Introduced by Ogilvy & Mather co-chairman and worldwide CCO Tham Khai Meng, Academy Award-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu took stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on 23 June.
Iñárritu, who also has 14 Cannes Lions to his credit, was called upon to discuss inspiration and the role of the creative.
Talking about the challenges he faced when shooting The Revenant, Iñárritu said, "There's nothing you can do (to tackle them) other than prepare. We knew the film will encounter problems. The difficulty was because we had to plan logistics related to the weather.”
He recalled, “I was panicking because I had not done stuff like this. I was having nightmares. One of them was how would I shoot a horse, and then a rider on the horse. I had to learn all of that."
Labelling music as the best way to express emotions, the director said, "I think we as humans have a vast emotional territory to work it out. There's a way to express stuff emotionally. The most precious and straightforward human expression is music. It's invisible and intangible in a way and hits the right emotional chords."
Responding to a question from the Ogilvy CCO on whether he always wanted to be a filmmaker, he said, "No, not till I was 21 or 22. I played in a band, but I was terrible. I had to find something to do. I loved cinema, like a lot of people do."
The Mexican filmmaker considers himself privileged to find a job at a radio station, his first. For hours, he and his partner could play their choice of music. But what attracted people was what they did between the music.
“We spoke about provocative topics. It was a great platform. Then I did the same provocative things for a TV station. I had a partner there too. Clients outside saw it, and asked us to do similar stuff for them. Nothing was planned when it came to the movies, it was just a happy accident," he revealed.
Khai quoted Iñárritu, who had once said that shooting commercials was like going to the gym. He also brought up his accomplishments at this festival, where he's won Lions including a Titanium and Grand Prix. Would he look to get back to advertising, asked the CCO.
Iñárritu responded, "They were important to me and helped me. As a storyteller it was a great exercise to communicate an idea in 30-seconds. Every second counts in those 30 seconds. I really appreciated that."
Directors in Mexico
The filmmaker attributed the emergence of good directors in Mexico to the conditions in Latin America. "There's a lot of things going on in Latin America. Crisis brings out rich cultural content. Films may not be very well produced but there's something to say in the country. Why we are more successful is probably because we are more hungry."
Curiosity and perfection
Responding to a question on whether he's into spirituality, Iñárritu, said, "Spirituality has less to do with religion and more about awareness and consciousness. I'm worried about dying, and every day I feel that I will die. That has made me more aware. I meditate everyday. I'm interested in it."
He further added that curiosity and perfection are big drivers. "I'm very curious. I allow to things to impact me. I've never had an agenda. At the end of the day the process allows me where to go, and that too without a compass. Not having a driving force has helped me come together. What also drives me is perfection. I'm a chronic unsatisfied guy."
The talk hinged several times on awards he's won as a film director and during his advertising career. Khai's last question was on Iñárritu’s next aspiration on the awards front.
Iñárritu said, "Honestly, it's beautiful to receive recognition but it's important not to get caught to those things. I'm excited to keep learning. Cinema has been stuck for a while. Audiences need to be taught and challenged now."