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15th June 2016
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Title of film: Vessels, Are You Trending?
Director: Thomas Ralph
Production Company: Caviar
We thought we were so over East End council estate music videos with a slash of violence and a few dance tricks - but this video shot by Caviar new director Thomas Ralph for Leeds band Vessels is completely BRILLIANT. Next level.

Thank you! I too have seen one too many gritty ‘estate’ music videos and one too many ‘repeating edit’ music videos but I had never seen one where both those worlds collided. That’s what we tried to achieve here; make it stand out and hopefully surprise a few people along the way!

What was behind your decision to use this format – and what did you shoot the video on?

The aim was to homage 90’s acid and illegal rave videos whilst keeping one foot in the present. So without going complete SD tape we shoot 4:3 but on 16mm, Amira and iPhone. This allowed us to assign a look to each character and get ‘the morning after the night before’ Vine like feel to the nightclub footage (shot on iPhone).

The hypnotic repetitive edit is key to the narrative – to what extent did you map out the pacing before the shoot or did a lot of it evolve during the edit?

Me and Joe (the DoP) didn’t plan too much out before shooting as we didn’t want anything constraining us. The game-plan was to roam, be free and open to whatever we found on the night.  Therefore, me and Owen (Editor at Marshall Street) left a lot to the edit. We let the music (and its WAV form) drive the pattern while sticking to a simple principle of design: build a template/pattern and only break it to draw attention to something. Once we had our foundation it naturally grew from there.

How did the storyline come about and evolve – did you have a co-writer? Did you work closely with the band Vessels in creating the script – it’s so good that they didn’t want any performance clips in it? 

The brief was very open, in-fact it was as simple as ‘a hot, dancing nightlong kind of video’ and the label and band were great at letting us interpret and shoot that how we pleased. From a first listen I envisioned two characters, separately journeying towards one-another. The more I listened, the more I saw one being a physical manifestation of the beat – our female lead – wanting and journeying to be freed from its rhythm. And another character, our man; at first an aggressive, traumatised wander but in-fact a loner looking for simple contact. The music builds, like their pain, until they finally meet.

Who are the cast – where did you find them and how did you direct them, was there time for rehearsals? 

We had a low budget and time constraints so were super lucky to find Sumit & Maja simply through Cast & Call Pro. With only one evening to rehearse it left a lot on the day; though this was stressful for everyone it actually pushed us all to find and create stuff there and then. It’s these organic moments which work best in the film.

We love the framing and lighting – please tell us about your technical background and where you trained. 

With my Dad being a photographer and photography lecturer I was introduced and surrounded by a love for still and moving image from a young age. This passion led me to study film at The University of The Arts London where I met Joe the DoP and we first experimented in indie film and video. Since then Joe has been honing his eye by shooting various shorts, promos and pieces of content while I have been working as a creative researcher and director at Caviar. This creative role (and company!) has been the perfect place for me to cut my teeth in the world of production, working with all kinds of directors and photography everyday. As a young director, it’s the best environment for me to soak-it-in and develop my own eye.

Please describe the shoot. 

Cold. Very cold. Imagine the cliché low-budget music video shoot; six people in a van driving around a freezing North London car-park (or some place that definitely isn’t safe at 1am) making it up as they go. It was chaotic, tiring and a lot of fun.

What were the most challenging aspects of the production and how did you resolve them? 

The most challenging aspect was light and the difficulty of finding our own varied sources. With no lighting kit budget and a want to make Maja’s dance feel like she’s under night-club lights we had to find as many streetlights that were both quiet enough, powerful enough and most importantly had different colour tones i.e yellow, blue neon, green neon etc. It was surprisingly difficult but through good recce’ing we found a varied mix.

What would be your dream directing job? 

I would love to direct a biopic feature film  about the life and death of rockabilly Eddie Cochran!…but my main dream is to make documentary films; finding and shooting beautiful, factual stories about real people and real situations that hopefully make a difference to people’s lives.

List five inspirations that have connected with you recently:

The horrific but true story of The Big Short.

The video art of Shirin Neshat discovered at The Broad, LA.

The beautiful commercial work of director Miles Jay & The Mercadantes. Always the photography (especially his landscapes) of one of my heroes, Nadav Kander.

The incredible but stressful experience of watching the film of the year, Victoria…. is six okay?!

 

LINKS:

Caviar 

Credits

Director:  Thomas Ralph

Producer:  Ore Okonedo

Production Manager:  Ailsa Vanessa Tapping

Commissioner:  Hayley Absalom @ PIAS

Label – Different Recordings

Production Company – CAVIAR

Director Of Photography:  Joseph Alexander Guy

1st AC:  Thomas Terminet

Editor:  Owen O’Sullivan @ Marshall St Editors

Colourist:  Houmam Abdallah @ Electric Theatre Company

Runner:  Elliot Watson & Fanny Hoetzeneder

Cast – Sumit Chakravarti & Maja Laskowska

Special Thanks – One Stop Films, Tim Harrison, Beth Montague, Sorcha Shepherd, Nicola Kenney, Georgie MacEchern & Neil Cray.

Shot on 16mm, Arri Amira & iPhone 6s in Tottenham, North London.