Familiar faces, familiar spaces – you’ve captured London at its most authentic in your film, The Garden Bridge. Did the brief ask for any particular vibe of the city to be shown or were you given free range?
The brief was quite an open one. We needed to identify together what it was that made London special. We wanted to represent people from all walks of life. As many cultures, lifestyles and attitudes as we could. The bridge is meant for everyone so this was our main aim. My main vision was to show that no matter how we think, who we pray to, what we eat or where we work, we are all Londoners. This film was meant to (ahem) bridge the gap between all these differences. We all love our city in our own little way. There are obviously disagreements along the way when you live in a city the size of London but the beauty of this place is that we all seem to generally get along. It’s the best city in world as far as I’m concerned.
We gave up counting how many different locations after 50 different scenes. Did you work with a very small crew for quick mobility – and what kit did you use over how long for the shoot?
Our main areas for shooting were Brixton in South London (where I am from) and East London. We captured most of the action around those two parts but of course we had to travel everywhere from North, South, East and West in order to capture an authentic version of our London. We shot for four days.
The crew was tiny. Essentially it was me and Chris Clarke (DOP) alongside Sonya Sier (producer) trekking around the city with a tiny camera package (Alexa mini) and release forms. I lost count of locations after day one.
We went from market stalls in the West to parks in the East to live music venues in the South to tube stations in the North. It was certainly a big undertaking but a fun one!
Were many of the scenes set up or were they mainly spontaneous ‘real’ shots?
The nature of making ads like this is that sometimes you can’t just rely on the public doing that ‘thing’ or action that you need. I suppose this shoot was a fine mixture of spontaneous and real. Every person was a genuine Londoner. At times we had to ask for certain actions but for the most part we just rolled on people (asking first of course) and got what we needed. Each scene was so brief that we only really needed a couple of seconds in each place. There is so much more in the rushes, it was hard deciding what to put in.
You’ve been busy over the last couple of years since you went solo directing and along with the rest of the world we love your films, Runnin for Naughty Boy and Beyoncé, as well as the brilliant piece for Klang Karussell’s Netzwerk, Falls Like Rain. (Shown above).
Were these ideas you had sitting in your top drawer waiting for the right music video to come along? Are you constantly taking notes, keeping scrapbooks of ideas, images?
These ideas are always floating about in my crazy head. I’ll see something that makes me react in a certain way like Mustang Wanted climbing a crane or Guillaume Nery free diving in Mexico and I will immediately try and conceive an idea that can turn into a watchable four-minute promo. A lot of credit goes to Sasha Nixon and the team at Forever Pictures. They are the ones who have to believe in my crazy schemes. My ideas are not always the easiest to produce. Flying crews to Islands in the middle of the pacific on extremely modest budgets is a very hard thing to do as Sarah Tognazzi will tell you.
I have a few more ideas in the locker. I’m always looking for the next challenge and my scrap books are full of things. Some impossible, some possible, some amazing, some not so much.
Both films display extraordinary production values and confidence. Were there any nightmare challenges and how did you resolve them? Also how did you convince commissioners and others that these films could be made?
I’ve been lucky in that my team around me have always been ‘Yes’ people. James Hackett at Virgin commissioned Naughty Boy. He really pushed it through when we had absolutely no right going to Tahiti on the budget we were given. I guess both Klang and Naughty were nightmares from the start when you consider what we had to achieve. A lot of hard work went into those videos and we are very proud of them. The reaction to both has been truly wonderful!
Did you go to film school or did your filmmaking evolve through working in the industry?
I went to art school. I studied fine art and ended making video art for three years with a bunch of like minded people. It taught me the basics of film making and that carried through to my work life. TBH I never really went the industry route, I don’t recall ever being a runner, and certainly not an AD or anything like that. I just plugged away at my own stuff until people took notice.
Do you sleep soundly the night before a shoot?
Please describe your childhood. Looking back were there any obvious indicators that you would become a filmmaker?
My childhood was a normal one. I grew up in South London and have loved film ever since I was a boy. I remember my dad showing us The Deerhunter when I was 10. The scene when he falls off the bridge and breaks his leg kind of stuck with me. I’ve always been into danger and extreme cinema. One glance at my film collection will tell you that.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I’ve just been signed for representation in the US by Danielle Hinde at Doomsday Entertainment.
And any inspirations that have connected with you recently?
I’ve been truly inspired by a lot of things of late. Life in general seems to be filled with good vibes for me at the moment. Musically i’ve been listening to AME and the other artists on Innervisions Records. That shit is good for the soul. I loved the Revenant and Youth at the cinema. But if I’m honest it’s my friends who are a constant source of inspiration and energy for me. Oh and that latest OK GO video made me slightly jealous, top vid.
Production Company: Forever Pictures
Executive Producer: Sasha Nixon
Director: Charlie Robins
Director of Photography: Chris Clarke
Producer: Sonya Sier
Editor: Dan Sherwin @ Final Cut
Colourist: Julien Biard @ Finish
Sound: Patch Rowland @ Final Cut
Music: Dark Sky ‘Imagin’
Agency: Across the Pond
Managing Director: Julie Cohen
Agency & Strategy Director: Robert Waddilove
Executive Creative Director: Maggi Machado
Creative Director: David Foggon
Executive Producer: Ellie Goodwin
Agency Producer: Alison Severs