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Inside VanMoof

Reflecting on Reflections: an interview with Pascal Duval

Time to Ride the Future, VanMoof’s latest film, is more than just a bike advert. It’s a portrait of our present moment, and the choices we have to make to move forward. VanMoof Creative Director Pascal Duval explains why it’s time to take a long look in the mirror.

What are you reflecting on?

As a society, I think we’re all reflecting on our lives right now. Thinking of the things we used to do, and the things we could do better. The COVID-19 pandemic was such a shock to the system that we’ll always think in terms of ‘before’ and ‘after’ – now we have to ask ourselves if we really want to go back to our old ways, or if we can use this opportunity to start over. Now with protests and demonstrations all over the world, it feels like we’re all waking up and demanding real change for humanity and society. We’re starting to understand how meaningless and damaging our patterns of behavior can be, and see how quickly the world can change.

Where did the reflection concept come from?

It came from this process, both personally and professionally. I was reflecting on my life while working on ideas for this campaign, reflecting on society – thinking about the things that matter to us, and the people we’ll try to be in the future. I was discussing angles for the film when The Supremes’ Reflections came up on shuffle. When Diana Ross sings the line “reflections of the way things used to be,” it felt like she could be talking about the world in 2020. Everything then fell into place creatively. It’s like we’re looking back at our world the same way she’s looking back at a relationship. This is about letting go of the things that hold us back, a beautiful kind of breakup.

Nice idea, but how do you make a film under lockdown regulations?

I have to give a lot of credit to our creative partners at Builders Club. For this film to work, it had to feel completely real and completely surreal at the same time. That’s what gives it a sense of poetry, and a sense of emotion. With Builders Club’s expertise, we knew we could make the film in a completely digital space and that it would still feel very physical. I actually think social distancing helped our creative processes – we’re not dealing with abstract ideas, this is our new reality. And that way of working and thinking is carried over into the film, directly and indirectly. Making a film like this without anyone leaving their house is an incredible achievement on its own, but that limitation really fueled the creativity.

Is this a ‘corona commercial’?

We can’t escape the present moment, and it would be dishonest to release something which didn’t acknowledge our current situation. But the core idea goes back way further than that, and we’ve toyed with producing an ‘anti-car car commercial’ for a long time. Originally, we planned to unveil the new VanMoof S3 & X3 at the Salone del Mobile in Milan. We had this incredible concept where a lifesize car would be cut open on stage, and the bikes would emerge from within. It was our way of introducing the e-bike as a powerful icon of change. Of course, the Salone was one of the first international events to be cancelled because of COVID-19, so we had to find a way to communicate the same message online or on TV. So yeah, this film would never exist as it does now without the pandemic, but the idea and the feeling we want to communicate goes deeper than just seizing on our situation.

What is that feeling?

That’s up to you. There’s no point telling people what to feel, because that’ll always be dishonest. The film did have a voiceover in earlier versions, but it’s more powerful if you let people reach their own conclusions. We get so many corporate messages rammed down our throats that it’s refreshing to be able to make up your own mind. It turns the film into a dialogue, where you confront your own reaction and reflections – you can choose to see what you want, but there will always be a part of you looking back. And whatever you feel, it’s an opportunity for positive change. We’re seeing cities transformed for the better, and people are standing up for what they believe in. That’s what we mean by “Time to Ride the Future”. This change is happening, now it’s up to you whether you want to be a part of it.

So what do you hope people will take away from the film?

I hope that it will prompt people to re-examine the status quo. COVID-19 has shown that nothing is fixed, and the systems and behaviors we think are permanent can disappear overnight. There’s obviously been a lot of focus on the negative aspects of this experience, and we don’t want to take away from that at all. But we can see many things changing for the better. Inner city traffic is at the lowest it’s ever been, and pollution is dropping all over the world. City planners are finally embracing biking, and dedicated biking infrastructure is being built faster than ever. That’s why this film goes beyond just selling the new Vanmoof S3 & X3. We want to inspire people to rethink the way they move, and show how that can affect the world they live in. It’s really a call to action, a chance to leave the past behind, and make real progress that benefits everyone.

Peter Gigg

About this author

Peter Gigg is VanMoof's resident Brit. He enjoys writing, running, and remaining in the EU.