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4th July 2018
Title of film: Nulla, Dance Film
Director: Jean Claude Billmaier
Production Company: JCB Haus
New York-based director Jean Claude Billmaier merges choreographed dance with over hundred VFX shots to portray the explosive tensions and release of our work-driven lifestyles with an original score from R&B singer and producer Toulouse. Interview by Niccolò Montanari

Nulla is a personal project in which you externalise the levels of stress that most of us endure in our daily lives. When and how did you decide that you wanted to explore this topic?

It was a constant topic for a while. Loni (the choreographer) and I had already worked on Toulouse’s music video Reach Out and we liked the idea of release, so this seemed quite fitting. Being a creative is quite an interesting lifestyle, some days you’re so busy you can’t even remember to eat and others you’re waiting for the work to come through – but the constant is that we self impose stress and anxiety in the same way everyone does.

Engaging with mental health is something that we are gradually becoming more comfortable with. As you have worked with a wide range of international brands, do you think there’s a way to convey the subtlety of Nulla into more commercial work?

I hope brands and artists begin to do so – we are in quite a bizarre moment where over consumption of media is creating new mental health issues that weren’t seen before, so by creating pieces that somehow tackle these issues, even if subtly, we are definitely raising awareness and making room for stronger and more meaningful audience reactions.

How do you come up with different concepts and themes? Is there a leading thread between all of them? And would you say that’s what defines your work?

I usually have different ideas I’m always toying with (usually quite broad in concepts like youth, memory, perception, etc) – they’re all connected as they’re all direct pulls from things I am thinking and studying on. There isn’t a direct thread that interlaces them all, but there is definitely a subconscious narrative going on. In terms of my work, I would say I love creating surreal lifts from experiences and memories everyone can somehow relate to – it’s a bit of magical realism with a grand surreal element. 

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve had to face in your career?

There’s many, mostly finding the correct balance between projects you’re passionate about and those that pay the bills. I took a different path when I started directing, as I began with a company / entrepreneur background and then transitioned into directing. Re-branding and letting everyone know what your style / direction is was a hard process, as most people want to categorize and label you immediately. It’s quite a challenge to change the preconceived perception your clients have of what you can do, so when I tried going into a more creative route it took time for me to be able to experiment and showcase that to them.

Another challenge is the need to find the right team. Sometimes that team isn’t always the one you thought it would be, but finding people you work with well and are able to complement your flaws is such an important aspect of the filmmaking process. I’d say there are many other minor things that are always coming up, from client management to last minute shoot changes – it’s quite an exciting medium and as long as you’re up for challenges and problems it will be a good ride.

Out of the films you have directed, which one is the one you are most attached to?

That’s an extremely hard question. All of them have flaws that I see clearer than anyone else, but also they all somehow stem from my essence making it extremely hard to pick a favourite. I will say that the passion projects are definitely more special just because their nature is that of being born out of wanting to make the piece instead of a commercial attachment.


Jean Claude Billmaier


Director: Jean Claude Billmaier (@jcb.haus)
Original score by Toulouse (@musicbytoulouse)
Featuring Evan Copeland (@evanmcopeland)
Produced at JCB Haus
Producer: Joshua Bennet
Choreographer: Loni Landon (@lonifaye)
Director of Photography: Sam Cutler-Kreutz (@samcutlerkreutz)
Gaffer: Josh Herzog (@josherzog)
Editor: Sascha Taylor Larsen (@satisfiedsascha)
Visual Effects and Color: Justin Levine (@j.r.levine)
Sound Design: Bobb Barito (@baritobobb)