View a selection of Special Problems videos and album covers in Related Content
Has Special Problems always been just the two of you?
Special Problems started with the two of us and over a couple of years quickly grew into a small studio. We had an in-house production and creative team (we had about seven of us fulltime) and we approached most jobs from a studio/collective way of working.
Prior to signing with The Sweet Shop we had organically started to shift away from the studio way of working and were working more as a directing duo. So it made sense to partner up with The Sweet Shop. With The Sweet Shop’s global reach we are now marketed in parts of the world where we weren’t before and in turn it has freed us up to spend more time as creatives. We still collaborate with a lot of the same people we had working for us but with out the pressure of maintaining a small studio.
How does your partnership work with the creative process? Do you both work on ideas and narratives together and who does what on the technical side?
We generally start most projects by sitting down and throwing ideas around over a few drinks. I think ideas generate a lot faster when you can vocalise them and after years of collaborating together we are able to quickly refine ideas. Speed benefits us in the music video and commercials world where treatments need to be turned around in such short spaces of time. We both edit, design and work on the post, especially on our music videos. For commercials we often collaborate with a post house for some of the trickier stuff.
We’ve always worked with a belief that directing occurs from within the ‘making’ process rather than outside. For us, directing is more than just abstracted opinions. It’s about your decisions becoming informed by wrestling with the form itself – that means being manually involved in the editing, shooting, post production, sound track, etc – whatever is needed to push the form toward something more intrinsically and uniquely personalised.
We try to work as often as we can with a core crew of people on our shoots, we regularly use Andrew Stroud as our DoP and Jon Baxter from Perceptual Engineering helps us out with post.
Does the process differ much from big budget work for agencies, such as your HP film for Goodby Silverstein’s, and relatively low budget music videos?
I think one of the big differences between bigger agency jobs and smaller music videos is where the creative comes from. With music videos the creative comes from us, it is our interpretation of the song, our response to the music and then the only person there is to approve the video is the artist.
Whereas with commercials the creative has been done and we come in to respond to the agency’s creative and then realize it. With more money being spent there is more on the line so naturally the approval process is more rigid.
Some agencies have been getting us in during the early stages of creative and we really enjoy the collaborative process with them. It’s a great way to work and I think everyone has a level of ownership in the project. At the moment we are working on a short film for Lexus and The Weinstein Company, we’ve written and directed it and are currently editing it now. It’s an interesting project as we are working directly with The Weinstein Company and Lexus so it’s another ball game again.
There’s a strong graphic design element in your work and we love the album covers you’ve created as well. Please tell us about this visual language of yours.
Starting off we were really more part of the music and art worlds than the film world so we brought that history with us.
A big part of what got us into making music videos was collaborating with bands on their album artwork as well. We still love doing them and it’s a nice change refining a single frame rather than having to deal with 25 of them a second.
What would you say are the key influences of living in Auckland?
I guess Auckland isolates a bit, we couldn’t be more geographically removed from all the main centres. It’s a double-edged sword, we are remote but maybe that makes us a little exotic too. I think it gives us a bit of an outsider’s perspective. Auckland also is a pretty film friendly location and we have easy access to a lot of amazing locations. It’s also a bit of an oversized village, so everyone knows everyone, there is a good creative community down here and I think some of the best music around is being made in our city.