You wrote and directed your short film, Jumper, for the designer Jonathan Saunders. Was the initial brief to show a seasonal collection or is it more a mood film for the label?
The idea was to make a film that related to Jonathan Saunders the label in the widest sense. Our initial discussions were about wanting to make something that felt like a short film with narrative and the clothes were to be used to tell the story, not to be the story.
Every frame is a study of charged seductive longing, the silent undercurrents within a family. Did you draw on any filmic references to create the narrative?
Very much so. It is based on a Pasolini film called Teorema from 1968. Teorema is a fantastic film featuring a young very good looking Terence Stamp who comes to stay with a rich Italian family; he sits around in a tight pair of trousers, says very little and one by one seduces the entire family, then leaves. This all happens in the first 20 minutes and the rest of the film is about how the family disintegrates as a result.
I loved the idea of using a family. The family is such a universal subject; the father, daughter, mother, son dynamic is very easy to understand and every family has its weirdness. We all come from weird families, let’s face it.
What was the process of developing the story – did you painstakingly story-board every frame or did a lot of the film evolve in the edit?
Painstaking is good a word, I drew them out myself. In the days before the shoot whilst doing the final pre-production in Spain I kept a copy of the board in my hotel room and constantly shifted things around until I felt like I had worked out what we needed.
Then there is always the fairly brutal moment when I sit down with my producer Rob (Goldbold) and the AD on the final prep day to figure out what we are actually going to shoot. This is really painful but it’s very much part of the creative process. Time is such a crucial thing on these projects that you only want to shoot what is necessary, and it’s better to discover what you really need before the edit.
The edit was more about getting the rhythm and tension right. So much of this film is about the communication, as you say the ‘silent undercurrents’; the edit was really about this.
Did you ever debate about featuring a nude woman – although, of course, what joy the naked protagonist is male.
No. I aways wanted a naked man. We are so over-saturated by naked or nearly naked women. Virtually every fashion mag has naked women, Miley wrecking ball etc.. the pop video trend in female nudity masquerades itself as female empowerment but it is really quite conservative, Robin Thicke seems to be a less ironic version of Robert Palmer. It’s amazing still how few cocks we see on screen, even the word is a bit tricky.
Water flows throughout your film, either as textural drops, sensuous splashes and the characters interact with over-flowing jugs, glasses and dripping napkins. Can you explain the metaphors of these gestures or are we reading too much into it?
The naked man gets out of the pool and I suppose this represents the family’s desires. In Freudian theory water in dreams certainly has a sexual connotation but I wouldn’t like to be too heavy handed about it. We tried very hard to keep the film from being over explicit and allow the viewer some room for interpretation.
In fashion films there is a very fine line between trying to keep something interesting and being a pretentious load of rubbish. But you have to take chances!
What were the other alternative ideas for the narrative?
We did have the son sitting in a tree spying on the visitor in the pool. I would have liked to shoot that but we simply didn’t have time to do it justice.
We’d be prepared to kill for a Jonathan Saunders wardrobe but we’d need the house too. Where was the location?
In Sitges just outside Barcelona. I loved that it was beautiful but also real and lived in.
What were the major challenges of the shoot?
The cold. It was November and we had a naked man standing outside all night long.
We shot through the night and then at sun up our naked guy had to jump in a freezing cold pool. He was totally heroic, he was one of those people who turn up to a shoot and just throw their all into it. Guillaume Dolmans is someone who you really want to cast in your shoot.
There’s a rich, deep earthy quality to the colour palette you have used. What was behind your decision to use these tones and colour grade?
It totally came from Jonathan’s palette. Jonathan has a fantastic understanding of colour and came to the telecine. It is great to work closely with someone from a completely different discipline and who is as visually articulate as Jonathan. For me that is one of the biggest joys about working with fashion designers, you don’t get to be as good as Jonathan without having a vision that extends way beyond fashion.
In fact the lighting and shade play a key role in accentuating the colours too. Was this down to shooting with natural light at particular pre-planned times of day and evening or was it more a matter of using sophisticated lighting equipment?
We shot the bedroom daylight scene during the night so it completely comes down to a sophisticated DOP, Pau Castejon. We won best cinematography at the Berlin fashion film festival as a result. It is also about the grade; we did all the post at the Mill with Matt Osborne grading. He added a very fine 35 mm film grain, it is something you cannot see but can certainly feel. The sophistication comes from the whole process.
What camera did you use?
It’s not about the camera either; it’s about the crew. It’s about the gaffers and the grips, the guys lifting stuff around at 4am; changing lenses quickly; rigging the camera on to a crane in the dark so we are ready shoot the exterior at sunrise. Smile in Barcelona provided us with a really excellent crew. It was a pretty gruelling shoot starting at 4 in the afternoon and shooting through to lunchtime the next day and they were a very solid bunch of Catalans.
It’s a silent movie with a fabulous sound track, was it specially composed for Jumper?
Yes, Menlo Park Music composed it. When I first heard it next to the picture I was totally like.. wow. Music is one of those things that is such a specific skill but everyone has an opinion on. We wanted a track that was had some kind of filmic gravitas but didn’t tell you how to feel about it. I was really please with what they came up with; we also won best music at the Berlin fashion film festival beating Hans Zimmer…
Anything else you’d like to share?
Not really. I feel like I have gone on a bit as it is!