The Directors: María Sosa Betancor
María was born in the Canary Islands with a view from her bedroom window of a volcano crater. Having grown up around this unique and dramatic perspective, there is a vitality and visceral nature that María brings to the environments she shoots that captures audiences in both her prolific personal projects and commercial work.
María’s background is in fine art and design and that has translated into her directorial style as she uses her artful imagination to craft enigmatic worlds that are visually striking and sophisticated. This has also led to her having a great command of post and incorporating different elements of film making craft into her work.
María’s aptitude for making work impactful and visually engaging to watch has seen her working with the giants; Nike, Adidas, Coca Cola and Volkswagen to cultural trailblazers such as Loewe, Paloma Wool, Haim, and Playboy.
María is based in Barcelona.
Name: María Sosa Betancor
Repped by/in: Biscuit Filmworks (UK) / Canada (ES) / Madre Foca (MX)
Awards: Silver Laus
What elements of a script sets one apart from the other and what sort of scripts get you excited to shoot them?
What really makes a good script for me is a solid concept, maybe it isn’t the most captivating one, but if it has a strong idea, I, as a director, have the space to make it shine, and I’m able to focus on the little details that make a movie special.
I know agencies usually try to contact directors whose previous work fits in with the current project. It’s the normal procedure that doesn’t take many risks. But what I really enjoy the most is doing things I've never done before.
How do you approach creating a treatment for a spot?
I must say that it is always an intense process, even the more simple ones.
I like to find all the possible approaches that the script can take. I spend a lot of time developing many ideas that I know are unfeasible, but I feel very comfortable when I come up with an idea with the feeling that I've gone down all those other paths before.
For this very reason, I find the first conversation with the agency extremely useful. That call, which always seems so spontaneous, always defines the destiny of the project.
If the script is for a brand that you're not familiar with/ don’t have a big affinity with or a market you're new to, how important is it for you to do research and understand that strategic and contextual side of the ad? If it’s important to you, how do you do it?
I love it when I get to do this. I am so curious about these kinds of things so it adds new exciting layers to the process. I’ve always been fascinated by colours that are not permitted in certain markets/products, by how fashion changes in every country, and by the unwritten, and possibly strict, rules that are behind everything.
I am very conscious that I am working in advertising, so I believe it’s very important to understand all these little details and include them in the film. Otherwise it would be a mistake.
For you, what is the most important working relationship for a director to have with another person in making an ad? And why?
The agency’s creative director by far. This relationship changes the whole energy of the project. It’s a dream when we are both aligned, and a nightmare when we have different visions.
What type of work are you most passionate about - is there a particular genre or subject matter or style you are most drawn to?
I feel really comfortable working on projects with a strong aesthetic. I'm good at making things beautiful, poetic, delicate, mysterious or hypnotic. I like projects that give me the space to create a strong visual world.
What misconception about you or your work do you most often encounter and why is it wrong?
Good question. There are two important things here.
One is that the poetic side of my work sometimes brings me cheesy scripts, and I have a strong allergy to cheesiness.
And the other is that now, agencies often ask about the concept of a 'woman’s touch', that I think is, most the time, the wrong approach. It’s weird. It’s like, Fuck! I’m a woman, yes, but I really don’t know what they expect from me.
What are your thoughts on opening up the production world to a more diverse pool of talent? Are you open to mentoring and apprenticeships on set?
Yes, please. I hear people saying 'things are changing too fast' and I think it is going painfully slow. I’ve always tried to work with new artists, including people who have nothing in common with adverts. I enjoy bringing out new stories and new faces. Whenever I can, I try to escape from the most generic advertising.
It makes me sad that many times clients and agencies have this message, but it is just words, fear betrays them and they end up doing the same boring thing as they’ve always done.
Your work is now presented in so many different formats - to what extent do you keep each in mind while you're working?
We need to pay more attention to the format. I think we are still not taking into account all the needs, specifications and sensibilities of each format and we need to catch up.
A few months ago, I was in the middle of a shoot when the agency told me that the main audience of this commercial would come from Instagram. I thought: Wasn't that detail important enough to say to the director before filming?
I feel big brands and agencies are so far from what is really happening, but also we have a big opportunity to make things different.
Which pieces of work do you feel really show off what you do best – and why?
LOEWE - 001
This is my kind of movie. All the ingredients I like are brought together: the freedom to create, rare craft techniques (everything is real), which I haven't’ seen in any previous reference, and an important need to create beautiful images.
I will always love this piece. It was a beautiful connection between a lot of elements. I convinced them to work with a non-commercial writer, an experimental musician and with a very poetic concept for the football world cup.
I had so much fun doing this film. We had no money but a great and fun idea for the first line of women’s clothing from a company that had only done men’s before.