So here’s my theory: if J Lee Thompson or Victor Fleming had been granted access to the raw materials available to Baz Luhrmann and other directors this side of the millenium they would have crafted something eerily close to Australia (2008).
This film seems to attract a lot of flack for ‘trying to be an epic’, to stand out as a modern Casablanca or Gone With the Wind. Is it just me or does this feel like blind elitism in the face of change? These claims, for the most part, aren’t backed up. It’s fair to have complaints about the film’s content, script, performances, but does it make sense to slate it for trying to achieve a particular style?
A similar example is the 2011 movie Take Me Home Tonight, which deliberately conjures the feel of an 80s coming-of-age comedy. Watching TMHT it’s hard not to wonder if this is what Say Anything… would have looked like shot on modern cameras.
This film is funny, well-shot, full of great performances, and it did incredibly badly. TMHT didn’t get the marketing it needed, it was slated by critics and it died in a pool of its own nostalgia. For a film that’s a hundred times better-made than The Hangover or other top-grossing comedies this doesn’t seem right.
So who makes the rules? Brick (2005) indulges in over-the-top noir thriller stylings of days gone by, The Lord of the Rings (2001-3) bends over backwards to fulfil some mad lust for the kind of camp fantasy epic which would never cut it with any less-than-iconic property. What makes some genres more heavily defended than others?
A few months ago I was in a Camden pub with Jack Shaw and the guys from Dancing Lotus. They were working on this awesome new track and they wanted me to do a video for it. I’ve worked with Elliott (their collaborator on this single) before so they knew me and my stuff. Pretty much immediately I pitched the idea of the video being set in an office, and escalating mundane conflicts beyond the norm.
Then for weeks I made no progress.
Then I forced myself to listen to the song over and over again. Working on a music video is so different to working on a sketch or dialogue-based short film, after the initial idea I essentially let the music write the video for me. I started piecing together small pieces of action and filling in the blanks.
Producing for YouTube (at least at this level) is very different to anything else. Almost from the start I knew who I wanted to star in the video (Khyan and his spectacular face). I planned the characters and interactions around the people I knew would be playing them, rather than writing faceless characters to be auditioned for and developed later.
One of the biggest issues working with music is that you can’t control the length of the song. If you’re not careful you can run out of footage and be forced to awkwardly pad out sequences. I started a spreadsheet to plan what would be on screen every 5 seconds for the full length of the song. Then I had this:
which translated into a 58-angle shot list.
Then I freaked out because we only had the location for 6 hours and 58 angles. Even if some are slight variations on existing ones (ie. wide, mid, c/u of same action), that’s a lot. Here’s what it was like.
Here’s a picture of Khyan and I on the floor:
and here are two of my favourite people ever:
And this is the artwork for the single, which is totally available worldwide on iTunes:
If you don’t know much about Dancing Lotus or Elliott, you can find things out HERE and you can watch the VIDEO I made for Elliott two years ago.
This project has got me excited to make more music videos, including one which is already in the works for the American synth pop band Stepdad. More on that to come…
If you’re a media type you may at some point study technological vs. social determinism (most likely in the context of web development). The highly simplified ideas that either the nature of technology shapes how we use it or the nature of how we use it shapes technology. Instances of both can…