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14th May 2021
The Road Less Travelled
Possessed of a strong artist’s aesthetic, it’s no surprise to discover that New Zealand native Jason Bock began his career as a painter before segueing into filmmaking. More creator than director, his work blurs the boundaries between music video, documentary and commercial, taking the viewer on a round-the-world trip through beautifully constructed narratives about far-flung destinations and cultures. With his globe-trotting temporarily grounded by the pandemic, he chats to 1.4 about the importance of feeling your own work, Balinese demon queens and finding utopia in a nudist colony

Jason Bock

 

You started your career as a painter before turning to filmmaking – how and why did that transition come about?

One of my first memories as a kid was drawing on used printer paper at the back of my grandparents’ house. I spent a lot of my childhood going through the library at their house reading art books and trying to replicate the techniques of different artists and before I knew it, I was painting, illustrating and modelling every day.

There was a turning point where I realised being a painter was a lonely lifestyle. I wanted to continue along a creative route but with something that involved a team of people rather than painting alone in a studio. This led to me to being a designer, VFX artist, editor, director’s assistant and eventually a director. I never set out at an early age to become a filmmaker, it was more of a natural transformation through the arts.

 

As a filmmaker who ‘likes to twist concepts and visuals’, who or what inspires the stories you tell?

I don’t think I have one inspiration or ethos that drives the work I create, for me it’s more about following my gut when I start creating a piece of work. Sometimes I am heavily influenced by the emotion of the sound, other times it can be one specific lyric that encapsulates the meaning of the song, each project for changes in approach for me. When I latch onto an idea that feels right for the song, I think to myself: “OK, does this feel unique?” Or “Have I seen this before?”. It’s super important for me to put my fingerprint on what I’m creating, otherwise it’s just an echo from the past. Deep down, I think you know when something resonates with you and it’s your job to follow those instincts to turn your idea into something beautiful.

 

Mt Eden, Cruel

 

Aesthetics are clearly very important to you, and your work is emphasised by impeccable post work and assured use of colour – how has your background in art, design and VFX contributed to this?

Aesthetics are super important to me, everything we hear and see affects our interpretation of the world around us. I never understood it when people would tell me it’s all about the story… I have always felt that it was the harmony of many elements coming together as one. Story is one thing, but FEELING is another spectrum of communication that is often left out, similar to classical music which can communicate to you on different levels and make you feel so many emotions without any lyrics at all. Visuals are the same at communicating many layers of emotion without any dialogue. This subject reminds me of a quote from photojournalist Don McCullin – “Photography isn’t about seeing, it’s about feeling. If I don’t have some kind of feeling for what I’m shooting, how can I expect the person who looks at it to feel anything?”. I understand what Don says here because it’s exactly how I feel about creating work; I need to feel it myself or it won’t connect with others.

My background in other arts have definitely had a big impact on my filmmaking, because they have given me the tools to break out of a singular train of thought. I think sometimes it’s easy to get swept up in filmmaking rules; what should or shouldn’t be done with continuity or structure. I try not to restrict myself with any of that and keep an open mind to my conceptual approach. Even more important than my arts background and what I believe is the most important experience for film making is: life experience; traveling, getting lost, feeling pain, losing, weird and awkward situations, learning new things, foreign cultures and meeting people are some of the things that shape your mind and give you inspiration. I think the more experiences and emotions I go through, the more my imagination is cultivated.

 

Leisure, Feeling Free

 

In your award-winning video for Leisure, you juxtapose the utopian’ concept of naturism against a dystopian urban background. How did you come up with the concept, and what was it like being given creative carte blanche by the band?

The best projects are when I’m given carte blanche, because they let me creatively spread my wings and go for something unconventional. I feel lucky that I got to collaborate with such an amazing band and that they gave me breathing room. When briefed with the video, the band told me they wanted to communicate the idea of feeling free, just that simple idea. They said for some bizarre reason the first thing that popped into their mind was a nudist colony. It was one of those moments when I instantly fell in love with that starting point.

I walked through the supermarket playing the track in my earphones (a process I go through sometimes when conceptualising). That’s when I started visualising the naked bodies against cold concrete surroundings. It made me think about that visual and how it was connected to initial idea of feeling free. This led me to think about what a nudist colony meant if you distilled it to the most simple idea and for me it was a form of utopia, like Adam and Eve. Then I thought about the juxtaposition of the naked body against concrete, and it led me to think about how interesting it would be to see utopia and dystopia together in one world. The idea then evolved into a utopian nudist colony living within a dystopian world. I wanted to find the harshest architecture, so I started researching brutalist buildings and found locations I thought would create an intense clash with the naked human body. It was a risky concept, but the band trusted me to fly over to Eastern Europe and make that film.

 

Leisure, Feeling Free

 

For Mt Eden’s music video-slash-short film Cruel, you spent a month filming in an isolated village in Indonesia with a cast of locals. What was the inspiration behind the story of a girl with godlike powers? And what were the main challenges involved in production?

I always remembered an artwork from years ago that was on the track Sierra Leone, a track made by Mt Eden years earlier. It depicted a girl wearing the red bandanna and birds flying away from it. I was intrigued by what the meaning was and where it came from. To me the artwork felt like some sort of Asian influenced anime. Jesse (Mt Eden) told me there was no deeper meaning behind the artwork and that it was just something that intuitively felt like it connected with his track. It gave me the idea of creating a backstory to that artwork and to bridge the past with the present.

Not long before the track Cruel was sent to me I had been traveling through South East Asia, and I learnt about some of their ancient mythology. In Bali they communicated their stories through dance and one of those was the Rangda Dance. Rangda was the demon queen. I started to develop a film by retelling this ancient story in a modern context to create a backstory to Mt Eden’s artwork and that’s how the film came to life.

The next chapter of this story is how it was made. I was heavily influenced by Balinese culture at the time and it felt like we had to film this in Bali. I wanted a certain level of authenticity with the people and locations, so we flew to Bali and spent a month finding real locations and people for the film. All actors in the film were street cast and had never acted or been on camera in their lives. We filmed most of this project in an isolated village in real locations, capturing a lot of the scenes documentary-style. Because we captured so many real moments, we had to film small amounts over many days to capture all the scenes we needed for the film – sometimes only getting a few hours of filming each day to work around people’s everyday lives. I decided to capture the entire film in Balinese language, which added another layer of complexity to the filming because it was rare to find people who spoke Balinese and fluent English on the island. Most of the shoot was translated back to me in broken English, so at times I didn’t fully comprehend the dialogue of what the characters were saying and had to figure it out in the edit. It was a huge challenge with limited gear, the heat, limited cast and virtually no lighting. The cinematographer and I had to get super creative with the limitations and embrace the documentary style of filming.

 

Leisure, Feeling Free

 

You’ve spoken before about how important travel is to you, with a career that’s sent you around the world. How challenging have you found this past year with lockdowns, quarantines and travel restrictions?

It’s been a nightmare since I left for a shoot in the Middle East in Feb 2020, thinking I was going to be away from my London home for four to five weeks and not returning because of Covid. I took refuge in New Zealand while we had the lockdowns and spent most of last year focusing my energy on family time and personal projects. It’s been a far cry from spending 80% of the year traveling from country to country shooting, and has given me time to slow down and recalibrate. However, I have been out shooting in Ukraine and South Africa over the last six months and it’s been extremely hard to plan productions with all the rules changing day to day.  I have been stranded throughout the year, flights cancelled, jobs cancelled and productions heavily restricted due to Covid. But while it has been hard times over the year, I feel privileged to be able to continue to work and create while others are less fortunate. For now, I’m crossing my fingers for the vaccine to take effect and hopefully the world will normalise in the near future.

 

Any exciting projects in the pipeline?

I just got back from shooting in South Africa and am now settling back into a normal routine. Currently I’m finishing off a series of commercials shot over the last year, editing a documentary, finishing a music video and a short film. Lots of projects I have put on the back burner because of commercial work, so now I feel like it’s time to give them some love.

 

Interview by Selena Schleh

 

Jason Bock:

instagram

website

 

Repped by:

UK @prettybirdpic

France @henry.tv

AUS @division.global

NZ @flyingfishfilms

Credits

Mt Eden, Cruel

Director – Jason Bock
Producers – Koming Ningsih, Lissandra Leite, Rob Lanauze
Cinematography – Ziga Zupancic
Colourist – Matic Prusnik
VFX Artist – Anita Ward
3d Artist – Patrick Junghans
Composer – Jesse Cooper
Sound Designer – Connor Duin
Post Production – Mandy VFX
Production Company – FishnClips

 

Leisure, Feeling Free 

Director – Jason Bock
Producer – Matej Marinko
Production Manager – Alexander Dedakin
Cinematographer – Žiga Zupančič
Colourist – Matic Prusnik
VFX Artists – Leon Woods, Anita Ward, Toni Stanovnik

 

Jaeger Le Coultre, In A Breath

Director – Jason Bock
Starring – Benedict Cumberbatch
Executive Producer – James Moore
Executive Producer -Samantha Attenborough
Producer – Tulsi Bramley
1st AD – Chris Short
Production Manager – Sandy May
Production Runner – Stefan Nielsen
DOP – Ziga Zupancic
Under Water DOP – Murray Milne
Camera Op – Todd Bilton
Focus Puller – Ryan Spearman
Focus Puller – Sam Fraser
DIT – Hadley Parsons
Drone Op #1 – Sam Peacocke
Drone Op #2 – Ryan Haste
Gaffer – Karl Saunders
Best Boy – Sam Marshall
Electrician – Craig McDonald
Sound – Mark Storey
Dive Supervisor – Hamish Kerr
Art Director – Jon Lithgow
Make Up – Alison Brewer
Wardrobe – Sacha Young
Location Scout & Manager – Hinz Arbaugh
Colourist – Matic Prusnik
Editor – Joe Morris
Online Artist – Anita Ward
Sound – Craig Matuschka
Creative Director – Selda Yurekten
Agency Producer – Vincent Rivier
Production – Flying Fish
Post Production – Mandy
Sound VO – Liquid Studios

 

Football Federation

Director: Jason Bock
Producer: Megan Ayers
Executive Producer: Stephan Renard
Executive Producer: Genevieve Triquet
DOP: Kieran Fowler
Production coord: Sharon Lim
1st AD: Greg Cobain
1st AC: Oliver Braslin
Art director: Simon Morgan
Edit House: The Butchery
Editor: Joe Morris
Colourist: Furgus Rotherham
Flame Artist: Drew Downes
Production Company: InTheThicket
Composer: Ramesh Sathiah
Music – Songzu