Interview with ‘Epic Split’ video director Andreas Nilsson

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What it took to make it great

It’s just been a week since Jean Claude Van Damme’s epic split video was uploaded, and over 30 million people have already watched and admired it.

At just over a minute in length, the video captures Jean Claude Van Damme’s finest moment in decades; a perfectly choreographed split between two Volvo trucks as they reverse backwards together in the morning sunlight. So how did this video get made, and who were the people behind it?

Music video director Andreas Nilsson kindly gave us an insight into his vision on making the JCVD ‘Epic Split’. Nilsson, who’s worked with artists and bands including Moby, MGMT, Placebo, and Röyksopp, took a different approach to the video that set a new tone for the Volvo Trucks campaign.

Filmed in the early morning on a closed runway south of Madrid, Spain, the video was completed in a single take but after going live on November 13th, the team didn’t quite expect such a worldwide response.

Discover the man behind one of the best commercials of 2013, and get a first hand account of what it’s like to work and chill with action star, Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Interview with Andreas Nilsson

Iain: How did you get involved in the video?

Andreas: I was approached by Forsman and Bodenfors 6 months ago about this. They asked me to pitch an idea for them and I wrote the JCVD idea based on the campaigns’ previous films. What was most important to me was to add a new layer to the concept, a more poetic statement about the trucks and a new tone to open up for an interesting continuation of the campaign.

The full split

Iain: In terms of pre-production, when did you guys decide to approach Van Damme or were there other actors you were considering for the stunt?

Andreas: He was the only actor we wanted for this spot. No one else was considered. He is the split.

Iain: What was it like working with the Muscles from Brussels?

Andreas: A good man. He took me to a flamenco club in Madrid and taught me how to play castanets. The copy is straight to the core and very close to the truth. JCVD is a man that has experienced some rough times but he has come out on the other side. Hats off to that.

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Iain: Did you have any involvement in scripting Jean-Claude’s opening monologue or did he also have some input for the lines?

Andreas: The monologue was written by the copywriters Björn Engström and Martin Ringqvist at the agency. JCVD saw it and approved it. It’s pretty straight up and on point. Not much to argue about.

Iain: How did you come up with the visual concept for the video with Volvo?

Andreas: The previous spots in this Volvo ”test-campaign” have been very successful (remember the Ballerina or the Hook?) so I wanted to make sure we took another step on this. Step away from the documentary, go-pro aesthetic from previous spots and do something that was more emotional and heartfelt. I always saw this as a visual Haiku.

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Iain: What kind of camera gear did you need to get the right look and feel?

Andreas: Alexa. Russian arm. Lit by the sun. Great DP (Ed Wild). Graded by the Mill UK. Simple like water.

Iain: Did you ever envisage that the video would become such a global success?

Andreas: I knew it was pretty good, but no.

Iain: Can you give any tips for filmmakers wanting to work in commercials?

Andreas: Don’t wait for a board and an agency that gives you so much trust and freedom as Forsman Bodenfors did for me on this one. That is rare. I’m very impressed by both the agencies and the clients’ amount of bravery and focus on this one. Again, it’s rare. But apparently bravery and focus pays off.

Iain: What’s next for you?

Andreas: I’m going out for a dinner with my wife. It’s crab season in Miami where I am right now, so I was thinking something along those lines.

For more information on Andreas, check out his official website.

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