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The Directors: Pensacola



Rekorder directors on why commercials are a great way to explore visual techniques and why it's so hard to break out of your reel

The Directors: Pensacola

Pensacola is a sea port on Pensacola Bay, which is protected by the barrier island of Santa Rosa, and is founded by a duo of directors, Pau Suris and Pau Dalmases. They are based in New York but have a great global presence. Pau and Pau are both clever, fast and furious and together they have created something that goes beyond the mere addition of their individual talents. A clever mind style, a fast hand and a very energetic voice.

Location: New York
Repped by/in: CANADA (Spain and London) / Furlined (US) / Madrefoca (Mex) / Rekorder (Germany)

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

Pensacola> For me there has to be a strong concept. Something that is surprising and feels different either in its conception or in the way it has to be executed. These two tend to go together. When it is not in the script, we try to bring it in by re-writing it and proposing ideas. Irony and a sense of humor are also important.

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

Pensacola> I normally write the treatments myself, since it is an integral part of coming out with ideas and exploring new things. I try to be as specific as possible both on the narrative and the visual approach to it, and I try to find the right references - or ways to communicate how the visuals will work. I write quite fast and then we work with the team to polish everything, make it concise and strong. 

We are always trying to find ways to make our treatment stand out, sometimes even by playing with a format that intentionally fits the concept of the campaign. 

We don’t get paid for the treatments (which at this day and age is still a question mark to me considering the amount of hours directors and creative teams put in them), so at least we try to have fun with it.  

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?

Pensacola> This normally comes from the agency, which knows the client and brand way beyond us. The brief calls tend to really indicate how much perspective is needed for the brands. We tend to receive a lot of decks for brands who actually want to change their image or tone, so we are asked to somehow “ignore” what they have been doing in the past. 

Context is always important, but mainly to understand how the agency and client have landed on a concept for a campaign. That is helpful for us to understand how can we make it better.

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

Pensacola> That is a tough question. I feel like you have to be close and communicative with everyone in the team, from the creative directors, to your producer and DP, etc. I tend to spend more hours with the DP and the producer, but I wish we could have more time with the actors, to really try and work on performance more.

I feel like it is important to have a clear idea of what you intend to do with the commercial. Everyone has to walk in the same direction, and that creates the best collaborations, because this way every person involved contributes with their expertise, always towards the same vision. 

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?

Pensacola> Commercials are a great genre to explore visual techniques and find a bit of your voice. I love the technical aspects of it, and once again I feel like it is lacking a deeper approach to performance. For me, that is the part where I would like to explore more and spend more time with, but the nature of the language makes the productions overlook this step a little bit.

I try and explore as many fields as possible. I have been enjoying doing cars, and would really like doing more sports commercials. I feel like there is a pace, a rhythm and a musicality in the action of sports commercials that can be very powerful if it is well used. Also Sports commercials tend to have an element of surrealism and humor that I feel close to. 

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

Pensacola> I am unsure if it is a misconception. Commercials are fast, and we are executors. Most of the time the idea is not 100% ours, we are part of the process and try to add as much as we can. I am kind of bored of hearing the word “quirky” when it comes to our work. But I feel like anything that you put out can be taken in many ways: it can make you laugh, while the person next to you will be terribly bored so… As long as we can keep pushing and trying new things, I feel like it is worth the risk of being misunderstood. I am talking about work of course.

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

Pensacola> I casted a very different and unexpected main character in a commercial for a brand that had a very conservative perspective. After convincing everyone and while getting the first takes on set, the main client decided that they wanted to fire the guy. There was a bit of drama and chaos, and they wanted to get one of the extras to be the main guy. But the extra heard about the situation and wanted his agent to renegotiate the contract for him. He knew we depended on him so he was asking for much more money than our main guy before. So we were losing like 4 hours of our day. I had a friend visiting set and I pretended to want to cast him before the extra. Seeing that, he was not our only option, the guy became reasonable and we filmed with him. 

I was very conflicted about the whole thing and… It was still a very painful experience to have to apologise to an actor you have casted because you have to let him go. But these experiences underline what commercials are: ultimately the work is owned by a client. 

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

Pensacola> I think if the idea is good at the beginning when I see their deck, I want to work with them. Because they have good ideas. 

To me it all comes down to listening and being open. I know I have good ideas, but that does not mean that the guy next to me cannot have better ones. Learning to listen helps also when it comes to defending my own ideas. If I see where they really see a problem, it is way easier for me to get to a solution and show them my idea from a different perspective. The best creatives I have worked with want me to participate, to be active, but also to be open to change.

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?

Pensacola> I think it is great and of course necessary. I feel like it is fantastic to give more opportunities to people who did not have access to them before. I would really love to mentor and have people on set with me. It’d be super cool and I am looking into it. 

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? 

Pensacola> To be completely honest the pandemic did not change much for me (except for the first 3 months). I picked up work immediately after, first remote and then traveling. The way I work is pretty much the same. 

I feel like there is a lot of positives about doing things remotely, but I would bring back calls back in person. The human interaction with actors is what is needed most and zoom cannot really replace that.

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)? 

Pensacola> I only think of it when the final format is part of the concept - like what we did with IGTV and Weiden Amsterdam. I think format constrains should be more used specifically, because loads of amazing unique ideas can come out of it. 

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)?

Pensacola> I am investigating it and AI is really fascinating. I think it opens so many possibilities and interesting ways. So many ideas and concepts can emerge from it…

Once again, we should not use it as a simple tool to skip certain parts of the process. For me, it has the potential to really shape new approaches in the conception of the ideas. I have developed a music video idea with it that uses AI almost as a collaborator, not as the final product. I like to think of it like that. 

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why? (Please upload 4 videos to your company archive).

Pensacola> Very difficult question but:

SPORTS DIRECT: sports, football, celebrities, camera moves and no time to shoot almost. It is an exercise of precision with not too many resources.

IGTV: we love production design and building moving sets. This was our concept and we were able to work with creatives that pushed us to execute it our own way. Everything was practical and on camera (except for the kids being abducted)

FANTA: the most challenging campaign. The treatment we won with and what was shot changed 2 weeks before the shoot. We managed to keep an intention and a look, and considering this was a global campaign, we feel like we could get away with loads. 

JARAMI: we want to do more narrative. this has a weird surreal buddy movie tone that I love. 

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REKORDER, Mon, 19 Dec 2022 15:11:00 GMT