6th November 2015
Meet Uncle Friendly
Title of film: Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, Silent Movies
Director: Uncle Friendly
Production Company: Goodoil
Also known as Rhett Wade-Ferrell, the Australian director's latest video shot out of LA for Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear is a perfect mix of a great track and performance film with a twist

This track was released a couple of years ago – so how did your film come about now? Was there a long period spent developing the concept with Madisen?

After doing the Sam Rockwell and Reggie Watts video for Flight Facilities, their US label Glassnote reached out and asked me if I would be interested in working with Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. They were a really talented band that was just starting to make a splash at the time. I jumped at the chance. Then came the catch – they said the band “had some ideas”. That’s almost always the kiss of death. But as soon as I spoke to Madisen on the phone I knew it was going to be a great collaboration. He had some really interesting ideas and he had seen almost as many films as me.

How much experimentation did it take to create the camera and editing techniques you have used? Was it difficult to get the seamless transitions from camera to VFX?

None! It wasn’t really a technique we developed. I decided how I wanted to do it and then we made it happen. The problem with coming up with such a technical idea like trying to do a one-shot video is every section needs to be timecode perfect or it won’t fit together. The great thing is you are totally committed to the idea. You can’t mess with it later because you have nothing to cut to!

Was it a straight-forward production – what were the main challenges?

Danny Ruhlmann is an extremely experienced and very technical DOP. I had worked with him many times before and he had just come off Sense 8 with the Wachowskis when I asked him to come on board to shoot this. When I walked him through the opening shot his first reaction was “are you on drugs?” The production was pretty straightforward because we actually had the budget to do what we wanted, which is getting more and more rare these days. The biggest challenge was having faith that the shots would all fit together. Whenever I explained it, you could see the crew’s eyes glazing over and I would have to say, “Trust me. It’s going to work”.

All of your films from Bonds commercials to Flight Facilities clips have a spontaneous, feel good tone to them. Is this indicative of your own character?

It’s nice to hear that because sometimes I worry if they seem over laboured. The Flight Facilities clips look spontaneous because they were to a point. I like to plan for 70% of what I’ll do on set so that I can play around for the other 30% of the day and hopefully get something more unpredictable.

You grew up in Tasmania, not the place one normally associates with dance, music and cool filmmaking. Are we wrong? What was your “aha!” moment when you decided to be a director?

Like most people growing up in small towns, you don’t really find out that directing exists as an actual job until much later. I had a little portable TV when I was young and lived in a caravan out the back of our house so that I could stay up all night watching late night TV and kung fu movies. I think that and being so isolated encouraged me to develop an imagination and inspired me to make things.

Where are you now and why?!

I’m in the hotel bar in Nashville trying to write this as quick as possible so I can go watch the World Series with the producer. I’m here to shoot a commercial for moist towelettes for men’s balls. Yes. They really exist. USA! USA!

You’ve collaborated with Flight Facilities on several music videos. How does the creative process work with the electronic duo – do they give you freedom to create your own narratives or is it a group effort?

The video for ‘Crave You’ was an idea a friend had for a different band. I couldn’t be bothered writing a treatment so I just changed the band name and sent that idea to Flight Facilities and they liked it. I made it for a dollar fifty with only one other person helping me. I also shot and edited it myself. It ended up being my biggest video. Then five years later they called and said “Hey,we’re doing an album and we have some ideas. Let’s hang out”. So we had a sandwich in the park at Rushcutters and they said “we want to do a video with Kylie in it”, “we want to do a video that is summer-y and has Reggie Watts in it” and “we wish we could get Sam Rockwell to dance in another”. I said “if I can get a line to Sam Rockwell, can I do all three?” And they said yes. That was their creative input and I came up with the rest. Sam Rockwell is one of my favourite actors so it was an amazing experience. 2014 was an amazing year.

What was your worst production nightmare ever?

I was in Dubai doing a job with PSY. You know the Gangnam Style guy? Well it was pre-Gangnam Style and it was a Korean spot for Samsung. I was doing production and, to be honest, I had no idea what I was doing. I had talked my way into this job as a producer’s assistant for this Korean production company and four days later they flew me to Dubai for a commercial. I had never been on set for a commercial before. We sent a chopper up to get some aerials and while I was waiting for it to land the army rolled up and told me if I didn’t bring the chopper back they were going to shoot it down because we were flying over an airbase. This was after I had left a backpack with a quarter of a million dollars US in a tent with some camels. My boss chewed me out pretty good.

Please tell us five inspirations that have connected with you recently:

– Marina Abramovic’s exhibition in Sydney
– Paul Thomas Anderson interviewing Jonathan Demme for the ‘On Story’ podcast! Pure genius!
– Panda Bear’s live show in Nashville
– Choreogapher Vincent Paterson when he came out to do Bonds. I could listen to that legend all day every day
– My nephews. They always bring me back to earth.

Credits

Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear, Silent Movies

Directed by Uncle Friendly
Production Company. Goodoil Films
Cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann
Written by: Madisen Ward & Uncle Friendly
Produced by: Ira Brooks, Sam Long, Rhett Wade-Ferrell, Darin Eppich
Starring.
The Family – Jayvin, Christopher, Alysa, Latoya and Paul Smith
Reporter – Jordan Stephens
Editor. Ashley Kreamer
Production Designer. Brit Doyle
Post-production. Final Cut NYC
VFX & Color. The Mill NYC
Sound Design & Mix. Sonar
Production Manager. Dona Spangler
Background Director. Matt Kamen
Prod Coordinator. Jess Kasza
Location Mgr. Dee Butler
1st AD. Anneke Scott
2nd AD. Jenny Nichols
1st AC. David Mellow
2nd AC. Tracy Facelli
DIT. Anthony Guerrero
Stedicam/Crane. John Perry
Gaffer. Tommy Page
BB Electrics. Cache Reed
Electrics/Driver. Steve Evans
BTS. Amanda Costanza
Key Grip. Larry Harteker
BB Grip. Kyle Rullman
Grip. Rich Ruth
Lead Man. Macon Murphee
Set Dresser. Tyler Stein
Props Assist. Amanda Matsui
Sound. Jeremy Mazza
Stylist. Marcia Eden
Wardrobe Assist. Hannah Page
Hair/Makeup. Rachel Lathum
Extra H/M-up. Anna Aldrich
Craft Service. Laura Damon
PA. Dylan Gardner
PA. Kyler Wilson
PA. John Witherspoon
Picture Cars. David Tinsley
Traffic Mgmt. Loyd Poteet