Ladies and gentlemen, willkommen, bienvenue and welcome! You are invited to join at the historic Barrandov studios in Prague, Czech Republic, to witness how ŠKODA and Cirque du Soleil® start their partnership.
18. 6. 2018
It all started with a quick question at a company meeting in spring: “Who would be a good emotionally engaging partner for ŠKODA? Maybe Cirque du Soleil?” Because Cirque du Soleil, the “circus of the sun”, is the world’s largest theatrical producer and live entertainment company! The idea to join forces felt good from the moment it was verbalized. Then… a lot of persuading had to be done.
“Different levels of emotion”
The weeks fly by more than just quickly. The level of support for the partnership between ŠKODA and Cirque du Soleil gains momentum day by day. Managers and creatives alike are energetically driving the partnership forward – not just with half of their interest and time, but with all of their positive energy. Why?
Because the idea resonates, because innovation and creativity are at the heart and soul of both companies. “There are some definite parallels between our brands. Both are very human companies, very creative. Cirque du Soleil is looking to surprise people and bring people to a different level of emotion – and so is ŠKODA”, said Olivia Houlder, Corporate Alliances Partnerships Manager, Cirque du Soleil.
The idea for the first joint project was quickly agreed upon: A film that is more of an artistic expression than a commercial, featuring some of Cirque du Soleil’s extremely talented artists. The venture aimed to showcase the strength and creativity of the two brands; for ŠKODA it would be connected to their graceful first all-electric concept, the VISION E, for Cirque du Soleil it would demonstrate the power of their electrifying performances.
AUGUST 2017: Alexis Vigneault’s hands tightly grip the metal rod that surrounds a rugged lamp, made by Alexis himself. The grip of the Cirque du Soleil artist is firm and strong – for a good reason: Soon the rope attached to the top of the lamp will propel Alexis at lightning speed towards the ceiling in the blink of an eye. Mid-momentum he will coil the rope around himself until he reaches the exact spot 10 meters above the ground where he can maneuver his body into a handstand position.
“BE THERE WITH ME, FEEL IT”
Does he coil the rope around himself - or does he coil himself around the rope? Alexis, who started circus classes at the age of eight, has been performing for Cirque du Soleil since he turned 17 years old. As you watch him twist elegantly around his own axis, multiple times in a controlled manner, you see every muscle and tendon working in harmony and wonder if this being is made of the same flesh and bone as you are. “When I perform I want the audience to feel. Because in everyday life we are always thinking: ‘What is next, what happened?’. But being in the moment is really important for our souls – and I want the audience to be in the present moment with me when I perform. I want them to stop thinking and start feeling. They should be amazed by the lights, music, costumes, and the acrobatics”, explains Vigneault. He adds: “No, you don’t have to understand how it’s done. Feel it!”
You don’t have to understand how it’s done. Feel it!
Alexis is surrounded by a cloud of golden glitter that expands as he begins to spin faster and manipulates the light of the lamp in his hands more intensely. The huge hall of the Barrandov film studios falls silent in awe. Although there is a crew of almost 50 people all engaged in their own tasks, the only sound you can hear right now is the hum of electric units and the sound of the camera crane. The units power the collection of 100 spotlights that form the dazzling ‘artificial sun’ that illuminates the artist from behind as he performs his daring feat.
“We’re filming something that has never been seen here before: In the way we’re shooting it, the movements of the artists, the technical set-up, the stage, and the storyline”, explains Thanh Vu Tran, Head of Global Communication Content and Strategy ŠKODA. “This video also reflects our brand values: it connects the worlds of ŠKODA and Cirque du Soleil in a simplifying, but at the same time strong human and very surprising way.”
“A PUZZLE WITH 1,000 PARTS”
Two days before the first take is captured on film, there is chaos on the set. “Don’t worry. It’s always like this when the best people of their industry come together”, says Producer Bjela Hrábková. “When everybody is on set for the first time it feels like you’ve poured a puzzle with 1,000 parts into a room.”
“Into a dark room!” her boss Petra Ondrejková adds, squinting an eye. “The last thing you can lose is your sense of humor.” Fortunately there are not just one, but four ‘artificial suns’ in the studios. “I guarantee, when they light up the whole scene, every part of the puzzle will be in its correct place.”
Four clusters of spotlights, installed behind white silk, create the four suns. In front of them the Cirque du Soleil artists demonstrate their abilities – under the watchful eye of the cameras. “This is not a commercial, it’s a film that shows energy. One of our inspirations was an art installation of Olafur Eliasson, a Danish-Icelandic artist. He installed a giant sun in a museum in London”, explains Michael Pfeiffer-Belli, creative director at Fallon agency and the person responsible for the creative outcome of this film.
“Our massive sun is the backdrop of our video. The aim is that the artists epitomize the positive energy that comes from it.” By the end of the film the sun will merge into the wheel of the first all-electric concept from ŠKODA.”
“Two seconds of airborne freedom”
Two of the artists performing in front of the sun are Leah Christiana Gonzales and Alejandro ‘Toro’ Cuenca. Leah usually works in Las Vegas for Cirque du Soleil. When she stands in front of you, you sense that within her 155 cm body she contains enough energy, strength, and passion for three people. Standing still on the spot? Maybe only possible for a few seconds - but executed with a dazzling Las Vegas smile.
“For this video I’m doing bungee-trapeze. I have a harness and I’m attached to bungee cords. I basically jump up and down and rotate, doing difficult front flips and back flips." A few minutes later Leah will put her feet on the trapeze, which is installed only a few meters below the distant roof of the studio. Above her: a special high-speed camera that captures every tiny movement. From eight meters below the sun glares up at her. She will willingly let herself fall, towards the centre of the sun – with a smile.
When I am doing the trampoline, then I am flying. I feel the freedom of the air.
Cirque du Soleil artist Alejandro ‘Toro’ Cuenca loves to use the term "fly". In order to understand his artistic moniker, just glance in his direction: Toro, Spanish for bull, has an upper body which looks like it may have been sculpted from ancient Greek marble. The trampoline is Alejandro's favorite discipline, having been a member of the Spanish national team since the age of 11 - long before he started with Cirque du Soleil. “When I am doing the trampoline, then I am flying. I feel the freedom of the air. And that’s what I want the audience to feel as well: freedom.”
A high aim, since he has only two brief seconds to arouse this feeling in his audience. In this short time the ‘flying bull’ must get airborne with every single bounce. But he succeeds - because even in silhouette you can see the Spaniard smiling as soon as his feet leave the elastic mat and propel him towards the camera of Tony C. Miller.
“It will really stand out”
“Artists like Toro and Leah verge on superhuman,” says Tony C. Miller. Tony is the Director of Photography for this art-film. “We’re filming everything in high speed, so we can freeze the artists at moments in time. This way we can really appreciate the grace and the beauty of the positions they can bring themselves into.” As Cinematographer, Tony is in charge of the visuals and responsible for everything that the camera sees and how it captures it.
The technical challenges on set have been numerous. “Lighting-wise it has been an enormous challenge to create these large suns in a way that gives you the power of a real sun, the raw energy within its surface,” explains Tony. “We’ve gone the extra mile, so it will shine through on the screen. And I am sure that this will be the kind of film that people later refer to as highest quality craft. I am sure it will really stand out!”
“I hope that nothing tears apart”
To ensure that the four Cirque du Soleil artists sparkle and shimmer for the camera, Martin Bedard is on the set. “I’m the Head of Costumes for special events and projects for Cirque du Soleil and I’m here to make sure that all the costumes fit properly and that everything looks good on camera.” The costume design for this film was easy and challenging at the same time. Easy because the idea of the sun was a great source of inspiration for the Montreal based costume designer.
“We had to look for a costume that represents the positive energy that ŠKODA and Cirque du Soleil are sharing. I designed a couple of new costumes for this video, with different fabrics that are shiny metallic and reflect the lights,” says Martin. The task was difficult because the materials must also withstand the extreme stresses to which they are subjected during the performances. “I’m really eager to see what it looks like in the final video.
And I just hope that nothing tears,” Martin adds, his face lights up as artist Kami-Lynne de Bruin walks into the costume-department. The room is suddenly ablaze with light as sunbeams bounce off her glittering yellow dress.
“It looks DIFFICULT – and it is”
Every time Kami-Lynne enters Stage 10, people stop for a moment to take a second look – and it’s more than just a sparkling dress and shiny make-up that attracts their attention. She has presence. The stage builders put down their tools and coffees to watch her perform. Work can wait… this is art. Kami-Lynne is different. Her performance grabs you. Her movements can raise your heartbeat to 150 beats per minute and then soothe it down to 90. “I do aerial hoops and aerial silks. Aerial silks are two long pieces of fabric and I use the fabric to wrap, suspend, fall, swing, and spiral my body into and out of various positions. Holding the silk, I can also fly through the air, perform striking poses and figures.” Looks challenging – and yes, it can be. Kami-Lynne adds: “There are no safety belts or ropes – it all depends on your strength and your focus! But at Cirque du Soleil we have a lot of time for training and safety is the priority.”
There are no safety belts or ropes – it all depends on your strength and your focus!
“The goal: Invoke, provoke and evoke.”
The backbone of every Cirque du Soleil performance is in ensuring that the audience is fully absorbed in the tension of the show, be it in a big tent touring the world, or in Barrandov Studios creating an artistic film in front of ten dozen of people. “At Cirque du Soleil we invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke the emotions of people,” says Jean-Martin Desmarais, Head of Production at Cirque du Soleil.
“We push boundaries artistically, technically and humanly. And we’ve brought to life the unimaginable since it all started 1984 with a group of 20 street performers.” How does he explain the success of the company? “Cirque du Soleil stands out because, like ŠKODA, we are all about humans. It’s an entertainment experience.” And this experience can also be seen in the short film to promote the partnership with ŠKODA. “People are going to be really surprised by what they see in this 40 seconds. It’s going to be beautiful and stunning.”
Watch the final video here:
Cirque du Soleil is a trademark owned by Cirque du Soleil and used under license.