Born in Paris and bred in Madrid, Virgil Ferragut left the Land of the Blazing Sun to forge his way through the foggy world of ﬁlmmaking in London, honing his skills in design and ﬁlm at Central Saint Martins in London. Shortly after, Virgil made waves in the UK market where he has worked on many ground-breaking high-profile campaigns for clients such as Unilever, Ikea, Coca-Cola, Orange, McDonald’s and Sony among many others.
Virgil has received a D&AD Yellow Pencil Nomination, two Golden CdeC Awards, shortlist at the Canner Awards 2018 and nominations for the Bokeh South African Film festival & the Berlin Fashion Film festival. He splits his time between London and Madrid.
Publicis Spain's new spot directed by Virgil for Audible by Amazon celebrates audio stories. The Spanish director here discusses the shoot and how it came together during the pandemic.
Q > What was the most challenging part of the project? What did you want this campaign to achieve?
Virgil Ferragut > It was, like many jobs, an incredibly ambitious undertaking with a limited budget and time so there were lots of things to battle against. We had four completely separated films to shoot in two days and a half. That combined a short pre-production timeframe, ambitious sets / art direction and last minute creative changes from the agency, obviously was the hardest challenge to tackle. But as I learnt the hard way through my directing journey, 'Out of limitations comes creativity'. And looking back, that helped us taking fast and important decisions sharply and organically.
There was no beating around the bushes. Creating these ambitious 'worlds' within our limitations was one of the challenges. I knew from the get go that we would have to rely a lot on the locations. We took a couple of scouting trips, which I can get quite particular about. I like to scout a lot - as in 'all over' – and see everything. I then worked around them, 'recycling' them and designed a meticulous shoot plan and finally storyboarded the films.
Q > When you saw the script from the agency, did you immediately know how you wanted to approach the project?
Virgil > The potential concept was the thing that excited me most about the project – sure we were able to explore and create some amazing cool scenarios and work with first class actors, but we had the opportunity to say something quite meaningful and poetic if we dug a bit more. The project consisted originally of four separated films. Each featuring a different audiobook. Once we won the pitch, at the end of our first long meeting with the agency, I hinted, “Look I’d love us to try and combine the four films together”, and they said they would think about it once the original films are presented.
So that was in July, and then some time and months passed. My editor Nerea and I edited a long cut version with a dummy voice over already, because I wanted to make it happen. Weeks passed and we just kept on checking in with them to see how the feedback was going, and they said actually the client couldn’t approve it because the missing V.O of the original films were part of the product. So I told them I’d still love to try and make this happen, and, with their permission and trust, I wrote a new and tailored script, recorded it with a voice actor and they were like “we love it.” This is so important and the message is clear - don’t ease off at the end of a project and when that last hurdle is in site, sprint and jump like your life depends on it.
That final bit of polish is often the most significant element of the job. It’s really the icing and cherry on the cake, and can elevate the whole project. The closer we get to finishing something, the more we want to be done with it so while this isn’t easy, it’s something that’s incredibly important to the final experience of our client or audience. “When reality isn’t enough, one story can send you wherever your imagination wants to be”.
Q > You worked with renowned actors such as José Coronado, Leonor Watling, Alaska y Mario Vaquerizo, Michelle Jenner…
Virgil > Actually all of them gave me a lot of freedom. I always like to approach projects I do with other artists as a collaboration and they had really insightful observations and thoughts as we were making the films. I think I’m lucky with all the people we’re talking about here as they’re all amazing and important artists and understand the creative process on the highest levels. They know that by empowering people, you are going to get more out of them. That is the main difference I see when you have the chance to work with actors of this level.
Q > How was the shoot? It's an ambitious film to shoot in only three days…
Virgil > Nerve-wracking! As always. But particularly so here. It was a very long (three day) shoot. Preceded by a tech recce that ran over in a single day. So we were battling against time, pressure, corona measures and exhaustion, but it wasn’t too bad because we knew what we were getting into. I do remember on our first day of shooting the big battle sequence, we walked onto set pretty resigned to the fact that we weren’t going to get everything …but we did. In fact, we shot much more…
It was an organic process and the original stories are slightly different from the result. I enjoyed not having to strictly obey some given script. I love when I can react to the circumstances emerging during the production and even breaking my own rules and storyboards. Storyboards are particularly crucial in my work. I have actually ALWAYS storyboarded my films. But lately, I’m trying to do something a little bit different. I want to be more reactive and improvisational. But I don’t go unprepared. Not at all. I would freak out. There is an intense amount of preparation that goes into creating environments where unprepared things can happen. So I still draw a very punctilious storyboard, but I don’t follow it on set.
In this case my AD, Andres, and I used it to design the shot-list. Then, once shot, I worked closely with my DP Pablo Clemente and the actors to go freestyle mode and shoot much more material. It was pretty stressful at the time but all worked out in the end. So I have to give a huge thank you to Lee Films
for their trust and support and for allowing me to do something so experimental out of a real commercial project like this one.
Q > What's up next for you?
Virgil > These days, I focus mainly on commercials. I love to direct commercials and work along with creatives on a project. That’s my main focus. In between, I sometimes start my own projects. Writing a short, pitching for three treatments this week and building a little home for me and my wife since the Corona monster hit us all.