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4th October 2021
Beyond the Call of Duty
Title of film: Dave, Verdansk
Director: Dave and Nathan James Tettey
Production Company: Untold Studios
The truth is madder than fiction so says Dave in his search for facts about his family in his track Verdansk. In their latest collaboration the artist and director Nathan James Tettey weave a factual narrative with gaming CoD metaphors reflecting how life for many is a continuous mission. We quizzed the Untold director about their creative process and how the production came to light in Bulgaria notwithstanding a few hair-raising moments with explosions and raging dogs

 

How did this heady mix of reality and Call of Duty: Warzones metaphors come about?

Dave had always written the song with a video that referenced COD in one way or another. He’s a massive fan of the game and wanted to bring it to life in some form. Verdansk if you’re a COD player is a famous map in the game, so giving the track its name was always going to grab a lot of gaming audience attention. The song itself though, when you break it down, has Dave making parallels to his and his friends’ life growing up back then and currently, and how living for them was and still is like a continuous mission. It’s also a visual metaphor for the black experience growing up. Family is the thing we value most and has been the thing that has been torn apart the most by different factions whether that be police attention, bullshit government policies, wars or levels of poverty back home. Dave’s character throughout the video is on the search for info about his family whilst also making sure he keeps his friends who are family close and safe.

 

 

What were the initial conversations like between you and Dave?

Pretty long and extensive when you can get hold of him. Life has got infinitely busier for the guy in recent years so when we did get to talk we’d go in and make sure we covered a lot of ground. From locations to shot choices, outfits, we find a way to talk about everything. I think the main conversation was based around the explosion shot. We had various different ideas around how to do it and what that scene represents within the video. It’s where he finds the vital bit of info that leads him to the picture of his family that unknown forces have been trying to keep him away from. The message of the video was a big theme, so we wanted to make sure the video felt cinematic and easy enough to follow so that an audience, whether into COD or not could understand whilst still able to draw their own conclusion. We didn’t want to overdo it with too many game references also. Just enough that everyone could feel happy that we’d done the game enough justice whilst still basing it in reality.

Did you write the narrative?

The main body of the video was written by Dave and I helped him construct the scenes as we went along.

 

 

Looks like a complicated production – what were the main challenges?

Time mainly, luckily myself and Mike Heath the producer had constantly been talking even before we got official sign off on shooting. We got ahead of the game on understanding what we needed to shoot but how and where were up in the air until about a week beforehand. We wanted to shoot in the UK but production here at the moment doesn’t favour what we were trying to achieve on the budget we were working with so we decided to shoot in Bulgaria. Landscapes, studios, art department and crew were great and understood precisely what we needed to achieve. The studio we worked with even lent us a helicopter from the Stallone film The Expendables. The dogs were fucking scary though….

 

 

Did the story come together in the edit or was every detail mapped out in pre-production?

We knew where we wanted to be by the time we got to the edit. Dave had his ideas, I had mine and Toby (Dashwood) the editor who is also a big fan of COD had his. We didn’t drop a shot on the days and we left a lot more on the cutting room floor than what actually went in the video. Dave is a really good editor in his own right. The first thing he asks for are the rushes and then he’s gone for a few hours and comes back with great notes on what he thinks we should see.

 

 

Anything else you’d like to share?

Just a big “thank you” to everyone who helped bring the video to life and everyone who’s said nice things about it so far. It’s hard to convince crews to believe in what we do especially with the time frames involved so when the team at Untold and also the team at B2Y are doing literally everything they can to make pretty much 100% of the things you need happen then you have to show love.

 

Untold Studios website

@untold_studios

@nathan_james_tettey

Credits

Directed by: Dave and Nathan James Tettey

Production Company: Untold Studios

Executive Producer: Mike Heath

Head of Music: Annie Ayres

DOP: Fredrik Backar

Editor: Toby Dashwood

Directors Assistant: Stephanie Okereafor

Production Manager: XZ/C

St

ylist: Toni-Blaze Ibekwe

Service Production Company: B2Y Productions

Producer: Daniel Vasev

1st AD: Yana Aleksieva

Art Director: Hristina Hristova

SFX Supervisor: ZarkoVFX 

Supervisor: George Rockliffe at Untold Studios

VFX EP: Sophie Harrison at Untold Studios

Colour: Paul Harrison at Freefolk

Additional Sound Design: Echolab

Thanks: Jomar O’Meally