't much room to play with. We convinced them to judge the final product once the edit was finished. Once the voiceover was added and the film was graded, they finally liked it and realized that the original idea had been working all along.

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

ANIMAL> It's all about communication. A project is always collaborative in the sense that it is a dialogue between a brand (or an agency) and the artist. It starts with a brief, we respond with a treatment, then, as with any conversation, there is a back and forth that is sometimes easy, sometimes long, and painful. The trick is to listen intently, to pick your battles, and make sure that it is always understood that any resistance on the side of the directors is only a wish to make a better final product. As passionate creatives, we will always try to fight for what we think is best for the success of the project instead of cutting corners.

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

ANIMAL> We would love to see a more diverse industry at every level, and of course a diverse pool of talent is essential. We find mentoring and apprenticeships are always positive and a great way to foment diversity.

We wish we could have had advice from experienced creatives working in the industry when we ourselves started. We would certainly have done things differently and maybe have had a different path altogether. Benjamin is helping a young fashion designer with the art direction of his brand right now; he started his label on its own during COVID from a Liverpool bedroom, and two years later, he has just won the LVMH prize!

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?

ANIMAL> Probably the only good thing about the pandemic was that it allowed people to work from anywhere. This is something that creatives have always tended to do, as it can be difficult to feel inspired when sitting at the same desk from 9 to 5 every day. But this wasn't very approved by the corporate world before the lockdown. In that sense, we feel things have changed on the side of allowing people a new freedom of movement. But as to us, we would much rather be on set and travel than to direct remotely-- something we had to do during COVID and don’t miss one bit!

LBB> Your work is now presented in so many different formats-- to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)? 

ANIMAL> Our strength lies in the mix of storytelling and an impeccable aesthetics, and we love the idea of bringing a cinematic approach to the content you consume on your mobile. It can be meaningful and beautiful 12-second film shot in portrait mode, the anti-TikTok!

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals, etc.)?

ANIMAL> I don't think we are attracted to new technologies for the sake of just boasting them. They must be a tool, a means to achieve something, otherwise they can quickly become a gimmick. We are rather old school, in the sense that a good idea remains the main driver.

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Genres: People, Fashion & Beauty, Luxury, Action, Scenic, Storytelling, Festival

Categories: Clothing and Fashion, Designer

CASEY, Tue, 23 May 2023 07:12:00 GMT