Luc Besson set up Dog Prods. in 2001 to make his own commercials, but the company rapidly took on a life of its own. Today it represents more than 40 directors from around the world.
Of the 25 spots that Dog produces each year, Besson might contribute only one. The company, run by producer Alexandra Roussel, is largely independent from the rest of EuropaCorp but infused with the same spirit of creative exploration and innovation.
“At Dog, we want to take risks with directors who are really unique in their style,” Roussel says. “We don’t want to stay politically correct in the commercials business, which is hard to do.”
Roussel scours the globe for filmmakers who can bring something different to the table. Her stable includes directors from Argentina, Sweden, Ireland, Finland, South Africa, Germany, Iceland, the U.S. and Thailand, along with a core from France. Sometimes Dog’s directors cross over to make features for EuropaCorp; more often, EuropaCorp gives movie directors a way into commercials through Dog.
“At the beginning, Dog was just for Luc Besson to make his own commercials, but then he thought it could be (a) very interesting (way) to discover new talents for features and vice versa, to give feature directors a chance to make commercials,” Roussel explains.
Roenberg is the moniker for a Norwegian duo of commercials directors — Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg — with a witty, verite style who made their feature debut in 2005 with EuropaCorp’s “Bandidas,” a Western co-written by Besson and starring Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. They are now developing their second feature in Norway.
Florent Siri is another who graduated from Dog to features, although his bigscreen debut, the Bruce Willis vehicle “Hostage,” didn’t involve EuropaCorp.
Going the other way, Pierre Morel is a veteran cinematographer who lensed several EuropaCorp movies, including Besson’s “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” and then stepped up to the director’s chair with “District 13” and this year’s hit “Taken.” He now has joined Dog’s roster. Patrick Alessandrin started his career as Besson’s assistant on “Subway” before becoming a director of movies and commercials.
Roussel signed up Thai director Wisit Sasanatieng after EuropaCorp distributed his first two movies, “Tears of the Black Tiger” and “Citizen Dog,” in France.
She suggests Dog’s relationship to EuropaCorp is particularly beneficial because of a shift in the world of advertising toward a more narrative style. “Clients more and more want to do a longer length, two to three minutes, so it’s interesting to have access to feature directors, directors who know how to tell a story.”
The Besson connection helps get commissions from all round the world — “Besson has a big reputation in all the countries,” Roussel says — but in France, where Besson remains a controversial figure, his name scares off as many clients as it attracts.
“We make a lot more commercials for the international market. We are not a typical production house in France,” Roussel comments. “Probably also because of the choice of films of EuropaCorp, the French can be shy of us. I find France a less and less creative market — they don’t take risks.”