The absurd inspirations of Caviar’s zaniest Franco-British director.
No director is an island. And as much as they claim they pull their ideas directly out of their genius brains, the vast majority of creative ideas are, in fact, pilfered from other people’s work and combined with other stuff to disguise their genesis. That’s why we do this series – to try and trace the lineage of directors’ output.
Arno Salters, who recently signed to Caviar, has some truly odd commercials on his reel, often playing with the laws of physics. We wanted to understand what goes into a head to get this sort of thing out, so asked him to talk about five of his biggest influences.
Taking the Metro
“I live in Paris, and when you live here you either drive a moped or you take the Metro. I do the latter.
There’s a lot of frowning that goes on down there, but if you look beyond that it’s a great source of inspiration. You get to observe every single layer of society up close, and come face to face with characters of such strangeness that you couldn’t write them into a screenplay without readers feedbacking ‘I don’t buy that character.’
Some of the observational virtues have diminished in recent years with the advent of smartphones. People tend to hide behind Candy Crush or 2048 rather than putting their personalities out there for all to see. But if you look close enough, you still find plenty of inspiration in the occasional awkward co-worker conversation, the pick-up line falling flat, the preppy guy pulling out a spray can and quickly doing a gangsta-looking graffiti on the wall, or even the busker I once saw who hummed while ‘performing’ public masturbation for spare change - perv with a sense of humor (I have yet to find a place for that character in one of my commercials...).
The Metro also has a way of forcing you into decisions that define you bluntly as either Nice Guy or Dick: ‘Should I take a minute to help this mother get her stroller up the stairs?’ ‘Should I interrupt my book to give change to this homeless dude?’ ‘Shall I actively not recognise that guy I met last week who really loves to talk about video game design?’ Or perhaps the most common: ‘Shall I pretend I didn’t notice this other person was going for that seat and quickly maneuver my way there first?’”
“When I was a kid one summer they played the entire Flying Circus in English on French TV. I recorded every episode on VHS and watched them over and over. I can’t think of anything so free form on TV today. Social commentary and philosophical meanderings wrapped in a fat layer of completely unfiltered comedic randomness.
So when I veer towards comedy, my mind often drifts towards Socrates scoring a header against the German philosophers, Graham Chapman wearing a massive fake nose, or John Cleese and Michael Palin in the argument clinic.
As a sidenote, special shout-out to The Goon Show, an amazing radio show from the 50s featuring Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan and which feels like a spiritual predecessor to Monty Python.”
“I read that when Rashomon played at the 1951 Venice Festival, Kurosawa was asked by a journalist what the film meant. His answer was that if he could answer that question in a couple sentences, he wouldn’t have bothered making the film.
Think I’m gonna start using that line on clients.”
“I don’t read that much fiction but when I do it’s got to have some absurdity to it. Here are three that I love.
The Nose (1835) by Gogol, where a man wakes up only to find his nose has disappeared from his face. As he goes on a hunt for it, he finds that his nose has realised all of his own personal ambitions and climbed the ranks in19th century Russia.
Basically Russia’s 19th century equivalent to Charlie Kaufman.
Baron in the Trees (1957) by Italo Calvino, where a boy from an Italian aristocratic family has a tantrum and decides to go live in the trees for the rest of his life.
Always thought Terry Gilliam would eventually turn it into a film.
American Desert (2004) by Percival Everett, where a man gets his head cut off in a car accident. After morticians sew it back on for his eternal rest, the man wakes up at his funeral, sending the world in a panic.
Everett’s the head of the English department at USC. Gives me renewed faith in the US college system."
My Kids’ Drawings
“I’m sorry; I swear this is not me being a cheesy proud dad. It’s just that kids come up with some of the most amazing avant-garde shit. I’ve been inspired more than once by my girls’ concepts. Here are three examples:
1. ‘He’s trying to grab the red guy but he can’t because he doesn’t have any hands’ You can’t help but feel really sorry for the blue guy. He looks majorly bummed. But then again, if he did have arms what was he gonna do to the red guy?
2. ‘Bird looking at you’ Stop looking at me with a raised eyebrow, bird. I didn’t do nuthin’.
3. ‘Its a Rainbow that’s attacking a princess’ – Pixar have approached us about buying the rights to this one. I just hope the princess keeps that hairstyle if it ever does get adapted.”
Have a look for these influences on Arno's reel.