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The Directors: Ugo Mangin



Birth UK director began his career with artistic projects for bands, mixing great technical skill, a touch of poetry and a hint of decadence

The Directors: Ugo Mangin

Ugo Mangin reflects the world’s coarse reality. He dives into film with the passion of an explorer. He travels the globe and shoots his inspirations. He scrutinizes, stirs up, and transcribes with instinctive camerawork for a surreal and highly defined aesthetic style. He started out with artistic projects for bands, mixing great technical skill, a touch of poetry and a hint of decadence. Whether his pieces are premium or low-tech, Ugo is characterised by an exceptional maturity. At 25, Ugo directed his first advertising film for Cacharel, followed by digital films for Yves Saint Laurent. He follows lost souls with energy and compassion. The powerless, the insane, those stuck between worlds. Ugo’s range of exploration seems infinite and unbridled. Perhaps it is his own complex interior universe, that enables him to apprehend the folly, instability and strangeness of the world, and to make sense of it through the prism of beauty and empathy.

Name: Ugo Mangin

Location: Paris 

Repped by : Birth UK

Awards: 2 awards at Club des D.A 2018: Bronze in Photography and Silver in Art Direction with “Ichon - Je ne suis qu'un homme” music video.  

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

Sometimes it can be its emotional and visual potential, its originality. There aren't really any rules. A crush is irrational!  But in general, what comes up most often in the scripts I like, is the message it conveys and the values it defends. If there's a meaning that really speaks to me behind a script, then I'm willing to put as much energy into it as I would into a personal project.

How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot? 

Above all, I always try to have a sincere approach and as fair as possible according to the campaign's stakes, what it tells, the brand’s DNA. My goal is to make people feel something profoundly human, they need to see something that doesn't cheat, they don't need to feel that we want to "sell them something" or that the brand is trying to be cool because it wants to give itself a genre. There's nothing worse for me.

I also try to propose a process that is as exciting as possible for the team because that's how you get the best out of people. We are lucky to do this job and to be able to reinvent ourselves with each project, which is why we have to make the most of it. If I feel that not everyone is involved and happy to be here, I can't work.

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?

I ask myself the basic questions that should be asked on every project: where is the brand, its values, what does its image need to be more in tune with today's world, the expectations of the market, etc.? I learned to do this as I went along. At the beginning I just wanted to do what I thought was 'cool' or beautiful at the time, but I learned that for it to be successful there were a lot of issues other than making a good image on an ad.

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

An advertising project is an eco-system where everyone has their say and their part to play, so promote a particular person in the process means missing out on something else.  But above all I need to have an honest relationship with my producer and the creative director. If the three of us make the same film in general, it makes miracles.

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

Anything that involves real people and real places. I'm very curious so I like each project to make me discover things and meet people.

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

That the whole film depends on the director and whether it is good or bad is solely his responsibility. I believed this when I started before discovering that in advertising the director is only an interchangeable link in a chain that goes far beyond him.

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

On my first ad during the agency PPM, an old lady covered by gold jewels was sleeping and snoring at the other end of the table.  I asked: “Who is she?”. I was told: “This is the cost controller.”

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

We were going to shoot a music video in Morocco with a small film crew and the customs refused to let our filming equipment in because we didn't have filming authorisation: the production company had "forgotten" to ask for one. I was so eager to shoot these shots, I found them so important for my film that I convinced the cinematographer to take out the camera and equipment hidden in our personal bags. It worked, but the customs realised it once we had left and came across it on the way back. But I had planned the job and delivered them a memory card with fake images while hiding the real images in one of the actors' bag... And after 2 hours of negotiation, we were able to take the plane in with all the material and images. I'm not necessarily proud of it today but I was young…

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

A good ad director is known for his ability to manage this balance. Having good ideas is not enough. It's 10 percent of the equation for me. The rest is politics and how you bring your ideas to the table. That's why often it's not necessarily the most "talented" directors who make the best commercials, but those who know how to deal with the forces at work. 

But I have also learned from experience that "no" can have its place in the process. As long as you serve the idea and as long are your being relevant to the client's intention and needs, everything can be justified.

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?

I think that in terms of creativity, agencies could benefit a lot more from directors from a more diverse pool, full of new ideas. I know so many of them! I think that luxury and fashion are often the first to see the potential of these new talents. I see a lot of young directors around me working directly with houses like Vuitton, Dior, etc. who trust them and leave them very free.. It's risky to start with someone who has never done an ad with very original ideas because it's harder to project yourself. But it's often a good sign. The best ideas are often the riskiest I can give an example of this: I was making a film for a clothing brand and during the first meeting the creative director, to whom I proposed all my ideas, said: "I love it, but it's never going to make it to the brand...". Then after a long silence she added: "But I want to let you present things to the client as you just did to me and maybe, you never know, it could be a miracle...". I went to see the CEO of the brand directly with her. I did a monologue of almost an hour, after which he stopped me and said: "Listen, I don't understand anything... But you seem so convinced that I want to trust you. So go to the end and show me the finished film. ». When I did it he took the film without asking for any editing changes. And the results for them and for me were beyond our expectations.

If people hadn't taken risks by entrusting me with films I didn't have on my tape or letting me go through with my ideas, I wouldn't be here answering these questions. I also think of those who taught me things. I started by doing all the BTS of Jean Baptiste Mondino, one of the greatest ads and music video directors of the 90s and 2000s. I learned a lot watching him do it and listening to him on the phone for hours giving me feedback on my work. I still don't know how but I'd like to give that back one day!

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? 

The pandemic has positively influenced my work. At the beginning when everything stopped during the first lockdown, I became aware of the fragility of my profession, I started to question many things in my way of approaching my work and my life more generally. It became clear to me that the key to my "new life" after lockdown lay in the affinities I would have with my surroundings. When work resumed, I became much more attentive to the quality of my relationships with the people I was working with. Being diplomatic, honest, open-minded, respectful whatever happens became priorities. As a result, I broke my record for the number of shoots in 2020. Being nice pays off.

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)? 

I think about it a lot. I don't watch a film on my computer in the same way as on my phone, on YouTube as on Insta, as a story as a post, etc. Beyond the 9:16, 16:9 ratio, it’s definitely not the same mindset for the viewers. So even if it's an endless headache to make films that work on all formats, we have to consider this at all costs when designing them today.

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

I keep an eye on everything that is done and test it when I can out of curiosity. But for today I am still a fan of filming with film in a good old natural setting. I feel old saying this, but I assume.

I see that today, video games have largely surpassed cinema in terms of captivating, that you can make films for less money and more spectacular in front of a blue background or a virtual set. But I would always be more sensitive to what real people, real places or an image that vibrates with a chemical grain bring as an emotional charge. To compose, I need reality and to rely on it above all. If everything just comes out of my head, it's boring and quickly sterile. For me, digital tends to kill the most exciting part of the image-making profession, which is the random and accidental part.

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

Ichon - Je ne suis qu’un homme 





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Birth UK, Thu, 25 Feb 2021 16:20:11 GMT