Today, we are with Director @Boulawayne to explore the process behind his last film for the craftsmanship campaign of the French luxury bag brand Polène. Before we’ll dive straight into the journey of making this kind of project and the challenges behind the production, let’s take a look at the stunning final film below.
Can you explain to us the concept behind this film?
It is all about craftsmanship. The brand wanted a film to visually convey what goes into their handcrafted bags and their very specific knowledge from centuries of work in the leather industry. This film is about what makes Polène’s bags so special and unique.
Usually, the craftsmanship films of the most famous brands are taking place in their factories. We chose to match Polène’s aesthetics and take another approach by filming the whole process outdoors. Building a bag involves four main steps: Leatherwork (1), Painting (2), Metallic pieces (3), and Sewing (4).
The main idea, apart from crafting the bag on the top of a mountain, was to illustrate this process by installing gigantic structures in the desert. These structures create an artistic storyline connecting the four steps of craftsmanship.
We thought that the following structures would be perfect:
1 – Tall arches with leather floating in the wind
2 – A 30m2 sculpture that will be filled with paint
3 – Big golden columns in the desert
4 – A large tunnel of wires
What was the initial idea and the challenges and how is this shaped into a commercial film? Can you tell us more about the writing process?
It all started with the idea of shooting a craftsmanship film in the great outdoors. So after a lot of meetings with the brand, challenging ideas, and brainstorming sessions, it was time to write the film.
We ended up with a storyboard of what the film could look like and presented it to the brand.
At this point, the main challenge was to find the perfect balance between the actual craftsmanship actions and the parallels with the structures in the desert. Our aim was to build the right bridges between these two moments to illustrate our vision in the most beautiful and effective way possible.
Since I was involved in both, directing and co-producing the film, another tricky part was keeping the money in mind while creating the storyboard. So the objective was to write down shots that could actually be made within the budget. Actually, it’s pretty hard to split your brains in two. The creative part is often in conflict with the production one.
Most of the time on bigger projects, as the director, you are 100% focused on the creative aspect. You can rely on the production people to deal with budgets and how to get what’s needed to fulfill your vision. On this project, we had to think about both aspects at the same time which was not the easiest brain gymnastics.
What were the challenges in Pre-Production?
For me, pre-production is the most important step in the filmmaking process. This is where you confront your raw ideas with the harsh reality and get an idea of what struggles you will have to deal with. (Production challenges, locations, weather, authorizations, transportation, accommodations, access, etc…)
We started the process of this film almost a year ago by looking for locations that could be as wild as possible. We knew that we wanted to match the brand aesthetics with vast outdoor locations which make the viewer travel. We also knew that we wanted to build a whole 4 tables workbench on top of a mountain and very wide drone shots. It was crucial to have a 360° view without houses or civilization because we would not be able to erase them in post-production due to the budget. We already shot a previous campaign with the brand in Fuerteventura (Canary Island) and knew we could find this kind of location on this magnificent island.
After getting advice from a location manager we’ve already worked with on Fuerteventura, we ended up with ten potential locations matching our requirements.
It was time to get on a plane and check out which location could be used for each part of the film. We used apps like Sunseeker to have a better understanding of the sun’s position on location. We did pretty accurate measurements to get a better idea of what the structures will look like on the set. We planned all the access for the crew, cars, trucks, etc. We determined the transportation durations to correctly organize our shoot and maximize the available daylight. We planned when and how to install the structures since all spots were not in the same location… What gear we would have to fly with and what gear had to be shipped to the island, etc, etc…
Can you tell us more about the shooting process?
After months of brainstorming and pre-production, it was finally time to shoot.
As everybody knows, even on the best-planned shoots, you will always have to deal with a lot of last-minute problems. On this one, we had to struggle with harsh weather conditions, with 60-80 km/h wind gusts blowing all week! The structures shipped from Spain to Fuerteventura were late because of a port strike, resulting in further delay due to a Spanish holiday. To tackle that problem we had to split the construction team to do double shifts in order to install the structures on spot during the daytime and finish the last details of the construction during the night.
By the time we finally managed to start shooting, the wind was so strong that we had to reschedule everything and modify the planning. The most challenging aspect was that everything was constantly flying away. The structures had to be installed right before calling action otherwise they would fall over. All the steadicam shots, even using a combination of Giro and wind killer, were super tricky. Same for the crane or handheld shots and I’m not even talking about the drone shots! Those were almost impossible to pull off as the wind was even worse in higher altitudes. It was super difficult to put up diffusion or bouncing frames or even light fixtures because of the wind gusts.
We finally succeeded to do more or less what we had planned but with a lot of compromises concerning when to shoot each shot. Originally we wanted to shoot everything with sunrise and sunset light. Due to all the delay, we had to accept that we had to shoot even if the light conditions were not exactly what we expected.
As a director, it’s quite hard to make those kinds of compromises. But if it is the only way to get the film done, you have to lower some of your expectations. Sometimes even the most important ones like light conditions.
After all, we were fortunate enough to have a committed crew that was super involved in the project and always gave a hundred percent. Everybody helped each other out as much as possible to level up the shooting… even in those severe weather conditions!
Was the post-production a long journey too?
When we came back home with the footage it was time to start the whole post-production process. As I was also editing the film, I had to make several different versions and manage the post-production team at the same time. Mostly for 3D VFX, footage cleaning, music, and grading.
The most challenging part was the opening shot, where we had to glue a full 3D sky/cloud shot with the drone shots we managed to get on set. As you know 3D is a very time-consuming process. And to mention it one last time: the wind does not help you to shoot the exact drone footage you need! So we had to fix it in the post, post stabilizes the drone shot, and make the 3D footage we created to match its movement.
Apart from the opening sequence we also had to erase tire tracks caused by the trucks that transported the structures on set in order to get the cleanest, wildest, untouched footage.
The last challenge was the music and sound FX. None of the on-set, live audio rushes were usable due to the wind. So we had to re-record every action that the craftswoman did in our hotel room on the last day of the shoot.
We also made an original soundtrack for the film to fit the client’s demands.
The last and probably most fun part of the post-production was the grading. I love this process so much because this is where everything pops out, where you glue everything together, and where you build the look and harmonize everything. It’s the final touch and you start to feel the end of a very long, but super satisfying journey.
Wow, what a journey! Last word to conclude Boula?
I mean being involved in such a challenging project, with money and creativity wise is a blessing. When you don’t have tons of money at your disposal, you have to think wisely and find a good balance and the right way to spend this budget. You have to find the best way possible to make things happen and fulfill your vision.
If I have to conclude, I would say that nothing is impossible. You just have to commit as hard as possible until you make it! Doing this project taught me that, even with difficult conditions and a lot of unexpected challenges, it’s super important to think out of the box. You have to react fast enough to maximize time on set and to improve what you can do as much as possible.
The team that surrounds you is also one of the main keys to the project’s success. If you manage to make your team believe in your vision, they will keep up with the pace you are demanding and will do the best they can to level up your production value… even when it’s challenging!
THX to the team and all of the amazing people involved in this project.
Finally, I would like to thank the incredible Polène team for their energy, commitment, and dedication. We made it as a team.
(Bianca, Antoine, Claire, Camille, Lola, Chloé, Paul … )
Thanks a lot, @Filmmakersworld for your time and the passion you put into the filmmaker community.
It’s really our pleasure Boula! We’re so happy and proud to host your work and share your uniqueness with the community!
We can’t wait to see your next work!
Credits and IG profiles
Drone & 2AC: @yuuki_shimizu_papadoux_
Best boy electric 1: Juani Pérez Mendoza
Best boy electric 2: Alfonso Blanco
Key Grip: @luiscreo
Grip best boy: Nicolás González
Video assistant: @jonas_prod
Sound engineer: @alan_savarytrail
Music &Sfx: @kimakaz
3D & VFX: @nolannblettner
Location Manager: @fuertevidorra
Fixer: Marcos Perdomo
Construction: Carlos / Laura / Victor / Parra and all the Spanish team.
Production: Polène Paris & Boulawan Media Group
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