So first of all, Luis Cerveró is not from Canada. Well not the country at least. He is however one of three directors (Lope Serrano and Nicolás Méndez being the other two) in a film collective from Barcelona called CANADA who make films, music videos and commercials all signed under the one common name. To explain their whole world would be to get into an array of details; but basically they produce work for local clients, have signed with the production company Partizan for world-wide representation, they produce for other directors and companies under the name NEVADA and have recently opened up a publishing arm called Canada Editorial. It’s a lot to take in so let’s all take a breath.
You’d know their clip for El Guincho ‘Bombay’ and have probably seen the seductive ice-cream slurpery of Battles ‘Ice Cream’. They are masters of translating their ideas into unique and appealing shots on screen, always with an eye for clean aesthetics, and usually of things you’ve never seen before. At least we hadn’t seen girls lick branches or make out with statues before Bombay; but are sure glad we did!
They recently released their epic retro-futuristic clip to Justice ‘New Lands’ (of which S2A Studio did the single cover artwork), so naturally we wanted to hear more about the shooting and share some of the behind-the-scenes stories with you, our readers!
They are staunchly in favour of analog equipment and the use of film. They hate the term ‘vintage’ as they see film as just being the real thing, not a novelty. No filters here.
“It’s exactly what’s happening if you use a Leica 35mm camera to take pictures of your wife and people go like wow, how cool and vintage is that. Well fuck you, this isn’t vintage, it’s just the real thing.”
Interview by Karl Henkell for Surface to Air.
S2A: Just to get it out of the way early, why the name CANADA?
LUIS CERVERÓ: Well, when we had to pick a name for us as a collective we just dropped in plenty of names. We were sitting in a cafe with a huge hangover. The night before we had been all three together in this amazing clandestine rock club called Our Favorite Club, and there we had met a canadian girl called Rivkah. I was talking to her all night about the amazingness of Canada, the country, even if I had never been there before. It was all just about the idea one has from the distance of a very huge country, with very few people, and with all this snow and mountains and trees and bears and caribous. Then the next morning, when we were talking names, that word came up again, Canada, and we started thinking about qualities to it. The cross between french and english cultures, the mix of extreme nature and industrial cities, the fact it is always on the margins without being marginal, and also, the word itself made out of three As and different consonants kind of made sense to us being three, and having a lot in common (which would make the A) and a bit distinctive (which would be the C/N/D). Well that’s more or less the story but in fact the reason is totally random, which is at the same time at the core of CANADA, the randomness of things in life.
Luis behind the camera on set of ‘New Lands’
S2A: Tell me a bit about the filming of your epic clip to Justice ‘New Lands’.
LUIS: Well i wouldn’t know where to start. It was epic indeed. We were prepping for two months, gathering all these sportsmen and stunts and clothes and props while we were thinking up the story and the storyboards. Then the shoot itself was quite hectic, having not such a big budget we had to shoot with a small crew, two units, and a ton of actors and extras for four nights in a row. Shooting outdoors at night is a big fuck because when the sun rises there’s nothing you can do about it, you just stop and leave. So you are shooting against the clock and we had over 300 storyboarded shots and the list kept getting smaller because we couldn’t complete more than around 60 shots for each night of the shoot (which is a lot for 10 hours of night time). So it was going to be even bigger. There was this female character among the crowd that was going to unveil as a sniper at some point and try to kill the president of the black team. We had helmets of the police special forces that guard the authorities booth ready to explode with blood and the video was going to finish with a double parallel thrill of the main hero about to score the final touchdown and the girl about to kill the president. But we ran out of time and stuck to the main sports action and forgot about the gun shoots. The girl didn’t even come to set, as we kept moving and moving her shots. But anyway, it was plenty of fun to shoot and it was our first music video with anamorphic lenses, which is a reason in itself to enjoy any shoot in your life.
The stadium set to Justice ‘New Lands’
S2A: With such a tight schedule of shots to do in one night, there must have been a lot of pressure to keep moving onto the next one. Is the only way forward to run with it and accept that you can’t control everything?
LUIS: Time is such an abstract and enigmatic thing, really. I remember perfectly the first night seemed like a big monster hanging on our shoulders. Everything was hard and slow, and everytime I looked at the clock an hour and a half had passed. We lost a lot of shots that day; it was a mess and very appaling. Then the second night was the other way around. We kept making larger and more complex shots and time was totally on our side. It was the same amount of hours, but two totally opposite realities. But then night three was hell again and night four we had all night to shoot the final touchdown under the rain, and we had storyboarded like 80 shots for that, which we finally had to reduce to half of it. It is very tough to work that way, but it also keeps the shooting process very open and alive. You just have to keep jumping onto solutions, making up new shots that will solve what you intended to do in four different takes, stuff like that. It is a mix of very negative pressure and very positive creative flow. Also the fact that it’s not just you but a huge amount of people involved make it totally organic and you have to leave room for accidents to happen. Hopefully happy accidents.
On field at the ‘New Lands’ shoot
S2A: Where did the idea for the clip begin?
LUIS: The idea came straight from Xavier and Gaspard. You have worked with them, so you probably know that most of what they do, the idea comes straight from them. They are such control freaks. So they said hey we’d like to do this music video featuring an ultraviolent sport that takes place in the future, would you be up for it? So we wrote the treatment and then they said we love it, talk to Ed Banger about money! Hahahaha It was a big setup but they got what they wanted, I hope.
Flying high on set of ‘New Lands’
S2A: Was it one of the more elaborate projects you’ve done?
LUIS: Absolutely. Up to then we were really avoiding anything to do with heavy post-production. Our films are very simple technically and that was a major turn around. But since then, we’ve been approached for larger and more complex projects involving post, which we found ourselves dumped in as we speak.
S2A: Is heavy post-production the way of the future?
LUIS: I personally have no clue what the way of the future is. I just hope one can always have in hand whichever tools he or she thinks are the best to achieve what’s in his or her mind. Heavy post-production is a great tool for some works to be done, but what matters most also is who’s behind those tools, and what worries us as well is the shift in creative people’s sensibilities towards a very fake and just plain ugly sense of reality. You just have to compare the original Star Wars trilogy to the new one. Or something as simple as film posters or magazine covers being done today. It’s hard for people in their thirties to accept that new way of rendering visuals.
Entering the danger-zone
S2A: Where do you stand on the topic of analog vs digital? Are you more passionate about ‘vintage’ film equipment or about what new digital technology can offer?
LUIS: We all stand strongly on the analog. First, because it is the technology we know more about, most of our previous experience comes from shooting on film and we still feel clumsy and uncomfortable when using digital. But on top of that, you just can’t beat film on any side of it (well, just on the money side of it). The texture, the colours, the highlights, the shadows, the depth of field, the sharpness of film beats the HD video blatantly. I mean, why spend so much effort using HD to make it look like film (which is what most people intend) when you have the other medium that just gives it to you naturally. It’s just an enormous industrial and economic detour that has been imposed to filmmakers as a must, as a bit of a fashist attack, where in a few years time you will just not be able to shoot how you want to shoot, and be left with just one choice: digital. It is a big fuck up. Big big fuck up.
We are not passionate about vintage technology regarding film. It is this same capitalist imposition of HD which is making film technology to look or be considered vintage, which shouldn’t be like that. It’s exactly what’s happening if you use a Leica 35mm camera to take pictures of your wife and people go like wow, how cool and vintage is that. Well fuck you, this isn’t vintage, it’s just the real thing.
Story-boarded shots for ‘New Lands’
S2A: Do bigger budgets equal a greater opportunity?
LUIS: Not really, I wouldn’t say so. It has to do more with the people you work with. I mean for instance with Justice working for them is a great opportunity to get your work visible, but not because of the money spent. Alex Courtes’ video was much cheaper and is an amazing piece of film, and it has probably meant the same to him as to what New Lands meant to us. And our big international jump came from El Guincho’s Bombay, which is a super low cost video. So I wouldn’t say money is involved in great opportunities, no. But of course, it means you can be more ambitious with the size of what you’re shooting.
Head-honchos looking over the game
S2A: For us at S2A, Paris as a city is very important creatively. Would you say that Barcelona is the same for you?
LUIS: I guess it used to be like that. We were always in bars and parties and live shows and that, but it’s gotten to a point where we’re working so much we might be losing our connection to the city, which isn’t good at all. But right now Barcelona feels more like a background or a playground for our projects than a consistent influence. Lope is a massive Barça supporter so he’s probably the one who lives the city more intensely.
S2A: How do ideas usually come about at CANADA. Is it a process of collaboration?
LUIS: We try to keep it like that, yes. When it is an open brief or original idea, we try and gather all three around a table (or on the floor carpet) and talk for hours. But now many times clients call with a straight idea or brief so any of us can handle it individually while the other two do something else. But we still lean on one each other on different stages of the creative process, and that is of great help, because what’s most hard in any creative job is to be fully convinced you’ve got the best choice possible, and that is always helpful to share with other brains.
Filming of the touch-down scene in ‘New Lands’
S2A: Many of the video clips that we have done have been for friends (Justice, Jamaica, Scenario Rock etc) . Is that how many of your clips come about – as ‘natural collaborations’?
LUIS: Yes, I mean, since we signed up to Partizan, we’re like divided in two fields: doing international videos with bigger budgets for bands that we don’t know personally but admire, and then sticking with the independent music scene from our country, where we always work with bands that are close friends or friends of friends. It’s a bit schizoid, because both worlds are completely different, but we don’t want to lose touch with the music scene here, even though its getting hard to shoot with the actual budgets from spanish record labels.
S2A: What is the music scene like in Barcelona?
LUIS: It is great. It is a bit worse than say, four or five years ago, when we did have the best scene I’ve known in my lifetime. There are still really great bands doing totally diverse stuff from a unique voice and personal statements. I love a lot of bands from the city: Mujeres, Tarántula, Les Aus, Pegasvs, El Guincho, or Don The Tiger, which are bands that don’t have anything in common musically but are big friends and make a very exciting scene. Some good bands have dissapeared lately, and it’s getting harder to have live shows in bars, but still there’s a great musical energy in the city.
S2A: What is an ideal project for you? A more narrative-driven video like that for 55dsl?
LUIS: Well, what was really good about that particular film is that it was a total open brief. I mean they really didn’t give a fuck about what it was about as long as you had a young couple wearing their clothes and that it was shot in Italy. But in that case they didn’t have much money, so it wasn’t either like an ideal project. But the fact of having an open brief is not always ideal either, some guidelines or a starting point is usually of great help. We tend to conceptualise our films a lot, so working in the void is not that good for us. But, yes, as one can imagine, an ideal project is something with enough money to be crafted right and interesting people or music or ideas behind them that will still leave you space to work under a good amount of creative freedom.
S2A: Would Canada ever consider directing a feature-length film?
LUIS: We talk about it often, and we’ve had some proposals already. But it’s not easy to totally stop the company’s activity for a couple of years to focus on a long length project. But we’re working our heads to see how we can manage this situation. We all want to give it a try.
S2A: Are there any upcoming projects you can talk about?
LUIS: Not really, no. We’ve had an exhausting year and right now we’ve all three just completed commercial works. So we’re in a bit of a pause right now, gathering forces for the next round.
See more at www.lawebdecanada.com/
Photography by Javier Caso & Eskenaziencursiva
Justice – ‘New Lands’ directed by CANADA
Making Of Justice ‘New Lands’ presented by Red Bull
‘MEET’ is a series of interviews with friends of S2A where we catch up on their lives, their current projects, their creativity, inspiration and whatever else happens to be on their minds!