Street dance is a world you’re comfortable exploring, did you draw on personal experience for this narrative for Rudimental?
The idea was based on the life story of my old friend B-boy Mouse. He grew up in the slums of Manila and was thrown out of home aged eight and got involved with gangs before he found dance.
Aged 16 his Mum came to find him in the streets and took him to the UK where he became involved in the British B-boy culture. Over the next 10 years he finally became world champion three times. I’ve known him since just after he came to the UK and I’d wanted to do something with him for the last six or seven years.
When I was offered to treat on this track it all clicked – I’d do a dramatised version of his life for the video. Mouse was telling me about all the dance talent in Manila that he’d been inspiring over the years and in particular about this crazy talented kid B-boy Allen. Then through lengthly conversations with Mouse I wrote the treatment (see in Related Content along with Cole’s stills) inventing an older brother who would represent the alternative path that Mouse could have taken.
Shooting in Manila where you hadn’t been before must have been tricksy?
It was pretty hard to convince the guys at the record label Asylum (namely Dan Curwin and Ben Cook) that it would be possible. Luckily I had worked with Tim Francis earlier in the year who happened to have just shot a big commercial in Manila. Having him on board made it much easier for them to believe we could do it but it was still a big punt for them. The previous video had been really well received and they wanted something as good or better. This was basically my first commissioned music promo so it was a real leap of faith for them.
The production was by far the most intense work-related thing I’ve ever done. We were only confirmed on the job on the Friday around 6pm and to make it work we had to leave the following day at lunchtime.
And how did you go about scouting the slum locations?
We had hired a local production company but it was all very rushed. We got there and I briefed the company on the type of slum location I needed. Normally I would go through fixers on a more “ghetto” level but my main hook-up for all that world was Mouse who couldn’t get there until Monday.
We were told by the local production that all the large slums in Manila had been cleared out and burnt down by the government over the last six months. We thought this was very strange but I had no reason to doubt it. They then began to drive us around all the best parts of Manila actively avoiding all the slums. I even showed them recent reference pictures of places I wanted to see and they denied they existed! On reflection now I think they were just scared to shoot in the real slums. They didn’t realise the ghetto links that I had through Mouse gave us a pass to the whole city!
So the location scouting didn’t really start until Mouse arrived – his flight was delayed so we didn’t get going until the Tuesday evening and we were supposed to be shooting on the Thursday.
Did you already have characters cast or was it spontaneous off-the-street casting?
Everybody was as close to “real” as possible. Allen was incredible! Not only was he a world-class dancer but he could really get in touch with his emotions too. His brother Arthur was also a reformed gangster and Allen had witnessed a lot of his trouble growing up.
Arthur now leads a crew called Breakism and has inspired all his guys to avoid a path of criminality. When I first met Allen I wanted to see if he could act so asked him to get in touch with negative emotions and he responded very strongly so I knew immediately he was right. The second time I met him I wanted to see if he could pretend to dance badly for the training sequences. He couldn’t do it. No matter how much I drilled him to look amateur he always looked good. His brother took me aside and explained to me that he had been teaching him since he was three – he doesn’t remember a time when he couldn’t dance! I had to set him a task to practice with novice dancers all day for the following two days to be a convincing beginner.
We found Tugo who plays the older brother in our first location Grace Park. He was smoking and had a sharp cheeky expression. He actually lives on the street where we shot the machete sequence. He had an incredible presence and also could really act.
When I shot the opening sequence I locked us all in the room – the couple playing the parents, the boys, Arthur for translation and Luke the DOP. I didn’t allow anyone to talk to each other and created a very sombre atmos. I asked everyone to remember their worst experiences. It was hard but a pretty powerful and moving experience for all of us.
Did you hire a chopper for the aerial shots? That must have been a challenging shoot?
I had heard about the Octocopter a few months back and was very keen to try in out. I’d written it into another treatment that didn’t come off. We lucked out and hired the best guys for the job – Ben and Graham at Cloud 12. I honestly don’t think anyone else would have been able to do what they did.
When I wrote the treatment I had a picture in my mind of a friendly remote control helicopter that does what you tell it to. I didn’t realise that they are literally lethal. They have eight carbon blades that are razor sharp, the thing will chop you up if it hits you. We were therefore really lucky to have such an experienced pilot, Graham has been flying remote planes and helicopters most of his life. There were a few hairy moments but I don’t think anyone else could have achieved what these guys did. My only regret was that we were supposed to fly the Red Epic that we hired locally and the local production team changed their minds on the shoot day and we had to shoot on a nikon 7000. Still super proud of the shots though, feel like they’re not just thrown in there to show off but enhance the drama.
How long was the shoot?
We had three really intense shoot days. The first day we were shooting from early on through to 2am without much of a break. When we arrived at the last location to shoot the final dance competition we were expecting to have 200 extras. There were about 20 people there in this huge auditorium! We were already behind schedule and the local production said they couldn’t help. Our ghetto contact, Oshmar then went into action. He put the word out in his slum that we were paying for extras. They then took five guys to the local bus or Jeepney depot and hired five Jeepnies. They took them to the slums and returned with around 150 people in an hour- it was incredible! By the time this shoot day had finished I was crying with elation and exhaustion – it was crazy! Then we had to be up again for 4am!
So we had hired a lot of the crew locally and while the local production was generally a nightmare we got the job done and returned to the UK. It was only when we started selecting shots from the footage when we began to realise there was stuff missing. The locally hired DIT operator had massively fucked up and lost half a day’s worth of Red Epic footage!
We had insurance but needed to convince them it was a proper claim which was no sure thing so we cut a version of the video which I still liked but it lacked the narrative and was hard to read. The insurance company came through and we went back some 3 weeks later. I think it made the video even better than it would have been with the missing footage. We took the octocopter guys back out with us to re-shoot the aerial shots with a Red Epic but frustratingly on the first day we had some technical problems then the second day it rained all day (the octo cant fly in the rain). Glad we went back on the whole as we got some great stuff and were able to wrap it all up a little better as we rushed off the time before.
Would you go back to shoot in Manila again?
Got so much love for the Filipino people and everyone we met. Been overwhelmed by the response to the video from everybody, its been quite moving. Really want to get back out there to make a longer form version of this story. Stand up the Pinoy massive!
Exec Producer: Otis BellDirector: Josh ColeProducer: Tim Francis
Commissioner: Dan CurwinDoP: Luke JacobsArtistic Director/ Manila Production: Ereson Catipon AKA B-Boy MouseOctocopter: Graham Tolhurst and Ben Keene @ cloud12.co.ukAssociate Producer: Ben KeeneManila Fixer: Oshmar MercedChoreographer: Arthur Añas
Post Production Producer: Dan Bennet @ AbsoluteEditor: David Stevens @ The Assembly RoomsTelecine: Matt Turner @ Absolute
Sound Mix: Nick Davies
Red Media, Brownian MotionCast:Younger brother: Allen AñasOlder Brother: Tugo CunananDance Teacher: Ereson CatiponLead Gangster: Arsell Dela CruzGangster: Arjay QuiambaoGangster: Oshmar MercedGangster: Jualen CarpioMother: Janet TanFather: Reynold PecañaBreakism Crew: Arthur Añas, Raymon Oscuro, Juztyn Michael Anonuevo, Mark Daryl, Charles Smith Vergara.Rival B-Boys: Haslah, Eric, Nofree, Snap, Marco, Lunar, Bea, Dirty, TC, Luloy, Tristan, Nicque, Ayee, Yani.-Special Thanks-Leonard Español from Barangay 165 Vangie from Barangay 156Christina Paragsa Saransaman