15th January 2015
Cult film
Title of film: River Island X James Long
Director: Menno Fokma
White Lodge's latest signing Menno Fokma draws on the rituals of a band of boys… and their flash River Island x James Long gear

How did you develop the film in collaboration with designer James Long?

During the initial briefing James shared sketches and mood-boards of his creative process on the collection. He also had a rough idea about bits and pieces for the film. Holy Mountain came up as a strong inspiration for the visual language and he liked the ritualistic aspects in it as well. Besides he suggested the Barbican Centre in London as shooting location for the film. I started brainstorming from there.

It was a little puzzle to come up with an idea while staying true to the wishes of the designer. I was very enthusiastic about James’s references though so it wasn’t too hard to think within that world. It’s quite a rare opportunity to have a client who wants to invest in such an aesthetically driven and abstract type of film.

How did the collection drive your inspiration for the film?

The main trigger came from the references of the designer. With that in mind I was searching for a ritual, a strange event that was held by a group of boys. The outcome of it would pick one of the boys to undergo a journey and become the new leader of the group. I wanted to create a sense of suspense in which you feel the boys are connected but this ‘election’ moment is important for them on an individual level.

Shooting in The Barbican was the idea at first but I quickly decided that it wouldn’t be ideal for the scenario I had in mind. I preferred to shoot outside in a place that felt was meant to be for that election, a sort of modern day temple. As it wasn’t easy to find something suitable we decided to create it in post but still referencing real world architectural elements. As the clothing has a street style aesthetic to it the environment needed to blend with that as well. I didn’t want the environment to be too vibrant or decorated as the collection is already so bold and layered.

The film is very CG and post-production heavy, who did you partner up with for that part of the project? How did that part of the collaboration work creatively?

My background lies in 3D animation and motion design and while I’m now focussing on directing it’s still a part of how I think and the kind of solutions I come up with. But I’m slowly morphing into a live-action mind and steering away from the ‘let’s fix it in post’ thought process.

This was the first film I outsourced to a post-production company. I had a great meeting with Happy Finish and they were keen to step up to the challenge. I had the pleasure of working with Johnny Han, one of their internal technical directors who lead the execution of the project. We had conversations in pre-production to discuss technical details and he came up with do’s and don’ts to take into consideration.

As I’m still very hands-on I created an edit of animated CG shots and movements (an animatic) to visualise my ideas for the film. It helped everybody to understand what we were talking about. Alongside this I worked on visualisations of the environment and created style frames for the look and feel I was after.

Once Happy Finish received the offline edit they added their magic to the piece. As I already had a lot creatively worked out they still managed to surprise me with additional creative ideas and solutions I hadn’t thought about yet. In general that is a thing I’m experiencing now much more often when collaborating with other talented people that put their expertise into the process – the production value gets pushed further and further.

How would you describe your work? What inspires you creatively?

Very aesthetic imagery in enigmatic atmospheres. I tend to lean to a dark image and message, and often balancing on the intersection of reality and surrealism. It might sound abstract but contrast is important in my work as well, from a highly paced edit to very serene, almost silent scene or for example the vulnerable side of a very powerful looking character. In my personal work I also play with themes like escapism, dreaming about other worlds and breaking out of a current mind state.

Storytelling is important for me but isn’t very present in my latest projects. Currently I’m thinking about creating a short documentary film. Extraordinary people with a certain obsession, psychological illness or fetishes, underdogs, or something more lighthearted, the desires and fantasies of a specific person are also themes that interest me and that I’d like to explore. It’s one of those projects on my 2015 wish list.

When it comes to inspiration, filmmakers like Darren Aronofsky and Jonathan Glazer drive me a lot. I could identify with their aesthetic, storytelling and vision on humanity and life. Although I’m not that extremely nihilistic! Besides Charlie Kaufman scripts, Murakami books and Asian filmmakers like Chan-wook Park (Old Boy) or Kim Ki-duk (Bin Jip) are encouraging.

Recently I read a book about the development of careers of famous cinematographers. Very touching how some of them started as runners and worked all their way up, driven by passion. That urge to create and be disciplined works contagious for me.
Music wakes me and puts me into sleep. It’s really addictive to keep on discovering new stuff, trying to relive that moment that you heard a fantastic record for the first time and want to play it over and over again. If I’m visiting concerts and see artists perform and expressing it inspires me to going to create as well. Trying to translate that experience of music into image and once it becomes a film hoping that other people are inspired or touched by it.

Director: Menno Fokma
Producer: Tiernan Hanby
Executive Producer: Stephen Whelan
DoP: Borja Lopez Diaz
Edit: Cut & Run
Post Production: Happy Finish