You are more renknowned for taking the metaphorical abstract line with your music video narratives and Two Fingers is a beautifully shot story following the lyrics of a boy who “gets out” from his stultifying background. Can you tell us please about your decision to be more literal and how your visual narrative came about?
There was a brief, a treatment that came from Jake’s management and his record company, they wanted to stick quite closely to the lyrics, to be real and gritty but ultimately optimistic. I was given a rough story outline that I was free to add to and embellish. The story is pretty much the story of Jake’s life, he was discovered at a bus stop, he hanged out with his mates and smoked a lot, his mum and her boyfriend drank and fought a great deal and now he’s off to America. I had the task of fleshing out the idea and to find the visual and emotive language of the piece, it was a lovely job to do. I was inspired by Richard Billingham’s brilliant photography.
The casting is spot on…
Vicky McClure was already attached to the project so that was obviously a big coup as she’s a very exciting and wonderful actress. I approached Craig Parkinson, who’s an equally fantastic and exciting actor. I’d worked with Craig before and I’m about to work with him on an upcoming feature project, I knew how good and right he was for the part. I hadn’t seen Line Of Duty and didn’t know that Vicky and Craig had worked together before, that made my life a lot easier as they really clicked on set and shared a similar sense of humour, they are both wonderful at improvisation, super lovely people and very easy to work with, that whole scene was an absolute joy to watch unfold.
Jake walked into this acting thing and I believe it was the first time he’d ever done any improv but he totally held his own with these two great actors. I guess he knew the world better in this instance because it was based on his life, the stuff he came out with blew everyone away, he was so natural, real and convincing, he’s a genuinely amazingly talented guy. My only regret is that we didn’t record the sound, some of the dialogue was priceless.
Was it a straight forward production?
We had two days to shoot in Nottingham and a lot of locations to visit. The first day was really tough because we were filming mainly on the run, still bartering with Nottingham train staff about filming on their platform, (the job had only been officially confirmed the week before) they finally turned us down on the day so we could only shoot the exterior. Then we went all around town filming various areas, the bus stop, Jake walking down streets, Jake and his mates sitting on a sofa (which was kindly donated to us on the day by a family in the street) then we had to make a mad dash to Robin Hood airport which was an hour and half drive away, we were behind schedule and were trying to get there before the sun went down, that was pretty stressful, I could see the sky turning orange and we were still half an hour away, but we just about made it and it worked.
One of our favourite music videos ever is your one for Radiohead’s Just (see Related Content). After 17 years we are still wondering why the man is lying on the footpath and what he says to the crowd. Are you going to put us out of our curiosity and reveal the reason?
Please don’t make me tell you. Sorry, I can never reveal what the guy said, it would kill the video. The idea is about myth, madness and the frenzied desire to know the unknowable so to give the actual line away would make the video redundant. I wish I could reveal the answer because being the only person in the world that knows is quite a pain, that I can’t share it with anyone, as you can imagine I’ve been asked quite a lot over the years.
It’s lovely the video still gets talked about, I’m not going to complain about that, but I had no idea it was going to cause so much conversation, that genuinely wasn’t my intention at all, I just hoped people might feel a chill up their spine when they watched it, that’s all, that’s what I felt when I came up with the idea listening to the song, and that was my main goal, to share that chill if I could. People talk about what the man says or doesn’t say but one of the things I love most about the video is Thom’s performance, it’s so bat shit crazy and electric, it makes the video for me. There is a pure narrative cut that exists on youtube but it’s nowhere near as good, and there is a pure performance cut too that many people aren’t aware of either, that cut was better than the pure drama one because there are some fantastic performance shots of Thom and the band, stuff I just couldn’t fit in to the final piece, but the combined video was undoubtedly the strongest version, the play between narrative and performance seemed to create a lot of sparks.
Some people believe the man didn’t say anything, but there is something I had in my head, a reason, there had to be other wise the idea simply wouldn’t work, but I never even told the actor, my friends, my wife or kids and I didn’t tell Radiohead, if I had done, well, they would all be lying down.
Production company HSILondon
Director – Jamie Thraves
Producer – Scott O’Donnell
DOP – Catherine Derry
Art Director – Ruth Crawford
Costume designer – Aradia Corckett
Make Up – Eve Marie Coles
Cast – Vicky McCure & Craig Parkinson
Editor – Sally Cooper at Cut & Run
Post production – The Mill
Exec producer – Beth Montague
Commissioner – Natalie Arnett at Mercury Records.