Filming a Fairytale: A conversation with Eric Beaupré

A classic Cinderella story with a twist, the latest campaign for Atout France reimagined the country as a modern tale, and saw director Eric Beaupré do something completely new for a tourism video. We caught up with the filmmaker to chat about his background, techniques and collaborative processes.

I wasn’t looking for obvious decor and narrative, I wanted to suggest the well known narrative through surreal compositions

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Can you tell us a bit about your background?

I am a Canadian Art Director / Motion Graphic Designer that moved naturally to filmmaking a few years ago. I started my career in Music Television in Canada and then moved to Paris to work with agencies mostly in the entertainment and music business covering assignments for leading television, music, fashion and advertising clients. Since going freelance, I have chosen to focus on directing, whilst still retaining a strong graphic voice. I worked mainly on music videos for electronic artists and did a lot of corporate work for leading brands like Coca-Cola, Chloé, Hermès, L’Oreal, Phillips, Sony or even the French Government.

The brief for this job was quite a unique one for a tourism campaign. How did you come up with the idea?

What makes France appeal to a foreigner? I wanted to show the strong aesthetics and values that come to mind for foreigner when they think of France. Being a foreigner and an Art Director, I have an outsider/insider look on France’s culture and image. France is history, literature, fashion, haute-couture and glamorous shopping, food to die for, art and wine…

I didn’t want to show landscapes and buildings, you can find those films everywhere and I didn’t think Atout France was looking for that. This brief needed to be answered with a fashion film! But not a classic one with only beautiful girls and boys and clothes and make-up… it needed to have more to it, a story, and to link the images to France’s Regions. I needed to make the British dream of France. I needed to tell them a story. I’m not a good writer when it comes to storytelling, I’m an image maker. But a french story already written that everyone knows? That’s perfect. A fairy tale! French literature has given the world’s best fairy tales: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Hood, Peau d’Ane…

At first, I wanted to go through different scenes that would suggested different fairy tales, but it was too complicated.  You need to make things simple when you want to communicate a good story. One idea = one film or you lose the viewer. So I chose the most famous one, the one everyone knows by heart. The film tells a modern story of the famous french fairy tale Cinderella by Charles Perreault. France’s regional brands are suggested through fashion aesthetic and luxury standards. By taking a classic fairytale and interpreting it in a contemporary way, the film reflects modern France through creativity, historical background, elegance and style. By using a glamorous Parisian setting, contemporary French designers and luxury trademarks and using subtle symbols, the film sets itself apart as a unique and original destination video.

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The film is both a collection of individual portraits with a flowing narrative. What techniques did you use to combine these two elements?

It’s a Tour de France. The camera needed to be moving. The use of Ronin gives a modern feeling to the moving camera and takes us through a ride across the surreal scenes. I wasn’t looking for obvious decor and narrative, I wanted to suggest the well known narrative through surreal compositions. A mix of reality with on-location shooting and fiction through set design. The equilibrium between both was the key to the film, which you an see at the beginning, from the Toulouse scene (studio feeling) to the Bordeaux scene (on-location).

You shot this both in studio and on location. Was there a big team involved in the film?

The film needed two days of shooting. One day in studio and one day on-location at Plaza Athénée Palace in Paris. Plaza Athénée was chosen by Atout because the Palace is a big business partner and I wanted to shoot in a luxury location. Because I was also producing the film, I asked french fashion photographer and friend Laure Bernard to direct with me. She is a very talented fashion photographer so she was perfect to help get that “fashion look” I was looking for. We surrounded ourselves with a team of fashion talents: 2 Stylists, 1 Hairdresser and 1 Makeup Artist. Then a classic small crew studio team: DOP, Steadicam, Camera Assistant, Gaffer, Assistant Director, 2 set designers and a Stage Manager. Casting was done through model and talent agencies.

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The fashion film element clearly required strong art direction, costume design and a level of detail. How did you collaborate on that?

I worked with a team of HSM used to fashion shows and advertising. Laure and i gave them strong artistic direction through moodboards for every scene. We wanted classic french with a twist, glamorous but modern. We used only french brands for clothes, accessories and props (a lot of Lanvin, Baccarat, Bernardeau, Louboutin, Chanel, etc.)

What gear did you use for this shoot?

We used a Sony FS7 with Cooke mini lenses on a Ronin to get the flowing feeling and 4K 50fps range shots to get the aerial fashion mood with crisp details. The timelapse flowers and clocks were made apart at home with my 5D Mark II. Lighting was already in the studio, the snow scene was fun to make! At Plaza Athene we couldn’t bring any light, so we worked with natural lighting.

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A very special thanks to Eric for chatting to us! See more of his work here, and check out our latest filmmaking briefs here.