Young director Jean-Julien Pous first caught our eye with his short Seeking You (Zhao Ni), a vibrant, rotoscoped love story about the city of Hong Kong. Set to a Chinese translation of Bizet’s languorous Habanera, it’s an attention-grabbing piece of work, created while Pous was studying at the Vancouver Film School.
Since Seeking You, Pous has been back to Hong Kong with his camera several times. Short film Drift Away and Gedda Hedz promo Spaced Out see Pous taking a live action look at the Fragrant Harbour. Pous spent part of his childhood living in Hebei Province, China, and his family have been living in Hong Kong for the past nine years – and his experiences in Asia have had just as much of an influence on his filmmaking as his studies at Supinfocom and VFS.
Pous has also been dabbling his feet in commercials, with a colourful spec spot for Converse, shot in Time Square, and has even been splashing around in the stylish world of fashion film. He is currently plugging away trying to find representation, and plans to move to China at some point in the new year. We caught up with Pous to talk colour, Converse and the appeal of the Middle Kingdom.
Drift Away seems like a partner piece to Seeking You – another exploration of the city of Hong Kong, although from a different perspective. Can you tell me about the film?
This little experiment started after the making of my first music video. I sat down at a café with the producer, and we chat about making a little film just to test the small camera I had. I simply went out shooting with a friend. My intention was to simply show a girl who is lost and doesn’t know where to go. I had this concept of a voice over, describing in a very scientific manner the evolution of the human species, as we could find it in an encyclopaedia. Ending with this sentence “But the last generation of humans is completely lost”. Something like that. It didn’t work at all, so I decided to remove it. I made the film because I wanted to shoot Hong Kong, and test my camera. And this girl was simply magical. We just hopped on any transport we found and kept shooting for a day and a night.
The converse Korea looks like it was a fun thing to work on – can you tell me about heading down to Time Square to do the shoot?
I was working as a second camera on a Maybelline commercial. We were out one night to shoot some plates for visual effects. We took a 15mn break to snack and rest a little bit, between 3 and 4 am. And as I passed in front of the Times Square’s red stairs with my assistant, we decided to have a little fun and did this very quickly.
Has the experience of growing up with French and Chinese culture influenced your directing?
I just know something from when I was a child and that seems to influence my directing, oddly. I tend to stare at people and things for too long. And I daydream a bit too much as well. Other than that, I think China gave me the taste and excitement of the foreign and the unknown. I’m a little bit bored in France I must say, and all I plan right now is to move out, towards Asia for sure. It’s a little bit difficult for me to answer your question, as I have little to no distance from my own work. I just feel that it doesn’t really reflect Asian visual culture, as I only shot in Hong Kong, which is a very westernized city. That’s why part of my plan is to dive into real Chinese culture, in the mainland.
You use really intense, vibrant colour you – why does this sort of palette appeals to you?
My graduation short was very black and white, despite being a colour film. I liked the strong graphical choices we made. I wanted to try colours, and maybe in the same radical way. I feel that in China, you can find striking colours like nowhere else. They push it so far that most of the time it’s almost shocking, as they don’t go very well together. Hong Kong is special in the sense that with its thick air and over lit streets at night, any place becomes surreal and beautiful. And there are several breathtaking spots in the city. I feel as if I’m just a kid discovering colours. Before developing a complex taste with some mute tones, I just play around with raw, full colours.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
I don’t see myself in six months, how can I tell you what I’ll do in 10 years? Hopefully I would have done something better, improved – maybe even changed radically, without forgetting my blurry and undefined dreams.
You can check out more of Pous’ film projects, as well as his photography, music and VFX work here.