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20th January 2022
Laboratory of illusions
Title of film: Octavian, Sky High
Director: Marius Gonzalez
Production Company: Omar Films
When Marius Gonzalez realised he was more interested in the visuals than his classic Master’s course he opted for photography school. Except he failed the entrance exam and devoted the following year to teaching himself filmmaking and effects tools. He hasn’t stopped experimenting since. Now a sought after director for his mesmerising music videos for the French rap scene, he talks with 1.4 about how his earlier effects work based more on looks and aesthetics is now used more judiciously as a tool for his narratives; and how he survived lockdown alone by creating an instagram illustration a day, now published as a book. Second edition is just out.

 

Did you come from a particularly creative background?  

My mom is a painter, ceramist and fresco artist. She’s also a teacher in the conservatory of my hometown. So I kinda grew up watching her work. As a kid I also participated in some classes but I was terrible at drawing and making stuff out of my hands. My parents are really open to art in general so from time to time we would go to the theatre or to exhibitions for example. But it wasn’t a big thing for me. I was more into sport and playing outside with friends. 

 

Marius Gonzalez, self portraits

 

What came first – your graphic art work or film work?  What was the trigger that got you into filmmaking?

When I was in high school, two friends of mine were doing movie remakes around town with a tiny camera. They were directing and acting in their own remakes. One day they asked me to play a bartender for a short sequence. It wasn’t professional at all but I kinda discovered the creative process and I loved it. After that I purchased a tiny camera as well and started experimenting and learning things on YouTube.

After high school I went to university for a diploma in multimedia professions (communication, programming, graphic design, video, etc.). This training made me discover several tools like Photoshop or Premiere Pro. It was also around this time that I really started consuming music videos. All of this made me want to try a lot of things and experiment with the digital medium. 

After these two years of study, I followed a classic course in communication at university. Nothing to do with filmmaking. At the time I did not want to pursue a career in filmmaking. But I was still working on some projects in my corner and thanks to YouTube I really learned over time. It was only after my first year of my Master’s degree when I realised that my only real interest was the visual stuff. So I tried to enter a photography school in Paris. I failed the entrance exam and found myself without school for the following school year.  I then decided to devote myself solely to this practice. And I haven’t stopped since.

 

From Octavian, Sky High

You have a filmic language that is distinctively your own. Yet each film, whether branded film  or music video,  is different. What’s your creative process for adapting your style to the brief? 

For music videos it’s pretty straightforward. I never work under the constraint of a specific brief that I must adhere to. Each time I am free to express myself fully. I try to introduce into my projects different visual urges that have revolved around me for a short time or for a long time. For advertising it’s obviously different, but for the Lacoste video, the brief was to shoot this artist in a specific location. I was completely free of form. This remains rare for advertising.

In general, I try not to repeat myself between each project. I don’t want to find “the formula that works”. I prefer to see these projects as laboratories that allow me to express certain visual desires, to try certain things or to improve certain ideas that I may have had in the past. I just want to evolve and progress.

 

From Octavian, Sky High

The flow of your film effects –  whether it’s to recall memories or to heighten physical feelings as in the gob-smacking sensation of drowning in your latest film Sky HIgh for Octavian –  add multi-layers to your narratives. Where did you learn this continuous roll of different techniques?

Since I started, I have always learned on my own. At the very beginning, when I was working on a project, I was alone. I would be behind the camera on set and finalise the project in “post-production” on my computer. So I learned to edit by myself. As the projects progressed I also trained quickly on different tools like After Effects for example. This practice allowed me to develop the premises of a visual language linked to the different effects. At first it was purely aesthetic. I just wanted to do something cool and dynamic.

But as I evolved, I was looking for a good balance. I wanted to justify these effects and above all to do them more judiciously. Make it a tool for my narrative.

Today I continue to experiment in my room. I try to have fun with elements that I don’t know. In the Octavian music video, I was able to bring to life a series of photos based on low shutter / multiple exposures. I had shot these photos in 2020 and I always wanted to set them in motion. Another example, I made the introduction of the music video using machine learning software that allowed me to randomly generate abstract faces and perform morphing between these different portraits. It was completely new to me.

I also had the chance to work with talented specialists in special effects which allowed me to go even further in this register of experimental visuals. Also on the Octavian clip, we worked with  the artist Morgan Beringer for some morphing portraits and for the tunnel sequence. I also got help from the post-production studio Paume to manage different transitions and embellish certain sequences of the film.

These effects are often based around a personal reflection, but there is also a lot of collaborative work behind it all.

 

Josman, Sourcils Froncés

What are the roots of your connection with the French rapper scene?

I’ve been listening to rap since I was in middle school. Even today it’s the genre I listen to the most. I really started to get into the industry when I started working with Josman. We’ve known each other since high school and we both grew up in Vierzon. My first music video was also his first video as a rapper. After a few projects, I moved to Toronto for a year. 

When I returned to Paris, Josman was completely independent and was ready to release a free mixtape. We got back to work together and it was on the track “Dans le Vide”, released in 2017, that his career started to take off. His visibility was growing, so we had more resources to make our music videos and our projects were viewed more and more. It is really this friendship which opened certain doors to me in French rap and which allowed me to grow as a director. 

 

Joanna and Raika Hazanavicius  

The artists are stars of the story without any overt singing performances. These are musicians, not trained actors, and yet their acting performances are professional. What is your method – do you rehearse a lot before the shoot?

I find that artists are like actors. Even when performing in front of the camera, they know how to interact with it and adapt their interpretation with the different emotions present in a piece. At first I always try to imagine situations where the artists can easily fit. For Joanna’s music video, for example, I knew she had all the characteristics to embody this character of a little criminal who is both seductive and sensitive. It was really something that she gave off through her look, her style and her attitude.

For this shoot in particular, we rehearsed a lot with Joanna and Raika in order to have a better approach to certain scenes. Especially the argument scene between the two women. This exercise was necessary to allow Joanna to completely free herself. She had never acted before, she needed that to get in shape and somehow release the pressure on acting. Raika is more experienced, she also helped her a lot in this process. Once on set it was really amazing. Joanna was ready and we witnessed something that I did not suspect. During this argument scene, she completely let go. She was like in a trance, the world around her no longer existed. She was in tears and shaking right after the first take. She was living the scene.

Finally, I do not know if I have a specific method. I just try to leave room for the artists to express themselves and to put them in confidence as much as possible in order to obtain something sincere.

 

From Demons

Demons tackles the subject of jealousy and toxic relationships and you have said Wong Kai-Wai’s The Fallen Angels was a source of inspiration for the video. To what extent did the movie influence you?

First of all, I’m a big fan of the visual universe of this film. But what inspired me the most was the story of this very poetic criminal duo. I said to myself that this global atmosphere could fit perfectly with the track. I talked to Joanna about it during our first meeting to see if she liked the idea and she immediately validated it. From there, I started thinking about a new story based on this nocturnal urban atmosphere and the structure of the song.

During this process there were of course other sources of inspiration such as some films by Gaspar Noé or those by Nicolas Winding Refn.

 

Joanna in Demons

Does the visual narrative ever change much in the edit or do you usually have everything mapped out in detail in pre-production?

When I’m writing for a project, I directly define a precise structure. For the music videos of Octavian or Joanna, everything has been respected. But sometimes it is necessary to go into this rewriting process in editing by making some adjustments. This sometimes allows me to improve the reading of the film and the overall rendering.

 

Still Alone, 55 Days. From Marius Gonzalez’s Isolation Program

You’re an artist too working in other formats. For instance you created your book Isolation Program during lockdown. Please tell us about that. 

During the first lockdown, I remained locked up alone in my small Parisian apartment. I decided to create a graphic illustration every morning to keep my mind busy. I didn’t have a specific plan, I just wanted to stay creative. So every morning I published one or more illustrations on Instagram stories. No details, just an image that allowed me to count the days and which in a way expressed my current state of mind. 

After a month, I thought about the idea of putting these illustrations together in a book, it made sense to me but I didn’t get stuck with the idea. After 55 days I ended up with over 65 illustrations on my computer.

My father asked me to send him all the pictures without specifying why. He had actually created a book via a website with all of my images. The result was rather disappointing. The book was poorly arranged, the paper was poor quality, and the images were poorly framed. But I was very moved, it was the first time that I had a physical relationship with something that I had created. It was no longer about pixels on my screen, these images were in my hands.

Following that, I decided to fully focus on the creation of this book. I returned to Paris to work on the layout, editing and finally printing it. I was rather skeptical about the reaction of such a project as I am not really recognized for my work as a graphic designer. But when the book came out I sold 100 copies in one hour, which was quite surprising to me. So I decided to print 300 new copies for those who didn’t have time to buy the first edition. Incidentally, there are still a few copies on the Isolation Program online store;)

 Silence and Sirens, from Marius Gonzalez’s Isolation Program

What’s next on your filmmaking agenda?

I am currently working on a music video for a French artist and on a perfume ad. I also plan to release another small book based on my machine learning experiments.

 

From Marius Gonzalez’s Isolation Program

 

@mariusgonzalez

Marius Gonzalez website

Isolation Program https://isolationprogram.bigcartel.com/

Solab website

 

Credits

Octavian, Sky High

Production company:  Omar Films

Director:  Marius Gonzalez

Producers: Aristide Cochin & Blaise Bocabeille

Cinematography: Julien Ramirez

Line Producer: Vincent Veve

Prod Coordinator: Perrine Mercier

1st Ad: Mathieu Perez

2d Ad: Ambre Rambaud

Stunt Coordinator: Didier Alexandre

Focus Puller: Octave Paute

Video Assistant- Yann Festinger

Steadycamer: Calvin Tournie

Location Manager: Guillaume Fermaud

1st Assistant Location Manager: Sacha Fabre

Pa/ Regisseur Louis Meier

Gaffer: @Maxime.Chs

Sparks: Paul Bijaoui

Sparks: Nathan Jean-François

Key Grip: Octave Maria

Grip: Dorian Rey

Makeup (Sfx) and Hair Manager: Mikael Arasco

Makeup Manager (Sfx): Anouk Haif

Styling: Malick Traore

Production Designer: Lucie Bernard

1st Assistant Decorator: Nicolas Laferrerie

Abtract Visual Morgan Beringer

Postproduction: Paume.

Editors: Marius Gonzalez & Alexis Benot

Color Grading: Arnaud Laurent

VFX: Melchior Leroux

 

Joanna ft Laylow: Démons

Director: Marius Gonzalez

Dop: Julien Ramirez

Assistant Director: Lola Bernard

Producteur: Au Rêve

Video Commissioner: Pierre-Antoine Hercouët

Artistic Direction: Joanna + Marius Gonzalez

Production: Solab

Executive Producers: Nicolas Tiry

Production Director: Cécilia Kotula

Production Coordinator: Sarah Gabay

Production Assistant: Lida Sahakian

Location Manager: Gayane Minassian

Runner: Quentin Girard

Steadicamer: Valentin Clarke

1st Ac: Octave Paute

2st Ac: Manon Delville

Gaffer: Thomas Coulomb

Lighting Crew: Sophie Delorme

Lighting Crew: Arnaud Guez

Key Grip: François Lembrez

Grip: Justin Dermaux

Set Designer: Louise Mekylla Bachir

Art Assistant: Quentin Rothan

Wardrobe Stylist: Arianne Theunissen

Makeup Artist: Ruby Mazuel

Makeup Artist Assistant: Java Jurkowski

Post-Production: Firm

Editing: Sophie Fourdrinoy & Marius Gonzalez

Color Grading: Vincent Amor

Vfx: Mattieu Plessis

Sound Design: Martin Dillais

Music Production: Sutus

 

Voicemail

A very short isolation story

by Marius Gonzalez

 

Sean – Fougue

Director: Marius Gonzalez

Production company:  SOLAB

DOP : Alexandre Jamin

Producteur : Arthur Parratte

Directrice de production : Soumaya Assabi

1er assistant réalisateur : Léo Bourdon

Chargée de figuration : Louise Virot

Régisseuse : Tiphaine Houel

Maquilleurs : Mickael Arasco et Ruby Glossy

1er assistant camera : Adrian BERNARD

2nd assistant caméra : Léo Spartacus

Opérateurs Spline/robot Jarvis : Antoine Grasset & Simon Pinelli

Chef électricien : Baptiste Hennequin

Électriciens : Gabriel Beaumelou & Rafaël Balistreri

Chef machino : David Campbell

Machiniste : Melisande Campbell

Chef déco : Louise Mekylla

1ere assistante déco : Anaïs Profit

Doublure moto : Lyne Doffagne

Photographe de plateau : Elise Comte

Casting : Marguerite Thiam & Ichon

Post-production : FIRM

Post-productrice : Julie Perrono

Montage : Marius Gonzalez

Étalonnage : Nicolas Gautier

Flame : Matthieu Plessis

Agent DOP : Jonathan Le Berre @Kinou

 

Josman – Sourcils Froncés

Réalisation : Marius Gonzalez

Produit par Dissidence

Producteur : Victor Fabbretti / Antoine Fritsch

Chargé de production : Tea Chiffre

Régisseur général : Lewis Fleury

1er assistant réalisateur : Raphael Rheims

Direction artistique : Josman

Directeur de la photographie : Asselin Gautier

1er assistant caméra : Zoé Mention

2ème assistant caméra : Samuel Halfon

Chef électricien : Vivien Fradin

Electro : Paul Cloux

Chef Machiniste : Hadrien Martin

Steadicamer : Valentin Clarke

Chef Déco : Hugo Chaperon

Ass Déco : Camille Simien

Monteur : Marius Gonzalez

FX : Marius Gonzalez

 

Lacoste X Moha La Squale

Directed/Edited by Marius Gonzalez

DOP : Asselin Gauthier

Produced by Spoa