Each new collaboration between French network Canal+ and the BETC agency is something of an event. With now-famous spots such as “The Closet,” “The Bear,” and “The Bear’s” inevitable follow-ups setting impossibly high standards for wit, humor and execution in advertising, it’s been hard to imagine what the pairing could do to top themselves. But their latest release provides the answer: A thrilling 3D free-for-all that turns a restaurant kitchen into action spectacle of the highest order.
Like most – if not all – successful campaigns, “The Kitchen” is built on the simplest of premises: that great television is made from great content, and great content comes from great channels. Therefore, it follows that great channels still remain the definitive source of great television.
“The concept is not really revolutionary,” said Jean-Christophe Royer, one of two BETC creative directors on the spot. “The ideas [are] cool and the direction is fantastic. But in terms of concept, in terms of angle, it is common. We just wanted to say that there are a ton of cool items [on Canal+] and we found a way to show it.”
But as “common” as it may be, in the era of on-demand and non-linear viewing, “The Kitchen” is a powerful statement that TV channels still matter, if only because it demonstrates how exciting it can be when a premium brand curates what’s out there and offer its fans the best of the best. The spot is also a mesmerizing shot “against network TV,” said Eric Astorgue, BETC’s other creative director on the spot. “Network TV gives you many channels, but none of them are really interesting. Whereas with Canal, you only get premium channels. You only have 30 channels, but they are all great.”
The metaphor of a channel’s content as the ingredients of quality television can take many forms, and in fact an early version of “The Kitchen” was not in a kitchen in all but in a “Samsung-like TV factory,” Royer said, “where you would see people fabricating TV sets. But instead of factory workers, you would have Lionel Messi, Jon Snow and company working, each at a different work position.”
Nothing conveys the identity of a country like its cuisine, however, and setting the final product in a culinary atmosphere “evokes the French touch, the French savoir-faire, the French art de vivre,” he continued. “With Canal, we have always held our French-ness as a badge of honor. Even on global markets. That’s why in previous films, like ‘The Closet,’ the guy speaks in French and we added subtitles. In ‘The Bear,’ he talks in English, but we chose a French actor with a deep French accent. We don’t want to hide that we are French. We will never pretend to be English or American.”
For a promo with as much integration of 3-D and real-world elements as “The Kitchen,” the preparation for the production is as important as the production itself – if not more so. BETC spent three weeks planning for the shoot, a pre-production window that included crafting a 3-D animatic that “included everything that was going to be shot, and was made with the right camera angles, the right camera movements, the right character movements,” Astorgue said. “This way, we knew exactly what to do during the shoot and where to place the camera. They started to render some elements in 3D before the shooting even started.”
The pre-production animatic was even trimmed to a length just a bit longer than the actual commercial, with cutting done by the same editor as on the final spot.
“Going into this, we knew exactly what to do,” said Astorgue.
For this reason, “The Kitchen” has less of the “silly stuff” that has been the trademark of past BETC/Canal+ collaborations, Royer said: light, off-the-cuff bits of humor and character detail that infuse those works with fresh, irresistible levity.
“You can’t improvise on things like [‘The Kitchen,’” he continued. “You can’t say things like, ‘I just had this great idea for this scene. I am thinking of this movement for the camera. You have 50 people in Paris working on the rendering of the elements and it’s impossible to change things once we have started.”
For all its meticulous craftsmanship, though, “The Kitchen” hardly feels stiff or cumbersome. It has a breathless rhythm all its own thanks to giddily choreographed camerawork and a circus-like score that feels like an outtake from a Looney Toons episode. In fact, the music is culled from the soundtrack to another French cuisine-themed work, the 1976 comedy L’aile ou la cuisse (“The Wing or the Thigh”). Unearthing this rather obscure compositional relic was a “complicated” process, Royer said, that saw the creative team dancing through songs in the genres of jazz and salsa before settling on something more symphonic, if cartoonish.
“In the end, we had like 10 songs to pick from,” Royer continued. The final choice was suggested by none other than the sound guys themselves.
“The Kitchen’s” chaotic pace breaks with the past both stylistically and structurally. For all their lightness, “The Closet” and “The Bear” were both buoyed by rigid narrative architecture, each with a “beginning, a middle and an ending,” Royer said. But the tightness of those promos was also helped by a tightness of focus, as each was clearly marketing the very cinematic, scripted offerings of Canal+. For “The Kitchen,” however, the main idea “was to launch the Canal brand” as a whole, Royer continued.
“We had to make a film as if we were launching a new brand. We had to show to consumers what was really into it, in a spectacular, generous way.“ That meant broadening the focus to include all of the network’s offerings, which extend across more than 30 French and international channels covering cinema, sports, family programming and beyond.
“We still had to keep the high standards in terms of direction that we have always had on the Canal+ big films,” Royer said, “but we needed a new style of writing. That’s why we made something that is more of a catalogue.”
Brand Managers: Guillaume Boutin, Audrey Brugere, Jordane De Villaret, Eugenie Rodrigues
Agency Managers: Bertille Toledano, Guillaume Espinet, Mathilde Lançon, Elsa Magadoux, Sophie Gustinelli, Marie Chapuis
Executive Creative Director: Stéphane Xiberras
Creative Directors: Jean-Christophe Royer, Eric Astorgue
Strategic Planner: Guillaume Martin
Traffic: Elodie Diana
Music Creative Director: Christophe Caurret
TV Producer: Isabelle Menard
Production Company: Partizan
Sound Production: Schmooze
VFX: Unit Image
Post Production: Royal Post
Director: Antoine Bardou-Jacquet
D.O.P.: Damien Morisot