This is me: Director Frederic Planchon on telling the truth from the start

The Academy director reflects in lockdown about honesty, learning from his mistakes and how storytelling will change because of the crisis.

This is me: Director Frederic Planchon on telling the truth from the start

For creative people, it’s not the hardest thing in the world to stay at home. I’ve always loved moments between jobs where I can pull back and take inspiration from the world. You can do that from your home – it’s a bit more limited, but I don't find it as difficult.

However, for any creative person, it’s still really important to be fed by the world. What’s dangerous sometimes for ad people is that some are just living in the ad world. It’s not good to be that narrow-minded; it’s really important to open to different things. 

We can’t pretend that everything will be the same after this crisis. Of course the economy will have to start again, but it won’t be like normal life with all the social distancing. 

If you want to shoot something, there will be a lot of limitations. In our job, it will be complicated just to get actors and technicians together and some projects will be dictated by those parameters. I don't like asking something from an actor that I wouldn't do myself. Definitely crews should be smaller, but that’s not something I'm scared of, because I like smaller crews. 

A shoot is a big distraction – there are too many things going on. Stanley Kubrick said that making a film is like "trying to write War and Peace in a bumping car". There's a lot of truth in that. Every director understands that feeling; you’re trying to do something quite creative and fragile, but there are too many distractions around and you’re always in danger of not putting your attention in the right place. On the day of the shoot, there will be millions of other things which are not really important but which get in the way. You should always be conscious of that danger. You’re the one who will see the film first and you must try to protect it.

It would be pretentious to give advice to other directors, but I think it’s always interesting to challenge yourself to get out of your zone. Even directors not coming from a background of CG and animation, for example, can bring an interesting angle to it. If you give the same project to two different directors, it will be totally different. 

I don’t think there’s any secret to adding emotion to a film – it’s just about what you feel. Direction is not just putting the camera in one place; it’s a lot of choices. At the end, it just reflects what you have inside you. I’m not in the right position to judge my work, I just try to do it in the most honest way.

People watching what you make will see very different things than what you had in mind at the beginning, but that’s good. You don’t do things only for yourself, you do things for others. You just have to concentrate on what you yourself want to deliver and then it’s up to people to judge it, like it or hate it. You should not think about that. 

Oscar Wilde said "Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes" and I think that’s what it is. The good thing about mistakes and being wrong and failure is that you learn more from them than from success. It’s really important to go through that, but it doesn’t prevent you from doing more. 

More important in advertising is to try to tell the truth from the start. Some people are trying to lie or bullshit to find their way, but I haven't been successful with that. I try to be honest from the start, whether people like it or not.

Advertising always reflects what’s going on in society. I hope it will go back to more human values in society. Of course that’s just a wish, because history tells us that sometimes it’s not the case. After a tough period, people can get uglier. 

In real life, there are a lot of great things happening between people, such as more solidarity. But let’s see how it translates into writing and stories. 

Frederic Planchon began his career as a theatre actor and has directed ads for brands including Cadbury, Ikea, Renault, Sony PlayStation, SSE and Vodafone. He spoke to Campaign during lockdown