Filmmaker Cyrille, ‘I stored films but didn’t dare process them’

Cyrille - Filmmaker
Courtesy of Chase Carter

Hailing from France, Cyrille de Vignemont is well known for not only his contemporary art photographs, but also for music videos, commercials, short films, and fashion projects. Some of his work is even featured on FDRMX, in the form of Ghostpoet’s music video “Cold Win,” a collaboration that had happened before he even knew it. “Everything happened really fast. The label sent the track to my producer at Wanda and something like two weeks later we were shooting in Iceland…”  The two artists started off separately but eventually worked together to create what is a rather provoking music video. “For me this song, Cold Win, is about having the desire to take a car and run away and not doing it…We all want to do that sometimes. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a driving license. Nor does Obaro aka Ghostpoet,” Cyrille points out.

“I first listened to the track on rainy day, watching the droplets drawing shapes on my window in Paris, my mood was really close to the song. The night was falling, the lights coming from the cars in the street were creating ghostly shadows on the walls. So I wrote that and added more narrative parts. Then Obaro told me he wanted the video to be only about this feeling. We talked about Hobo signs, loss of gravity…” he explains.

“I loved the idea of trying to make a more mainstream music-video, like the trip-hop ones I was watching on MTV in the 90’ in my parents’ living room. It was my first one with an artist singing in it, my other ones were more like short-films, more personal…” finishes Cyrille.

His favorite of his creations so far?

“Maybe Mohini Geisweiller,” decides Cyrille. “Or Poni Hoax,” he adds. “This one is based on a suspense that can be solved in 3 minutes, in real time: a pregnancy test. What’s going on in the girl’s mind during those few minutes? Then come the giant bubbles which represent the ovum and human frailty like in the Homo Bulla from the Flemish XVIIth century painting…” he elaborates. “Then the fish as the fetus, the needle for the possible abortion…Trying to embody some aspect of the unconscious,” he goes on. “But it is also the simple story of a girl sitting on the toilet, waiting for the test result.”

Cyrille has been pretty prolific in filming music videos, but does commercials as well. He finds joy in both types of film. “Directing music-videos and commercials are so similar for me,” he explains. “I’m always on my own as an art photographer so the enjoyable thing in commercials and music videos is to share a vision, to create something collectively to be a part of a team,” he says. “My producers, people from the agency, the DoP then the editor, everybody on the set…not being alone,” he decides.

Beyond music videos and commercials, sources like ArtForum have described Cyrille’s work as “sensorial narratives,” or atmospheric films with a sensual narrative of the body’s fragility and a deep connection to natural elements. This style of film has long been a fascination for him. He says, “At first I used to travel and take pictures of different animals, landscapes, faces, rib cages, roads, trees, house windows, and I stored films but didn’t dare to process them.” This went on for two years, with him keeping hundreds of films in a big Adidas sport bag. “I liked this impression of having captured what deeply touched me, without knowing it for sure. Or I was just scared,” he says.

“Finally one day I took them to a local lab: most of the images were totally overexposed, but a few of them conveyed the emotion I had felt and it was an amazing experience to discover them. I guess it was the real beginning.”  

These days his projects get completed a little faster, like the few weeks it took to make Ghostpoet’s music video. All it takes for him to get into a creative mindset is a soda and a method apparently. “These days I have a thing with San Bitter, a bright red soda, really popular in Italy. Don’t know if we can find it in the States,” Cyrille says. As for the method, “I hold my breath underwater, as long as I can, until I feel I’m about to pass out.” The benefit of this, Cyrille explains, “With the sounds muffled, the diffracted sun above my head…things seems dazzling when you come out of the water to breathe in and get blurred with the forgotten images that appear accurately, shining, in a very distinct perception.” The method must work –  even eighty-six year old Japanese inventor Yoshiro Nakamatsu does something similar. “But I still wonder how many neurons I lose each time!” Cyrille admits.

Even if he’s losing neurons, his work isn’t suffering for it, as he is able to create beautiful projects even in the most difficult and stressful of situations. His most stressful so far was last winter, when he was trying to shoot a commercial for the luxury brand Guerlain. “We were on a small island, Ouessant, in the northern Atlantic. We had several helicopter shots to do above the sea but were stuck in the fog,” he describes. “We were running out of time. We are almost always running out of time but maybe it was my worst day of shooting because I was unable to do anything. Really depressing day,” he sadly says. “So we took off anyway. And for hours we were shooting white fog, with no light because there was also a very grey sky above us.”

There was light at the end of the tunnel though, so to speak. “Then suddenly just before dusk, came a ray of orange light, dividing the sea and the sky and it was almost unreal, exactly what I was looking for,” he says. “It’s my favorite shot of the commercial at the end! And I would like to believe it taught me something but I don’t really believe it, I’m not sure at all that the sun will come out of the fog next time.”

In addition to helicopter treks over the Atlantic ocean, Cyrille has traveled the world for his work, getting to explore all kinds of beautiful places and eat new and different food (some of it probably not so good as well). The best so far, he says would be “Soho House in West Hollywood two days ago… but there are too many places.” Besides enjoying the cuisine a new place has to offer, he likes to take time for himself. “One thing I really love to do is to spend time in very isolated places, alone in nature, sometimes for weeks, and when I come back to go straight from the airport to a club, a concert, a party, as crowded as possible and with the loudest music.”

This habit, coupled with this underwater method and an Italian soda must work wonders because over the past year, Cyrille has received numerous awards. What he’s most proud of are the first one and the last one. “The first one: Saatchi&Saatchi New Director, and the last one: Camerimage, ‘cause after the ceremony Vittorio Storaro (DoP of Apocalypse Now, Last Tango In Paris to name a few), Jim Sheridan (director of My Left Foot, Brothers…) and so many others came to congratulate me. Weird! I was remembering me as a twenty-something watching their movies.”   

In the meantime he plans to shoot more music videos this year, as each time he hears a song he loves, he pictures a short film about it. What is he listening to these days?  

“I’m completely obsessed by Mohini Geisweiller music. She was in a band, Sex In Dallas in Berlin few years ago, then Columbia signed her and she did her first solo album. And her next one will be out in 2015 I guess. Her music is so deeply moving.”

Many musicians don’t take time to listen to other artists’ work, but not so with Cyrille. Although he didn’t see any flicks while on vacation this past month, he did indulge in some good old TV.

“I watched two seasons of Rectify on TV, absolutely extraordinary, and also Halt and Catch Fire, great tunes from the early eighties in this one.” As for films, he’s particularly excited by a new one soon to be released. “I can’t wait to see Eden by Mia Hansen-Løve, a feature film inspired by the French electro/rave scene in the early 1990s, the Daft Punk, all that stuff…”

In addition to music videos, he’s also got a film project under wraps, but he did tell us he intends it to be more narrative and closer to his art projects.

For all of you aspiring artists, especially musicians, Cyrille offers a piece of music advice he once received:

“‘You should listen to the song Dominoes, I love it.’ I was 13, with no interest in music at all, and everything changed after I got this copy of a Syd Barett LP.”

Find out more about Cyrille de Vignemont on his website. See his work in action by watching Ghostpoet’s music video “Cold Win” on the Encyclopedia of Music below.

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