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17th March 2022
Singing the praises
Title of film: Nemahsis, I'm Not Gonna Kill You
Director: Crowns & Owls
Crowns & Owls, the independent trio of filmmakers, creative directors and photographers, have fused Nemahsis’ powerful lyrics and voice into these mesmerising one-take films and stills expressing the beauty and pain of being hijabi


What was behind your decision to tell Nemah’s stories with these visual treatments?

Between the three of us, there was definitely an appetite to make something which felt like a bit of a counter argument to a lot of what we’re seeing – especially when it comes to pacing. We wanted to make some videos that breathe, as a continuation of what we’ve been exploring with our work for a good while now. Nemah’s message is from a unique perspective, so it was important that she takes position as front and centre and the audience is able to engage with her on a performance and therefore emotional level. 

Did you work closely with Nemah on the narratives before production and what were the conversations like?

Very much so. Nemah had ideas of how she wanted to articulate the messaging of both videos and they were great briefs – for “dollar signs” she was keen to be in a glass box of sorts, with people filming her on phones to reflect a particular lyric, and from there we brought the whole commodified mannequin/department store setting along with the one shot execution. 

For “I’m not gonna kill you” Nemah was loosely inspired by a Balenciaga fashion film of models just strutting through a metropolis in leathery looks at night – and so from there we suggested carrying on the one shot theme and of course adding the element which conveys the feelings of alienation, scrutiny and distrust that occupy much of Nemah’s experiences as an hijabi Muslim woman in a post 9/11 west.

 

There’s a soulful pacing and tone to the framing and colour palette you have used in both films. We’re assuming they were shot back to back in Toronto – were the shoots straight forward; any major challenges?

Both videos were in fact shot on a large studio lot, but we’re glad they’re reading as location videos. There was a huge amount of planning and prep that went into both projects – from remodeling the entire facade of Art Deco cinema exteriors into department storefronts, to the shaping of a few streets within the set to give that feeling of a living, breathing city – every business, every vehicle, every extra and their action – it’s all a conscious decision. Despite reading as simple, they’re very technical videos – moving cameras through windows seamlessly, or choreographing huge amounts of cast, crew, vehicles, lighting effects, pyrotechnics – all in one shot… it was definitely a huge challenge but that’s the whole point!

Might you be directing more Nemhasis videos?

Let’s see…

 

Crowns & Owls is now more than a directing trio – can you sum up quickly how you have evolved over the past five years?

C&O operates more like a creative studio now. We work as creative directors on a lot of projects – it’s been a lot of music in particular over the past few years – figuring out what campaigns for albums look and feel like as well as how they’re marketed. 

With our photography background, that still plays a huge role in our output – shooting album covers, as well as directing videos we feel makes sense for us, and we’re often commissioning our contemporaries for elements within campaigns now too, and that’s been a real pleasure – a lot of directors seem to really enjoy having someone on that side of a project who fully understands what needs to be navigated from a director’s perspective. 

On top of all of this we’re still doing a lot of commercial work too, and we have a longer form fiction piece in pre-production for this year as it finally feels like the right time for that. As a collective, independence from the traditional production company model really allowed us to figure out the best shape for ourselves, how we work, and how to forge a sustainable career as a three person squad – we’re super excited about the year ahead and unveiling more of what we’ve been working on.

 

Crowns & Owls website

@crownsandowls

@nemahsis

 

Credits

Nemahsis, I Don’t Want to Kill You

 

Directors: Crowns & Owls

Production Company: Noir Productions

Producer: Javier Alejandro

Exec Producer: Greg Smith

Production Assistant: Katie Hackett

Local Production Company: B2Y

Service Producer: Alexander Kenanov

Line Producer: Simeon Vasilev

Production Coordinator: Iren Mashova

Production Assistant: Teodora Marinova

Key set PA: Boiko Ganchev

PA: Patar Todorov Todorov

PA: Stefan Nikolchov

Director Of Photography: Konstantin Mazov

Colourist: Tim Smith

1st AD: Boyka Pehlivanova

2nd AD: Maria Decheva

3rd AD: Elena Mateva

Production Designer: Kristian Lekov

Art Dept Coordinator: Kristina Bodurova

Set Dresser: Mario Benyo

Set Dress: Chavdar Klisurski

Steadicam Operator: Nikolay Kerezov

1st Assistant Camera: Vanya Ivanova

2nd Assistant Camera: Borislav Belberov

BTS Photographer: Kiril Stoyanov

Video Control: Simeon Nikolaev Chengelski

DIT / Downloader: Kalina Spasova

Sound Design: Ed Downham @ King Lear

Nemahsis Stylist: Stephanie Major

Cast Stylist: Diana Manolova

Assistant Stylist: Veselka Kirilova Avramova

Assistant Stylist: Rosen Georgiev Georgiev

Seamstress: Donka Drenovska – Pavlova

Hair Stylist: Ivayla Stancheva

Make-up Artist: Alice Shopova

Gaffer: Alexander Mihailov

Spark: Cvetan Trifanov

Spark: Dimitur Nazarov

Spark: Milen Stoilov

Spark: Aleksander Todorov

Key Grip: Alexander Dimitrov

Grip: Borislav Anchev

Grip: Kiril Kurtov

Grip: Daniel Pankov

Grip: Vihar Nikolov

Grip: Dragomir Arnaudov

Casting Director: Teodora Duparinova

Casting Assistant: Alex Toshkov

Casting Assistant: Konstantin Tomasini

Casting Assistant: Sofiq Bunza

SFX Supervisor: Yovko Dolgandzhiyski

SFX Coordinator: Antonia Tocheva

SFX Technician: Andrey Velchev

SFX Technician: Aleksandur Kukov

Action Vehicles Coordinator: Nikolay Vasilev

Production Van 1: Venislav Vasilev

Production Van 2: ivan Peychev

Covid Coordinator: Alex Rodriguez

Medic on set: Dr. Georgi Nikolov

Health & Safety: Georgi Damyanov

Health & Safety: Ivelin Ilchev Ilchev

 

Nemahsis, dollar signs

 

Directors: Crowns & Owls

Production Company: Noir Productions

Producer: Javier Alejandro

Exec Producer: Greg Smith

Production Assistant: Katie Hackett

Local Production Company: B2Y

Service Producer: Alexander Kenanov

Line Producer: Simeon Vasilev

Production Coordinator: Iren Mashova

Production Assistant: Teodora Marinova

Key set PA: Boiko Ganchev

PA: Patar Todorov Todorov

PA: Stefan Nikolchov

Director Of Photography: Konstantin Mazov

Colourist: Tim Smith

1st AD: Boyka Pehlivanova

2nd AD: Maria Decheva

3rd AD: Elena Mateva

Production Designer: Kristian Lekov

Art Dept Coordinator: Kristina Bodurova

Set Dresser: Mario Benyo

Set Dress: Chavdar Klisurski

Steadicam Operator: Nikolay Kerezov

1st Assistant Camera: Vanya Ivanova

2nd Assistant Camera: Borislav Belberov

BTS Photographer: Kiril Stoyanov

Video Control: Simeon Nikolaev Chengelski

DIT / Downloader: Kalina Spasova

Sound Design: Ed Downham @ King Lear

Nemahsis Stylist: Stephanie Major

Cast Stylist: Diana Manolova

Assistant Stylist: Veselka Kirilova Avramova

Assistant Stylist: Rosen Georgiev Georgiev

Seamstress: Donka Drenovska – Pavlova

Hair Stylist: Ivayla Stancheva

Make-up Artist: Alice Shopova

Gaffer: Alexander Mihailov

Spark: Cvetan Trifanov

Spark: Dimitur Nazarov

Spark: Milen Stoilov

Spark: Aleksander Todorov

Key Grip: Alexander Dimitrov

Grip: Borislav Anchev

Grip: Kiril Kurtov

Grip: Daniel Pankov

Grip: Vihar Nikolov

Grip: Dragomir Arnaudov

Casting Director: Teodora Duparinova

Casting Assistant: Alex Toshkov

Casting Assistant: Konstantin Tomasini

Casting Assistant: Sofiq Bunza

SFX Supervisor: Yovko Dolgandzhiyski

SFX Coordinator: Antonia Tocheva

SFX Technician: Andrey Velchev

SFX Technician: Aleksandur Kukov

Action Vehicles Coordinator: Nikolay Vasilev

Production Van 1: Venislav Vasilev

Production Van 2: ivan Peychev

 

Covid Coordinator: Alex Rodriguez

Medic on set: Dr. Georgi Nikolov

Health & Safety: Georgi Damyanov

Health & Safety: Ivelin Ilchev Ilchev