There’s a fresh new face in the Mr.Frank family, and it belongs to Leonardo Cosme. The Brazilian director joins our motley crew, bringing with him equal parts focus and fun.
When we sat down with Leonardo for this interview, at some point we had to ask Why Mr.Frank? Leonardo described our previous collaborations as ‘incredibly pleasant’ (we agree) and our team as ‘easy-going and hard-working’, which is exactly how we would describe him, too. So, here we are: an obvious match.
As the story goes, Leonardo found his passion for filmmaking at the age of 6, when his father put him in charge of documenting the family trip to Disneyland. At this point we could say something cheesy like “he’s come a long way since those days of VHS”, but we won’t. Instead, we’ll let Leonardo do all the talking.
What made you decide on Amsterdam as a base?
I was finishing up my studies in Barcelona, where I lived for 4 years, and I started thinking about the next step. By that time, the film scene in Amsterdam was putting out some fresh stuff, new production companies were appearing, more international ad agencies were moving here, and it felt like a place where there would be many opportunities. I also wasn’t keen on moving to a big city like London or Paris. Honestly, Amsterdam was always at the top of my list.
How has your approach to commercial work changed over the years?
It’s changed quite a bit. Visually, I like to try new things, and always do what feels best for a specific brief. But most importantly, I think with time you not only start developing your shooting and visual style, but you also get better at the process behind that. I naturally started to feel more comfortable with my internal process, putting my ideas out there but also collaborating more with the agency, the client, or on set with the crew.
In what direction do you see advertisement heading?
That’s a tough one…after 5 years working in an ad agency, I don’t think I’m anywhere near guessing that right. It’s an ever-changing industry, and these days it changes faster than ever.
The type of content being made is changing, a lot of it now is about responding to what’s happening around us, and that impacts how ads are produced. You need very quick turnarounds for any ad to be relevant. In terms of how it’s consumed, we are constantly surrounded by it, being targeted to see mostly what might be interesting for us. It’s hard to predict.
On the other hand, I do think there’s room to create work with more human insights, longer narrative pieces, cinematic or more abstract artistic work, new work that leaves ‘traditional’ advertising behind.
What’s great, though, is that a lot of big and small brands are actively positioning themselves, becoming louder about political and social issues. Some brands are recognizing that they have to change their image and culture. That’s very important for the future of advertising, and I’m looking forward to something more inclusive.
What do you think are the ideal qualities of a film director?
Having a strong vision is very important. It’s all inside your head. You are the one that knows where you want the project to go, and you need to be able to communicate that clearly and to stand behind your ideas. But being a good collaborator is a big one, for me, as well. It might be cliché, but it’s important to hear what people have to say – not only those who came up with the idea and concept but on set as well, trusting and listening to the people you’re working with because, after all, you chose to work with them.
What is a dream project of yours? Is there anything in the works?
I have a few dream projects, but the one I’d love to bring to life soon is a short film I wrote about a couple of teenage friends growing up in an upper-class gated community in Rio de Janeiro. It’s the type of place that’s surrounded by fences and armed guards and spoiled 10-year-olds riding mopeds like there’s no tomorrow.
Currently, I’m editing a short documentary I shot earlier this year about a doorman, Jose, who worked for almost 50 years in the same building – my parents’ building, actually, back in Rio.
He was going to retire and I wanted to document his last day. Having known him for so long, his life always fascinated me. His love for his job, the building, the people that live in it, but mostly the fact that he spent half his days in the same place, sitting in a chair, looking at the outside world. That always moved me, in a way.
Is the documentary process something that comes naturally?
Yes, although I haven’t done much of that recently, but this is sort of how I started with filmmaking – taking my camera, finding subjects or a character, and making a little film about them. So, it was quite nice to get back to that.
What is a lesson or piece of advice that you always come back to?
Be over-prepared. I like to be able to improvise on set because it’s hard to anticipate special moments that you can only see when you have the camera on, the actor in front of you, and the set behind them. But in order to have that freedom on set, I need to be over-prepared, have everything planned out, if not on storyboards then at least in my head, so if things start going south I always have the original plan to refer back to. But yeah, to be on top of things during the pre-production and nail the concept.
Finally, what recommendations do you have for us to watch/read/listen/follow?
Roger Deakins started a podcast with his wife and collaborator, James Deakins, during the pandemic, where they talk with some of the best directors, cinematographers, actors, head of departments, composers, photographers…you can probably learn as much listening to them as in a university classroom. The podcast is called Team Deakins.
And to try and promote a little bit of Brazilian culture here, I’d say the film Bacurau, if you haven’t seen it yet. Because of the pandemic it didn’t have the premiere it deserved in Europe, but it’s my favorite movie from last year.