Sunday, June 17, 2007

They make films, not websites

Designer/Artist & friend extraordinaire Filippos has been living in Stockholm, Sweden for the past two years working for Design mega-house Framfab. We have been friends in London and in Athens, we worked on projects together (and still do) and we nearly opened a design studio ensemble with another designer extraordinaire, Chris, but all three of us eventually led seperate ways. We don't get to see Flip that often now, but we often do accept a fair amount of interesting spam by him in our mailboxes. He is the expert on that - sending stuff that's always interesting to look and surf at.

One of his last spam emails contained a link to the website of Traktor, which he told me is a "group of Swedes that make great ads". I visited the link and found myself in their simple, white webpage. The simple typewriter font on the white background and the few words make up for a minimal and nearly poor web experience, but them you notice the site is all pumped-up with subtle and cool Flash rollovers and contains hi-res mpegs of their videos. They feel compelled to tell us, though "hey, we make films, not websites". And next thing they say is "if you fell curious, drop a line here". If you saw their videos, you'd know why they play the aggressive/arrogant act and why they couldn't wear a serious, corporate personna on their splash page when they make videos for Nike where angry chicken chase people all over a city. You see, they must be split between the two themselves: the big world of Nike, full of sweatshops and multi-billions of dollars sitting side by side to the humorous, hillarious world of funny evil chicken.

Clicking on their ad clips and waiting till they load is worth every nanosecond of your time. Watching ads like "Angry Chicken", the one with the dirt-bike riding beaver for Miller Lite or the Men vs Women battle for Mail On Sunday (genius scenes where posh girls unleash their dogs or lads their RC cars to them) makes you feel this familiar mix of envy and enthusiasm you always feel when you see creative work that's way beyond anybody's expectations. For videos, it last happenned to me when i saw Michel Gondry's videoclips in a DVD that Flip gave me about four years ago. Then it was Wes Anderson, then Donnie Darko and after that it was the films of Jacques Tourneur and Six Feet Under. Now it's Traktor.

The six Swedes that live and work in California seem to know how to present unusual scenarios in such a self-assured, nearly arrogant way, they make you believe everything is possible. The technique is imacculate; the casting fantastic; the use of time exemplary; and the ideas so fresh it's like Swedish cool breeze on a Califronia heatwave.

Indeed, watching their ads you can't help thinking there's gotta be some bit of European flair and sarcasm in the air, totally Gondry-style. I just think most American filmmakers would miss this or in the best case scenario come up with something that would be either Jackass or indie-looking. (Ok, there's Spike Jonze out there, I know). But in Traktor's case there seems to be a perfect amalgamation of Jackassness and European sense of the surreal at work - the Evil Beaver video being a perfect example: the scene where the humanized Beaver grabs a dirt bike and attacks the campers is 2 parts boisterous Jackass humour, 1 part unapologetic european surrealism.

Whatever it is, these guys are worth all the big bucks they're obviously getting and all the American big-time arrogance they acquired living and working in fame on the sunny boulevards that overlook the Pacific. The reason why is simple: they make you laugh. They make you laugh genuinely, and in a liberating, "at last something really clever and fresh" way. And then you can't help associating that great feeling with the brand advertised - and you fall for it.

I don't think Mountain Dew is out in the Greek market, but if it was, after watching the "Master" video for about ten times (and never failing to laugh at the last scene), I would go and buy a six-pack. Simply cause the moment i'd see it on the supermarket shelf, i'd think of the video, smile, and for two split seconds, feel this splash of uknown chemistry in my system produce this warm sense of happiness.

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