Paul Trillo — Director, Big Block

Paul talks to TheNextGag about how to chose a production company, what makes him say yes to commercial projects and how he ended up filming the back of a balding man for a short film.

Paul Trillo is a Director at Big Block in the USA.

Paul Trillo just spoke at SxSX with Jeff Hurlow, head of Vimeo Brand Studios about the very nature of sponsored short films versus branded content. Vimeo’s ties and deep roots with the filmmaking community gives them the opportunity to pair fantastic, up and coming filmmakers like Paul Trillo, with brands like Olympus to create engaging, cinematic branded films. Vimeo Brand Studio process of partnering with brands, and then connecting them with the creative energy and vision of a Vimeo filmmaker really produces gorgeous work — the proof is in a series like ‘Point of View’ from Olympus and the Vimeo Brand Studio, that has recently been chosen as a finalist for the Tribeca X Award 2016, representing the best artist-brand collaborations of the past year.

THENEXTGAG: I HAVE TO SAY THAT I REALLY LIKED YOUR SHORT FILM “THE IRRATIONAL FEAR OF NOTHING”.
PAUL TRILLO: Thank you.

TNG: IT WAS ABSOLUTELY STRANGE, AN INTERESTING CHOICE FOR THE CAST, INTERESTING POINT OF VIEW ON THE BACK OFF HIS BALDING HEAD. I REALLY LIKED THE LINE “I WORRY THAT I WORRY TOO MUCH”.
PT: It’s good you picked up on that. Was there anything that you weren’t able to understand ?

TNG: NO.
PT: I think he talks a little too fast.

TNG: NOT AT ALL. I THINK IT CONVEYS THE EMOTION OF THE GUY BEING NEUROTIC. HE REMINDS ME A BIT OF THE GEORGE COSTANZA CHARACTER IN “SEINFELD”.
ET: It’s hard to say. Someone else made that comment. I didn’t really think about that until afterwards. It’s definitely in that vein, that’s right.

TNG: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE SHORT FILM TO SOMEONE WHO HASN’T SEEN IT YET ?
PT: It’s essentially trying to pry in the mind of a paranoid guy and trying to make sense out of the daily routine of someone that is kind of losing their mind. And to sort of heighten that sense of paranoia, I chose this technique where the camera is literally attached to the actor using a snorricam. That I felt created a bizarre feeling for the viewer, where you are both connected to the actor but also looking at him in a strange distance. It was to bring the viewer in but also disorient them at the same time.

TNG: HOW DID THE PROJECT COME TOGETHER ? HOW DID YOU GET ATTACHED TO THIS ?
ET: It was very fortunate for me. Because it started out as a personal project that I wanted to do, going back to almost a year ago. And I needed to personally finance it. I was talking with friends on how we could get it done and do it for no money. And fortunately Vimeo came along. Prior to this, I had done two other short films that were commissioned and paid for by Vimeo. And they partnered with Olympus on this and they came to me asking specifically if I had anything to do with this snorricam technique, where it feels like the camera is attached to someone’s back. Usually that effect is done from the front where you see the face. They asked me if I had anything from the back or seeing the world from someone’s point of view. And I had already written this treatment and script, for this exact idea. So the stars very much aligned. Essentially, I just send them this treatment I wrote months ago. They approved it. Olympus was on board to do something weird. They were on board from the beginning. They were up for the bizarre poeticness of everything and the tone.
It’s a lucky circumstance which you can get a little bit of money to do a short film.

TNG: DO YOU CONSIDER THIS FILM TO BE A COMMERCIAL OR JUST A SHORT FILM ?
PT: It exists in a strange category that is emerging online right now. Sometimes people think of branded content more as documentary style. Films for brands and companies, branded entertainment, is a weird other thing where it’s both using creatives to do what they do best, but it’s been made and sponsored by companies.
Part of it is strange for me as far as putting it out there, because people will see it is for Olympus and then maybe have a different perception of what it’s gonna be. But I very much think of it as a short film. I had to write it. I had to storyboard it and do all these things that I would do typically for a short film. The only thing slightly different is having to check in with Vimeo and Olympus. But throughout the whole process they had zero comments. I was allowed to just play around in the sandbox and do whatever I want and they were very hands-off. Had they had more comments and tried to assert more control over the process, I would consider it more of a commercial, but because of their trust in me I view it more as a short film.

TNG: DO YOU OWN THE FILM ? ARE YOU ALLOWED TO TAKE IT TO FESTIVALS ?
PT: I believe so. I haven’t actually submitted anything yet and I think I just need to check in with them before I submit to things. But I believe I have full rights to submit it around. Hopefully in the next month or so I can focus on that.
Again, it is a weird project because it has to be online first. Usually, it’s the other way around where films play into festivals for a year and then they get put online. So, this is kind of backwards. Some film festivals might not be warm to that idea, but I think because the Internet is changing things so much, some festivals are more open to this idea.

TNG: HOW DID YOUR JOURNEY STARTED WITH VIMEO ? DID YOU STARTED UPLOADING VIDEOS AND THEY PICKED YOU AND BECAME PART OF THEIR BRAND STUDIO ?
PT: Yes. It is more of less what happened. I think the first thing I uploaded was maybe six years ago now. I didn’t really know what to think of Vimeo at the time, because YouTube is so popular. But I thought there was some quality there, more of a curation. And people interested into films specifically were flocking to Vimeo. I didn’t really made much of it, it’s just more of a place to find interesting, cool films. And one of my shorts, “How To Fly A Kite”, I think in 2011, was staff picked, miraculously to me. I don’t know how someone stumbled upon the film. I blindly uploaded it. Someone from their staff saw it and staff picked it. It gave me a bit of confidence and encouraged me to make things specifically for a Vimeo audience. A lot of the stuff that I do, I keep in mind what people on Vimeo tend to enjoy and share. Because that’s where the audience is. For me, I’ve had more success on Vimeo that I have had in festivals.
It has just been one thing after the other. They staff picked few short films of mine, a few music videos. And then eventually, they started to reach out to me and asked if I wanted to be included and submit ideas to different film series. This is the third one I’ve done for them.

TNG: YOU’VE ALSO BEEN SELECTED BY THE D&AD AND THE ONE SHOW RIGHT ? WAS IT FOR SHORT FILMS, MUSIC VIDEOS OR COMMERCIALS ?
PT: Yes. For the D&AD, I think I did submit another branded entertainment piece. It was for Nokia, called “Living Moments”. For the One Show, it was a few things. They looked at my portfolio and gave me the “One to Watch Award” last year based on a few different pieces, many of them short films.

TNG: IN YOUR PORTFOLIO, THERE ARE SHORT FILMS, MUSIC VIDEOS AND COMMERCIALS. HOW DO YOU SELECT THE TYPE OF PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE GOIING TO DO ?
PT: It’s a good question for many filmmakers out there. It’s how do you make the stuff that you want to continue to make and still make money, and whatever integrity you still have when you do commercial work.
I think I have been fortunate with the types of commercial work I have been presented with. Because I have done all these crazy techniques and stuff in music videos and short films. People then start to trust you to do more bold and different ideas for commercial work. Or sometimes it is reinterpreting something I did before but doing it for a commercial.
I have more recently saying no to commercial projects so I can focus on my own stuff, but the Olympus project being an exception. Because it allowed me to still flex my muscles as a filmmaker but get a little money along the way. I think it’s the challenge. If I see a commercial project I don’t know how to do it, that’s usually a good sign, that’s usually something I would like to pursue. Because I like to make my life very difficult and challenging and stressful. Usually if there is something that I haven’t done before and something that I don’t know how to do, I usually just lie and say I know how to do it. And then we figure it out. Those tend to be more rewarding projects.

TNG: DO YOU HAVE A LOT OF TREATMENTS IN YOUR DRAWER THAT YOU WANT TO SHOOT AND STILL HAVEN’T ?
PT: Yes. There is always a pile of stack of treatments.

TNG: THE BLACKLIST !
PT: Yes, Paul Trillo’s Blacklist !
For different reasons, sometimes they are expensive and no one wants to pay for them. Sometimes they are music videos that bands are not on board with. But, there are at least enough treatments to keep me busy for a year. Just a backlog of ideas.
One of the projects I am excited about and that I am doing now was originally something that I wanted to pitch to someone else, I wanted someone else to pay for it but I ended up focusing my time and money on doing it myself. It’s a short film entirely shot with a drone. All in a one ten minute take. Using nine actors and there is dialogue. And the camera is continuously in motion and going from close-ups to really wide. No cuts or anything. It’s like a true one-take shot. That was an idea that I have been wanting and waiting to do for a while and eventually the technology caught up where we could have a good enough camera and a small enough drone, one which will not intimidate the actors. That’s something that will be finished in the coming months.

TNG: IS THERE AN IDEAL BRAND PARTNERSHIP FOR YOU ?
PT: Absolutely. If every job could be like this one, I would be a happy man. Some brands are getting more to the idea that they will let creatives do what they do best. It seems like something more from the past. The way advertising agencies worked. When they would steal ideas and hire other people to do them or they would force uncreative ideas down people’s throat. One of the other and some combination of both.
Now brands, like some technology brands, things that enable creativity, are allowing creators to do what they do best. I think as long as the criticism is coming from an honest standpoint where the work actually benefits, I think that’s the best relationship. Not criticism if something is not safe enough or isn’t staying on message. Working with people that actually want to make the most interesting product possible. And actually work more as collaborators rather than clients.

TNG: ARE YOU REPRESENTED RIGHT NOW BY A PRODUCTION COMPANY ?
PT: Yes. In the US, I am represented by a company called Big Block, which is based in Los Angeles. In France, I am represented by a small company called Icy Content in Paris.

TNG: I ALWAYS WONDER HOW DO DIRECTORS PICK THE PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT WANT TO BE WITH ? BECAUSE THEY ARE SO MANY OUT THERE.
PT: It’s difficult. It’s like dating, where it depends on how well you get along with the people, the producers at the company. And if they know what kind of work you are looking to do, and push you in the right direction. Not just try to get you anything. It’s a tough decision.
I always want to go back and forth in how independent I should be and how tied I should be to production company. But I think in a lot of ways, production companies, it doesn’t really matter which one you are with, as long as you stand out on the roster. It can be enticing to be with a really big production company but sometimes you get lost in the sea of directors. If you look at the rest of the company’s reel, the rest of the directors and you respect their work, but you see that there is still an opportunity to offer something different or more, and to be yourself. I think that’s really important.

TNG: I GUESS YOU WATCH A LOT OF VIDEOS ON VIMEOS. WHAT WOULD YOU SELECT AS YOUR OWN STAFF PICKS OF 2015 ?
PT: There are these two guys from California I really like called Terri Timely. They did a short film called “Input/Output” that I thought was pretty awesome. Did you see that one ?

TNG: I DID. AND I DIDN’T GET IT ALL !
PT: I think there is a level of absurdity, there is an element of things not to get in it. No one else who have asked them or allowed them to create that. In fact, they just wanted to do it. It doesn’t exist in any genre. It’s just a bizarre thing.
There is a film with some similarities to “The Irrational Fear of Nothing” called “God View”. It’s similar. I actually wanted to do a technique like this before I saw this film. The camera is attached to the actor the whole time and it is looking down at him. It tells a pretty dark story. But I thought it was pretty amazing.

Paul Trillo

Big Block

Director

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