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20th January 2020
Enchanted film
Title of film: Wax Chattels, Career
Director: Dylan Pharazyn
Production Company: The Sweet Shop
Director Dylan Pharazyn plays on the power of supernatural forces between three characters in this mesmerising film for Auckland band Wax Chattels. We catch up with the Sweetshop director about his creative vision but first ask the bands’ bassist and vocalist Amanda Cheng about her lyrics for the film’s track Career.

Amanda, how did the song come about musically? We rather like the Wax Chattels’ lyrics that reveal perhaps a more truthful side to the Godzone myth of New Zealand but this track seems more personal.

Amanda Cheng: The song was written during soundchecks on our Asia Tour back in 2017. We all fell ill throughout the gruelling tour, so it took quite a toll on us both physically and emotionally. I have a separate career as a banking/finance lawyer, and despite this being very different from music, I had strong feelings about the similar impact that both paths were having on me. Consequently, the lyrics are an extended metaphor about women sacrificing youth, mental and physical health for success.

How did this directing gig come about for you Dylan?

Dylan Pharazyn: I heard the song on the radio. I messaged the band straight away on Facebook and told them I wanted to make a video for them…

Wax Chattels: We’re big fans of Dylan’s work with other bands’ music videos, so we were pretty happy to let him take the reins on this. It was a really enjoyable process to work with Dylan – he took on-board and translated our feedback on the video’s overall “vibe” and “narrative” into a beautiful final product.

What was your creative vision for directing the film?

Dylan: The song has this incredible atmosphere… there’s this deathly durge that builds so I began to feel out an idea of three characters and there being supernatural forces at work between them… something stirring in the powers of the universe.

I loved the idea of the sound recordist wandering around a lake making field recordings, there’s beauty and purity to her actions, reflective and calm, she’s also vulnerable out in this place on her own.

Then the person around the table who exists on another plane has a strange control over the recordist and draws out the presence of a dark spirit who has been in the lake for 200 years. I liked these characters who have a simple cause and effect with each other, like a fable.

The lyrics have this lethal combination of something very delicate and intimate, but also this dark resentment or loathing. The words steered my thinking of the scenes into something more physiological and internal.

The band liked the three characters idea and were into the abstraction in the story. They suggested we cast the same woman to play the three roles which immediately worked in with the intention to bring a more layered meaning to the film. The casting of Crystal then for me elevated the whole project to another level, she’s so amazing and was superb in all three roles.

The track works so well with the video. How did you engineer this?

I spent a fair bit of time, maybe three weeks, listing shot ideas with a detailed song structure breakdown in mind. I usually do this but this song has a great contrast to the sections which is really useful and inspiring for writing story beats, so I explored the three main character layers into the song and also threaded in a purely abstract water layer to the pictures – like a literal depiction of the magical forces we see the effects of in the other layers. Then the plastic and smoke and other touches were brought in, just enough to give the magic realism.

Then I spent a week drawing my storyboards with location photographs and cut the boards into an animatic cut to the song… so before we shot anything there was a totally locked image sequence that was driven by the music and lyrics. The edit hardly deviated from this animatic at all.

Tell us about the filming.

We shot all the story layers in one day in Waikato. There are these incredible wetlands there that have a haunted beauty.
We shot with a skeleton crew and could be very economical with time because we shot so closely to the boards and animatic.

Was there footage that you wanted to include but you couldn’t?

There were restrictions as we had a short amount of time but we were aware of the limitations so worked with what we had, I can’t think of anything I’d like to have done differently now, it’s often useful to have a reduced palette to play with, it forces you to think harder about the ideas.

What’s next for you?

I’ve had shoulder surgery, so I’m laid up at home with a broken wing. It’s really such an unheard-of time for me, time off work around the house, such a luxury – watching film after film and piecing together ideas for my first feature film.

Dylan Pharazyn is signed to The Sweetshop

Directed by Dylan Pharazyn.
Producer - Emma Mortimer
Director of Photography - Adam Luxton.
Featuring - Crystal
Casting Director - Imogen Wilson. 
Editor - Dylan Pharazyn
Colourist - Adam Luxton
Visual Effects - Stu Bedford. 
Art Director - Svet Mateev
1st AD Hellen Robinson
Grip / Gaffer - Spencer Locke-Bonney
1st AC - Michael Paletta
2nd AC - Miten Raichura
Wardrobe - Helen Young-Loveridge 
Camera - Imagezone