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Jonas & Francois

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The Creators Project: What are you working on these days?

Jonas & François: We just finished writing a more personal project, a music video for an artist we both personally admire.

You two make some of the most original and graphically complex music videos in the world. Can you take us through your creative process?

We always try to analyze the song first, to really get to the heart of its structure and essence. Then we put the whole thing on paper with little touches of color, like the geography maps we used to draw back in school. We don’t necessarily use those images, but sometimes they can lead us to an idea. Where we brainstorm is really important for us, it can be a café, a couch, an empty room, a restaurant… the only thing that doesn’t change is the fact that we always arrive at the idea together through discussion. We throw away a lot of ideas, often good ones. Our artistic choices are built upon ideas that require radical visual changes. We are trying to build a very diverse visual culture, forgetting what most people do in terms of imagery today and search for what's original in cinema, comic books, video, TV, and the internet.

You’ve both studied sculpture, art, and photography. Do you use these skills in your videos? Do you think studying art made you more creative?

We don’t think it made us more creative. In school we learned not, how to be artists, per se, but how to observe and analyze what we see. But we don’t put too much of our influences into our creations because they are only a small part of where we are coming from and also what we have become.

You’re pretty young, but you've already worked with some of the biggest names in the business. Can you tell us how this came about and what it was like to work with such superstars?

First, we directed a music video for an artist less famous, but not less interesting or creative, which gave us access to another one, then another one. Looking back at all these collaborations and thinking about how each collaboration brought another, we're proud to see that it is always our work that gets us recognized.

How does your job change depending on the artists you’re working with? How was working with Justice different than working with Madonna for example?

We usually really enjoy shooting; it’s probably our favorite time in the whole process. Post-production and editing are always the trickiest. In the same type of shoot, Madonna behaved differently than Justice, Sebastien Tellier, and Kanye West. Each artist had their own way of working with us, before and after the shoot. The thing they all had in common was that they were all very invested in the project at hand and very focused on what we were saying on set.

What’s the project you're most proud of to date? Something you felt really pushed the boundaries of what can be done in a music video from a technical point of view?

People often talk about the concept of the “D.A.N.C.E.” video, and it makes us laugh; technically speaking it was very simple. And yet, visually it’s the most impacting video we’ve made. But we prefer the aesthetic of “Peace” for Depeche Mode, for instance.

How has the internet helped with distribution and getting your work out there?

The internet is a great lab where we can find everything and anything.There is almost no censorship on the internet, so knowing that a music video is going to have a life on it frees up the possibilities of what can be done. Television skirts away from more underground music videos, the darker ones with subversive subjects or “non-diffusible” content, but it has its codes and its course of action that every director knows. We know if a music video is going to be diffused or if it’s not, and our awareness of how it will be chopped up on television is sometimes almost part of the video’s concept.

What’s coming up next? Are there any new technologies that you think will change the way you work?

Shooting, diffusion techniques, and what we can do with them are the most exciting to us right now.

You’ve done mostly music videos. Do you have plans to move into directing feature films or documentaries?

We're thinking about it because we’ve got ideas destined for a much longer format. We’re looking for good narrative support, coming from us or someone else, to develop something visually as personal as our music videos.

It’s almost 2010; is this what you imagined the future would be like when you were 15? What’s missing?

Blade Runner’s future, 2019, if I remember, will probably not exist (even if some predictions were actually right), but that’s what's charming and exciting. We can't forecast anything. The only things we try to anticipate are related to our needs and aesthetic tastes now... we’re just eager to see what’s coming up next.

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At a glance

Music video visionaries.

Location: Paris, France
Profession: Directors
Website: ElNino.tv
Notables: Music videos for Justice’s "D.A.N.C.E"; Sébastien Tellier’s "Kilometer"; Kanye West’s "The Good Life"; Madonna’s "4 minutes to save the world"; Kavinski’s "Testarossa Autodrive"

Connect: Twitter; YouTube