In the director’s chair: Pierre Michel-Estival on being a workaholic, epic imagery & Ryan Reynolds falling down the stairs

In the director's chair with Pierre Michel-Estival

For the latest in The Drum’s director’s chair series, The Sweet Shop’s Pierre Michel-Estival discusses his style and influences, as well as telling stories from behind the camera on shoot.

The series, which directors discuss influences, passions and career highlights, recently featured Henry Busby, Andrew Lang, Camille Marotte, Mea Dols de Jong, Klaus Obermeyer, Eli Roth and Mate Steinforth.

Who or what inspired you to be a director?

I think I always wanted to tell stories. Creating images has been my passion since I was a child. I don’t recall doing anything else or thinking about anything else. But three films really changed my life entirely and made me want to become a director… Amadeus, Jurassic Park and Terminator 2. All of them have ingredients that really talked to me. I like deep emotional stories but also epic imageries and more importantly films that immerse you into a word that you can’t live anywhere else. What is funny, I guess, is that my style doesn’t match any of these films.

Outside of work, what are you into?

I am a workaholic… but I love to go to movies and travel all around the world. My plan for the next months (or years) is to do more photography and write a screenplay. Just to open my range, creatively speaking.

How would you describe your style of commercial/filmmaking? What are you known for?

Painting in movement… Images that stand between dream and reality… Epic yet emotional… But here is the beauty of it: my style is evolving through the years. I need that to get excited. The more you direct, the more you realize that you should get out of your comfort zone. I am more often shooting handled, for example. But to answer your question, I would say that I am known for very beautiful imageries in motion.

What's your funniest moment on set?

There are so many… Maybe when Ryan Reynolds fell down the staircases during a Piaget commercial. Because it was so narrow, no producers or clients were with us when it happened. Only me and my DP saw that happening and heard his very loud “f***”. It is not really a funny moment, but you know what, it made me smile at that time. A crew of 40 people were waiting on the rooftop of the building and I imagined his two bodyguards hoping that everything was going well… Oh…

Another one was when Buzz Aldrin waved at me during an Omega shoot. At least this is what I thought because he was, in fact, blowing a kiss to his new girlfriend who was standing right behind me… Or maybe it is when a client asked me to use his competitor product in his commercial because it looked better…. So many stories…

What's your best piece of work?

People would say ‘Fire Flower’. This film opened a lot of doors for me. I have artists, directors, DPs that are still talking to me about this one and it has been more than 10 years… But I personally think that my best work is yet to come. You always improve your skills and it reflects in your work.

Which commercials directors do you most admire?

I really admire Joe Kosinski and Bruno Aveillan. They are both great visionaries.

Which ad do you wish you’d made?

There are so many. But L'Odyssée de Cartier from Bruno Aveillan or the Adidas Originals ‘Original Is Never Finished’ campaign, which featured a re-mixed, modernized version of the Frank Sinatra classic ‘My Way’. Very, very different commercials!

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