How has your music video directing evolved, in particular how do you see the changes over the last couple of years?
I feel like this video is part of a strand of work that I have always made, from The Beat Goes On, Supercollider, Primal Scream, Basement Jaxx and Peaches and Iggy. I guess I am most well known for Kylie videos because they are the biggest hits but my roots are with this kind of music. John Hassay who commissioned Infinity knows I am a big house/dance music fan, he actually also commissioned Supercollider back in the day. And these kind of themes have always been there in my work – parties, dancing, altered states of consciousness, riffs on film genre, magic and mysticism, emotional turmoil, death and mortality, tongue in cheek humour.
In a way some of them are still there in Kylie’s Can’t Get You Out Of My Head, although that video might seem big slick and shiny it is still a film genre, an imaginary world, a futuristic utopia/dystopia, not only a shiny pop video. I like to try and create characters and worlds, tell little stories and I think this new video feels more related to my older work but is also a development as well.
I don’t think the way I direct videos has changed that much only budgets are obviously much less these days so you have to adjust ideas and expectations accordingly. I used to come up with ideas that involved more complex post-production but that just isn’t viable these days unless you can do it yourself in your bedroom or beg huge favors. Can’t Get You Out Of My Head simply wouldn’t get made now. So since I came back to making videos with my Florence and the Machine videos I’d say that the main difference is that I am working more in camera.
How did the idea for the narrative for Infinity come about? Was it your reaction to the lyrics? And did you work closely with Luca and Ali of Infinity Ink or were you given creative freedom?
I was given a fairly open brief at the beginning and a lot of creative freedom which was amazing. John Hassay, the commissioner, was the one who gave me the thought that the band had had at the beginning of the process which was an idea about a peyote trip that goes wrong. I don’t know much about peyote but I had a lot of friends growing up who liked to take acid, one in particular who developed an alter ego who was a Shaman and also a wolf. So I kind of based it on that and those days. Suburban teenage ravers tripping outdoors and still off their heads when they come home.
I didn’t really have much contact with the band as they were in Mexico, other than a few precise and helpful notes, but I know them a bit. Actually Luca C, in a previous life, was a performer in a video for Goldfrapp that I directed called “Train”. I met him recently at a party and he introduced himself. That video was styled by Mrs Jones who also styled this.
How much did you script the narrative before the shoot? Had you storyboarded it in detail or simply allowed the shoot to evolve with a shots list?
I had an idea before the shoot once I had settled on the locations but it really changed a lot on the day because it snowed so a location I thought was going to be black and muddy was white and snowy. That in itself made the day bonkers and really hard for production, we had to change the order we were shooting, and at one point we had a total white out with the snow, massive snowflakes like you’ve never see here, it was very surreal.
I had to change the way I was thinking about the day on the spot which is tricky on a one-day shoot but also exhilarating because we were getting lovely stuff. I think we had a bit of that feeling of being little kids like you do when it snows. In a forest in the snow it was magical. It was great to have Robbie Ryan DPing who totally went along with the crazy chaos of the day and made it beautiful. The next day the snow was all gone. Like we had ordered it in for the shoot.
So no extra production material such as storyboards or sketches?
There were no sketches or storyboards as it was a very fluid on the hoof kind of a piece. Really the locations fell into place and I knew what I wanted to do with the central character and his family and the rest pretty much developed as we went.
Please explain the symbolism / relevance of the snake and red Indian or are we reading too much into it?
The guy sees his friend as a Shaman, and his mum as a witch and also he dresses as a red Indian because he is that way inclined. In fact Alex (the actor) asked for the makeup and feathers when I explained the character to him.
The way I saw that character is he is dabbling in mysticism, as well as drugs obviously, so when he’s tripping it’s all coming alive to him. The snakes are a reference to peyote tripping which apparently is a common vision people have when they take that, and is seen as an animal spirit guide. I like that they are sort of powerful symbols, also the mother figure, but they are ambiguous, I saw the Shaman as a benevolent character. His mate helping him through his bad acid trip…
Yes, love the pace, just when you think the story is going to go bad trippy, it turns out to be alllll ok, in fact it’s all brilliant. Was this the sentiment you were after?
I guess otherwise there is no arc really and I see a lot of music videos where there is no resolution or only a linear path. It’s an emotional journey but I didn’t want to make it a cautionary tale. You don’t know how things might pan out for this character, this is just one chapter. Within that there is still a journey for him that is in some way satisfying for a viewer hopefully.
The lead character is spot on – how did you cast him?
Kharmel Cockrane got Alex Esmail on board for us. I knew he would be perfect as soon as I met him. I remembered him from Attack The Block where he was one of the stand out cast members. He had just recovered from breaking his leg so it was touch and go whether he was going to be able to dance but he was amazing and embraced the idea and lying down in the snow and went for it in every way. He’s super talented.
Was there a lot of post effects? How much of the film was shot in camera with crack lighting?
All in camera, no post effects. Shot on a mixture of 16mm negative and reversal and Red Epic.
Do you collaborate closely with a regular crew, especially in the editing?
This was the first time I had worked with Leila at Trim on a Promo. I am very happy with the edit, she really got it.
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