How far was the idea from the film drawn from personal past experience? I think if you asked most boys there will have been that one substitute or exchange teacher who was just about above average attractiveness who became the semi-knowing/willing co-conspirator in a school wide sexual fantasy directed their way.
None of it was drawn from personal past experience.
1) I’m attracted to men
2) I never came to terms with that at school, and only really fancied boys my age, so I never really got ‘hot for teacher’ haha
But, of course, everyone has fantasies of what could be. So, that played a massive part in the script writing.
And on the subject of… The casting is utterly brilliant. Was it quite a difficult casting brief to find someone who trod that line of “just sexy enough given the context they’re in”? And how did the male / female characters you cast respond to the idea of being in a potentially controversial romantic cinch? And the look on their faces in the classroom is just perfect.
It was difficult to get that right performance, and the casting was really difficult. I had to go through a lot of ladies in order to find the right fit. The teacher actually had peroxide blonde hair until the day before the shoot; so that was extremely difficult to foresee exactly how well she was going to work. One of the really tricky things about working on a low budget music video such as this is that there’s a lot of hard graft to get what you need as the money just isn’t there to make it happen any other way. Thankfully it all worked out.
Bill Milner (who plays the boy) was the perfect fit from the word go. He’s an actor with a lot of screen experience (having played lead characters in Son of Rambow, X-Men: First Class, Skellig and Broken) so there was no risk-taking involved there. It was a collaboration that I was very excited about.
Where did you shoot the piece? Did you manage to get a school that would let you shoot on their grounds or was it an art directed location?
The location was a working school in Hertfordshire. It’s actually the school that I grew up living opposite when I was a little boy, so I knew it well from the outside, but had never been inside. We went and visited and then found that it was the school that had been used in Son of Rambow, which actually lead us to getting in touch with Bill Milner. So, deciding to draw on the personal experience of walking past the school gates of the location when I was a kid, made this film really blossom. One of those domino effects that can really shape a project and bring it to life.
The school was fantastic; the long corridors, the wood panelling. All we had to do was change the posters on the walls, stick an old computer in the back, and wheel in a large blackboard to cover the modern interactive whiteboards and we were pretty much good to go!
Who was your DP on the project? There are some really beautiful shots in there – the butt-level corridor follow, the tracking move past the classroom with the boys all leaning back to gawk, the overhead slide back as the buttons are coming undone in the heat of the moment…
The DoP on this project was Pau Castejon. He’s a Spanish DP from Barcelona that’s done a lot of work with Spanish directing collective CANADA. Those special shots; the corridor and the camera coming out the back of the car, were super tricky, but what Pau did amazingly is completely unnoticeable in the video to someone who wasn’t on set…
We shot this promo in one day in the middle of December. Meaning we had a maximum of 8 hours daylight. Therefore, the only way we could make this work was to shoot the interior school scenes at night. So, with only about 10 lights at his disposal (tight budget) Pau created a pretty flawless impression of daytime. It’s pretty fun to look at the promo and know the first 1:45min were shot at night.
Did you complete the animated segment yourself? There’s a repeated motif of bodies being devoured / emerging from bodies in much of your animated work. Care to comment?!
I didn’t animate it myself; the majority was created by the lead animator; Jonathan Harris, but, like with the choice of shots, and what goes on in live action, all the animated content was strictly under my thumb, from my storyboards and animatics. So, I devised the content and directed the work that was being done. Essentially it entailed about 7 weeks of a close-knit group of us people living and breathing the same air day-in-day out in a small room in Soho over December and January. We got to know each other pretty well. We have geeky in-jokes and everything!
It was an animated depiction of sexual exploration; it’s gonna have things going in and out of bodies. It’s a ride! It’s a trip, but, I hope it’s also something people can relate to.
There’s a slight ambiguity to the narrative no? The way the scene in the car unfolds and transitions into the animation followed by the ending suggests that the boy might have been rejected in his advances by the teacher (the animated shot of body parts being torn apart and falling away through the love heart back to cold hard reality). So did our boy hook up with the teacher or do you want to leave it up to viewers to decide?
The whole film’s supposed to be the fantasy of the boy, and so, like a dream, it doesn’t necessarily all fit together in a logical form. I wanted the viewer to leave a logical reality behind before the music starts in the corridor. When the boy stares into space in the classroom.
The end quarter of the film (from when he pushes him away) plays on the theme of imagining rejection; how small you’d feel, how crushed you’d feel.
That last shot where the boy’s lying on the ground; I wanted him to feel used by the teacher, but then, come to the conclusion, that even if this was real and the teacher had just used him for a bit of fun in the back of her car, and then nothing ever happened again, it’d still be incredible; in his mind! Just to stress; this is all his imagination.
See the making of Mind Mischief in Related Content