A-list musicians, A-list cast – what was behind your decision to star Joanna Lumley as the burlesque dancer with a penchant for killing off younger starlets?
Casting Joanna Lumley was Paolo’s excellent idea. He’s a huge fan, as am I, and most of us in the UK. She was into the music and script and agreed to be in it. She brought so much class to it and was so perfect for the role, regardless of her profile. I also really liked the fact she’s mostly known in people’s minds as playing Patsy and other comedy roles, so to have her playing the role of a killer was really interesting.
How was it working with such an experienced actor – did you have time to rehearse or was it shot on the hop?
Completely nerve wracking all the way up until we got the first shot. The reality of working with her was just this extremely surreal idea to me. I met her first at a fitting and she was as lovely as you might imagine and totally put me at ease. But even after the fitting I still couldn’t quite grasp the reality that she would soon be in front of the camera playing a role I had written. My mum is a massive fan of hers and I would watch Ab Fab with her when I was a kid and adored her Patsy character amongst other roles she’s played, so the entire thing was completely nerve wracking and bizarre up until the shoot day.
We didn’t have any time to rehearse and had to get the whole thing in just under four hours as we had to shoot a lot of other stuff in the morning. We had James Dyer assistant directing who made the whole thing far more comfortable than it probably should have been. Once we got the first shot I felt great and really enjoyed it, she nailed the performance and had managed to learn all the lyrics perfectly. We also both happen to live a few minutes walk away from each other in Stockwell and go to the same pub, the Canton Arms (best pub in London). A mutual love of South London is more than enough of an ice breaker I’ve found.
Did you work closely with Paolo Nutini in creating the narrative? And how did the story come about and evolve?
No but he loved the idea from the start and really bought into it. His only comment throughout was to ensure it felt like the older film references we had sent. This was very important for him and he pushed us in a good way during the grading to get the film look he had seen. Sarah Tognazzi then came up with the idea to print it to 35mm, having shot digital, adding texture to it. But other than that he was very hands off in a good way, letting us make the film we had written from the very start, which was actually written way back in March! But the single release was changed.
The story evolved very organically. The image of an older elegant lady singing to herself in a dressing room mirror came to mind on the first listen. As I imagined her singing it, the idea then evolved into her having this ability doubling up as a curse, to become young by killing the girls who go to the venue.
I’ve then always wanted to make a film with that classical Giallo character from the Italian horror films of the 60s/70s, the anonymous mysterious killer with the black attire and leather gloves. He usually has his identity revealed at the end of those films though, in the One Day video I wanted to keep his anonymity as if a slave to Joanna’s character. He has no identity outside of his role to serve her.
I then worked closely with Dobi Manolova to write the rest of the characters. She’s an incredible writer, as well as having produced a lot of my work, and helps me with most of my image research for treatments. We have a mutual love for the Giallo films referenced and she came up with wonderful characters such as the aerial artist.
The pace of the video was then planned with Gaia Borretti who cuts all my work. Whenever I can, I will go over the shotlist and narrative structure with her before the shoot. I always have a very tightly structured script to the music before shooting, so it’s always an invaluable process to work these together with her. She not only advises on timings for scenes, with us swapping my original structure around a bit, but also came up with moments such as the aerial dancer’s light turning on to start that section. She also created a mood edit using old Giallo film murder scenes for our original pitch to the label, this then directly informed the shotlist and final murder sequence. She’s the best!
Was the production straight forward?
Not at all. But Marieta Blaskova and Gaetan Rousseau (producers at Residency) have been on top of this project for a while as the pitch was done so long ago. They were wonderful, and got Sarah Tognazzi to produce the video in the UK once we knew it had to be there. The production was extremely ambitious for the budget. A
We had planned to shoot at Madam Jojos, but when we went on the tech recce we were met with “Big Jim’, an apparently notorious undercover (bit of an oxymoron) policeman with the Soho Vice Squad, who told us it had been shut down. It turned out that their bouncers had beaten a client up with baseball bats.
That was on a Friday, and we were shooting on the Wednesday after. But Sarah had by some strange coincidence or magical producer powers booked the Rivoli Ballroom for the dressing room shoot anyway because Jojos wasn’t good for it, meaning she just had to book it for both days instead of the one. It was the perfect back up location, in the end being a far better choice stylistically and logistically.
Ben Fordesman’s beautiful cinematography captured the place perfectly, he completely nailed it. The casting was extremely important, as always, but I hadn’t done a video with quite as many featured characters who had to have such a distinctive feel from each other, but part of the same world. Lauren Hedges was the casting director, offering up a wonderful array of characters who in the end were very hard to choose from.
The look of the piece was a particular concern for me from the beginning, as it had to have a timeless feel to it. It couldn’t be a period piece, nor could it feel like it’s set in the present. But Ameena’s styling and Sarah’s art direction pushed this, creating just the right feel. I then had long-time collaborator Luke Morrison at The Mill doing the colour, with post producer Samantha Letzler working incredibly hard to get the video over to cinelab, scanned, back again, re-graded, then into flame, and back out! They killed it in the grade! It was a massive team effort as always.
You seem to be working in the UK, US and Bolivia in equal measures. Where feels like home?
This year has been insane and I hope it stays like this. I came back from Bolivia at the end of January, then left again at the start of March with just one bag, thinking I would shoot the Naughty Boy video and come back, but I ended up going on to shoot more videos in different places and didn’t come back till October! The bag did me well! Travelling and filming is a dream come true and I feel at home in each of those places. I have some very close friends in each so it’s very hard to leave them each time.
I think I carry around a homesickness for each place. It’s meant I have a very temporary view on places though now, which feels exciting and I have a real sense of freedom, but I think if it went on it could become tiring not to settle and build. I think that will happen once I finally get a feature off the ground. But I’m definitely staying in London to build my work here for a while, keeping it as my base. Apart from friends I miss the food when away from each place! Marmite from England, Mexican food in LA and the peanut soup in Bolivia!
Anything else you’d like to share?
I do actually! I’ve signed to Friend in the UK after a long time being independent. They’re an incredible company, so I’m extremely excited about 2015. Can’t wait to get weird with them!
Production stills photography by Dan Curwen