Interview with Mister Gü: ‘Technique is not the most important thing; the most important thing is emotion’

From making a personal project in New York to becoming a frequent feature on Vimeo’s Staff Picks and a full-time professional filmmaker. That, in a sentence, is the story of Günther Gheeraert, also known as Mister Gü, a Paris-based film director and photographer who believes in provoking emotions through technology. We had a chat with him on some of his work, his perspective as a filmmaker and, of course, Star Wars.

‘Lost in Manhattan’ is a beautifully shot exploration filled with emotion. Could you talk us through the story behind the film and your decision to add digital annotations in the edit?

‘Lost in Manhattan’ was a personal project I did when I was in New York City. I was lucky enough to be there for two months, accompanying my wife who was there on a mission for her enterprise. As a European and a French guy, NYC was the city of my dreams. I walked for and filmed a lot of hours in this city alone, while my wife was at her work, so I became fascinated with this feeling of wandering in the big city.

That’s how I decided to create a video about this paradox: to feel alone while being surrounded by a lot of people in one of the most crowded cities in the world. To keep this paradoxical feeling, I gave it a special colour treatment, like a vintage look, which was then supported by digital annotations, as if technology was a reflection of my emotions.

Lost in Manhattan from Günther Gheeraert on Vimeo.

We understand that you use a more experimental style of filmmaking; for example, we know you like to shoot 30 pictures per second in RAW and edit them afterwards. What’s the difference you’ve seen between this and more traditional techniques? Do you value the output more if a piece of film is shot this way?

I tried to find my own visual style, using my tools. I know it is unusual but it is what I love to develop. I always loved Canon 5D, even more with Magic Lantern, and the ability to record in RAW because the quality of the image is excellent. I also love to record in higher frame rates to add a subtle notion of smoothness in actions. This technique inevitably influences my style, but I think I have a balance that allows me to tell the stories I want, the way I want to.

Technique is not the most important thing. The most important thing is the emotion I can create with images and music.

What are other interesting techniques you’ve seen or experimented with recently?

I once worked with a high speed camera, which I love. But again, I always put technology at the service of emotion. For example, I think I managed to create an emotion just by shooting water, coffee and sugar in ‘DrinkWater’.

DrinkWater from Günther Gheeraert on Vimeo.

What types of software do you use for your work?

Usually I only use Adobe After Effects. Again, this is unusual but it is a workflow that I could put in place because I wanted a piece of software that allowed me to both edit, colour correct and add motion design or VFX. Now I use Premiere Pro and After Effects with dynamic link, but I also use Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator a lot for motion design parts. When it comes to photos, I love Adobe Lightroom!

We’ve noticed that you seem excited about the latest Star Wars movie – did you grow up watching the series? Would you say it influenced your desire to be a filmmaker?

Star Wars is one of the most popular film series in the world, so obviously I was influenced by its universe. I think it’s very creative in many different ways: the stories, the characters, the visuals, the music… Before working as a filmmaker, I was an art director for video games because I love the beauty and the diversity of this art form. I worked for Atari on the last ‘Alone in the Dark’ video games, it was an unforgettable experience.

What’s the piece of video work you’ve done that you’re the most proud of?

I think the film I am the most proud of is ‘Rise Up’, because it was an amazing experience to travel all around the world, meet unforgettable people, discover beautiful cultures and capture outstanding landscapes. I worked a lot with the musicians as well, to create a very unique song that match perfectly with the film and all the emotion you can feel when watching it.

Rise Up from Günther Gheeraert on Vimeo.

It is indeed a beautiful project. What about the piece of video work you wish you had done?

That is a difficult question. Every day, there are so many beautiful videos from all over the world that I would have liked to do… Just look at Vimeo’s Staff Picks and you’ll have my answer for the most parts. I am proud that five of my own films are also part of this beautiful selection.

Thank you and keep up the amazing work!

Learn more about Mister Gü on his personal website. You can also follow him on Twitter @Mister_Gu and get to know more of his work on Vimeo. This interview has been edited for clarity.