Q&A with Thierry Albert, Iconoclast’s new Director

'Tense': a four minute video shot using just a phone

Our Exec. Editor Mike Piggott chats with Thierry Albert (also known as Albert Albert) about his recent move to directing music videos and commercials, in a global role with Iconoclast, and his debut music video Tense, with up-and-coming French electro artist Thom Draft, which delivers on his ambitions. The four-minute video was shot using just one tool: a phone, to transport viewers into the scene.

What were you most looking forward to with your new role at Iconoclast?

Thierry Albert

I’ve always been a creator, so joining Iconoclast who are the kings of crafts, made a lot of sense. In my previous agency life, I’d always felt a little bit frustrated, to have to give my baby ideas for someone else to make them. In the time we’re living in… it’s calling for creatives to be braver, faster and smarter in how they bring their ideas to life. Especially now that everybody is on SM and has a 4K camera in their pocket. Typically, Iconoclast is gonna help me produce and craft my ideas to an insane level, and I’m gonna help them come up with insane ideas for their clients. A win-win.

What’s your favourite part about being a director?

Well, coming up with strong ideas is definitely my forte, I’ve been doing it for more than 20 years. I’m fast and I love to dive into any subject to get the essence of it. But to answer your question, storyboarding is my favourite part. Drawing frames and thinking how to shoot an action with a pen on paper is the best feeling. It’s also time worth spending, as the more prep you do the easier the shoot. You’d be surprised at how much work I put in the storyboard. And it pays, the one for Tense for example, is almost frame by frame what we ended up shooting on phones. Amazing.

How did you come up with the idea for filming Tense using just a phone?

Well, I’ve always been a huge fan of smartphones. I launched Instagram stories whilst I was at Wieden Kennedy, and we did it only using the tools on the platform. I found it liberating. You have an idea, you can shoot it with your phone, tweak it and post it. Boom. And weirdly enough, I had never really seen a piece of film done from the POV of the phone. One that feels real, not fake or using weird emojis etc… But the real apps, with a reason for the phone to be in the scene, and the real SM apps as you experience them in real life. So formally, shooting on music promo with a phone was always in the back of my mind.

All I had to think of was a story that would make sense with shooting like that…

Then the first time I heard Tense, I fell in love with the grittiness of the track and immediately thought of L., a teenager whose life is all about tension, pain and misery because she’s being bullied in real life but also on social media. Bingo, I had my big opportunity. It made total sense to tell the whole story of L. only using phones, because it’s a generation who breathes, lives and dies on their phone. Not only did it make sense to shoot on a phone, but you have to watch it on your phone. Only then will you go through what L. is going through. And yes, it’s tense.

What was the goal of this campaign? What do you hope viewers take away from this video?

I hope people will get engrossed into L.’s story because it feels so real. Plus the main actress, Maïra, did an amazing job. She’s so gifted. I think it’s also a dark tale in our current time: how you go from a bullied nobody to famous on social media, for something utterly strange… only to be upstaged by someone even weirder. And not to be bullied by just schoolmates, but by the whole world online.

The creative industry has changed a lot over the past few years, how do you interpret these changes and where do you see it evolving in the future?

I think great times are ahead. Creatives have access to awesome tools, can showcase their work globally and work directly for smart clients on project-by-project basis. Versus being stuck in giant corporate machines with very little creative juice left, where the deck is more important than the work that’s gonna come out of it. (If anything gets made ever.)

So I’d encourage all creatives to rebel, break free and take their very own fate into their hands. The future is bright for those brave, fast, smart, hybrid creative savants.

Featured Image: Tense / Thierry Albert