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The Work That Made Me: Ehsan

The FRIEND director reflects on the films, ads and music videos that formed him into the filmmaker he is today

The Work That Made Me: Ehsan

Ehsan studied Architecture whilst simultaneously DJ’ing. He went on to study Graphic Design where he discovered filmmaking. A few award-nominated shorts and fashion films later, his first commercial for Vertu received a YDA nomination at Cannes Lions and Best Sound Design at the MASAs. Since then he’s gone on to win two Cannes Lions and a Creative Circle award. His ability to mix character and quirk with a stylised, conceptual style of film-making has led him to create spots for brands such as Nike, NFL, Adidas, Louis Vuitton / Kusama, Hugo Boss, Burberry, and YSL, whilst his petrolhead obsession has led him to shoot highly-visual spots for BMW, Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus and Nissan amongst others.
 
Now he’s represented in the UK by FRIEND. Here he looks back at the many creative sources and experiences that have seeped into how he approaches filmmaking now.
 
 
 

The ads/music videos from my childhood that stay with me…

 
Music videos: Most definitely all the ‘90s Hype Williams stuff - think Busta Rhymes ‘Woo-Ha!’ and ‘Gimme Some Mo’ or Missy’s ‘Supa Dupa Fly’. That fish eye and ring light combo’, the totally bonkers costumes set against insanely fantastical themed sets. It’s all the glam of ‘90s hip hop, subverted with the surreal.  
 
 
Ads: It’s still gotta be that Orange man Tango ‘Slap’ campaign: ‘You know when you’ve been Tango’d’. It transcended into culture… I guess getting slapped after you had a fresh fade was the closest thing to a meme back then.
 
 
 

The thought that made me want to get into the industry…

 
I cut my teeth on fashion films, and I found the industry’s resistance to storytelling both frustrating and just kind of bizarre - who wouldn't want to see the characters in say Miles Aldridge or Steven Meisel’s photographs come to life?
 
 

The creative film that I keep revisiting…

 
Will you judge me if I say Space Jam? 


Skipping past the Pixar / old school Adam Sandler films here… 
Actually, I think I watched that Spike Jonze short ‘I Am Here’ about a bajillion times!
 
 
 

My first professional project…

 
My first ‘directing’ job was for Louis Vuitton x Kusama - I wrote a little competition idea where viewers could ‘Spot the Difference’ between two films. If you know Yayoi Kusama’s work you get the pun. I still think it’s a clever little content idea. 
 
 
 

The movie that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

 
The Lobster. Pretentious AS F - I’m sorry, but come on, gimme a break!
 
 

The ad that still makes me jealous…

 
Nike ‘Nothing beats a Londoner’. Don’t get me wrong, they nailed it - it’s brilliant. But I’ve got a few opinions about ‘catting the culture’ unless you’re from the culture; representing certain niches with authenticity is everything.
 

  

The creative project that changed my career…

 
The first commercial spot for Vertu got nominated for a YDA (Young Director Awards), that got me gassed.
 
 
It catapulted me into regular work, even though it was kind of in the wrong direction. After a while of answering briefs I was more and more desperate to find my voice and celebrate what made me unique as director and a storyteller in this industry - my background, my connection to culture etc. So I hustled a little direct-to-brand project with NFL UK (‘Around The Block’), which restarted my career and transformed my trajectory.
 
 
Nike came knocking next :)
 
 

The work that I’m proudest of…

 
GYMSHARK baby… I’m not sure everyone gets it but that’s ok :)
 
 

I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

 
Oh man, where do I start… Most of the fashion bits I did took themselves soooo seriously… I shot a thing with Robert Konjic (who was amazing) driving around a dark moody city on like zero budget, performing a soliloquy about ‘what defines a man’… I think there’s a line that says: ‘never rest, until you rest in peace’. That just says it all.
 
 

The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

 
I’ve just shot a commercial for Nivea - and contrary to what that might imply, this spot is wild lol! We’re not talking Nike or Apple here, but to take a brand that’s kept it pretty traditional, but has huge reach, and get to align it with cultural nuances and such celebration of representation is a huge thing for me and the Zeitgeist.


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