New Talent: Michelle Cassis

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Recent Canica Films signing on her Cannes Lion-winning Cornetto campaign and growing up in The Big Apple
New Talent: Michelle Cassis
Michelle Cassis is a rising talent in the world of film. The Chilean director already has a Cannes Lion under her belt, as well as recognition from El Ojo de Iberoamérica in Buenos Aires and El Sol in Spain. Following her recent signing to Canica Films in Peru, LBB’s Liam Smith caught up with the burgeoning director to find out what she’s been up to and learn more about her Cannes Lion-winning Cornetto work.

LBB> You recently signed to Canica Films in Lima. What drew you to the company? 

MC> I was at El Ojo de Iberoamérica with Cornetto’s campaign last year, and I got the chance to meet a few very interesting creatives, some of them from Peruvian agencies. Later, when I visited Lima, I met with them and they recommended that I contacted María Teresa Benvenuto, Canica’s executive producer. We met and we were in sync right away. They’re great!

I’m currently in Santiago, as part of Triciclo Films, and I’m also working a lot in New York too. So I’m used to travelling. And now that I’m also part of Canica Films, I’m looking forward to working in Peru and maybe some other LATAM markets.  

LBB> What's the most exciting thing about the Peruvian advertising film industry at the moment? 

MC> I believe that right now Peru is one of the most creative markets in the world, with very fresh and innovative ideas that look genuine and are pretty insightful. That is very attractive for a young director. 
The “Maletas del Peru” idea by Tribal 121 or “Lo que mamá no quiere” by Fahrenheit DDB are two good examples of this. And personally, I love all the work by Circus Grey. 

LBB> You directed the films for the Cannes Lion-winning Cornetto “Commitment Rings” campaign. What was that like?
MC> It was super fun to do actually. When I first read the script, I could relate with almost every situation there. The insight behind the campaign was super powerful and that made the whole process easier. What happened after the launch was a huge surprise. The campaign was featured on big networks like NBC, CBS News, USA Today, Fast Company, among others. And then the cherry on top was the Cannes Lion, and we couldn’t be happier.

LBB> Looking at your reel, you seem to have a real knack for fashion and beauty. What other themes or genres do you like to explore? 

MC> Thank you. Fashion is something that interests me, yes, but what really moves me is the story, the message. To make an audience feel something. Whether it is fashion, comedy or drama, we are here to tell stories and to captivate the viewers. The rest? It just adds more to the story. 

LBB> Your Queens of Flesh & Blood film picked up a host of awards at various festivals. Can you tell us what inspired you to create the film?

MC> If a city could be a soul mate, New York would be mine. I just love it. I know it because I lived there for three years. It is certainly one of the most intense cities in the world. For Queens of Flesh & Blood I got inspired by it and its women. And so, I wanted to dedicate it to the real persevering women who inhabit this concrete jungle. 
They don’t live in a palace, they don’t have a carriage and they certainly don’t need a prince to make them feel special. They are the real queens. No one and nothing will stop them from getting to where they want to go. All of this is shown through New York City billboards and signs. 

LBB> When did you realise you wanted to be a director? 

MC> I was literally in line, about to pay for my college tuition, and I still couldn’t decide between filmmaking or advertising. Then out of nowhere, the ghost of Marlon Brando showed up and told me that filmmaking was an offer I couldn’t refuse. Ha ha! But seriously, it was a process that started in my latest years in high school, when you start to think about your future, that I realised how much I liked filming and editing videos. And then it has been a whole kind of falling in love process. There have been moments where I wanted to leave everything, move to New Zealand and spend my life picking kiwis, but then I realised that I don’t see myself doing anything else that I love more than doing film. I find it incredible how a tiny idea that was once written on a napkin, can become a film. The whole thing is magical to me. Wouldn’t trade that for anything. At least not today.

LBB> How would you define your directorial style? 

MC> I’m young. And though I really do want to explore different types of cinema, I feel like instincts always bring you back to your own style, which is what every director wants, to be unique. Some people tell me that throughout my work they can see a pattern, I personally don’t intend it to be that way. It just happens. And at the same time, I’m constantly watching films and TV series to get inspiration from other directors and to see new things that I can incorporate into my work.

LBB> Which pieces of work are you most proud of and why?

MC> Every project has its rewards. I feel like each of the films I have made have given me so much in return: the experiences, the mistakes, the people I met, the happy moments, the panicked moments, the audience’s recognition, the harsh critics, and so on. They took a lot of work, a lot of sweat and tears and most importantly, a lot of love to make. They are the stories I cherish the most. And when you see them in perspective, you can actually see how much you’ve grown. Astro Son, for example, my first film, is dedicated to my sister Paulina, who passed away when I was nine. Queens of Flesh & Blood is dedicated to my city, New York, and One Way, my latest, is dedicated to the misfit, the weirdo, the feeling of being different, and judged, which I also relate to. They are just all a huge part of me. 

LBB> What do you like to get up to when you’re not making films?

MC> If I’m not making them, I’m watching them. It is the best part of my day, and makes up most of my day too. One time I was binge watching a series for like… hours! And my mum came to me and said “Michelle, don’t you have some work to do? Or something else rather than watching TV?” Then I hear my dad’s voice from behind answering: “She is actually working. This is part of her job”. But asides from film I also love music, listening to it and playing the piano from time to time. Travelling is also one of the top three things in my mind, always thinking of where to go next. And last but not least, playing with my dog Remo.
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Canica Films, 2 years ago