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The Homecoming of Hans Emanuel


Taking a look at the Stadium director’s globe-spanning commercial career that led him back to his roots

The Homecoming of Hans Emanuel

Stadium Director Hans Emanuel is a patchwork of culture. Born in the U.S. to a Mexican mother and a German father, his multicultural upbringing served as the catalyst for an exploration of the world over, now deeply evident in his work. 

But it all began in the U.S. As a kid, Hans was “always looking for creative outlets,” leading him to seek inspiration from his environment, finding the hidden stories in everyday life. 

“I was exposed to different cultures and ways of life from a young age,” he explains, “so it was natural to me to want to explore that further, and I think it instilled in me an interest in opening myself up to other ways of life.” At age 15, Hans was given the opportunity to live abroad, in Mexico and then Germany. This exposure to new people and cultures helped him develop a keen eye for fresh perspectives, looking at the world through the unjaded eye of someone experiencing something new. “I just soaked it all in,” he says. “Being exposed to all those viewpoints definitely influenced my visual style. I was able to take the parts I’m drawn to from each culture to create a really broad range of inspiration to pull from depending on the project."

His first forays into directing were varied in genre - first trying music videos, propelled by a love of music and dance, and then narrative shorts. His first short Cajas was accepted to the Berlin International Film Festival, which became a formative experience in his path to directing. “In my mind I was still that kid who was drawn to telling stories, so I wasn’t necessarily ready to call myself a director, but I loved the experience. I decided then that I wanted to go down this path.”

His commercial career took off in Europe, with his first commercial film for OPI (featuring a dancing horse) winning a Cannes Bronze. From there, his cinematic, movement-driven film style was formed, directing for brands like L’Oreal, Nivea, Nissan, Kia and more. By mixing big visuals with intimate moments, Hans’s ability to draw the viewer in is unmatched - no matter the product. Take Level Locks, for example, where a seemingly mundane household necessity is elevated to an otherworldly dance number, using VFX to guide us through each door. “One of the fun parts about directing is helping to elevate whatever the creative is, pushing the limits where possible, and bringing a combination of everyone’s vision to life. I love the collaborative process of figuring it out together,” he says. “For Level, it was all about finding ways to infuse excitement into a simple product.” 

For Hans, finding that excitement means creating new worlds for products and brands to live within - and his dynamic use of VFX helps to create an “elevated version of what normal life looks and feels like.” To Hans, “adding VFX just opens up new possibilities and worlds to play within.” And within those worlds, movement is a key theme. His experience with choreography in his early work such as OPI or with dance-filled films for Garnier and Jockey has translated into flowing camera movements and transitions in his newer work. In his recent film for Butterball, the camera seemingly dances from scene to scene - through a chandelier, into a diamond ring, and out into a Thanksgiving dinner. 

Pulling from that patchwork of inspiration that Hans has developed over his career, the films and worlds he’s created are intriguing and universally cinematic. His exposure to different types of people has allowed him to be adaptable working between countries (he’s tri-lingual in English, Spanish and French), and has developed a visual style that is versatile and malleable to differing audiences and markets.  

His signing with Stadium in 2021 made this evident as he seamlessly transitioned from working primarily in the Europe market to landing sweeping U.S. campaigns - Talking Stick Casino, Butterball Turkey, and most notably the U.S. Navy with VMLY&R. 

“Signing with Stadium has been a bit of a homecoming for me. Especially directing the U.S. Navy spot. I grew up with that American culture, so being able to bring that to life and get back in touch with my roots in that sense was exciting. It’s where my love of filmmaking began.”

As for the experience on set, shooting with the Navy was a unique and thrilling proposition. The spot featured real men and women of the U.S. Navy, shot on an active aircraft carrier. “We really had to live within the intensity of that environment for the whole shoot - we stayed on the AirCraft Carrier for days, slept in the bunks - we got to see how they operate as a unit and I just have the utmost admiration for those men and women.”

With an emphasis on transitional VFX in many of his spots, Hans credits his European training with giving him an opportunity for insight and involvement into post production that helped shape his process as a director. With close relationships with renowned post houses such as The Mill and UPP, Hans’s insight into this workflow has supplied his process with a comprehensiveness evident in his work. “I trained as a director in Europe, and was generally expected to see the project through to post-production and final delivery. I was always involved in sound design, VFX, color, music, all of that, which now helps me shoot for and think in terms of the final product.” He explains, “I really enjoy the process of collaborating with the client from start to finish and am always open to that whenever possible. Stadium has been able to land me jobs where that’s been the case, which I know isn’t as common in the U.S.” 

And beyond the processes and creative problem solving, directing for Hans allows him to “fulfill the exploration of stories and places” that always fascinated him. “I get to travel to new places and meet new people, all to bring stories to life. There’s nothing better.” 

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STADIUM, Wed, 07 Dec 2022 15:38:00 GMT