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5th February 2020
Dark night of the soul
Title of film: Ghostpoet, Concrete Pony
Director: Thomas James
Production Company: OB Management
Thomas James is SO fantastically dark. We’re still recovering from his film for Ditch, Twisted Ritual, which was let’s face it a menacing horror scream-a-trip, and now he’s come up with this surreal, mesmerising dream-like film for Ghostpoet. It’s weirdly beautiful, even if the director describes it as a moist nightmare.

What was the trigger for you becoming involved in filmmaking?

At college I started doing album covers and gig posters for various bands and record labels and what not. I lived with Lias and the guys [Fat White Family] above the Queen’s Head in Brixton, and tried my hand for the first time with one of their early videos. Obviously when you’re shooting above a pub for days on end the hazy recollections seem a little rose tinted, but I fell in love with the process, and it sort of snowballed from there really.

 


Your latest film, Concrete Pony for Ghostpoet is exquisitely shot and crafted but first please tell us what is going on?

Ah, thank you!

For me the track is about a sort of existential crisis, a 4am dreamy panic that maybe most of the things we strive for are a little pointless. I liked the idea of trying to embody this, in a nightmarish, reality bending world. Something contained, that made no sense, and felt like the disjointed textures of a moist nightmare. Something where dread was personified, and made you feel icky. A BDSM Get Your Own Back.

So that’s sort of what we did – creating a dancing, dripping void that eventually envelops Obar.

 

Was there a brief or did the narrative come out of conversations with Obar? And how did you evolve the initial idea?

Obar’s new album cover is based on Fuseli’s ‘The nightmare’. A beautifully crafted, yet unsettling painting about night terrors, so this was definitely something I wanted to reflect. It sits quite nicely for me really. Something crafted yet creepy, that was also beautiful and hopefully rather hypnotising.

 

 

Not that the narrative really matters because the visuals fuse with Ghostpoet’s beat perfectly. How did you work out the film techniques – was everything nailed down in pre-production or was it still writing itself in the edit? VFX or in-camera?

As you can imagine, ‘reversing gravity’ for one half of the image freaked people out initially, but my EP Sam Holmes and I sort of had an idea of how it would work.

Everyone at OB, Jamie and Connor (producers), Diana (DP) and Jakob (Production design) all mucked in exquisitely, figuring out how to do it. Everyone was amazing, and brought so much to the table with the project. There was a lot of passion in the team – and it was quite amazing watching the idea grow with everyone’s input.

 

 

What were the biggest challenges of the production?

There were lots of post-it note sketches, napkin models of the set, and late night Deliveroos trying to figure it all out.

We had to build the room twice; once upside down, and once the right way round – and make sure everything matched within an inch of its life, so we could stitch all the shots together. It was basically all in camera, which also meant everything had to be boarded super heavily before we shot, so we knew in theory how it would work before the shoot day.

But when you have a trapeze artist, covered in gunk crawling upside over rigging on a pretend floor – obviously not everything quite goes to plan, and Jack our editor helped craft it so beautifully.

Also – Having enough ooze. I have never enjoyed having to say something so much on set.

More ooze please.

Please say it was honey and chocolate.

I completely wish it was – as I’m sure Lydia (our oozey girl) does too.  Unfortunately it was the same stuff they used to use on Fun House, but dyed black. It certainly had a particular scent…

 

Young Fathers, Get Up

Looking through your reel there’s a distinctive evolution of style – from your earlier more complicated storylines with bigger casts to your pared-back but more technically sophisticated recent films such as Get Up for Young Fathers which like Concrete Pony is a performance (and installation piece) that you can’t take your eyes off. Please tell us about that. 

My heart will always lay in unsettling stories and narrative – but occasionally a brief or a track, is just begging for a heavy performance, or simply creating a strange world for the artist to inhabit. Obviously Obar is an incredible performer too, so it’s nice to use that when you have it. But it’s definitely not something I’m moving away from – it’s just knowing when and where to deploy them. My last promo was for Sam Fender – which was really heavy on narrative, so it’s good to be able to mix it up sometimes.

Having the guys at OB too – pushing me and making me try new things is always amazing. It’s always good to have a team of people encouraging you to take more risks.

 

Credits

Ghostpoet, Concrete Pony

Director: Thomas James @Thomasjames__
Production Company: Ob Productions @Obmanagement
Produced By: Lowkey Films @Lowkeyfilms

Exec Producer: Sam Holmes @Kvlto
Producer: Jamie Gamache @Jamiegamache
Producer: Connor O’hara @Connormohara
Dop: Diana Olifirova @Dianaolifirovadop
1st AC: Dan Villanueva @Dancevillallama
2nd AC: Adam Farquharson @Afarq87
Camera & Electrical Asst Josh Armstrong @Shuarms
Camera Trainee Maks Belski @Makslonglive

Gaffer Simon Battensby @Simonbattensby

Grip Giovanni Mattei @Giovannimattei

1st Ad Joe Starrs N/A

Prod Assistant Armstrong Nkosi @Ajcozie
Directors Assistant Polly Millner @Pollymillner

Rigger Chris Gough N/A

Production Designer Jakob Gierse @Jakobgierse
Art Assistant Kate Parnell N/A
Art Assistant Florence Dickens @Florencedickensjewellery
Art Assistant Ieva Petraviciute @Vivalaieva

Styling Cynthia Lawrence-John @Cynthialawrencejohn

Hmu Designer Lydia Ward-Smith @Lydiawardsmith

Bts Giulia Savorelli @Giulia_Savorelli

Post Production

Editor Jack Singer
Edit Producer Alice Clarke
Post Production Stitch & Big Buoy @Stitchediting @Bigbuoy_
Colourist Jonny Tully @Jonnytully
Colour Producer Hannah Whitehill @Hannahrh_Whitehill
VFX: Richard ‘Stretch’ Russell @Stretcheo

Talent List

Ghost Poet: Obar @Ghostpoet
Monster: Lydia Norman @Lydiacircusarts

Label Management: Sean Mayo @Pias_Global

Directors Rep:

Directors Agent: Sam Davey @Samboydavey
Directors Agent: Lea Ogunlami @Lea.Ogunlami