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17th August 2021
Discord – The Interview
Title of film: Discord, The Movie
Director: Finn Keenan
Production Company: Riff Raff
Imagine a place with really long arms to bring people together… Arms that reach out of the screen and pull you into a kaleidoscopic world of futuristic cityscapes, floating cows, talking socks and mediaeval taverns. Thus begins an epic short film for messaging platform Discord – and if, like one of its stars, Danny DeVito, it leaves you reeling, then spare a thought for filmmaker Finn Keenan. Tasked with distilling the Discord community’s weird and wonderful descriptions of the messaging platform into a five-minute film, the Riff Raff director merrily mixed up humour, VFX, stop-motion and retro-pop animation into a visually dazzling feast for the eyes. He tells 1.4 about three months of moving parts, his love of camera trickery and what really goes on inside DeVito’s egg head

 

 

How much did you know about Discord before landing this job?

Not too much actually. I knew it was a platform to post and share stuff online but had no idea of the scale of it or the sense of community on it. After a bit of researching I realised Discord had this amazing interactive relationship with its users. And even though this was their first ‘official’ commercial, all of their YouTube videos had a lovely silly sense of humour to them. It was clear they weren’t your average social media platform.

 

You turned to the Discord communities for inspiration, asking them how to describe Discord to non-users and turning their responses into visuals – tell us a bit about how that element of the creative process worked?

Amsterdam-based agency AKQA and Discord had put a call out to the Discord community to describe the platform starting with ‘Imagine A Place’ and they got so many weird and wonderful descriptions. When I came on-board, they had narrowed it down to the ones that are in the film. We had a few calls with the users and asked them to elaborate on their description and talk about what they use Discord for. It ranged from gaming, to socialising, to one user who was disabled and told us how full their life was because of Discord. It was such an interesting process and really opened my eyes up to how much Discord meant to them.

 

 

Ricocheting wildly between different genres – stop-motion, computer graphics, retro-pop animation – and settings, from mediaeval taverns to futuristic cityscapes – it’s fair to say that Imagine a Place makes for a trippy and very fun viewing experience. What are some of your favourite sequences from the finished film?

Haha, yes it’s a bit of an assault of the senses all right. It’s very hard to choose a favourite scene. I was blown away by the level of craft and detail by Jacknife Films for the stop motion tavern scene, I love the lo-fi silliness of the sock puppets and the VFX throughout the film by Mathematic are just incredible. The track out from Danny Devito and Awkwafina in the hall at the beginning is bigger and better than anything I could have hoped for. They brought such an epic sense of scale and detail to the whole film.

 

Awkwafina and Danny DeVito make a great double act, what was it like working with them?  

It was fantastic. Devito is a comedy hero of mine so to be able to direct him was a dream come true. He was so funny, so nice and so enthusiastic. He barely left the set, just watched us shoot scenes he wasn’t needed for and he’d be just giggling away to himself. It was amazing. And him and Awkwafina got on really well so we just left two cameras rolling on takes and let them riff which was hilarious. As hectic of a day as it was, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed more on set.

 

 

What sort of a timeframe were you working to? What were the biggest challenges involved in production?

From start to finish it was about three months. The hardest thing was juggling all the different teams involved (the producer Matt Clyde deserves a knighthood!) and we actually used Discord for a lot of the meetings and file sharing. We’d be jumping from meeting to meeting with the agency, client, cast, VFX artists, stop frame artists etc. – all in different time zones. It was intense but a satisfyingly fast way to work. The amount of moving parts involved was crazy, so it feels really great that it all came together.

 

 

You’re already known for strong visuals and in-camera magic, with one spectacular example being Qiang Dao for Nike – where do you find creative inspiration?

Thank you very much! I’ve always loved camera trickery, and if I can mix that with humour/narrative all the better. Interesting transitions are always more satisfying when motivated by narrative so this script lent itself so well for that. It was instantly a puzzle of how we could seamlessly stitch these different genres together. Whether it was simple match cuts or the camera going into DeVito’s egg head it was really important to us that they were narrative driven rather than for the sake of a cool transition.

 

You started out making short films with your friends, tell us a bit about your journey into directing…

Yes! And thank god it was before YouTube so they will never see the light of day! I was really lucky to have a group of friends who were all really into making films. We’d just shoot endless amounts of stuff on a handicam, but when I was 14 I broke my knee and was out of school for three months, so I learnt to edit and could then do something with all the footage! From that point on I became obsessed with directing and editing, and having made films with friends for so long gave me more confidence when working with new musicians and actors later on.

 

Finn Keenan and Danny DeVito on set for Discord

 

What themes are you drawn to as a filmmaker, which you’d like to explore in future projects, whether personal or commercial?

I’d love to explore some big scale comedy like this Discord film. This is the first time I was able to experience mixing humour with VFX like this. I found the process of taking a really silly, fun narrative and working with incredibly talented artists to bring it to life very exciting. So I would love to be able to build on this and make more work like that.

What are you working on at the moment?

Absolutely nothing! I’m writing this in a tent in a field in the middle of nowhere. 🙂

 

Interview by Selena Schleh

Riff Raff website

Credits

PRODUCTION COMPANY:                                           RIFF RAFF FILMS

DIRECTOR                                                                        Finn Keenan

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER                                                 Natalie Arnett

PRODUCER                                                                      Matthew Clyde

 

POST PRODUCTION

EDITING COMPANY                                                       Trim London

EDITOR                                                                             Thomas Grove-Carter, Vid Price

EDIT PRODUCER                                                            Noreen Khan

EDIT ASSTISTANTS                                                         David Davis, Josh Mannox

POST-PRODUCTION COMPANY                                  Mathematic Paris

POST EXECUTIVE PRODUCER                                      Hadi Dahrouge

POST PRODUCER                                                           Alan Portillo

MUSIC & SOUND DESIGN                                            String & Tins

SOUND & MUSIC DESIGNERS                                     Adam Smyth, Jim Stewart

AUDIO PRODUCER                                                        Alina Miroshnichenko

 

LA UNIT  

PRODUCER                                                                      Jay Wintringer

DOP (LA & MEXICO)                                                      Xiaolong Liu

PRODUCTION DESIGNER                                              Alessandra Cadman

COSTUME DESIGNER                                                    Jeffery Kurland

AWKWAFINA’S STYLING                                               Erica Cloud

PRODUCTION MANAGER                                             Ben Oswald

GRIMES’ STYLNG                                                           Turner

 

MEXICO CITY UNIT

SERVICE COMPANY                                                       La Casa Films

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS                                               Axel Brinck, Polo Luisetti

PRODUCTION DESIGNER                                              Luis Rojas

STYLING                                                                           Ximena Barbachano

MAKE-UP                                                                         Ivana Kiss

 

LONDON UNIT STOP FRAME

PRODUCTION COMPANY                                             Black Dog & Jackknife films

STOP FRAME DIRECTOR                                               Chris Hopewell

STOP FRAME PRODUCER                                             Rosie Brind

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER                                                                   Martin Roker

 

LONDON UNIT PUPPET SHOOT

SOCK PUPPETS DOP                                                      Eoin Mcloughlin

SOCK PUPPETS PRODUCTION DESIGNER                 Tim Gibson

SOCK PUPPETS PUPPET DESIGNER                            Alexandra Day

 

AGENCY:                                                                         AKQA

MANAGING PARTNER                                                  Geoff Northcott

GLOBAL CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER                             Peter Ammentorp Lund

EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR                                Nicolai Smith

CLIENT PARTNER                                                           Mark Toal-Lennon

CREATIVE DIRECTOR                                                     Alex Rose

SENIOR COPYWRITER                                                   Noé Sato

SENIOR PRODUCER                                                       Elise Hagedoorn

PROJECT MANAGER                                                      Bethany Wong

SENIOR DESIGNER                                                         Gijs van de Wal

SENIOR MOTION DESIGNERS                                      Lexington Baly, Thor Hedegaard, Christian Dekten

ART DIRECTORS                                                             Shiko Murai, Hugo Barne

COPYWRITER                                                                  Arendse Rohland

EXECUTIVE STRATEGY DIRECTOR                               Miriam Plon Sauer

SENIOR STRATEGIST                                                      Hannah Portner

EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTIONS                Quentin Hugo Bernard

 

 

CLIENT:                                                                            DISCORD

BRAND LEAD                                                                   Tory Grove

CREATIVE LEAD                                                              Bem Yemesgen

COPYWRITER                                                                  Mark Donnelly

HEAD OF TALENT PARTNERSHIPS                              Kenny Layton

HEAD OF MUSIC TALENT PARTNERSHIPS                 Eric Barnett

SENIOR PARTNERSHIP MANAGER                              Elisa Marin