der Weg zum Film Play With the Devil

Matthias Willi:

„In the fall of 2016, I received a call from David Burger, a band manager from Basel, for whom I regularly photographed musicians. He told me enthusiascally about a new artist he had just signed: Manuel Gagneux.


Manuel’s project Zeal & Ardor didn’t even exist as a band yet, but he was already celebrated by the American magazine «Rolling Stone» as one of the most important newcomers. Exciting, a story like out of a fairy tale. I became curious, accepted the job to shoot stills of Manuel and thus got to know him.


At that time I had been working as a photographer for well over 10 years, mostly in portrait and documentary photography, open with musicians. Parallel to this, my interest in moving images had steadily grown – because certain stories can only be told very poorly with still images.


Olivier Joliat and me have been friends for a long time, and we had done various documentary book projects together, mostly about music and musicians. The best known is certainly «The Moment aper the Show», for which we portrayed rock stars in the moment when they came from the stage aper a concert.


When we told each other about Manuel’s sensational story, it quickly became clear that we wanted to follow this story with a camera. We simply had to, when such a fairy tale takes place right on our doorstep!


We had to get ready quickly if we didn’t want to miss anything. We were preey inexperienced as filmmakers and had to jumped in at the deep end, but we were happy to accept the challenge, using minimal film equipment, which fieed even into the smallest tour bus. Working with a minimal team and minimal equipment allowed us to get very close to the protagonists which might have been difficult with a larger team.


Weeks later Zeal & Ardor went on their first European tour and many trips and conversations with Manuel and the band followed. On the one hand we became almost part of the band, on the other hand we wanted to keep a healthy distance to our protagonists. The shooting conditions were open very difficult: We had to work late at night, in the smallest of spaces and with liele light. It was also a challenge to deal with a protagonist who was himself in search of something.


Yet it wasn’t only Manu’s «coming of age» story, but in a way also ours: How we matured as filmmakers during the long production period.


Fortunately, aper more than two years, with the soap factory and Frank Maeer we finally found a professional partner for our project. Also thanks to his support and to our editor Christian Büwker the story took shape and the project now finds its conclusion aper more than six years.“