At Zen, not only we teach freediving but we also expand the scope of our activities to build a community around the spirit and the values we love. This is why Zen recently sponsored the music video Birthplace, by British artist Novo Amor. No we are not investing in the music industry, but Birthplace shows in a poetic way the major issue of plastic in the ocean, by filming a man (a freediver) discovering this catastrophe.
One of the two directors, Jorik Dozy, is also a visual effects artist who works at Lucasfilm just like me. He had already directed Novo Amor's previous video, Terraform, which I found stunning, so when he approached me to ask about freediving, I was very excited to be able to help in any way possible. Jorik firstly wanted to know what could be done underwater, on one breath hold. Some of his early questions were "How long can you act?", "Is 10 meters a reasonable depth to shoot?", "Can you do 80 dives day?", "How much rest do you need between each dive?", "Can you dive without a mask or goggles?".
After all those questions I introduced Jorik to Chris, co-founder of Zen, because he could talk in depth about the philosophy of freediving and of Zen, which could help to shape the video and the relationship with the actor. Chris also put Mike Board (from Freedive Gili) and Jorik in touch, as he seemed to be an ideal cast for the role - an intuition that was right on target!
Thereafter I suggested to Jorik and his camera operator Nihal Friedel (another artist from Lucasfilm) to do a test shoot in a pool, with the assistance of Kohei Ueno, a fellow Zenner, for safety (thanks buddy!). The goal was to figure out some key aspects: try out actions (swim, fall to the bottom etc.), try out poses (foetus position, stand up for over the shoulder shots, close up on face etc.), try several cloths to see how they react underwater (I was wearing jeans, which makes swimming pretty hard!), play with plastic bags, try several camera moves, try lights, try to film at 50 or 100 frames per seconds for slow motion effect etc. We also had to figure out communication underwater between the three of us, as the scuba divers would not be able to repeatedly go up and down to talk.
When I looked at the rushes after the shoot, I was astonished by their quality. So I decided to do a quick edit and add some music: https://vimeo.com/fmdesplanques/freedivevideotest. Even though the result was pretty rough, it was extremely promising because it showed that they had the technical means to shoot according to plan and that the aesthetic quality would live up to their expectations.
The final result is visually stunning and delivers a strong message about a major ecological issue. It was a great privilege to be part of the pre-production of this incredible project that bridges two of my passions.
A making off video will be available online in a couple of days, along with an interview of Chris explaining how Zen was involved in the project. In the meantime you can watch or re-watch the video on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGslEcmVurg (if you use Chrome you can watch in stunning 4K HD).