Pablo Maestres Chats with Little Black Book

Pablo chats with Little Black Book on the element of surprise, the importance of knowing the brand, and seeking more opportunities to work with black and white. Read the full interview below. 

LBB> What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?

Pablo> It is hard to explain, sometimes you receive a script that has a lot of interesting elements but then it’s hard to shape. Other times, there aren’t any outstanding elements but there is a spark somewhere in the text that makes it exciting. In general, I’m drawn to surrealism, humour, powerful visuals, or anything that is far from conventional. I love the element of surprise.

LBB> How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?

Pablo> My first brainstorming session is usually the one that guides me throughout the entire creative process. Whenever possible, I like to take a few days to contemplate and assess different options, as well as review movies or photography books to find the mood. In the case of a musical piece, I like to immerse myself in the music by listening on repeat to understand the atmosphere. From there, I look for references that capture the essence of what I have written.

LBB> If the script is for a brand that you’re not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you’re new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?

Pablo> Knowing the brand is vital. It’s the key to writing and deciding whether you want to continue in the same direction or if you want to break it and create a new style.

When I am not familiar with a brand, first I will spend time looking at all their previous commercials, observing the tone, aesthetics, and the mood that characterises the brand. Even if I know the brand I still do this kind of research to immerse myself in the universe they’ve already created. To me, this is usually the first step before writing a treatment.

LBB> For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?

Pablo> All relationships are important in the realisation of a project. Aligning with the agency is critical but to make an ad, good communication with the whole team is incredibly important since we all have to be on the same page to create the best result. I would also add, creating a positive atmosphere during the pre-production stage and on set is key to ensuring everyone shares the same level of motivation to achieve a great result and fight for it together.

LBB> What type of work are you most passionate about – is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?

Pablo> Several styles fascinate and motivate me, ranging from the simplest and most absurd humour to the projects where I get to create an imaginary visual world. Beyond the style of the commercial, I like when films take risks and when the scripts aren’t afraid to not be conventional.

LBB> What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?

Pablo> It is common for people to assume that I want to work with big palettes of colour, but to be honest, I wish I had opportunities to work with black and white!

LBB> What’s the craziest problem you’ve come across in the course of a production – and how did you solve it?

Pablo> One might say a production is a sequence of problems, haha. But yes, there are some problems that are more unusual than others. One time I was making a film that was all dance choreography and I hired an international model who claimed to be a dancer. We had one day to rehearse before the shoot and that’s when we learned she was not a dancer and had only taken one dance course when she was a child. Since there was no going back, we quickly pivoted and changed the camera planning so that we could make a faster edit of the piece and thus camouflage the dance. We shot step by step separately and worked out beautifully, despite the stress.

LBB> How do you feel the pandemic is going to influence the way you work into the longer term? Have you picked up new habits that you feel will stick around for a long time?

Pablo> I expect Zoom conversations to decline in favour of in-person meetings, unless distance makes it necessary. I think when we interact with people in-person it has a big impact on the mood. I like working face-to-face and I prefer doing presentations, PPM’s and castings in person.

LBB> What’s your relationship with new technology and, if at all, how do you incorporate future-facing tech into your work (e.g. virtual production, interactive storytelling, AI/data-driven visuals etc)?

Pablo> AI is something that is still a bit scary. The amount of possibilities it offers is overwhelming, but I think it is a very good tool for inspiration, although we do not yet know what it will lead to in the future. What we know for sure is that the industry will change with it, so it’s good to be open-minded but also important not to lose our true identity as storytellers, or everything will look the same.

As for the new filming techniques, I like to always be up to date, although I also like keeping everything on set as real as possible.

LBB> Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?

Pablo> I really love doing music videos as they are a white canvas to create whatever I want. I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to exercise creative freedom in the videos I’ve worked on and to have crafted unique worlds in each one.

On the other hand, commercials challenge me to learn some new techniques and it is an opportunity to delve into aspects that I would not cover on my own.

– Netflix and Endesa – This one is special because of how many different elements (dynamic camerawork, clever sound design, and a funny script) all work together to make it striking.

– TK Maxx ‘Homesense’- I loved the challenge of this one, playing with choreographed movements interacting with CGI elements.

– Barns Courtney ‘You & I’ – This video encompasses everything I love – humour, magical realism, striking imagery, and creating new worlds.

– Ferran Palau ‘Flora Caic’ – While a lot of my work is humorous and bright, this film is special because it gave me the opportunity to explore deeper themes like light versus darkness.

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