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5th March 2018
Matilda on fire
Title of film: Bipolar Sunshine, Easy to do
Director: Matilda Finn
Production Company: Friend
Crowned best new director at all the best awards shows, there’s more to the refreshingly self-deprecating Matilda Finn than directing brilliant music videos. We talked with Matilda about her latest video, Easy To Do for Bipolar Sunshine prior to its release, to discover a fiercely driven young artist and filmmaker with an uncompromising vision and unique eye.

1.4: What attracts you to certain projects?

Matilda: The way I work is, I listen to music and I will see it. It’s like that, it’s instantaneous. I see the story, and the hardest bit for me is getting the words from my brain onto paper.

I have a very synesthesia kind of thing with music, but it’s with actual images, not colours. I just see a story immediately, like absolutely straight away and then … I know if I can work on a track or not, because if I don’t see anything it means I can’t do it. I equate them to being sort of dreams.

And if the project isn’t a music video, I will still create concepts to tracks – behind every one of my ideas is a track.

1.4: So you can’t force it?

Matilda: No I can’t.

Sometimes I worry that I’m going to miss opportunities like this, but my work is established through connecting to it (the music), otherwise it’s not my work. I would be doing it for the wrong reasons then. I have tried it and I feel almost a guilt, it feels awful.

1.4: What attracted you to do this latest film? Who’s this for?

Matilda: It’s for Bipolar Sunshine.

W Hotel and Mixcloud commissioned three directors to do separate videos for one artist. Our styles are very different, which is exciting. What attracted me though, was the track itself.

1.4: Which you obviously liked!

Matilda: Yes, I do. It created this world for me.

1.4: What’s yours about?

Matilda: Basically this ‘woman’ goes around stealing things from men.

1.4: Objects?

Matilda: Things like their souls.
It’s about power, but in an ironic way.
Brick walls can only be broken by the ones who laid them – sort of thing.
To be honest, there’s quite a few things being said here ha. Life/love/death, my standard musings haha.

1.4: Do you express that power through metaphors and symbols?

Matilda: Yes, a lot of this messaging is in what she wears. This Chastity device, adorned with chains and padlocks in this chapped pinstriped suit. Round her neck is the key. I visualised exactly what she wears, and the incredible designer, Tamzin Lilywhite (via Justin Rose) made it, so that was really exciting. It was exactly how I saw it and wrote it – I can’t believe how incredibly Tamzin brought it to life, she was the perfect fit to create it, outstanding talent.

This has been very exciting for me because fashion and styling is very important to me in communicating so I was so happy at last to be able to create something specifically for a character. The character is nothing without the outfit here.

1.4: Actually the more you watch your work, the more you notice the attention to detail on every level…

Matilda: That’s really nice to know as … yes, there is ha. Even things that get cut and you never see. Like in this video I specifically wanted white chrysanthemum’s and white tulips in the apartment – which got cut out of what we were shooting in the end, but they are there. White chrysanthemum’s mean truth and purity, it is said ‘the simple act of putting white chrysanthemums in a vase on top of your living room table is a way to encourage everyone living in the house to always tell the truth – and value honesty.’

White tulips are generally given in forgiveness of love. A lot of the meaning is in the details. I try to do this, and also not over do it too. We didn’t need to see the flowers in the end… big up Ashleigh Latter (production designer) for going for all that effort though!

1.4: Ha, like any good art, where symbols or meanings are not apparent or revealed immediately…

Matilda: I’m quite nervous though because it’s different … It’s my first time trying to properly direct. It has quite classic shots, not going nuts really. I’m also saying a lot, my projects always feel very vulnerable, but the more narrative I get the closer it cuts.

1.4: I’ve just been looking at your other films again, and they completely blow me away all over again. I think, “How the hell did you do that”? If you think this is the first time you’re directing properly, what’s the big change?

Matilda: Because I’m trying to strip it back. It’s longer, it’s more played out, and it’s much more slow paced. The camera doesn’t move a lot, it’s very static, there’s some movement but it’s not a lot. I wanted us to feel the paralysis of the men, so the lack of movement was important to me.

Before I would be over-reaching what we are trying to achieve in one day to such an extent that everything is fixed in the edit. It’s just shoot, fucking shoot! As we have too much to do in one day… not that this was any different in terms of time…but I think it’s harder to strip back then over compensate shots.

1.4: To what extent is everything prepped before the shoot?

Matilda: I’m very well prepared, I didn’t know that I was, I thought I wasn’t enough – but recently people have commented. I’ll give detailed images, packages, very specific directions before.

1.4: So on your shots list, you would have worked out all the angles that you want, exactly where you want everybody, so it’s super efficient?

Matilda: Oh yeah, definitely, my shot list is very specific …I’m very, very specific. I’ve seen it already before we’ve got there, every time I hear that track – there it is for me. I’m not very experimental on set to be honest. I’m quite rigid, the set up is there and we will work within that. We might not get it all and I will work with that, it’s more likely something won’t happen then something different will happen.

Like in this, the moments she moves was meant to be handheld moving with her, and we didn’t have time to come off the dolly, so we shot it straight up. Which was perfect in the end, I’m so glad we did that, it would have distracted away from the paralysis vibe. But that’s an example of why something might be different, it will be a time thing.

Also, it’s not to say that if suddenly I saw something, or if it was suggested – I would be like, “No way!” but, yeah, more often than not we don’t even have time to experiment on shoots like that, because we’re trying to achieve way too much in the little time we have. So I just feel the preparation is the most important thing I think in order to achieve these videos. And I need to be more prepared, that’s always what I am striving for.

1.4: Now that you’re using Ben Fordesman as DP on this project, you’re probably not using the builders’ lights that you use for your photography?

Matilda: haha, not anymore. They’re still my favourite though, I still use them for photography! I’m so untechnical – “does it look good?” Is my only question. I used them for the tests! Anyway, Ben’s a genius, and I’ve been wanting to work with him since, fuck me – like five, six years? I met him through Ian (Pons Jewell), and I was so gobsmacked that he wanted to work with me. I couldn’t fucking believe it. He was just like, “We need to make it happen.” He’s got that darkness that I love, we are on a level, and I knew he could do it perfectly. He is a lighting genius, and a sweetheart, a pleasure to work with.

1.4: How did you go about directing the characters?

Matilda: I test so much before my videos. Like, I did three cast tests – I had already cast them, but I invited them to essentially rehearse and screen test in a light that I like, similar mood to what we will shoot. It’s also good to just send that to everybody before anyway. It was great for the team to see; oh this is the ‘type’ of light that we’re doing, and this is our character, and this is the way she’s gonna move. To see that properly beforehand I think is good for everyone. I’m constantly paranoid to make it look right, so it’s helpful for me too – the first step from brain to reality.

1.4: What made you decide on the female character?

Matilda: Okay so, it’s really funny with her, I worked with her before – like a year ago. When we got awarded this, I met with the producer & and then stylist the same day and we said immediately at the meeting, “You know what, Brenda would be perfect for this”. And then suddenly I thought, oh my god I think I literally wrote it with her in mind, subconsciously. It was her face, those eyes, this girl I already knew.

So I left and I was stalking her on Instagram, deciding yes she was perfect, questioning if it was her face in my head the whole time. And then … I wear these lucky Chinese knots on my bags, and one of them broke. I decided to go to Chinatown and pick up a new one. It’s like a really obscure little Chinese shop where I buy them, and I come in the shop and I look on the floor and this girl is rummaging around in a bag. I was like, ‘Oh that’s a stylist’, standard – I could tell from a mile away. I was just minding my own business and I turn around, and it’s the girl that I wanted to cast (Brenda) doing a photoshoot, in the shop. This girl lives so far away as well and this shop is so obscure. I’m standing there holding this lucky Chinese knot, just like, ‘that’s nuts’, my mind was blowing. I can’t believe I was talking about her two minutes before, and she’s just in there doing a shoot. It’s just bizarre, really bizarre. Things like that happen a lot if you take notice of them. It was meant to be, so yeah.

1.4: Serendipitous?

Matilda: Yes and she’s strong – doesn’t take shit, but it was like I needed a girl like that in order to get that out of the character. She is that character really, in a way – she is tough, a badass. It was perfect, I never even looked at another girl. I literally had the girl straight away, it was easy as hell. In fact, some parts of the whole process were too easy, I found it scary. It came together, all the right people; I had an incredible prosthetics girl on it (Natasha Lawes), who was just insanely good. Best DP, Time Based Arts coming on and smashing it beyond. I mean, I had a great producer (Gloria Bowman) who was just fabulous, I was very lucky…

1.4: Magic, but that’s also because you’ve properly visualised everything to such detail. It can’t just manifest itself.

Matilda: I suppose. My treatment’s will give you an idea of how exact my ideas are to videos, because my set ups are pretty much shot for shot how I wrote it. My video for Danny Brown is exactly shot for shot…Obongjayar too…everything really. Details might change a bit, often due to locations, but otherwise it’s all there from the very beginning.

1.4: I so love that Danny Brown video, but it feels much more chaotic than Bipolar Sunshine’s.

Matilda: Massively it’s the other way for sure. Yeah really, really the other way. It’s actually crazy when I think about it. They are all the same world though, to me at least, only other people pointing out the differences in my work makes me see them.

1.4: Did you edit it as well?

Matilda: I edited it, but Time-Based Arts did the post. They’re the best, they really care. They’re part of the whole thing … I just love them, they are passionate and LOVELY and want to make the best work and I feel so fortunate they wanted to work on this and they blew me away with what they did. It was the first time I could write something ‘surreal’ and ACTUALLY it was created. It’s what I’ve always wanted & I’m screwed now because I’m spoilt, haha.

1.4: You said it’s more likely something won’t happen, then it will change – when you’re editing do you ever yearn for some shots you didn’t get to give more substance to the narrative?
Matilda: I do a lot of pick-ups to be honest. Pick-ups save every video.

1.4: Afterwards?

Matilda: Yes I like to do the edit and then go, “okay we need three shots. Let’s do it. Let’s make it perfect.” I don’t aim to do this but it happens more often than not, but it’s hard to expect that of other people (the team) as well, I know. But for me it’s like, “Look at the video, we just need this to make it perfect. Let’s do it. Let’s make sure all this effort was fully worth it.” And most feel the same way and I am so thankful for people’s passion to finish the project. It’s always, always worth it to pick-up. When you’re doing music videos there’s just not enough time.

Id really like to say a special thank you to all those involved on this project, and those who supported it too, without whom it would not have been possible what so ever – check the cred’s please!!

Signed to Friend in UK,
Pomp & Clout in US,
Slow Dance in France

Matilda Finn’s website


Director – Matilda Finn
DOP – Ben Fordesman Producer – Gloria Bowman EP – Luke Tierney
Production Company: FRIEND
Post Production Company: Time Based Arts
VFX Supervisor – Stephen Grasso
VFX Lead: Matt Shires
Flame OP: Ben Stonehouse
Nuke: Ralph Briscoe, Linda Cieniawska, Bernardo Varela
Colourist: Simone Grattarola
Post Producer: Sean Ewins, Sam Napper
Post Executive Producer: Tom Johnson
Editor: Matilda Finn
Sound Designer: Seb Bruen
Sound Designer: Pär Carlsson
Location Manager: Jess Waluga
Directors Assistant / DIT – Sebastian Hinds
Production Assistant – Alex Jefferson
Day two Production Assistant – Jenny Broad
1st AD – Ato Yankey
2nd AD – Otis Dominique
Focus Puller – Ed Tucker
2nd AC – Ed Ratcliffe
Day two 2nd AC: Deepa Keshvala
Grip – Tony Shults
Gaffer – Adam Bell
Electrician – Michael Smit
Electrician – Jim Agnew
Rigger – Steve Daly
Day 2 camera trainee : Charlotte Croft
Production Designer – Ashleigh Latter
Production Designer Asst – Rose Sapey
Wardrobe – Justin Rose
Female outfit created by Tamzin Lilywhite
Prosthetics Artist – Natasha Lawes
Prosthetics Assistant – Ruth Pease
Animal Wrangler – Dean c/o Antony Bloom
Runner – Bradley Boorman
Runner – Khadejia Ghislanzoni
Runner – Joey Philippe-Dali
Runner: Ibad Shaikh
Runner: Sam Cannon
BTS – Orlando Morris
Lead female – Brenda Bokoe
Man 1 (Chest) – Eric Kolelas
Man 2 (Soul) – Nile Kabeho
Man 3 (TV) – Jason Deer
SPECIAL THANK YOU TO: Ian Pons Jewell, Arri, Panalux, Pixi Pixel and Green Kit
Commissioned as part of the #FUTURERISING2018 project with W Hotels Worldwide & Mix cloud