Bears are usually just comic props in commercials. Not so in this wonderful, hilarious spot for the French movie channel Canal+ by Paris ad agency BETC Euro RSCG.
Here, the bear runs the show—as the director of a medieval action film. The spot opens with a hectic, violent scene from the film itself. But soon, the bear—his name is Paul Bearman—stops the action and strolls out on to the set to dispense advice on everything from the special effects to the acting. The spot then progresses as a mockumentary, with the bear explaining how he developed his passion for cinema. It turns out he's the prototypical Hollywood director—a bit of douchebag, a bit of a diva, but really a true Renaissance bear when it comes to filmmaking. (He even conducts the orchestra when they record the score.) The only thing that's a little weird is that he appears extraordinarily thin, and his whole underside has a taxidermied, rug-like appearance. This is all explained in the great visual punch line at the end of the spot.
"The more you love Canal+, the more you love cinema," says the onscreen line at the end. Likewise, the more you watch the spot, the more you love Canal+. (Note: The agency has also done some nice press materials, including a very funny interview with Mr. Bearman. Check out that Q&A below the spot itself. Creative credits are below that.)
Interview with the bear:
Hello, Paul Bearman, you play the lead role in the latest ad for Canal+ whereas you are in fact a film director. It is unusual to call upon a director to play the part of an actor in an ad. Can you tell us how this all came about?
When BETC contacted me to do this ad for Canal+, I said yes straight away. I should probably mention that I was completely broke and I needed money to finish the post-production of my latest film. They then asked me if their people could be there for the filming and follow all the stages of the production of the project. At first I refused (I have my own way of working you know, and the thought of having a bunch of advertising types on my back during the filming didn't really appeal to me), then we talked about it with my producer. You can't imagine how persuasive a producer can be when they're in need of money. I accepted.
How did the filming go with the agency?
At the beginning, it was quite tense. They brought in a Dutch director (Matthijs Van Heijningen) with all his team. It was no longer clear who was filming what. To his credit, I would say that he is a rather good director (Pepsi, Canal+ "The Closet", etc., and a feature film, "The Thing", which is due to be released in October – Ed), but he had the cheek to try to give me advice about directing! As for the agency… Apart from eating chocolate bars at the control booth and behaving like idiots during filming, you have to wonder what's the point of these people!
But you ended up accepting, in the end?
That's true. But I accepted because it was an ad for Canal+. It's an excellent channel, which does a lot for filmmaking (Canal+ is also co-producer of the next Paul Bearman film – Ed). And then, little by little, we got used working together and everything went smoothly. As long as the agency guy kept well away from my leading actress (laughs).
Paul, tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become a film director?
Well, actually, what you saw in this ad is true, apart from a few details. They did blank out a major part of my life, which I guess was not glamorous enough for the ad (laughs). Of course, Canal+ set things off, but don't forget that becoming a director takes a lot of work. During these lean years, I had to work in a circus for nearly a year in order to be able to pay for my director classes. Then came my studies, it wasn't easy to keep up, considering that I spent six months of the year hibernating! Then I made my first short film, a few ads—everyone has to eat! But, you know, it's the same thing for my fellow film directors. We all went through it.
And after this film, do you have any plans?
Well, there is the promo to do for the ad. I don't like that kind of thing really, but you have to do it. Then, in early November, I'm off to hibernate with my family in the Caribbean. In spring, I start shooting a new film. I can't really say too much about it for the time being, but it will be different from what I have done up until now, more like David Lynch-style.
Spot: "The Bear"
Client Management: Maxime Saada, Samantha Etienne, Béatrice Roux, Mathieu Mazuel, Périne Long
Agency: BETC Euro RSCG, Paris
Agency Management: Raphaël De Andréis, Alexandre George, Guillaume Espinet, Sébastien Jauffret
Global Creative Director: Stéphane Xiberras
Art Director: Eric Astorgue
Assistant Art Director: Julien Schmitt
Copywriter: Jean-Christophe Royer
Strategic Planning: Clarisse Lacarau
Traffic: Loren Hecker
TV Producer: Isabelle Ménard, David Green
Sound Production: Gum
Production Company: Soixante Quinze
Director: Matthijs Van Heijningen
Special Effects: Mikros Image
Music: Éric Cervera (Near Deaf Experience)