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4th June 2021
The answer’s a lemon !
Self-taught talent Franck Trozzo Kazagui has turned his ‘constant outsider’ status into a burgeoning career in visual storytelling. Inspired by the incredible creative energy of Berlin, the fledgling director has already trained his lens on a wide-ranging array of projects, including the wacky tale of a scientist generating cult sneakers from citrus power, and a dynamic passion project exploring the possibilities of movement. He talks to 1.4 about working with a thousand lemons and why he’s happy taking a slower road to success

Franck Trozzo Kazagui

 

You spent most of your childhood in Africa, returning to France when you were a teenager and becoming part of the skating community. How have these different cultural and lived experiences shaped your approach as a director?

Having such a diverse cultural background and experiences at an early age shaped me to have a wider vision of the world. I grew up being a constant outsider who needs to fit in new places by learning the language or the culture. People always think that I’m a quiet or shy person when we first meet, but most of the time I’m actually observing the way they dress, talk or move in order to understand them and get a rough idea of who they are.

I use that same approach with my work. I usually spend days on my own getting into the client’s brief and trying to find a connection and emotions related to my personal life. Other times I listen to a specific soundtrack when I’m scouting potential locations for the film. That way I try to make it my own and more authentic so people can relate to it.

 

As a self-taught director, when did you start getting interested in visual storytelling? What first motivated you to pick up a camera and start capturing moving images?

During my childhood I was raised by my grandmother: she always loved to read me stories and I always tried to create visual images that fit the stories in my head. I was first motivated to pick up a camera when I was a sponsored skater in my teenage years. My friend’s parents would drive us to skate competitions in different towns and we would take their Sony HI-8 or Canon XM2 camera to document the trips or our skating videos. After years working as a filmmaker and team manager in the skating industry, in 2016 I decided to change my career and commercial filmmaking came to my mind naturally.

 

Directing Movement, short film

 

Your debut passion project, Movement, is a hymn to the beauty and vitality of moving our bodies and showcases an impressive array of techniques. What inspired you to create a film about movement and was it important to make something that stood out from the crowd of ‘dance’ films? How did you approach casting for the central dancer?

Every year I self-produce a passion project through a collective I founded in 2017 called E.C.R (Explore, Create, Repeat). Dead Body, an unofficial Adidas campaign, was my first project in the commercial world. It won the VOTD award the same year and gave me the confidence to continue. In 2018 it was Heritage – a tribute to Laurent Desmarre, which is dedicated to my best friend’s father who passed away from cancer.

Movement was supposed to take place in 2019 under a different name, in a different city, and with a different cast – we had even shot some images but due to financial considerations, the project didn’t continue… A few months later, I started working in restaurants as a waiter while directing commercial jobs on the side to save money and bring this idea to life. When the plan to move to Berlin came to my mind after a short work trip, it was clear that I need to bring this film back to life here in Germany. At that point, I started working on a new script. I decided to add my personal experience from when I was on my way to the restaurant jobs. I always had my headphones with me in the subway and it helped me to transition into a different world. I wasn’t Franck the film director anymore, but Franck the waiter, and I wanted to add that personal part of me in the story.

Regarding the casting, Wilfred is a long-time friend from my hometown, Le Mans. For this film, I wanted to have that deep connection with my protagonist. He and I have both gone through some hard times as self-taught artists, trying to make our way in this world and we use that energy to set the tone of the story.

 

BTS, Nike 

 

We love your work Powerwall for Nike and Overkill, the enjoyable tale of a mad scientist who harnesses the electrical power of lemons to create the ultimate training shoe. Did the shoot pose any unique challenges for you as a director? And just how many lemons did you get through?

I’m glad you loved this project. It was a unique experience to work on this project with Sunst Studio – those guys are fearless. The only challenge with this film was time. We had one day to shoot everything, and there were so many different roads to explore, but the final result is still great, especially with two non-actors as the main characters. I’m also thankful for the constant trust and freedom from Nike creatives in every project we create together, it is very rare in this industry.

I think we went through a thousand lemons or so. For the release of the sneakers, Overkill used the same lemons for a warm drink that they shared with homeless people in the streets with a special package that contained a blanket and scarf, and that was something I was proud to be a part of.

 

Nike, Overkill

 

You’re currently based in Berlin: how much are you influenced and inspired by the city and its culture? Where do you find inspiration?

Berlin is one of the places to be in Europe as a creative. There are so many talents from different industries and parts of the world, that it’s just impossible not to be inspired and influenced by the energy of this city.

I studied architecture when I was a teenager and it impacts the way I explore and see cities. It has always inspired my work. A stunning location that fits your story will always add an extra layer to your film.

 

BTS, Nike shoot

 

Alongside your personal projects and commercial work, you’ve also directed a docu-short for NOWNESS’s Raw Material series. Is that something you’re keen to do more of? What kinds of storytelling opportunities do you hope to tackle in the future?

The docu-short was something very special that really got me out of my comfort zone, to be honest. We exchanged ideas with NOWNESS and Thomas (the artist), and at first we wanted to have a speaking manifesto approach to the film but ultimately, we went for a voice-over to make it feel less commercial and more like a documentary journey.

Storytelling is something I want to explore more with my commercial work. It could be with dialogue or just images that tell the story itself. I’m keen to work on a feature film in the future but I don’t want to rush things. I want to move in the right direction, so for now I’m focusing on commercials where I can bring in visual storytelling and guide the viewers through the story with strong transitions and camera movement.

On Nowness, Thomas Vanz shoot

 

What are you working on at the moment?

Luckily, the past few months were crazy with work but after the release of my film for NOWNESS, I decided to take a step back from the film industry to reconnect with myself, work on my next personal projects and return to the film industry with a different perspective. Recently I have been pitching on some very interesting commercials with some of my reps but the current Covid situation has definitely had an impact and many jobs have been cancelled.

My next project, which will be released in September, is a film for Jacob Jonas The Company, and their ‘Films Dance‘ platform, a partnership with Somewhere Magazine that celebrates the dance community all around the world. I‘ll be working with Yin Yue, a choreographer from New York, and up-and-coming cinematographer Sebastian Beyrer, who was also behind Movement.

 

Interview by Selena Schleh

Franck Trozzo Kazagui website

@francktrozzokazagui

 

Credits

A Number of People, Gang Gang

Director: Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Production Company: Saltwater Film.
Executive Producer: Johannes Schmidt & Marie Niemann.
Creative Consultant: Dustin Schöne.
Creatives: Javier De La Fuente & Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Producer: Laura Heimrich.
Producer Assistant: Patrick Schroll & Jessica Driediger

Cinematographer: Phillip Kaminiak.
Focus Puller: Carl Evers.
1st Assistant Camera: Mathis Heideidemann.
Gaffer: Kaspar Kamu.
Drone Op: Denis Grabe & Friedrich Von Strauch.

Casting Management: Javier De La Fuente, Inan Batman & Saman Darvish.

Art Dept: Toar Avni.
Art Dept Assistant: Thorben Böttcher.
Hair & Makeup: Maria King.

Editor: András Guti.
VFX: Valentin Tuil.
Colorist: Manuel Portschy.
Digital Print Service: Dirk DeJonghe.

Music Service: TRO GmbH.
Original Music: Alexis Troy.
Music Supervisor: Matteo Ponzetta.

 

Movement, short film

Director:  Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Starring Wilfried Ebongue.

Production Company: E.C.R

Cinematographer: Sebastian Beyrer.
Focus Puller: Bastian Godoy.
Still Photographer: Jill Bettendorff.

3D: Ulysse Prom.
VFX: Yohan Ayllon.
Compositing: Clément Milot.

Motion Design: Olivier Derieux.
Titles Design: Martin Blin.
Post Production: E.C.R.

Colorist: Szymon Ronowicz.
Voice: Nicolas Dautherribes Mckerl.
Original Score & Sound Design: Tempo Studio.

Equipment support:
Modest Department & See You Rent.

Special thanks:
Gerrit Piechowski.
Al Barbuto.
Alise Muraševa.
 

Nowness, Thomas Vanz

A film by Franck Trozzo Kazagui.

Agency: Nowness.
Creatives: Bunny Kinney & Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Managing Editor: Gavin Humphries.
Video Commissioner: Shelley Jones.
Producer: Noor Miah.
Video Editor: Harry Bowley.

Production Company: Saltwater Films.
Line Producer: Victoria Maschuw.
Executive Producer: Johannes Schmidt.

Cinematographer: Fabio Caldironi.
1st AC: Valentin Pereira.
Gaffer: Julie Joumier.

Editor: Andras Guti.
Colorist: Manuel Portschy.
VFX: Clément Milot.

Music Composer: Augustin Saldjian.
Sound Designer: Mimesis Music.
Voice Over Manager: Nicolas Dautherribes Mckerl.

Accossiate Production: Katlas Production.
Rental: RVZ Paris.
 

Nike / Overkill, Powerwall

Director:  Franck Trozzo Kazagui

Agency: Sunst Studio
Creatives: Sebastian Amberger & Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Set design & Art direction: Victor Serrander.
Freelance Producer: Minni Podewills.

Production Company: Saltwater Film.
Executive Producer: Johannes Schmidt.
Producer: Vic Maschuw.
Producer Assistant: Patrick Schroll & Nina Kobia.

Cinematographer: Simon Dat Vu.
1st Assistant Camera: Julain Hanschke.
2nd Assistant Camera: Anne Chladek.
Still Photographer: Kane Holz.
Gaffer: Kaspar Kamu & Luke Sullivan.
Electrician: David Meinen.
Grip: Roberto Irmisch.

Set Design Dept: Marcus Vinicius de Queiroz.
Set Design Dept Assistant: Imke Rabiega.
Sunst Studio Set Design Dept: Antoine Ryan & Marcus.

Styling: Sihem Ben Zid.
Hair & Makeup: Melissa Righi.

Editor: András Guti.
VFX: Yohan Ayllon.
Colorist: Manuel Portschy.

Music Service: Augustin Saldjian.
Sound Designer: Mimesis Music.
Mixing: Lexa.
Vocal: Sauvane Music.
 

Nike, BETRUE

Director:  Franck Trozzo Kazagui

Agency: Nike Berlin.
Creatives: Ed Walsh, Stephen Owen & Franck Trozzo Kazagui.
Artists Manager: Toyah Siegel & Kam Dhillon.
Operations Manager: Stephanie Gray & David Baumann.

Production Company: Saltwater Film.
Executive Producer: Johannes Schmidt & Marie Niemann.
Producer: Laura Heimrich.
Producer Assistant: Vic Maschum, Tina Paffen & Nina Kobia.

Cinematographer: Daniel Obradovic.
Focus Puller: Nelson Smith.
1st Assistant Camera: Rouven Schardt.
Gaffer: Luke Sullivan.
Grip: Avner Eisenstein.

Styling: Lena Balblitschky.
Styling Assistant: Nina Dober.
Hair & Makeup: Julian Polak.

Editor: András Guti & Dominik Braz.
Colorist: Manuel Portschy.
Voice over: Daria Maria.

Music Service: TRO GmbH.
Original Music: Florian Deitermann.
Sound Design: Philip Zimmermann.
Music Supervisor: Niko Floss.
Music Producer: Gordian Gleiß.