Vogel.Villar-Rios, Believe Media

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While Jan Vogel and Rene Villar-Rios may be known best for the scrubbed down photography and down-to-earth feel of many of their spots, including "Neighborhood" for nikelab.com, featuring a remote control shoe on wheels, as well as promos for the Andy Awards featuring a hobo Eric Silver and a maimed Alex Bogusky, the directing team also coasts easily into glossy, cinematic film, apparent in their hilarious sports spoof for Pringles Fiery Hot, featuring various "athletes" in sweat-dripping intensity as they prepare to crunch into the zesty chips. The spot can easily be mistaken for a Gatorade ad, save for the quirky cast of players, who the pair put through torturous athletic drills to get the proper exhausted look. No matter what vibe their spots take, however, "I think we try to keep it real," notes Villar-Rios, 36, a Swedish-raised Chilean native. "When it comes to casting, locations, even when it's the most stylized cinematic experience, we just try to keep the characters, the environment real." Adds 31-year-old Vogel, an Ecuadorian-born German, "For example, we try to keep the actors comfortable. I think that's why they have good performances in a lot of commercials we shoot. There's not this strict 'OK! Action! Now we're shooting.' Sometimes our actors don't even know we're shooting them. We don't try to fit them in the frame and expect them to act perfect. We try to create the right situation for them to be perfect." Which is what happened on Coca-Cola's "Stories," out of Berlin Cameron, a truly "real" spot featuring quick-cut images that speed through the festive summer days of a troupe of skater kids. The directors shot the commercial in Arizona on an assortment of film stocks and cameras, and "we had to have real kids, give them some space," Vogel notes. "You plan where to shoot, roughly set up some situations, but then give a lot of freedom. You get the chemistry between them and get all these things that weren't planned before." Represented by Believe Media, the duo first met as frustrated cinematography students at Los Angeles' American Film Institute, and offer up the added cred of being not just a directing but also a DP team. "We feed off each other," says Villar-Rios. "Almost always we shoot with two cameras and now we have it down to a ballet. We dance around each other and get tons of very good coverage." Most recently, the team shot a surprisingly restrained McDonald's spot featuring a series of kids admiring cars. With the bells and whistles of a Mercedes ad, the commercial asks, "Ever wonder why kids love cars so much?" The closer shows a family cruising through a Mickey D's drive-thru, a grim-faced cashier handing them bags of grub. The spot boasts natural, unforced performances-from the children, as well as the burger guy who, strangely enough, was played by Villar-Rios himself. "I used to work at McDonald's," he laughs. "I just went back a little bit in time and it was all instinct."
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