Alpines’ lyrics although dreamlike and ethereal are often quite dark. Was it the lyrics that influenced you in creating this narrative for their track Lights or was there a strong personal desire to express something about war and death?
I think it was a bit of both if I’m honest. When they first played me the track last year I absolutely fell in love with it and have had the idea for quite some time to make a video about war, most importantly I guess, the fact that we are at war right now.
Catherine and Bob are two of the most talented and aware musicians I know and they’ve always pushed the envelope with everything they do so they were really onboard with it from the beginning. It feels completely bizarre to me as an English person to say ‘we’re at war’. I can honestly say I personally don’t even know what that means.
I feel like a lot of people in music / fashion / film are very detached from certain realities in this country – myself certainly included. Not that I’m trying to be Bob Geldof here (as i’m probably furtherest from that than everyone even reading this believe me!) but I just felt I wanted to do less of fan – smoke – glitter – 120fps – rememberbabeyou’refuckinggorgeous and a bit more of making something with a bit of a meaning on this one. Something to remind us to ask why are we actually still at war? It’s a really good but somewhat ignored question.
There are a lot of answers kicking around and I’m not professing that any are right or wrong. It’s just important we don’t forget that as an industry full of very intelligent and innovative communicators we are in a minority of people who can draw attention to things in interesting ways.
I know three people that have died over there in the past few years from my secondary school and know the girls and kids they left behind. Guess I wanted to make this for them too. I have a quote underneath my picture on my website that says: “Art without humanism is a contradiction in meaning”. In a recent review of my reel I felt I’d lost sight of that a little bit. It felt like one big afterparty! Well, I guess you could say there’s plenty of humanism in that too.
The atmosphere you’ve created in the factory is built up not only by the long tracking shots but by the colour palette you have used. How did you work with your cinematographer and art director building up this atmosphere? Did you always imagine this scene to be in this location?
The key was to install a modern loneliness to her. The track has this incredible atmosphere to it to begin with. Alpines have a real ability to create this in their work and it’s a director’s dream if I’m honest. I knew long tracking shots would work really well with the track and I wanted the video to have a real simplicity to it also and get the message across with one simple event. One person definitely worthy of a mention was my art director Mark Connell. It was the first time I’ve worked with the guy and I can definitely say it won’t be the last… And if we’re talking atmosphere – my editor Ryan Boucher puts the A in it every single time.
How did you go about casting the woman character – did she understand from the outset the subtle sensitivity you were after or were there lots of rehearsals?
The girl is called Emily Berrington and is destined for huge things. She’s just currently finished a lead role in Michael Winterbottom’s new film with Stephen Fry. We didn’t do any rehearsals whatsoever.
Emily is a trained theatre actress and they are so different in their breed. They’re almost fearless so I knew she would be totally fine to deliver what was needed. Ben Lloyd-Hughes who was the soldier has just starred in Mike Newell’s Great Expectations as Bentley with Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter. He really nailed it too. Both of these two were two of the most talented performers I’ve worked with and really lovely people. Quietly, it was quite a difficult undertaking for them and could have easily have been overplayed or over acted but they both handled it so well and demonstrated why everyone’s talking about them.
Did you draw on anything autobiographical for the flashback scenes?
Digital or Film? Decent budget or love project? And how did the budget affect the directing decisions you made, were there any compromises?
We shot on the Epic. There was no budget on this at all, a few thousand quid. Everyone worked on the job for free as they really believed in the project. I owe a million thank you cards on this one though. (See credits).
Alpines don’t even have a record label. They’re pretty underground as far as it goes but have a huge following still. Although I fear that’s about to change a lot in 2013 in terms of them being underground. Not that I’d wish anything different for them really. They deserve everything they get. As you can probably see from my reel they’re on my favourite list for sure.
Do you have any production material, storyboards, treatments, shot list, stills – to show?
I don’t really have anything! It was all done in a major hurry I didn’t have time to storyboard it or anything and it was an idea the band and I just spoke about…
I owe a million thank you cards on this one though. Particularly Helen Kenny and Gus and Sonny for their support, the lovely Phil Harris and his crew at Carpet Right (amazing fellas), Juanita Kerman the super agent and of course Laura Jones my producer who did a pretty incredible job of pulling this together (as usual).
Director: Ryan Hope
Producer: Laura Jones
Director of Photography: Tony Miller
Art Director: Mark Connell
Stylist: Bex Crofton-Atkins
Make-up: Anna Wild
Steadicam: Thomas English
Girl: Emily Berrington
Solider: Ben Lloyd-Hughes
Editor: Ryan Boucher
Colourist: Richard Fearon
VFX: Dave ‘Skippy’ Clifton