Italian designer, animator and director Lucas Zanotto has created a short film for PLANK that uses the company’s furniture as props in a sequence of playful trick shots. Unlike conventional promotional films that present design products in a lifestyle context, the film is shot in a simple studio to focus attention on the furniture’s timeless, iconic forms and functional qualities. Using his signature style of in-camera animation, Zanotto constructs a series of seemingly impossible scenes that will bring a smile to the viewer’s face.

Produced at a studio in Bolzano, Italy, the film begins with the Helsinki-based designer arranging tables and stools from Konstantin Grcic’s MIURA collection for PLANK in front of the camera. Lastly, he places a cup on a table surface. Zanotto then exits the frame before returning and throwing a ping-pong ball that bounces several times on the precisely positioned furniture before landing perfectly in the cup. Over the next 40 seconds the trick is repeated again and again with ever-more unlikely arrangements of PLANK's furniture. It makes one curious watching the one-in-a-thousand shot coming off time after time.

The collaboration between PLANK and Zanotto was first discussed a few years ago after the designer had been introduced to the company through a mutual acquaintance. Since moving to Finland, Zanotto has become known for his playful animations and commercial work for major international brands. For this project, he was given free rein to experiment and present PLANK’s products in an entertaining way.

Michael Plank - "I have been following Lucas Zanotto for some time. He is a recognised artist on the international scene. What fascinates me about his work is the creativity with which he approaches his projects. When I met Lucas, I was sure we needed to do a project together. There are values that connect us - the attention to detail and the challenge to create something that is memorable and timeless.”


Q&A with Lucas Zanotto

Lucas Zanotto is an Italian-born designer, animator and director, now based in Helsinki. He is known for his humorous animations and commercial films for brands including Google, Barclays, Amazon and Telia. He has received several awards for his work, including the Apple Design Award and the Golden Lion in Cannes.

Can you talk a bit about your background and how you got into filmmaking and art direction?

I started out studying architecture but then I moved to Milan to study Product Design. I worked for a couple of years in a big agency and during that time I started noticing that I was interested in filmmaking and animation so I began experimenting with that.

I like textures, forms and shapes, so I started combining a lot of in-camera animation with filmmaking and mixed media. For the last ten years I’ve mainly done this sort of in-camera animation in my commercial work.

How do you describe the processes and techniques you use to create your films? What is unusual or innovative about how you work?

My work combines different techniques, but coming from a Product Design background I always like to use an analogue approach, building sets and filming stuff for real.

Doing things in camera makes it original because if you did it again it would not be the same. There are always these imperfections and things that happen in the moment that I am attracted to.

Recently I also started playing around with 3D software, creating animations mostly for Instagram which people seem to enjoy. I’ve come to notice that there are aspects of building and animating in 3D software that are quite similar to the way I work in real life.

Your film for PLANK shows a ping-pong ball bouncing across different pieces of furniture and landing in a cup over and over again. How did you come up with this concept and the visual design of the film?

I was given a selection of PLANK furniture and complete freedom to do what I wanted with it, which is quite rare these days. I tried to create a nice composition that shows the furniture in the best angles.

The ping-pong ball landing in the cup is such a simple thing but in a way it’s also magical. Everyone can relate to the feeling when you try to do something unlikely and it comes off. When you watch the film you get that same feeling every time the ball goes in the cup. It’s very satisfying and you want to keep watching to see it happen again.

Working in this way must be very challenging and frustrating. How difficult was it to get the shots you wanted?

For sure, this project required a lot of hard work, passion and patience. It took over 2,000 throws of ping-pong balls and some shots took four hours until they worked out. But I think that’s what makes it enjoyable to watch.

What do you feel this collaboration says about PLANK as a brand?

PLANK creates serious, high-quality products, but collaborations like this show that they are also open to doing different projects. The trust they placed in me demonstrates that the brand is bold and willing to experiment.

How pleased are you with the way the project turned out and what do you think people will make of it?

I think the film feels very current because trick shots like this have become really popular on social media. It’s important to make something that brings a smile to people’s faces. A lot of the art I appreciate has a fun aspect to it and doesn’t take itself too seriously. So far, everyone I have shown the film to has been very positive.

Interview by Alyn Griffiths


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