With a sensibility that blends a gentle documentary eye with a hunger for the excitement and energy of the unknown, the new and the unexpected, Haycock’s work is always enlivening. It’s a celebration of life and an invitation to adventure. And the fact that the music’s always thumping is an extra-added bonus.
As his latest project, Little Girl for Spiritualized, makes its way into the inter-ether, we spoke with Haycock about bad ass biker chicks, creative differences with Kelis and, um, ketamine.
Can you give us a potted bio of who you are and how you got into directing?
I started directing initially through doing movie and television title sequences. Then I just started making shit on my own, and always really pushing to make better stuff as much as I could. Then one day it just sorta happened, I was directing stuff. I still just think of myself as “working” on things that now I actually like working on.
You’ve just released your stonking new Spiritualized promo which we’re delighted to be sharing. It’s such a curious story – with a spoiler alert in place can you explain what you think happens at the end?
I wanted to give the feeling of confusion, loneliness and of course being dangerously drugged, rather than literally spelling out the end. No murders but the bikers were intended to be scary for sure.
How did the idea for this one evolve? And where did you shoot?
I have always felt a balance of fragility and danger in Spiritualized’s lyrics. The title of the song “Little Girl” was the biggest inspiration, along side some of the ideas that Jason [Pierce] mentioned the song was based on. I immediately imagined a female fighter, like a MMA fighter or a gangster, both of which I would love to do a video for. But they didn’t seem right so I just thought of other tuff shit a girl could do.
Running through your work there’s a really curious balance of fictional storytelling evoked through a documentary aesthetic. It’s an interesting dynamic that speak a lot to your relationship with your DP. It’s also a trend I’ve been noticing a lot lately. It feels almost like a new category of truth making. One extreme of the technique is your last Calvin Harris which feels like it’s been professionally cast but that the antics, to a degree, have been observed rather than engineered. Almost like that mode of constructed reality shows that have taken over youth TV programming.
And then with Spiritualized you’ve got a more obviously fictitious scenario but the cinematography still evokes the tone of a documentary. Why do you think this aesthetic and sensibility has taken hold to such an extent? It’s something I think you can feel in AG’s work as well and to a degree Everynone’s, though they’re more all out documentary. None of which is meant as criticism – I’m just really curious about what seems to be an unspoken collective consciousness in this generation of filmmakers. Do you think it’s got anything to do with the coincidence of your generation with the availability of DSLR’s and the impact that’s had on the tone of your work?
I wish I had a smarter answer other than that’s just how I like to do things. It’s not planned, it’s maybe been an evolution or a revolt from my earlier work, but really I just like things being raw and spontaneous. You know there have always been trends in film making, a zeitgeist, especially videos. The 90s had what I call the “November Rain” aesthetic. Then there was the trend of motion graphics not that long ago (which is already dead in my opinion), remember every video had some sort of CGI based trick as its concept? I think now people are sick of gimmicks and just want to see storytelling or reality. I personally don’t like the DSLR “look”, but it definitely has its place, and is important to the immediacy of YouTube and Vimeo. It’s cool to see some of the crazy shit untrained film makers come up with on their DSLR cameras, and it ending up looking cool. So maybe we can blame the internet? I still shoot everything on film with the occasional Alexa job, like Spiritualized.
Location and setting plays such a large part in your work. When you initially envisage your narratives are they always in a distinct setting or is that something that develops as more of a practical concern when production gets underway?
It’s just what I think about. I like observing people, looking into their lives, lives I haven’t lived. Sometimes I wish I could just film total strangers without them knowing or being scared of the camera. Once you leave the comfort zone of your bubble and dive into other parts of the world, you see and learn amazing things about people. So I guess I like to do videos that are an excuse for me to satisfy my voyeuristic fetish.
Out of curiosity why do you put a “directed by” credit at the start of your films?
I just want to be like Hype Williams. Joking. It started with Calvin Harris “Bounce” (see Related Content), and if you want the honest answer, it was kinda an accident/joke. I wanted the intro of the video to cut between the song and their dialogue. AG [Rojas] and myself cut the video together and as we started editing it just happened. The intro just felt like TITLES should be here. Also it was a way for me and AG to openly say that we worked together as friends on a video just for the fun of it. Then Calvin loved it, so I did it again.
The video for Bounce is an interesting one because of all your lead characters the male protagonist in that piece comes across the least likable. The characters in your other promos all seem to have some redeeming qualities or circumstances that explain their behavior but this guy seems to lack that. Is that something you’d agree with? Why did you want to explore that kind of character?
Oh man, this is a long story. I’ll make it short. I had a 100% different concept for this video originally, one about a real devil living on the Vegas strip. He had been relegated to taking pics with tourists because Vegas had gotten the best of him. He was a sad pathetic devil, surviving off the pity of tourists. Sounds fun right? I found out that Kelis HATED this idea two days before shooting, so we had to re-write the concept, that’s actually when AG became part of the video. We were like fuck, couple of days to re-due the entire video? Re-cast, etc. So I called AJ English who I had worked with prior on MSTRKRFT. We took the tonality of the devil and just started re-writing the character to be non-satanic but still kinda living off the dirt of the Vegas Strip. Does that make any sense?
Lady Luck is an amazing piece of filmmaking. How did the idea for that one come about? It’s like an intense daytime ketamine trip set to a really mellow track and stylistically really different to the rest of your reel.
You must have done Ketamine during the day before? That’s brave. I actually was just in Berlin and was hanging with some friends and this girl did too much ketamine in the bathroom and was tripping her ass off, screaming like she was dying and smashing everything. It was amazing. She eventually calmed down and came out of the bathroom, and saddled back up to the bar. Berlin is punk.
Anyway, I just had the idea of fake world. A computer game world, somewhere glitchy and fucked up. I loved the idea of a raw environment on the fringe of society, basically anywhere just outside of LA. The video is shot the same way I would shoot anything but I wanted to add a tripped out vfx element, that I knew I couldn’t shoot. So I collab’d with Logan.tv the sister company to loganandsons.com and they and Brady Baltezore (creative director) helped me develop the look. I love that it is different than my other work, and hope to do more like this. Side note: Jamie Woon never actually let the video be released, he thought it was too “big” for his aesthetic. Then it leaked and they embraced it I guess, I just show it because at the end of the day we paid more money to do the effects than the record label so fuck it. Weird right?
Do you have a particular favorite piece of work so far or one that you feel is particularly expressive of who you are / want to be as a filmmaker?
I love the last two videos, Lets Go & Little Girl, but the director’s cut of the video I did for Michael Kiwanuka has something special to it. The shots inside the Mexican Pentecostal church is probably my favorite thing I’ve filmed and when I do a movie it will hopefully have that level or authenticity and heart.
Where do you look for creative inspiration?
Websites like 1.4, books, my amazing wife and real life.
Are you working on any new projects you can tell us about at the moment?
AG and myself are going to collaborate again for an artist named Daughn Gibson, and I really want to do a documentary on RAGE (Dale Resteghini) the music video director, wouldn’t that be amazing, he’s such an insane dude, check his facebook.
But on a serious note, I was working on a short film called ELWOOD. About a kid who is a boxer and Krumper living in the valley. It was a semi-fictional story about a real kid named Elwood (he is the kid who stars in the LA portion of “Let’s Go” and who that scene was inspired by). But last month he was shot by a Long Beach Sheriff for holding a stick up to them after being verbally abused by some white guys. The “murder” is under investigation and obviously my film is canceled. So now I’m working on a documentary that will hopefully bring justice to his untimely death. Elwood was one of the coolest guys I’ve ever met.
Vince Haycock is represented by:
Spiritualized, Little Girl
Director: Vincent Haycock
DP: Steve Annis
EP/Producer: Tim Nash
Co-Producer: Geoff McLean
Production company: Somesuch & Co / Logan & Sons
Berlin Prod Services: Stink
Berlin Producer: Sarah Hennecke
1st AD: Alex Blume
Coordinator: Eva Liedtke
Prod Design & Styling: Larissa Bechtold
Art Asst: Tom Bonynge
Locations: Jannis Birsner
Focus Puller: Won-Suk Park
2nd AC: Karl Keil
DIT: Clemens Szelies
Gaffer: Heiko Grund
Key Grip: Wolfgan Franke
Grip: Sebastian Rosler
Intern: Tim Augustin
Runner: Carsten Weber
Runner: Jan Stassen
Colorist: Arnold Ramm