9th January 2015
Double bill
Title of film: Ludovico Einaudi, Life
Director: Ben & Joe Dempsey
Two great short films from the Knucklehead directing twins The Dempseys, aka Ben and Joe

It’s unusual for a creative team – in this case BBH’s Robin Warman and Harry Orton – to write a music video script albeit Ludovico Einaudi’s classical track Life taken from his new album. How did this collaboration come about and how did it evolve throughout the project?

Robin and Harry came to us with the core idea they had written in order to create the opportunity to make a short film for Ludovico Einaudi. Even though Einaudi’s music gets used frequently in films, this was the first time that a film has been commissioned specifically for him.

Our collaboration with Robin and Harry developed very naturally as we met and bounced ideas back and forth on how to develop the story. Together our ideas became quite elaborate and over ambitious, but given the money and resources we had to make the film, in the end we had to strip the story back down to its core essence.

Talking of collaboration, one of our favourite cinematographers Steve Annis shot it. He manages to capture a quality of light that feels more natural than lit. Was this the case? And was the light a key issue on this winter’s day?

We’ve always kept a keen eye on Steve’s work, and managed to get his commitment to the film whilst we were shooting together on a couple of other projects prior to this film. In reality 95% of the Einaudi film was shot in ambient light, the only lit scene was the final interior which Steve gave his beautiful natural touch.

Overall, given that we ended up shooting the film on what was nearly the shortest day of the year in December, light and weather was a major gamble from the get go. However, in the end we were incredibly fortunate with the variety of light that we had to work with throughout the day, which combined with Steve’s eye and great use of lenses achieved a really beautiful, bleak winter mood that was needed for the story.

Was it a straight-forward shoot?

No. For anyone that knows the restrictions that come with filming children will understand why. We had a cast of six junior boys, no rehearsal time and only 10 hours to shoot the entire film. The day was scheduled very carefully to allow for all the mandatory breaks for the boys, and there was only a certain period in the day when we could have all the boys together on camera.

Overall, we had to work very spontaneously with the cast, think on our feet, make bold decisions, and with the rapidly waning light always keep a firm grasp on capturing the whole story, rather than getting caught up in a particular set up.

One Way to Osaka is completely charming and also conveys an intimacy with Japan. Please tell us about this film – who shot it, was it a spontaneous project or carefully planned, and who is the delightful girl?

My wife is Japanese, and a year or so ago I was planning a trip back to Osaka to visit family. Ben and I thought it was time to take advantage of this fact and shoot a film in Japan. The question was – what to shoot? We didn’t want to just go around filming travelogue reportage stuff, we needed a subject and a story to follow.

The fact of the matter was my four-year old daughter Yoko would be traveling with me, so we came up with a simple idea of a little girl travelling alone across Japan to find her way home to her grandparents. With the whole process revolving around a young child, it had to be very spontaneous and eclectic. Round every corner there was something great to be filmed, which resulted in the story evolving on its own and the momentum building which led to shooting for 10 days.

The camera was always at hand, as was Yoko’s little jacket and backpack. So it was a case of sometimes observing her completely unaware and naturally, and other times involving a little more steering with the help of a few treats in the pocket, and the support of a very patient wife who was planted on the other side of busy crossings, or amidst the flow of passersby. It was intriguing to try and capture the wonder and bewilderment of the streets of Japan seen through the eyes of a small child. We shot and edited the film ourselves. The music was written by Daniel Berridge a.k.a ‘Broadway Project’.

What would you say were the key ingredients for the magic to happen on a production?

From our personal experience… preparation is key, a unified team – where everyone behind the scenes feels that what they are contributing is valued, and ‘magic’ happens when you are able to create an environment, where although everything is recreated, an authentic moment takes place in front of camera.

What was your worst nightmare production scenario and how did you resolve it?

We’ve had a few in our time… however, one we’ll never forget was whilst shooting a big hip hop video ‘renegade style’ in Berlin about 15 years ago, the 16mm Arri camera ‘strangely’ went missing. We had to pay a ransom to retrieve it.

You’ve probably been asked about being identical twins all your lives but one more time please:

When we were younger, we always remember it being a bit of a novelty for others, being asked things like: “Who’s who?”, “Which one’s older”, “Stand together”, “Ben, Joe… No, Joe, Ben”. Even today people still get us mixed up sometimes, although we don’t think we’re that similar to be honest. Simply put, as a twin you don’t really know any different… other than the fact that if you’re lucky, you’ve got a friend for life.

Are you always in tune with finding solutions and developing ideas or are there some disagreements?

Being brothers, when thrashing out ideas we can be very honest with our point of view, with no hard feelings. In all the time that we’ve worked together it’s never been about competing, or creatively trying to prove ourselves over each other. Fundamentally we’re very in tune. However, of course there are creative disagreements at times which only serve as part of the process to find the best solution.

Generally, do you work simultaneously on each stage of film-making together, or do you tend to have turns at being captain?

People always mention how it’s been interesting observing how we work together. Our process is very organic. Generally speaking, it’s pretty intuitive, and there’s a natural creative shorthand between us. Even though there’s two of us, creatively there’s one voice… but that doesn’t mean we speak at the same time! When being captain at a given moment, we speak and make decisions on behalf of both of us, or when needed we’re both captain in two places at once.

Do you both have the same talents and skills or do you have different strengths?

Our creative taste and way of working is in sync… but yes of course we do have our own individual skills and strengths that compliment each other and make for a good working team. However, from having worked together for so many years our skills have rubbed off on to each other, so in the situation where we’re maybe having to direct a job solo, it feels as though both of us are there.

Can you describe the moment when you realized you wanted to make films?

Even though we studied Graphic Design, there was a clear moment when we first collaborated during an animation module on the course where something creatively came to life. We hadn’t experienced that feeling before, yet at the same time felt a natural affinity with film being the way to express our creativity to the fullest.

Did you have a creative childhood or did you discover art and filming in the course of your education?

Yes, we had a very creative up bringing. Our Dad, a graphic designer by profession, but more broadly speaking an incredibly creative man and major film buff, really nurtured our imagination when we were growing up, always encouraged us to draw and introduced us to the rich world of film. This led to the natural desire and confidence to pursue a creative path for ourselves.

If you weren’t directing films what would you like to be doing?

Up until reading this question right now, we’ve never fully entertained that thought… when we do, we’ll let you know!

See more work here

Credits

Directors: The Dempsey
Writers: Robin Warman / Harry Orton
Composer: Ludovico Einaudi
Producers: Matthew Brown, Chris Watling
Co-Producer: Annabel Kennedy
Director Of Photography : Steve Annis
Production Designer: Morgan Kennedy
Editor: Owen Oppenheimer
Post Production: The Mill
A Knucklehead / Human i / Decca Production