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The Directors: Jason Yan Francis

The Directors 70 Add to collection

Frenzy director chats art direction, open discussion and crafting great relationships

The Directors: Jason Yan Francis

Jason Yan Francis imagines films that are structured around strong concepts. Whether it is a video shot exclusively in POV for the French Navy, a TVC filmed as a fake sequence shot for HP or a skateboarding video entirely edited backward... Jason uses his solid technical skills to create visual tricks that capture the viewer’s attention: unique camera movements, original editing effects, hand-animated animations, collages, etc... He thus develops his own graphic style, allowing him to create spontaneous and meaningful visual narratives.

Location: Paris France

Repped by/in: Frenzy France / Sauvage.tv Spain


LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Jason> I will say good art direction is always a good start. When you look at a brief that stands out visually, you already know that you will work with great interlocutor that understands craft. But my work is definitely not just defined by visuals. I look for strong concepts, no matter the brand or the product. I have learned through my years working in an agency that a strong idea can blow if the brief is bad. I search for elements that resonate with my personal work. As the years go on, I’m more and more fearless when it comes to proposing edgy concepts that make sense to me, and I prefer to take the risk of losing a competition than working on a project that isn’t relevant.


LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Jason> I have no rules - most of the time I can start writing straight after I meet with the creatives, because the brief was thought out to match my film making. But sometimes I need to challenge the creation to bring it to the next level. I have few ideas that pop up right away, after the first reading, but I need to sleep on it. Magically, everything becomes more clear the day after. I love taking inspiration from my everyday life and recent experiences. I remember the Darius 'Feels Right' music video was based on a discussion I had with friends at a party a few days before about Adidas Jain’s paper transitions being inspired by the book 'The Age of Collages' that I got for Christmas right before the shoot.


LBB> If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Jason> Again I have an agency background, so I’m really used to thinking about strategy and concepts, I work with brands and personalities for years, helping them in their communication. Understanding the market and the target helps me when it comes to writing and contextualising my films. It allows me to open a discussion with the agency and client, and it gives me the keys to upgrade the creation.


LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Jason> A great relationship with a producer is the fundamental for a film maker. As an independent director I need my producer to challenge my point of view and experiment with my ideas. Every partner is important for one reason or another during the making of a film. Creatives and TV producers are my point of contact with the agency, so I like when there is a mutual trust and they let me push my ideas as far as possible. I always keep the brand and the objectives in mind but I also like to take a bit of distance to think about it as a storyteller.


LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Jason> As a film maker I’m of course really inspired by cinema, from the French nouvelle vague to anime manga, I like to mix all kind of references to create my own fictional world. I don’t feel like I fit into any particular genre, and I don’t think I should. I think today brands of all kinds are looking for great storytelling and craft. Of course, I really like to work with fashion designers and I connect naturally with sports brands, but I really don’t want to stick to any one genre. Recently, I directed a film for a very haute gamme fashion brand, a car commercial, several comedic ads, and a beauty film, and I’d really like to keep going on this way. To me there is no real category, just concepts and ideas that match my style of film making.  


LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Jason> I guess when people talk about my work, they think about dynamic camera movements, paper collage effects, and quick shots.

But it’s really just about that. My main concerns are to direct actors and create consistency, that’s why I enjoy shooting comedy more and more, and working on long formats, like the documentary I just signed for French television…


LBB> Have you ever worked with a cost consultant and if so how have your experiences been?

Jason> Not really. I really try to put the financial aspect out of mind. I ask for the budget on every campaign to get an idea about the possibilities but I’ve never picked a project based on money.


LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and did you solve it?

Jason> I recently met with a very unsafe situation with the preparation of one of my films. I asked that we stop everything immediately and pause the project. To me, safety should be the number one priority of every production, for both the client and the agency. We make ads and that shouldn’t put human lives at risk.


LBB> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?

Jason> I don’t see the relationship between the production company, agency and client as a fight – we’re all there for the same reasons and we all want to make a great campaign. My role is to maintain an understanding, especially in my case, as my film making is very technical. I’m always surprised to see how creative some clients can be. In a way, they are the ones taking all the risks. The discussion with creatives much easier of course, we talk the same language and it’s very easy for me to push them to follow me. I often propose shooting different versions, I like to bring back a lot of material for editing, to make sure we can make a film we all like in postproduction.


LBB> What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?

Jason> Of course! I myself coming from a totally different social environment, my father was a farmer. I was very lucky all throughout my career, but I know how tough it can be to get your start in this industry. I saw initiatives like Divé+ from my friend and director of production, Kaname Onoyama and I think it’s great. For me, the point isn’t to give classes on set but to open a door, to take time to talk before and after a shoot and create opportunity.


LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work?

Jason> Technology is a part of the job, we need to know about the latest camera gadgets and software to propose the most efficient solution to our clients. My film making is all about camera movements and editing tricks, but my style is also very influenced by old movies and DIY effects. I love incorporating some of the most recent cinematography techniques into my work. I use technology as a brush to paint the idea I have in mind. I shoot some of my projects in film, and I always feel free to incorporate tools like motion control, CGI or 360 camera, if it makes sense in term of the concept or story telling.


LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why? 

Jason> I'll share four different projects, each very different from the other:

Amorelie

My last campaign for Amorelie, a sextoy website focused on diversity and sexual acceptance. I really enjoyed this one - we overshot quite a lot to make sure we had great, and realistic, moments. I love to work with actors to create a mood on set. Most of the people think my work is just about following a precise shortlist, pre-planned effects, and transitions. But I really enjoy going freestyle and working with actors to catch emotion or, in this case, sensuality.

Adidas

This film was a game changer for me, it was the first one where I was able to bring all my different skills into one project: dynamic camera, comedy, DIY effects, and crafted transitions. I’ve seen a lot of videos inspired by this one, using the same kind of handmade paper transitions and inserts. For me it’s a huge proof of recognition.

Dior

My film for the Kim Jones x Kenny Scharf menswear Dior collection shows how my style can apply to any kind of genre. I try to bring a touch of craziness and fun, to classical luxury fashion films.  I think the whole fashion industry is changing and big brands are looking more and more for true storytelling and creativity.

Darius

Feels Right was a real opportunity to create a much more personal film. I enjoyed working with Pierre Gommé, a truly talented young actor who’s already been in several French movies. And I also enjoyed cutting and pasting vintage magazines for days, and animating it on a green screen to create those psychedelic tunnels of animation.

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Frenzy, Wed, 12 Jan 2022 12:29:56 GMT