In your video for Glass Animals, Pork Soda the male lead is in his basement cave and she thinks she’s controlling events. We’re probably reading way to much into it, so please tell us how the narrative developed – and what is your interpretation of the underlying meaning?
Read into it all you want. As long as it sounds clever, I’m in. This was an interesting project in terms of narrative. I’m quite used to writing ideas from scratch but with the Glass Animals album each track is tied to a specific character. The brief was more prescriptive in the sense that they wanted a story about an old couple that have fallen out of love. I worked within those parameters and, after a few manifestations, settled on the idea of a gravitational reunion as a result of a dancing dog.
Oh yes, of course. And the dog is brilliant, was he easy to direct?
Yes. Sort of. The dog was incredibly well behaved. However, once you add an actor with no canine freestyle experience into the mix things get a little trickier. Nadine, who played Mrs Jennings, was amazing and picked it up really quickly but we didn’t have a rehearsal day and shooting this scene took a while, which resulted in mixed emotional monitor staring: it is hard not to laugh at a dancing dog even when you are against the clock.
What were the main challenges of the production?
Same as any and all I think. Time, and a lack thereof, both on the day and in post. Fortunately for me I was working with an absolute dream team so a lot of the really challenging aspects were taken care of through a combination of exceptional talent and sorcery. Collapsing ceiling shouldn’t really have been possible but when you have Lucie Red as your production designer, anything is. Not only is Charlie Goodger an incredibly talented DOP he is also surprisingly good with a catapult which was a skill I hadn’t anticipated harnessing but am grateful for.
Special thanks have to go to Zdravko Stoitchkov and his team who put controllers in mouths and dog heads on people in a freakishly short amount of time and also to Isobelle Walton who threw herself through a fake floor without proper knowledge of the physical consequences.
Aquilo should have been a quartet, we’re so loving the story. But good on you for not having a clichéd ending. It’s a narrative that lingers, particularly your portrayal of disappointment and compromise, and it feels really authentic.
Shucks. If in doubt, end with a butterfly. Sometimes I think people have a tendency to underestimate audiences, arguing that everything needs to be spelt out. The Aquilo fans are particularly devoted and clever and often come up with theories that make me sound smarter than I am, which does wonders for my ego.
We see that you co-wrote the script. Please tell us how the narrative came about – what was the original brief, how did that evolve, and what was the process for writing it – for instance did you both work on the ideas at the same time, were there disagreements how the plot should unfold etc?
I write for screen with one of my oldest friends D.A.Nixon. His name is Dan and so are his initials. Fun fact. I had written fairly full narratives at a treatment stage which I’d worked through with Katie the executive producer. These were then expanded into scripts ahead of the shoot. It was at this stage that I called on Daniel’s genius to help clarify and focus the narratives. Zero disagreements. Just positive fun times.
There’s a lot of dialogue, were you working on the storyboard at the same time as writing the script?
I didn’t actually board these videos. I worked from the scripts with Charlie, who also shot the Glass Animals video, and made a lot of executive decisions on the back of an envelope in a Sheppey Wetherspoons.
What was behind your decision to shoot Silhouettes in this style? Did a lot of the pacing of the film happen in the edit?
Charlie and I had discussed shooting this in an observational doc way but with this surreal moment at the crux of it. This process lent itself particularly well to the set up in that we had an actual class turn up on the day, teacher and all, into which we dropped our actors. In terms of pacing, it was all down to Laurence Halstead the editor.
What were the main challenges of making the trilogy and how did you resolve them?
I think the main challenges came from a production perspective which Emma Wellbelove, the producer, resolved well ahead of the shoot. We recce’d the island and I decided it was imperative that the younger character Jack be a promising footballer and suddenly we had a whole football team. Things like this kept happening. Hat doffed. In part a direct result of her expertise, we had a lot to shoot which resulted in some mighty long days which wouldn’t have been possible but for the good will of the crew. Fortunately, the last location of the shoot was an ice rink. I seem to remember turning around and half the crew being on ice skates which was certainly unnecessary but quite fun. Hopefully this rose tinted the experience and they’ve all forgotten the gruelling aspects.
You seem very familiar with the landscape and community – do you come from there – where? Please tell us briefly about your childhood.
That’s kind to say. I’d spent a fair amount of time there recceing and, as is often the case when I’m in preproduction, the places I ended up seeing ended up informing scenes and shaping characters. I am not actually from Sheppey though but grew up in the countryside where the lack of mobility was noticeable and a lack of concrete thwarted a career as a professional aggressive inliner.
Your mental video for Paul White, Accelerator, couldn’t be more different from your serial love story for Aquilo. Where did the idea of losing one’s mind and trying to re-capture it come from?
To be totally honest when I first listened to the track the only sentence I could really make out was “lost my mind, think I’m going crazy” so that seemed like the only logical place to start. I’ve got a thing for anthropomorphic inanimate objects so, from here, it all came together quite quickly.
Was the production as challenging as the storyline or was it all quite straight-forward?
Certainly. All sorts of problems and a ridiculously small amount of money to solve them with. Benny Casey who made the brain is a Ninja and certainly over delivered in terms of expectations. Joseph Mannion who shot and cut it brought a whole heap of goodness to the table in terms of DIY rigs and inventive genius. Super grateful to Zach Ellams who did far more most than he initially signed up for, wizardry. Special thanks goes to Natalia Maus who produced it and managed to not only stretch a minuscule budget to mammoth proportions but also tricked the wonderful Ewen Mackintosh into starring in it.
We also love some of your simple and very effective visual ideas such as Show for Lxury and LA Priest. How did that come about?
I think the budget for that video was £500 so the idea had to work within that framework. For some reason I thought a load of dogs would be cheap. They weren’t. We ended up having to convince a dog walker to come and visit the shoot as part her rounds. It looked fun but we nearly lost a pet rabbit in the process. Props to both Lxury and LA Priest for smearing a revolting paste all over them and managing to keep straight faces throughout.
Apart from music videos you have some very smart branded content on your reel, especially Handsome Frank. Is this a genre you’d like to pursue along with commercials?
Thanks loads. The Handsome Frank films are actually something I do with my hotshot collective Pal.TV so I can only take partial credit. The idea behind the outfit being to create entertaining content so it’s super cool that you noticed. We’ve got a new one coming out in the next couple of weeks which we are excited about.
List five inspirations that have connected with you recently – these can be films, music videos, books, architecture, people, anything you like…
This week I’ve drawn inspiration (and stolen ideas from) the following people: Patrick deWitt, Jeremy Deller, John Maclean, Alex Prager and Serena Glaister.