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11th April 2019
On a knife edge
Title of film: The Hour, Wasted
Director: Ben Strebel
Production Company: Skunk
We talk with Skunk director Ben Strebel about his creative process for his latest music video, Wasted, for new band The Hour. Strebel explores the liberating behaviour of a group who live in a world of established anonymity and like to play dangerously

At what point in the process did this idea arrive in your mind? Were there any other ideas before you hit on this?

This was the only idea. Its concept came out of a close collaboration with the band’s brilliant manager, Daniel Tuffin. He came to me with the idea of an established world of anonymity, which we developed into a situation where freedom from the constraints of society is portrayed through visual signifiers; the black masks strip the characters of defining features, liberating them from conforming to a narcissitic society. This was also a nod to the dynamic of the band itself – a creative union of anonymous artists – who wear masks while they perform on stage, allowing the group to mutate and warp over time.

The music and visuals are totally fused into a compelling narrative – how did you do this? Did you alter the camera speeds etc?

The challenge was to create a video that would echo the sounds of the track rather than the structure. In this case we shot the video with the song in mind, but then flipped the process on its head and edited the song combined with augmented sound design to the video. In fact you only really get to hear a section of the track in its entirety at the very end of the film once the knife is slammed into the table.

And talking of pace, you have absolutely mastered the tension build up and release.

The project evolved into more of a short film rather than a classic music video. I love this way of working because it allows the images and flow to work independently to the constraints of the track structure, whilst drawing on the overall vibe. Sound design and elements of the track are fused to heighten the visuals, creating an intense atmosphere and drama.

Where did you come across this insane knife game?

Daniel sent me various examples of the ritual, and together we looked deeper. We found some crazy individuals who play this dangerous game at home or with friends. It’s scary but mesmerizing to watch. You want to look away, but you can’t. We found one woman in particular who took it to another level; she became the winner in the video and they did that section of the film for real. No fake knives – and all through the handicap of wearing a full face mask!

What were the main challenges of the production?

The main challenge was to find the amazing individuals who were able to do the knife game properly (you’d be surprised to how many people do once you start digging into that world) and make it look like it was something they did on a regular basis. We ended up with six competent players, two of whom were proper experts. The casting tapes were insane – at least two people cut themselves whilst doing it. For one guy, instead of opting out after the knife hit a finger, he simply bandaged it up and did it again. This level of enthusiasm and commitment is exactly what we tried to get across in the video.

Anything else you’d like to share?

The shoot itself was both weird and wonderful – the knife game dangerously tense and electric. But most of all I remember finding myself in the middle of the living room of the house at one point of the shoot surrounded by 30 or so masked people none of whom I could identify. Suddenly I felt like I was the stranger here. While shooting and between takes when watching the masked crew you could feel the anonymity transcended the film. It made everyone feel super relaxed and at ease. The actors and extras appeared to come out of their shells more easily and drop any kind of preconceptions or shyness toward one another. Everyone seemed to feel more free and able to be who they wanted to be at that moment. No one could be judged without seeing their face, which is exactly the point. Everything made sense.

The “experiment” / story continues very soon …

LINKS:

Skunk

Credits

Production Company: Skunk
Director: Ben Strebel
Executive Producer: Kate Taylor
Producer: India Lee
Creative Director: Adam Fish
Director Of Photography: Benjamin Todd
Production Designer: Oliver Hogan
Post Production: Luke Morrison At Electric Theatre Collective
Sound Design: Chad Raymond
Costume Design: Edie Ashley
Casting: Sophie Golding Spittle