EMILE RAFAEL TALKS JAMIE N COMMONS - QUESTIONS LUKE TIERNEY
Emile Rafael is back from the big bad world of commercials to continue his collaborations with Jamie N Commons. Instead of the real streets of LA this time we're set in the real life of young strong boxer Mikael from Stonebridge. The film mixes both film and digital to tell the story of a boxer overcoming all outside influences takes to the ring once more. Boxing's his life and it's easy to believe him, with Emile directing. We caught up with Emile to find out a bit more about Mikael the boxer, how often he grabs the camera to operate and the differences between working on adverts and music videos.
Word Is Cheap: Where did the idea come from? Emile Rafael: The idea very much came from speaking to Jamie who wanted to explore the forever cinematic world of boxing. I kept thinking of a grand narrative, whereas JC kept reminding me to keep it pure and simple; to concentrate on the sport, the power and the brutality of the underlying action which also has a distinct beauty. So we decided it would be a strong, visual piece, trying to tell the story through the physicality of the action, thereby showing the perseverance that it takes to train day-in-and-day-out. We wanted to explore what it’s like to build up both mentally and physically to taking on the same opponent in a new fight having lost to them on the previous one. To concentrate on what happens before the match rather than what happens in the ring.
I would jump on these moments and gesture to the AC to put the camera on my shoulder and quickly measure the stop. I was able then to capture many of those moments that might otherwise have been missed.
WIC: How did you find the boxer? ER: We began by looking for someone that inherently had a unique story, but who was also able physically to carry off the whole piece. We found Mikael in Stonebridge Boxing Club having come initially to interview another boxer. Mikael was the nicest guy but with a pretty troubled past, lots of encounters with drugs, robberies etcetera. The trainer told us that the first time he entered the boxing club it was with a police tag fitted to his ankle. But Mikael is the warmest of guy, it’s almost impossible to imagine him committing any of these crimes. He himself says that it was not him, but rather the impossible circumstance he found himself in. No matter how many times you may have heard stories about someone turning their life around like that, it still resonates with you when you meet such a person.
WIC: Why the use of different formats? ER: I recently shot an ad that had to convey different time periods and one of the ways of doing that was to shoot it on film. However, another big part of it was in trying to find candid, authentic moments with people, so even after we shot the period version we kept a film camera on set. What happened then is whenever we would re-set, or be changing the lenses, or even during a take, I would jump on these moments and gesture to the AC to put the camera on my shoulder and quickly measure the stop. I was able then to capture many of those moments that might otherwise have been missed. So we applied the same approach here. I absolutely love it, it makes me feel much more hands on and I feel we get the most out of our time. Another obvious reason is the beautiful texture of film mixed in with digital just adds that extra visual layer to the image. Film is especially beautiful in black and white, so we got the best of both worlds here in thinking always it being a strong visual piece in the end.
Just the two times [operating a camera on set], but I want to do more. Thankfully the great Rina Yang let me do it and didn’t find my framing too bad.
WIC: Do you often co-operate the cameras? ER: Just the two times, but I want to do more. Thankfully the great Rina Yang let me do it and didn’t find my framing too bad.
WIC: Having worked a lot in commercials recently, how does it differ to music videos process for you? ER: I think commercials are a much more collaborative process where your job is to take the Creatives idea and try to push it as far you can from your standpoint. But it’s very much about working with a group of people for me and figuring out the best way to do that. To approach it in any other way, I think, can lead to a lot of tension and upset amongst everyone. You ultimately need to understand the Agency’s position, Client’s position and your own creative sensibility and how that will make a good commercial. That’s something that’s pretty hard to crack at first and it was definitely something I had to learn through experience. Music videos are still largely your own idea that you try to mould to your imagination with your crew’s help. Having said that, this particular one was very much a collaboration with Jamie in terms of the idea, as I said earlier, so there were definitely elements of that same sense of trying to understand where he comes from and what he wants to do to visually support his music, and me trying to do the best I can taking his starting point. So yeah.