Saul Taylor / May 12, 2019
There is one woman that the biggest event producers and brands call on to add a certain je ne sais quoi to their proceedings. Her name is Marion Boucard. She lends her unique sense of drama to the performances she creates for parties that are designed to bring joy to guests. With her company Brand Contente, Boucard is la reine of contemporary event entertainment.
How did you get started?
I was born in Normandy but went to Paris at the first opportunity – I needed something radically different from the countryside. I was 17. I received an internship in Paris in Applied Arts and then in Lille for another two years. I subsequently moved to London in 2000 to work with Spoon magazine a couple of years before jumping into styling and then crossing over to the other side — PR. I was Vivienne Westwood’s press attaché and largely on my own in the showroom with a lot of freedom. I loved organising shows and events for Dame Westwood. But I came to miss the creative side and so began my endeavours in performance. My first solo show was in an art gallery for Nuit Blanche 2005: Hollywood Icons, the female and male gaze and seduction. I loved managing the art direction, style, choreography, stage direction etcetera, and felt happy to have found my medium.
Soon after, I performed for Galeries Lafayette on a Saturday afternoon and on a talk show that very evening. I had quite a lot of press because it was at the beginning of the new burlesque scene — to be honest I never fully identified with the movement — though it certainly promoted me. I was represented by an art gallery for four years and little by little I worked on events and began to see a real need for these intimate performances that make such a connection with the audience.
What was your first big commercial client?
I worked for Canal+ for the Cannes Film Festival for five years in a row. Then there was the 100-year anniversary of Le Touquet Paris Plage. I brought 12 performers from Paris and another eight were cast on site. We styled the group and gave stage direction. We danced into the city centre during the day to tell people to come to the party that night. It was around then that I quit the day job and went travelling for a few months to focus on the creation and positioning of a company that would specialise in immersive experiences. The idea behind Brand Contente is to simply bring joy through powerful and meaningful experiences. That is my true motivation — to create these moments of emotional thrills. From story making to story living, the emotional factor is a great vector of success. Human interaction is key, and I seek out artists who have a generous spirit.
You have a unique approach. How does that work with clients?
There are different levels. Most of my clients are big event production companies like Shortcut or Bureau Betak. They ask me to design the experience element to include the casting, styling and stage direction to complement their art direction.
Other times I will work directly with clients such as the Four Seasons George V in Paris as I have for the past three years. They will have an idea about the kind of party they want to hold — it may be corporate or more intimate for just 25 wedding planner partners to whom they want to present a really magical experience. Then, I’ll go away and develop a concept to include a mise-en-scène, choreography or just a story that is ‘on brief’.
Through the creative development I will find the artist that will communicate their message in the best way. What are they going to wear, can we do something about the décor and, importantly, to define the parcours — the flow of people from arrival through to how they move from one room to another.
How is performance art evolving with the times?
When I lived in London, I submerged myself into immersive theatre. I went to see the Punch Drunk productions and the radical You Me Bum Bum Train (YMBBT) — it truly inspired me and wasn’t happening in Paris at all. In 2014 I volunteered on the production side for YMBBT and took a Design Masterclass with Punch Drunk to better understand the mechanics of their creative and production development. I go to the theatre a lot here in Paris and find traditional stage productions very static with the audience on one side in the dark observing the stage — no interaction. It’s been ticking along like this for centuries, but there is so much space for diversity in approaches to productions. When I work on my performance events, most of the time there are no stages and the performers are in between the crowd and mingling with guests.
I had this vision, and it looks like I was right, that nowadays clients want to max out on the notion of experience during events. They want very Instagrammable picture opportunities — the décor and characters. For example, we collaborated with Bureau Betak for a Dior repeat show and party in Shanghai last year and I saw something I’d never seen — the Chinese queuing to take selfies with the performers. Very weird!
It almost becomes part of the performance.
Pretty much. It’s very interesting that the performers themselves are another artistic feature.
How do you do the casting?
I’ve got a big roster of artists that fulfil different requests — acrobats to comedians but call mostly on dancers. I work with charismatic, professional performers — I can rely on them to behave well at a party(!), look good and converse with the guests. I have a core body of performers I work with a lot, but am always open to meeting new ones. They enjoy working at Brand Contente events because they are understood as artists and guests.
What makes Paris so special to hold events?
Ooh (laughs), I don’t know. There is still something magical about Paris being such a beautiful romantic city. There are so many amazing venues full of historical and cultural treasures. It’s the perfect playground for luxury houses who wants to share their heritage and savoir-faire. It’s a je ne sais quoi. Maybe the people. There is an elegance in the way people behave, dress and talk. That’s also what I look for when I am searching for performers.
What’s been your most memorable event?
Probably the spatial story about time and infinity for the Omega Treasure launch event in Berlin, also produced by Bureau Betak. The venue was industrial — a disused power station with very lofty ceilings. They managed to create a series of beautiful, tiny atmospheres for the guests — like a maze. Each with a different décor and a specific performer. I think it worked really well.
What makes a great event?
Strong storytelling and a lot of happiness! Three minutes or three hours for a performer to share their happiness and emotions. That’s why everyone is happy after the party. Usually it starts with a dancer and that’s why good dancers and live musicians are important. Everyone also has to be on the same level. No stages. Musicians and dancers close together with all the guests around them. At some point the dancers start to dance and invite people in. You then have this shareable joy. Joy is the biggest emotion there and that’s what you want for a party. You don’t want sorrow; you don’t want pain. Entertainment is the keyword for most of our work and entertainment for me means joy.Back