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12th December 2013
Possessed by the beat
Title of film: Jon Hopkins, Collider
Director: Tom Haines
Production Company: Rogue Films
We talk with Tom Haines about his hardcore hypnotic film for Jon Hopkins' Collider track

Where did you find the lead girl – and what was the criteria you used when you were casting her?

I was looking for a unique combination of acting and dancing ability, but actually it was only through the casting process that I was able to define what I was specifically after, as the real dancers who came were too good in some ways, not raw enough, but when Amanda Wass appeared we were all blown away. Her interpretation was completely unfettered and impulsive, and that was it, she had it.

How did you direct Amanda’s performance? This film is so different from your earlier linear narrative for The Civil Wars; The One That Got Away with lyrics and Collider is sheer emotive and visual. How much of Collider had you mapped out before the shoot – did you know exactly what you were after?

I don’t like to be too specific with actors, I’m learning as I go that the mantra ‘you can only have one thought in your head at a time’ is true. It’s too easy to overload a scene or performance with too much direction. I was reading an interview with Mike Leigh recently where he talks about setting up the character of Johnny in Naked, and he and David Thewlis would chat about past experiences, people he knew and together they would edit them into one character. That’s a good starting point too – so it’s a combination. The dance moves were all her though – I’m no choreographer. (Although I love a good dance!)

We had a lot mapped out in terms of what the camera was doing – I was nervous about being so restrictive as other work I’ve done has been very free and loose – here we were tighter and more composed – but I still wanted flourishes of spontaneity, that’s when you get the most interesting moments.

Where was the shoot and what did you shoot it on? Any major challenges?

We had two locations in parts of east London, a unit move between them and were shooting on Alexa anamorphic – the biggest challenge was maintaining the concept, staying true to it, not suddenly shooting a load of hand-held to pad it out.

Did the film evolve in the edit and post? How difficult was it to get the cuts timing up with the track’s beat?

Credit where credit is due, Dan Sherwen at Final Cut absolutely smashed the edit. We had a real task ahead of us and a very short space of time to pull it together, he tackled it unflinchingly and brought some great ideas to the table. It was a process of working out what the nuances were in Amanda’s performance, building that arc so that it sustained and kept you watching and hitting the different gear changes in the track. I think that this was the biggest challenge of the whole project. We ended up christening most of the dance moves – the bird, the jackhammer, the zombie….that helped too.

The flashes of daylight scenes add a depth and texture to the film – what was behind your decision to do this?

It was all about creating two interrelated states, the idea of being in two places at the same time, but that the consequences of actions or thoughts have a cause and effect. There are moments in some of Nic Roeg’s films, such as Don’t Look Now, where he uses rapid fire editing between different stages, famously in the love scene with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie – I love the feeling you have when you watch it, it’s powerful, compelling, yet it mitigates titillation.

Did you collaborate closely with Jon Hopkins and if so was it a smooth process?

Jon has almost synesthetic ideas about how his videos should marry up with the music. We had a lot of conversations from the get go and through that I felt I knew exactly what he wanted. It’s great to work with someone so invested in their videos, and I’ve had the album on repeat since it came out. It’s fair to say, I’m a fan!

Credits

Production Company: Rogue Films
Director: Tom Haines

Executive Producer: Dom Gomez
Producer: Connor Hollman
DOP: Steve Annis
Editor – Dan Sherwen @ Final Cut
Colourist – Aubrey Woodiwiss @ Electric Theatre Collective

Casting directors: Hammond & Cox
Lead Actress: Amanda Wass

Label: Domino Records
Commissioner: John Moule

Directors Rep – FreeAgent