In the world of commercials, where attention is the key currency, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that the work therefore needs to be shouty, flashy, loud. But loud can be annoying. Loud can be rude. Loud can by brash. Loud can be hollow.
Much more powerful, is quiet. Czech director Jara Moravec says that ‘the quiet’ is his biggest source of inspiration. “There are a lot of tiny interesting details that can be easily overlooked if you don’t pay attention. That playful interference of two wired fences when they slide across each other. How funny plastic things look when you melt them. The way big chunks of snow fall off the roof and look like CGI renderings. They all sit silent, waiting to be discovered from the right angle,” he explains.
“And no, I wouldn’t say I am a quiet person, I am just curious.”
Growing up in the suburbs of Prague that curiosity took Jara out into the streets, where he would roam for hours on his BMX. He became attuned to the ‘desolate but charming’ atmosphere of the overgrown and unkempt wildlife that tendrilled around austere tower blocks, lingering reminders of the city’s Communist history. “This outsider perspective stayed with me,” says Jara. “I like to come up with strange characters in my films, reminding me of all the weirdos I encountered there.”
And those hours spent sneaking around on his BMX also shaped Jara’s directorial eye in another, more practical way. The experience of whizzing along back alleys on his bike evolved into a penchant for interesting camera moves in Jara’s work.
Jara first became interested in filmmaking when he was 15. He and his friends saved up money for a camera one Christmas with a ‘hilarious’ but ‘boring’ job packing newspapers. To keep each other amused, they’d take little bits and pieces from home and slip them into the packages as ‘gifts’.
These days Jara is represented by Stink Films and he combines commercials and film with stills work. One recent spot that caught our eye is a campaign for Erste Bank. The ad follows three local ambassadors (rapper and producer Paulie Garand, illustrator and animator Eliska Podzimkova and mountaineer Radek Jarŏs) and examines the fears and uncertainties they have to battle in order to succeed.
“The script dealt a lot with negative feelings, which does not happen very often in commercials. This alone opens up a lot of possibilities when it comes to portraying those three ambassadors in a more realistic way,” explains Jara. “The big challenge was to shoot a visually interesting piece but keep some authenticity as we worked with well-known people.”
And so Jara decided that a lightness of touch was the way forward. In order to convey Eliska’s big move to New York, for example, he played the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s on her laptop. Paulie’s fears about being unable to translate his thoughts into his lyrics was represented by depicting him skating through an empty library.
Working on a project that explores creative people tussling with their anxieties, how does Jara deal with uncertainties and what keeps him going? “Making sure that most projects I work on are genuinely interesting in one way or another is the key thing,” he says. “But even then I go through a lot of doubts and anxieties too. I don’t want to complain too much, though, I really enjoy what I am doing.”
Dig into Jara’s back catalogue and that desire to keep things interesting is apparent in the variety of his work. While he reckons that a lot of his work is ‘quite dark and eerie’, Jara strives to keep things fresh and he enjoys experimenting with different aesthetics and techniques. When it comes to his visual language, let’s just say his vocabulary is pretty diverse.
“These decisions are usually made very early on when we start discussing the visual language,” he says, discussing his process for creating an aesthetic approach for a new project. “I like to be quite dogmatic when it comes to this and come up with a specific set of tools that we can use. Most shots in Shot Put are taken with only one wide lens. Zagami Jericho’s music video was deliberately shot on super high ISO enabling us to capture all that light tube flickering. Limiting yourself intentionally can lead to amazing discoveries.”
His stills work allows for even more experimentation – head over to Jara’s site to check out his portfolio – and his most recent stills project takes that to the extreme. “I have been shooting stills very little lately, but I did some cool x-ray scans last week,” he reveals. It’s not for the fainthearted either. “The maximum output resolution is 800x900 pixels, it’s quite expensive and I probably got cancer from sticking my hand into the machine all the time… but it was good fun.”
It seems Jara is onto something with his obsession with ‘the quiet’ – his work doesn’t need to be loud to speak volumes.