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The Directors: LEONELRUBEN


Czar directors on engaging storytelling, drawing inspiration from Tarantino and embracing new technology

The Directors: LEONELRUBEN

LEONELRUBEN is a director’s collective standing for a poetic approach to filmmaking, where fairytales meet documentaries.

From edgy high fashion films to black humour features, to high end advertising – their work has covered a wide spectrum within the last few years.


Location: London / Berlin / Los Angeles

Repped by/in: Goodhouse Films (ger), Czar (bel)

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

LEONELRUBEN> For us, exceptional scripts are those that combine engaging storytelling, well-rounded characters, and a distinctive visual style. We are excited by scripts that present innovative ideas, challenge the normal and hopefully leave some sort of lasting impact on the audience. We always love if a project allows us to work and expand our skills and craft as filmmakers in terms of working with new techniques, and ultimately, apply these valuable insights to our feature projects as well.

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

LEONELRUBEN> When creating a treatment for a spot, we first try to understand the core message, brand identity, and target audience. This foundational understanding enables us to develop a concept and add our personal views onto whichever topic it is about. Throughout the process, we maintain a collaborative approach, ensuring that all stakeholders are aligned and that the final treatment effectively captures the vision, resonates with the audience, and ultimately exceeds expectations.

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?

LEONELRUBEN> Research is crucial for us, especially when working with an unfamiliar brand or entering a new market. We both have a background in documentary film which makes it fun to use the learned skills in a totally different environment.

To be effective we have to fully understand  brand's values and objectives so we study not only the brand and how it looks today but also the brand's history, mission, previous campaigns, competitors, and the overall industry landscape to identify their voice and positioning they would lean in best.

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

LEONELRUBEN> For us, one of the most important working relationships is with the creative team or creative director from the agency. This partnership is crucial because it ensures a shared vision, open communication, and a strong foundation for collaboration. The creative team provides valuable insights into the brand's identity, goals, and target audience, while we contribute in terms of storytelling, visual language, and production techniques.

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?

LEONELRUBEN> As a directors duo, we're passionate about energetic and smart storytelling as well as in the future, we’d love to see more high-octane car and sports projects as we thrive on extremes things, as I’d describe both of us, even if it sounds a bit corny as: thrill-seeking.

In feature films, we like unconventional and weird ideas as well as classic New Hollywood aesthetics, drawing inspiration from iconic directors like Scorsese, Coppola, and Tarantino.

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

LEONELRUBEN> A common misconception about our work is that we are solely driven by a classic, testosterone-fueled, masculine perspective. Even though we’re into that “genre” The assumption is not quite correct as our creative approach goes beyond all sorts of traditional or gender or race norms. We believe in the ability to empathise with diverse perspectives and tell stories that resonate with a wide range of audiences, transcending stereotypes and allowing us to speak from different perspectives and so to reach people from all walks of life.

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

LEONELRUBEN> Yes, we have worked with cost consultants in the past, and our experiences have generally been positive. Collaborating with cost consultants allows us to ensure that our creative vision aligns with budgetary constraints, enabling us to deliver high-quality content on THE budget. We believe that an open communication and mutual understanding between all parties that are contributing adds to a smooth and successful production process.

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

LEONELRUBEN> We have faced millions of crazy challenges and problems. Interestingly, the problems never get smaller with the size of the projects, even though there is usually more money available, insurance policies are in place (among other things), and the stakes seem lower. However, the challenges continue to arise. That's why it's generally best never to be stubborn, especially when handling a job. Instead, it's crucial to look for creative solutions and deal with constraints creatively.

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

LEONELRUBEN> It involves clear communication, building trust from the first call, and a shared understanding of the project's objectives. Here's how we approach it:

We begin by aligning on the creative vision with the agency and client, ensuring that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding the concept, message, and overall goals.

Maintaining an open and honest dialogue throughout the process fosters a collaborative environment. This approach allows for the exchange of ideas, feedback, and potential concerns, ensuring that everyone's voice is heard and valued.

When presenting our ideas or defending the core concept, we provide well-reasoned and researched explanations and articulate the benefits of our choices. This demonstrates our expertise and helps maintain the integrity of the idea.

Remaining open to suggestions and constructive criticism, adapting our approach when necessary, while still preserving the essence of the original idea. This flexibility enables us to find common ground and deliver a final product that meets the expectations of all parties involved.

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?

LEONELRUBEN> We wholeheartedly support opening up the production world to a diverse pool of talent. Diversity fuels creativity and enriches storytelling. We're absolutely open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set, as empowering the next generation of filmmakers is crucial for a vibrant and inclusive industry.

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? 

LEONELRUBEN> The pandemic has certainly reshaped the way we approach our work. We've embraced remote collaboration, efficient communication, and increased adaptability. These new habits have proven valuable, and we believe they will persist in the long term.

Additionally, the pandemic has taught us to be more resourceful and innovative in our problem-solving, which will undoubtedly benefit work in the future.

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)? 

LEONELRUBEN> In today's multi-platform world, it's crucial to consider various formats when creating content.

While developing a project, we keep the primary format in mind, ensuring that our visual language, storytelling, and pacing align with the intended medium. However, we also keep the adaptations for other formats in mind, making design and composition choices that allow for seamless transitions. 

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)?

LEONELRUBEN> We embrace new technology and view it as an opportunity to push creative boundaries and enhance our storytelling capabilities. Our relationship with future-facing tech is one of curiosity and exploration, and we strive to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements.

AI and data-driven visuals can provide fresh perspectives and generate innovative ideas for our projects but we don’t believe that solely relying on them is part of the future, it always needs humans to bring intuitive and super-creative new bits and dots on the table to stay innovative.

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

LEONELRUBEN> We like our Google and Swatch global campaigns because we love our cast and believe they radiate a great inclusive language that encourages and brings people together rather than driving them apart.

Otherwise, we enjoy our documentary work on ‘Forcadas’ because it sheds light on a group of women who might never have received further attention, and our poetic short film ‘Us And The Universe,’ which feels like a dreamy diary entry emerging from a glamorous and dark memory. Additionally, we are proud of our series pilot for the project ‘Filthy Hearts’ and look forward to continuing filming soon.

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Czar BE, Wed, 10 May 2023 11:41:00 GMT