With more than 25 years of filmmaking experience, Olivier Paul Philippe has proven that his versatile directorial style is well-suited to many different kinds of content.
He got his start working in news and documentaries, and after collaborating on a culture show that ran for six seasons, he transitioned to freelance work, which has proven to be just as successful.
Philippe has won numerous awards for his TV work and for his 2017 short film, “CARMA,” which was especially popular at film festivals here in the US and the UK.
Notably, Philippe has directed sponsored content for major luxury brands, including Dior, LVMH, Guerlain, Séphora, and many others.
Currently, he is breaking into the US filmmaking market with a planned adaptation of his TV series “Bob’s Blog,” and hopes to continue his work in sponsored content as well, having proven the value of behind-the-scenes looks at luxury brands.
During our recent interview with Philippe, he made his trademark sense of humor clear, and he was very excited to share with us a unique perspective on his influences and sources of inspiration.
How would you describe your style of direction?
I have a smooth, warm, chic style of direction! I make reality cinematographic. And sometimes I even blend reality and fiction. It’s certainly my trademark and what makes me unique in the industry in France.
Above all, I can direct very high-quality films, regardless of the means at my disposal. One of my strengths is definitely to be multifunctional. Big budget, low budget, whatever! I can operate on very different levels. It’s a question of adaptation.
Last week I made a show that required a team of fifty people and this week I’m capturing footage for a documentary where I’m going to shoot by myself. I adapt according to needs.
If you have to gain the trust of a character and shoot in his privacy, as I do for “Farmer wants a Wife” for example, you can’t bring fifty people in the barn. But if I direct a concert and I don’t want to miss a single musical note or get the reaction of the audience, it is different. But through it all, my style and my sensitivity will be the same.
Can you tell us about some of the most notable visual influences on your work?
The most obvious visual influences are from movies from filmmakers like Baz Luhrmann, Wong Kar-Wai, Guillermo del Toro, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I love when the atmosphere is a little bit, or completely, surreal and when the lighting is very sophisticated.
I also love the imagery of Michael Bay’s films. The light is always dazzling. I can watch transformers several times in a row just for that, even if I’m not a huge fan of the story.
My first influences came from European comics, the “French-Belgian school” as we use to call it. It would be too long to enumerate all the titles that I love, but you would certainly know “Tintin”, adapted by Spielberg on screen a few years ago.
And to finish, I would like to pay tribute to photographers like Helmut Newton, Peter Lindberg, Patrick Demarchelier, and David Lachapelle. I really admire their work and, consciously or not, I’m sure that they influenced me, especially in my luxury brand films and for the character of “Carma,” the sexy and dangerous heroine of my short film.
Have you enjoyed working with luxury brands such as Dior and Guerlain?
I love working with luxury brands. The short films for Dior, Guerlain, and Hennessy are intended to show the excellence of manual work and the know-how that those high-quality products demand.
Having told many stories of these people behind the scenes, as talented as they are passionate, I told myself that it could be very interesting for a brand like Dior or L’Oreal to show some of their secrets.
Dior had started to make some videos on techniques related to their collection. My experience with other brands and especially my ability to film with a very cinematographic rendering convinced them to entrust me with several shoots around the world to show the excellence of the craftsmen employed by the brand.
So you can imagine how fascinating it is to see all that skill and talent! One of my last shoots was in an old tapestry workshop in Venice, Italy. It was an amazing experience and a real journey through a time machine since weavers have been using the same technique for 400 years. It was a great idea to share it with clients or future clients of the luxury group.
In your view, why was “CARMA” such a large success?
I think my movie “CARMA” broke the rules in France because of its very nervous style in terms of camera movements and editing, in addition to the sound design and the score.
It’s not in the mood of French cinema at all! The audience was surprised and sometimes also confused, which is a good sign for me.
They also seemed surprised by my main character, a very strong but also very fragile woman somewhere between “Salt” and “La Femme Nikita.”
But surprisingly enough, the most prestigious prizes came from the US, Canada, and the UK. Audiences from those countries are certainly more used to that energic style, but less used to the kind of “chic” and french touch my characters maintain during chaotic events. The success is certainly due to a mix of the two.
Are there any major brands that you would like to work with in the future?
Sure, I’m already lucky to work with the major international brands in France, like LVMH, Dior, Guerlain, L’Oréal, Séphora, l’Occitane, and Hennessy.
I would like to explore other brands of excellence like Aston Martin or McLaren. I did many films and TV shows about cars and I’m very inspired by movement and luxury! So it would be perfect for me!
Which of your projects would you consider to be your best?
“Bob’s Blog”! I put all my vision, my style, and my sense of humor into this crazy TV show. It was considered as the most innovative show on French TV for a long time, winning a french TV contest for brand new formats.
As for the concept, imagine following the private life of a TV reporter who dreams of becoming Jimmy Fallon but who has the personality of House and who lives more in the “Californication” atmosphere.
The idea of “Bob’s Blog” was to be in the head of an endearing journalist, very nice, but a little borderline, a guy who always finds himself in somewhat complicated stories with the celebrities who he interviews and who he knows very well.
He narrates his life in voiceover during the show. We learn a lot about the hidden lives of celebrities. We start from real information related to the news and promotion of an artist, but everything else is written and staged.
In short, the “events and character of this TV show are inspired by true stories” as they say. The thing is, nobody knows at the end where the fiction really begins.
This concept was unique back then and still is! The exploitation rights which were blocked by France Télévisions for several years have just fallen and this is one of the few projects that I am now looking to develop in the United States.
Are there any projects you’re working on currently that you’d like to mention?
Besides the US version of “Bob’s Blog” I’m working on, I will continue to make behind-the-scenes films at Dior and also launch a new series of shoots for season 10 of the Great Bake Off France in the coming weeks.
On the documentary side, I am preparing the continuation of a series on French castles started with Fontainebleau and I am writing a film on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, for which I will certainly still play with my taste of mixing fiction and reality.