Dorian & Daniel Weave a Melancholic Mystery for Mercedes
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Known for their deft emotional touch, the duo talk LBB’s Alex Reeves through how they wrote and directed ‘Eternal Love’ for the German automaker
Late in 2015, a spec ad for Johnnie Walker made more of an impact than most officially commissioned commercials come anywhere near. The work of Dorian Lebherz and Daniel Titz (a.k.a. Dorian & Daniel), a young duo studying at Germany’s Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg at the time, ‘Dear Brother’ told a rich, emotional story so powerful that it racked up over a million views in its first day online.
LBB’s Addison Capper found out more about the pair soon after their viral hit and ever since the team here has watched their career blossom with each film. Now they’re working for real, paying clients, represented by Academy Films in the UK, Zauberberg and Element E in Germany and Wanda Paris in France.
Dorian & Daniel’s latest film shows just how quickly they’ve earned the trust of brands. Written and directed by the duo to show off the applications of Mercedes’ new MBUX ‘infotainment’ system, they weave a powerful storyline that taps into universal human emotional experience, showing how true love can last a lifetime. If you liked Dear Brother, you’ll like Eternal Love.
LBB’s Alex Reeves checked in with Dorian & Daniel to find out what went into it.
LBB> Can you bring us up to date on what you've been up to since you last spoke to LBB? That was soon after your Johnnie Walker spec ad went viral. What have been the biggest moments since then?
Dorian & Daniel> Actually while we released our ad for Johnnie Walker, ‘Dear Brother’, we were shooting ‘ABC of Death’, another spec commercial we shot for Volvo. Since we were still at film school we had the opportunity to develop and shoot several films on our own. At the same time we got to know different production companies and slowly transitioned into the market.
Luckily one of our first jobs was a big brand campaign for Tiger Beer. We shot this one together with Academy Films. As the client was from Singapore, the agency from Sydney, our DP from New York and later we were joined by an editor from LA, this one really was international. It was a great experience, although scheduling calls with all those different time zones was really tricky.
In the last years we tried to stay picky and just shot projects we were really into. Earlier this year we shot a project for Ancestry. This one was really nice, because it was all about creating a small, cinematic scene and we could focus on developing the dialogue and acting. We had a lot of fun.
But in general for us, the biggest moment always is if people like what we have done and you get an emotional response. We know, that sounds cheesy, but in the end we want to shoot films people enjoy watching.
LBB> Tell us about the process on your amazing new Mercedes film. What was the brief and what inspired your idea?
Dorian & Daniel> Mercedes approached us directly and asked us if we wanted to write a concept for the MBUX - their new infotainment system. We are big fans of linking products with emotions. When we sat down with them we pretty quickly agreed that it should be an emotional narrative.
We both have always wanted to shoot some kind of love story and we felt this was the right moment to create a short film with the product subtly woven into an emotional story. The MBUX system itself is all about being connected in many ways. We wanted to embrace the deeper meaning of ‘connections’ by developing a very human story about two people with a very strong connection that lasts even in times they are separated.
LBB> What were the most important or difficult decisions when writing the script?
Dorian & Daniel> While writing the script there were three thoughts that kind of guided us through the process.
The first one obviously was how we might integrate the product in a subtle way. So we decided it would be nice to have a phone call via the MBUX instead of a voice over. Also because it is the car that belongs to the grandson it made perfect sense to have a new, modern Mercedes driving through the Highlands. We still like that contrast between the car and the landscape a lot.
The second thing that was really important for us was to tell the story of a strong woman. We didn’t want to show the young grandmother just waiting around for her husband to come back. We wanted to show an independent woman that could deal with all problems on her own, like fixing the roof of the house or chopping firewood.
The last thing was to bring in the right amount of sadness and melancholy. We had many versions of the dialogue and tried a lot of alternatives. We wanted to create the feeling that she might be dead, but on the same page we didn’t want to overdo it. Otherwise the ending would have felt weird and implausible.
LBB> What's very clever is that you've managed to write a script where the client-friendly shots of the car driving through lovely scenery actually make sense to the story! How did you land on that?
Dorian & Daniel> That is a very good question and was the one we thought about the most. We don't believe in choosing whether to put the focus on the story or the product. Whenever the viewer feels that the product is put in just for the reason of featuring it, the immersion will be gone. But if it is part of the story and supports it you can accept that it is in there. So we always tried to find a reason in the narrative to put the car and the MBUX system in.
In this case the younger grandfather going out to sea was the inspiration for the car shots. We decided to shoot the car like you would shoot a ship. Therefore the camera and the car are always floating and never really close. Further we tried to make the MBUX navigation look a bit like a ship’s navigation and like that tried to constantly link present and past with the product.
LBB> I feel like, in terms of tone and look, Eternal Love is a sequel to Dear Brother. Was that a conscious decision to make it feel similar?
Dorian & Daniel> For us the look and the tone are very much driven by the setting. Like Dear Brother, we shot Eternal Love in Scotland.
Daniel went there with his girlfriend last year and came back with a picture of a church surrounded by gravestones. The idea that happiness and sadness can be so close in one place inspired the twist at the end of the film. We were also thinking about shooting it in Sweden, Norway or Iceland as we felt the mood that these landscapes create fits the tone we imagined for the film... but in the end we decided to stay true to where the idea came from and to shoot it in Scotland. So in the end it felt like a nice coincidence to go back to our roots with this film.
And we like whisky.
LBB> How did you shoot it? What were the most memorable moments from the shoot?
Dorian & Daniel> There was that really nice location we found - the house at the small harbour - where the grandmother and grandfather lived together. It is one of the most beautiful but also windy places we’ve ever been to. The wind was so strong that the cloth the art department hung was sideways the entire time. We definitely wanted a drone shot from that location and kept asking the drone guys - Aerial Frontiers - for the right moment to do it. Honestly, we thought it was not going to be possible at all. But these guys were mad men. They flew this shaking drone with the Alexa on it out over the water. We thought it’d drop any second but somehow they managed to get one really good take.