Mau Morgó is a visual artist, creative, problem solver and director focused on creating unique experiences and experimental films, for brands, festivals and museums, Mau Morgó pursues work at the intersection of art and technology. Starting as a graphic designer, he has since undertaken a wide range of projects including film and animation, 3D printing, VR, concerts with smartphones as instruments, publishing, and installations. He has exhibited at: Au Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the New Museum (NYC), and at festivals Primavera Sound, and Sonar Festival.
He has worked for brands such as Lexus, Samsung, Converse, Ford, Bombay Sapphire, Acer, and Seat as well as musicians A$AP Rocky, FKA Twigs, Spoon, Little Dragon, and Cut Copy. After winning two Golden Laus and the Grand Laus Award, he was invited to design their entire 45th identity and ceremony. During his first keynote speech, Mau staged his own death at Offf Festival 2015 as a commentary on the ephemeral nature of ideas. He lived to tell the tale.
Find out about him and his approach to filmmaking below.
- Repped by/in: US/UK: Object & Animal / Spain: Blur / France: Diplomats
- Awards: AdAge Director to Watch 2020; Young Guns ’19
Q> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
Mau> INTENTION, and if it comes with a view on the future, some space for experimentation, and powerful concepts, you got me… AH! and machines, I love machines, from vehicles to complex tech, you name it. I hate when things are vague and extremely safe. I need to learn, take risks, research, design and create a whole new aesthetic that generates new ideas when people see them. I’m not the type of director that is going to execute an off-the-shelf idea. I always try to leave an impression or feeling in people’s mind, if I can achieve that then I’ve succeeded.
Q> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
Mau> Once I read the script, ideas start flowing immediately, I need to create a headline in my head. Once that is established, I research a lot - from movies, books, YouTube, to cartoons. Then the aesthetic starts to build up in my head, and I jump to 3D software and design everything there, camera movements, angles, materials, setup, I create the vibe there. I need to create my own universe, I can’t work only from references, I feel like I’m cheating, I feel like there is no challenge - why would I do something where I’m just referencing other people’s work?
Q> 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?
Mau> Ask questions. Even the most stupid ones, this is a skill I’m still learning. People feel the need to create confidence by faking that they know everything, but through past experiences, it’s better to ask and let the client/agency explain what they know. Try to get into the mindset of the agency/client to understand what they are trying to accomplish. I’m a big believer in clear communication - the best experiences of my career have come from this, everyone wins.
Q> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
Mau> The relation with my EPs is fundamental, feeling that everyone is part of this perfectly oiled engine, all working towards the same direction, and four steps ahead of everything. I sometimes get tangled in smaller problems, and need someone to pull me out and make me remember the bigger picture, to remind me of the headline I established at the beginning of the project. I need a transparent and mutual trust from everyone I work with.
Q> What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
Mau> I need to create, to build, to transform spaces. I want to immerse people in my world and I love expression through environments and objects, to capture the relationship with people. To create an ‘event’. Something unique that makes people feel through the screen, something that can create a sense of wonder and lives with them beyond the physical moment that they experience my work. The challenge sometimes is to translate the pure feeling we’ve felt with the crew in the studio or location to the viewer that is sitting in front of the screen. That’s the type of challenge that I like.
Q> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Mau> No one really knows where I’m based, but I guess that’s something I’ve done on purpose without really knowing. I’ve been traveling a lot these past years, and I’m not planning on stopping. So much knowledge and inspiration comes from those trips. And now that we can’t move so much, I’ve decided to travel within, and learn as much as I can about myself and my loved ones.
Q> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?
Mau> I can only think of the latest: in my film for Maserati, ‘Tornado Ex Machina’, the tornado was not reacting the way it should, not the exact way as in the workshop tests we’d done. All the elements were the same; chemicals, fog density, fan orientation and positions, power, etc. And after a lot of trial and error, we figured out it was the room temperature, AC being on in the studio. Once we turned it off everything went perfect.
Q> How do you strike the balance between being open/collaborative with the agency and brand client while also protecting the idea?
Mau> The key is trust. And communication. And also knowing to recognize when one's ego (on either side) starts to get in the way of making the best decision for that particular piece. Nearly all issues can be sorted by having a conversation about it, so it’s about finding time to make sure those conversations happen. It’s time these days that is in short supply!
Q> 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?
Mau> I believe that if you want something new and fresh you have to look outside of where everyone is looking. Something I've learned through my experience is choosing wisely the people you want in your team - it’s like going to war, you never know what you will find in your way and you always want your back covered. So my strategy is choosing people that think of the project in a more holistic way, and combining them with specialists in one field.
If you choose thoughtfully the rewards are big, and the risk is low. The solution to a problem can come from anywhere, and sometimes the problems are so complex and bizarre that you need to look for solutions in places you’ve never done before. I’ve already asked for help from a physicist a couple of times.
When I'm on set I'm so focused that I can’t really be thinking about anything other than ways of improving the film, BUT, I really think that shadowing is the solution - they could learn so much, just by hanging around and being curious.
Q> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?
Mau> I’ve been lucky enough to have the time to focus and reflect on myself and research and learn about so many different topics, that I feel a very different person to who I was at the start of the year. It’s been like driving in the fast lane of knowledge. Before I was running on autopilot everywhere!
Q> Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working (and, equally, to what degree is it possible to do so)?
Mau> I’m a big believer of finding or creating the correct solution to each format, and that may mean spending extra time or resources to use the format with intention. Each format has its needs. Think of framing a painting - that frame can ruin it or turn it into a masterpiece. My strategy is to create for one format and then think of solutions for the other ones, this may require a new edit, or even shooting something specific, one of the things I hate most is when I see a film cropped or reframed just to fit in a instagram post.
Q> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?
Mau> I’m obsessed with it. I've recently been researching a lot of machine learning, and trying to make machines create visuals. For example, for the ‘Rainbow Machine’ I did for EarthDay - I was confined at home and longing for nature so I decided to find a way to try and make a computer replicate nature. Can a computer create what we all understand as a rainbow? That didn’t really fulfill my needs of being in nature, and never will do, but it really helped seeing a machine trying to create what nature does so effortlessly.
The way I see using tech is to use it with a meaning or purpose - don’t use it just for the sake of it because people won’t connect to it. It's very important to know why you are committing to that tool or medium.
Q> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
Mau> ‘Tornado Ex Machina’ for Maserati and Lexus - Lit IS. These two projects combine everything that I love; machines, tech, science, nature and experimentation.
‘The Constant Gardener’ also demonstrates my view about the relationship we have with machines. I really think we need to start creating machines based on respect and not profit, machines that work towards improving our life on earth.
Rosalia - ‘De Aquí Sales’. This was the first time Diana Kunst and I co-directed, and where we merged our two worlds. This music video also was the first project where everyone respected each other on a deep, deep level. The connection between the artist, us and the whole team was so big that results speak for themselves.