It is interesting to see how your work has evolved from your earlier rap videos to this film for DJ Pone’s (with Jaws) track Highways, which is stunning in its framing, pacing and lighting. Was the beauty that you express in this film driven by the lyrics and tone of love and longing?
What a beautiful question! That song was obviously a new challenge for me, the rhythm, the lyrics and the mood are really different from the rap tracks I’ve worked on. It was an opportunity to experiment with new ways of telling a story or just expressing my sensibility. Art Bridge and the artist said to me, “You’re free, do what you want.” I really like love stories like Wild at Heart or In the Mood for Love. I thought it was time to create my own 🙂
Was the visual narrative an open brief and to what extent did you collaborate with the musicians?
I wrote many treatments before arriving at this one. I talked with Jaw several times to understand exactly what the feeling and the morality was in his words.
Side note from Jaw: I wrote this song two years ago in my former home back in Paris, it’s one of my favourites that I’ve written and sung because it portrays everything I want to say on a deep level.
We all live our lives in pursuit of happiness, like junkies, pretending to be someone else sometimes because we’re too concerned about other people’s judgement. We spend our lives going from one circle to another, from one love to another, from streets to highways, blinded by a system that is too strong for us to make a difference by ourselves. Everything is so predictable, only nature will always surprise us. Simple things.
Gabriel, what was your creative process for developing the film – did you create a detailed storyboard that you followed religiously or did the story evolve as you shot and edited the film?
I wrote the main lines of the script. Each scene was accompanied by pictures and a few words about the main idea, and then we worked on the details with the actors during the shoot and then during the editing. There was a real element of freestyling.
How difficult was it to get the pacing of the visuals totally in tune with the track?
It was indeed tricky! The track is very deep and the edit very complex. The first chorus comes after a few seconds then there is a big bridge and then two choruses follow each other very fast before a radical end. I tried many ways of editing before keeping this one. I’m not really sure that it is the best, I would keep changing if I could…
Do you shoot your own film?
I usually shoot all my films. This project was the first time I worked with a DoP. Balthazar shot the film, I shot only three or four shots.
What was behind your decision to create a narrative around a boy in your video for Gros Mo, Malsain (Unhealthy)?
It was very easy! Gros Mo lives in Perpignan in South of France, and the centre of town has been inhabited by Gypsy people for many years (several centuries). Ezekiel, the boy, is his neighbour. When I discovered his mix of lifestyles, I decided he had to be the main character!
Please describe your childhood.
I grew up in two different places: In the country with my father where we had animals, a big house, with many books, music … And with my mother moving from place to place in the city which was a bit more precarious. Those two ways of life helped me understand people and love them for their minds more than their fame. I’ve many friends that are very different from each other. I’m proud of that!
Where do you call home now?
Now I’m living in Montpellier. Best place ever in France, no doubt!
When did you decide to become a director?
When I played music with my band I also made all the video clips. It was just for fun. Now the band doesn’t exist anymore and I’ve naturally decided to become director.
Where did you learn your filmmaking craft?
I learnt first in school but sound was my specialty. Then I learnt alone or with some friends when the Canon 5D came out.
Are you looking to shoot commercial work?
Yes, I can’t wait! And also a video with Kendrick or Jorja Smith 😉