Husband-and-wife filmmaking duo Los Perez (Adrian Perez and Tania Verduzco) have been an unstoppable force since meeting at a Barcelona film school in 2009. The Caviar represented directors have done spots for McDonald’s and Honda, and music videos like JR JR — “Gone” which was named one of the Best Music Videos of the Decade by IndieWire.
Zack Seckler: How did you two start working together?
Adrian: We first met in the cinema school (in Spain) and we were admiring each other’s work. Then we became a couple. And then after that Tania was in a small production company, I was doing the same, but then we did a music video here in Spain, and we really enjoyed the experience. And we started working together as a team.
Was there a lot of kind of similarity in your styles as directors, or have you grown into something different together?
Adrian: Yeah, I feel that we are quite different. Maybe not now, but back in the day I would say that Tania was more into the music video world, and I was probably more into movies. It was like a nice merge, and I learned a lot from her, especially in regards to production design and wardrobe. At some point I had an influence on Tania as well, maybe through the camera moves or the camera framing. We exchanged our points of view and I think that we became something different after that.
It sound like Tania, your big strengths are production design, props, wardrobe; and Adrian, yours are camera movement and framing?
Adrian: Yeah, I would say that’s fair.
Tania: I’m more focused on art direction and wardrobe because that’s what I like. I love actors as well. I love creating choreographies for example! Adrian enjoys more working with the light and trying new camera techniques, etc. The set is like a playground for both of us and we each have a favorite toy. But in the end it’s like a signature. We both work a lot through color, and we select the different kind of tonalities of the set through wardrobe, through art direction, and then applying this to the color grading.
Is there any downside to being a directing duo, particularly husband and wife?
Adrian: It was tough in the beginning to work together because there’s this ego thing that you think that you are right, and you don’t want to listen to the other person. It takes some time to understand and trust each other’s point of view. But as soon as we understood that we are a team and complement each other, everything worked smoothly.
Tania: Absolutely! Sometimes crew members ask us the same question to each of us separately and the answer is always the same! It’s funny because even though we are two different people, we started thinking in sync.
What’s it like on set with Los Perez? How do you divide and conquer?
Tania: It depends on the project, but normally we try to split our duties. I’m more focused on actors, and Adrian is working more with a DP for example, but that doesn’t mean that Adrian is never going to talk to the actors. We switch the roles and sometimes Adrian goes, “let me try this”, and it works. Or the other way around. It’s about complementing each other.
Let’s talk about production design, props, and wardrobe. How do you work with these different departments? Some directors are less involved…I’m guessing you guys are more hands-on.
Adrian: Yeah, you’re right. You can say that we are maniacs, a bit, because we want to control everything. You can brief your colleagues and you can tell them your mission, but in the end they have also to put their signature and we don’t want to have restrictions. We love to exchange opinions and create an open conversation with the team. We make drawings just to understand the kind of narrative and tone that the film needs, so it always comes out in a very natural way.
Tania: We design a lot with our stylists and production designers. Normally we create design from scratch. And we start doing sketches, work on color, add some textures, and then we go to materials. I love to see the materials. We do a lot of color tests. We don’t select just simply a blue, we have to select exactly which kind of hue is the blue, the tonality, the brightness. And the same thing happens with wardrobe. We love to select all the fabrics, the shines, the materials, the textures, the patterns. We have to feel that we are doing something from scratch so we can see that it’s ours.
Do you guys have a consistent team you work with?
Adrian: I wouldn’t say that they’re “our team” but they are our favorite. It always helps, because in advertising, prep time is very short, and the more you know your crew, and the more they know what you have in mind, the more it speeds up the process.
Tania: I think that our crew is like the family that we picked. We think that advertising is very demanding, so we always try to have an adventure with everyone.
You guys have a lot of distinct camera moves in your work. Does that start with a sketch as well, or what’s the process?
Adrian: We are always trying to make commercials more cinematic. Everybody can grab a camera and try to capture something, because nowadays almost nobody is shooting in film, and when you’re shooting for two hours trying to get cool stuff there’s nobody feeling that money. So that’s the advantage of the digital, but on the other hand I feel that a lot of people are just moving the camera and there’s no narrative or point of view.
So we use the board, the drawings, to make sure we have a very clear point of view. The way we are always trying to do our work, if the camera goes here it’s because we couldn’t put the camera anywhere else. We normally take the Artemis pictures quite seriously and share them with the crew.
We think that the more you can narrow it down, the better to have your vision intact.
Are you interested in directing features?
Tania: In our spare time we have written a script and now we are finishing a second one, which is very, very tough because we’ve been shooting a lot.
Adrian: Yeah, there’s one that we’ve been writing for a few years and now we’re finishing just the next one. It is tough to write and shoot commercials at the same time, some people have been shooting music videos, but we have decided to spend our time writing. But yeah, we would love to shoot features at some point.
So talking about style a little bit, I was looking on your Vimeo page and it looks like there’s a big jump in production value about five to six years ago, and then another change in the last couple of years with your use of color and set design. How has your work has changed over time?
Adrian: Right. Well I think that it depends on the product that you work with –
Tania: And the client as well, the agency, I think that’s also very important to consider if they allowed us to do or to experiment more and to create more ourselves. In the very beginning, it was a little bit tough because winning the trust of our client or an agency is a challenge.
Adrian: And I feel that probably the last five years we’ve had bigger budgets and probably more interesting clients. To be honest, we didn’t have a game-changer in our career. I feel that we’ve been improving, little by little. You have to convince the agencies that you can do something really cool and interesting. I guess that that’s the bigger change now, that agencies have more confidence in us.
Tania: They send us a script thinking about our point of view and our style directly.
You guys have such a visually forward style. It’s hinged on things that tend to cost money – locations, set design, wardrobe, props. What was it like for you guys starting out trying to build your reel? Was it challenging, getting your style across with more limited budgets?
Tania: I think the challenge was there always. I mean we are both very aesthetic directors, so maybe it was just less money but that doesn’t mean that we were not keen on selecting the furniture or picking the colors of the set or the wardrobe. Now we have the opportunity to play with more toys, but at the beginning you just have these tools and you have to figure it out.
What about for any green directors out there who also have a very visual style? Do you have any recommendations for them of building their reel with the challenge of not having big clients to pay for it?
Adrian: Music videos are a big part of the business right now. I feel that if we were starting from the scratch right now, Tania and I would probably spend more time shooting music videos, but the music video industry is also tough. I guess it depends on what you want to do; if you want to jump directly to commercials, it’s going to take some time for you to do something interesting. With music videos, there’s no money, but if you have a great idea you can do something really cool.
Let’s talk about the JR JR Gone Video. I love it. It’s so beautifully done and creative and just everything about it is wonderful. Can you just talk a little bit about the project?
Adrian: Yeah, we always wanted to do more music videos, but again, this is one of the things about advertising: it’s really easy to get stuff shooting commercials. You shoot something and then the next week you receive another script.
Tania: And also, of course, there are directors that, if they’re not shooting ads, they shoot music videos. We haven’t shot a lot of music videos. JR JR was one exception.
Adrian: It was a very low budget music video. Of course there’s a lot of work behind the scenes, scouting the locations, trying to have graphic backgrounds for the scene.
Tania: And also working with the dancers, who were great.
Let’s talk about the EOS spot. What was your approach and what was the production was like?
Adrian: We always love to be collaborative with the agency and to come up with ideas. In this case we created this EOS lab from scratch. It was a tough one to do because we didn’t have a lot of time to come up with design and we rely everything for that in the production design aspect. And for the brand, it was a big leap because the stuff they’d been doing was quite different. It felt sometimes more like a commercial for perfume than for EOS. But that was also what we liked, that there was some freedom to do something more creative.
So as far as the sets I mean there’s some pretty epic sets. How much of it was done in CG, how much was done practically?
Tania: It’s a combination of practical stuff. Normally we shoot a lot in camera because we think that you have to have the texture, the lights; but for production, it’s a tool to create something that we cannot view or something that’s impossible to do. Some sets were really, really large and some others were a little bit more like a combination of plates and stuff. But mainly everything was shot in camera.
I know you guys are really busy. So after a production wraps a lot of directors go through an emotional crash. If you guys experience that how do you deal with that?
Tania: Yes, it always happens of course. It’s a lot of tension when you’re shooting and a lot of energy and adrenaline. It’s like you have a really tough hangover and I think we just need like one day to process and digest everything. But we are workaholics. For example, we just finished up this week, and the day after we were in a coffee shop thinking about a cool idea for our music video. We have the need to tell stories.
Any entertaining stories from productions that didn’t go as planned?
Adrian: Once we were shooting a spot for Honda in the desert. There was this sand storm coming, and for safety you have to stop until the wind goes down, and we couldn’t shoot more than a few hours some days, so it was very tough. And then of course everybody wants the same amount of shots. So we have to figure out a way to keep everything.
No, I like that, and that was a beautiful shoot. How much of that was done practically with the talent?
Adrian: I would say everything. The talent was actually up there on top of the letters, doing flips or up on the bicycle. With wires, of course, for safety. Basically we had the post team painting out the wires and the reflection, because every time we passed with a camera car we reflected those mirror letters, but apart from that everything was done for real.
Is there anything that you guys wanted to chat about that we didn’t cover?
Tania: One of the jobs that we enjoyed the most was SunTrust, because we did a lot of rehearsals with this young ice skater. She was very into it, and she was really young but really professional. She never complained about repeating shots or sliding over the ice on her knees after a whole dance routine. And shooting the ad was like a reward for her, after the amount of years of training she’d done. So I thought that was a nice memory because hopefully she will be in the next Winter Olympics, who knows?
Interview by Zack Seckler
Edit by Tyler Peterson