Tuesday, October 25, 2016
  • Monday, Jul. 11, 2016
Directorial Duo Atanasio + Martinez Joins Contrast Eye For U.S. Spots
Valerie Martinez (l) and Anthony Atanasio
  • VENICE, Calif.
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Contrast Eye, the production house headed by founder/EP Osel Kakari, has signed the directing duo of Anthony Atanasio and Valerie Martinez, aka Atanasio + Martinez, for exclusive U.S. commercials representation. Atanasio + Martinez come aboard a company directorial roster that includes Rowan Joffee, Mattias Berndt, Pascal Heiduk and Tibor Glabe.

Atanasio + Martinez, formerly represented by Supply and Demand, just finished their first job at Contrast Eye, a VR film for Etihad Airways featuring actress Nicole Kidman; the project was produced by MediaMonks and Contrast Eye for agency The Barbarian Group.

The film marked a return engagement on Etihad for the directorial duo. Last year, Etihad and M&C Saatchi tapped Atanasio + Martinez to direct a 90-second film shot across three countries with brand ambassador Kidman highlighting Etihad’s mission to “Reimagine” everything about the experience of flying. This year, Etihad returned wanting something even more ambitious, showing off the features of their specially appointed A380, but now in virtual reality. “The first thing we wanted to do was spark the viewer’s attention and entice their imagination,” said Atanasio. “We have Nicole Kidman, arguably the world’s best actress, and access to the most luxurious plane on the planet in the form of Etihad’s Airbus A380. We leverage Nicole’s voice to begin the immersion process. We wanted everyone viewing the film to feel the intimacy of being in the presence of a ‘star’ rather than just viewing a ‘star.’”

The five minute 360 cinescape directed by Atanasio + Martinez features small but entertaining pieces of action and some clever camera moves. While passengers and crew intermingle, Kidman leads viewers on the VR journey. We hear her talking, we see her lounging. Is she working on a script for a new movie, or some other project? “The original thought was to feel like we were eavesdropping on Nicole, but that evolved quickly into immersing the viewer into the life of the A380, which features Nicole engaging in and out of view.”

One of the most interesting scenes happens in the Residence (Etihad’s on-board luxury apartment) where Atanasio + Martinez proposed the use of three Kidmans in one scene. “For Valerie and I it was the VR equivalent of a multiple exposure,” said Atanasio. “Quite theatrical in a way as the spotlight and volume on each scene gets turned up or down accordingly across the three areas of shared space, and all whilst the camera effortlessly tracks laterally at waist height. It’s a neat and novel solution for explaining the three inter-connected spaces of the Residence during three separate times of day and how Nicole might use that space. Rather than clumsy edits or an action following Nicole through the space, we just let the camera discover her within the three separate areas as one shot. It works so seamlessly that you just accept seeing her three times in succession without questioning.” 

Atanasio further noted, “We wanted to do things that might be unique to VR but also to pull from our years of experience as storytellers and filmmakers working on post heavy projects. From the beginning the ‘VR Rule Book’ says, ‘you don’t have a frame’–-and the post guys seemed to believe, that was the case. But we didn’t agree. Because while its true that you are free to look around 360 degrees, you are also storytelling so your attention tends to lean towards specific sectors of interest be it visuals or dialogue. The ‘default angle’ in VR is whatever you want to set it as, or wherever you want your viewer’s attention to be led, otherwise you risk the film becoming a postcard on wheels. So your field of vision and therefore your field of interest becomes the frame even if you have choices within that. Most post VR guys just don’t get that. The same went for lighting and grading. We insisted on bringing a technically brilliant yet creatively cinematic DP to help us realize our vision for each of these scenes.” 

That alluded to cinematographer was Benoit Debie, best known for The Runaways (2010), Spring Breakers (2012) and Lost River (2014). 

Added Martinez about the VR film, “When you experience this piece, you have a feeling of being ‘up in the air,’ at altitude, and we added sound ideas and light nuances such as the moving sunlight across the interior of the business studio just as the plane banks to emphasize this sensation. Working both on the real plane and in a purpose built set for The Residence, our DP did a stunning job of creating a series of changing moods across all the various cabins, while Paul Martin, production designer, reconstructed The Residence detail for detail. Sandy Powell, our costume designer (a three-time Academy Award winner--for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator, The Young Victoria) added comfortable glamour and elegance to Nicole’s wardrobe that worked superbly within the various lighting situations. In VR you perceive all these visual details of the world in a very different way. It’s an amazing feeling when you don’t just see a movie or witness a movie star, but you are actually immersed into another world and participate in the journey itself. In VR you suddenly find yourself in front of Nicole Kidman; it’s a very powerful technique that makes for a thrilling presence and a unique ‘trip’ in every sense.”

Over the years, Atanasio + Martinez have collaborated with such agencies as AMV BBDO, JWT, Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, Publicis, DDB, Anomaly, Y&R and TBWA\Chiat\Day, garnering recognition from the AICP Show, Clios, Gold Addy Awards and other competitions. Among the directors’ most lauded work is Nintendo’s “School’s Out” featuring 800 ninja children running through the streets of Tokyo. Back in 2004, “School’s Out” won an AICP Show honor for Cinematography and a Clio for Best Direction.