Stock footage found on the internet: soda in exchange for soviet ships
What was the key message you wanted to convey in A Brief History of Slime? And what was the context in which you made it?
I wanted to somehow create a type of narrative out of a Google rabbit hole.
(We haven’t collectively agreed upon a single term that defines this pastime but I think a lot of people spend their free time on the Internet just researching things they have thought or heard about recently and this leads them to backtrack and sidestep and search for other, possibly, separate and unrelated things and ideas that they are making mental associations and connections with along the way.)
I’ve never really seen this process represented in a film or on TV. But I think loads of people do it all the time.
I was trying to pinpoint the precise moment that America jumped the shark and how landfill culture helped end the Cold War. Rather than make a conventional video essay, I wanted to see a short film in the form of a conversation between a Californian teenager and Siri/Alexa/Hal – with all the images and information taken from Google or remembered or made up.
From The Art of Warez, a pre-internet world of hacker graffiti
Your ability to dig into subcultures is perhaps best shown in yours and Kevin Bouton-Scott’s film, The Art of Warez, about hacker graffiti – a computer art underworld that flourished in the early 90s at a time of dial up modems and built in board bulletins. How important is collaboration for you? Was it a challenging production process or were you both consistently on the same page?
I am very used to collaborating and I really enjoy it. Kevin and I were constantly aligned throughout the entire film and I utterly deferred to Kevin’s knowledge on the subject.
The visual language of voiceovers and stock footage sounds simplistic but these films look like a complex stitching together of ideas, research, writing, editing… that somehow result in a balance of humour and information. What was your process for crafting the films?
The writing and the ideas always come first. Then I decide upon the best way to give it form and structure.
A Brief History Of Slime is partly about how we access information online so it was crucial that every image be taken straight from the internet.
The Art Of Warez required a completely different approach to using stock footage and I wanted to avoid the cliched images we see all the time in films about early computer culture. So we used a mixture of slightly indirect and evocative stock footage and shot of very specific objects against a green screen.
Lastly, the music video Bathfull Of Ecstasy by Hot Chip needed a mixture of real and faked found footage to make the overall idea of the video more convincing.
Music video for Hot Chip, Bath Full of Ecstasy
Amongst your branded work, your films for Cav Empt perfectly encapsulate the niche label’s distinctive graphic milieu. You have used different techniques for each film; all of them intriguing even for those of us who haven’t a clue what philosopher and AI expert Riccardo Manzotti is talking about.
Let’s take your latest Cav Empt Item Guide and Best Build for PVE and PVP which cleverly juxtaposes a real life character and the season’s catalogue into game dynamics. What was the initial brief like and how did you evolve that?
There is never any brief with C.E. (and rarely with any of the brands I work with). Normally I just get presented with a thing – a product or, as in this case, a new range of clothes and I’m encouraged to interpret it in any way I want.
Toby Feltwell (C.E. Co-founder) trusts me and I think the brand also quite enjoy the notion of images, visuals and ideas coming together as a result of their clothes but being something that is ultimately out of their hands and control. So we have fun and try to question and push what this sort of ‘lookbook’ video can be.
I had been talking to Toby about my fascination with the video game Dark Souls and how I tend to read about it on gaming websites and watch countless YouTube videos about it more than actually play the game itself. It’s more like I’m really into Dark Souls as a ‘thing’ and enjoy thinking about it.
These sorts of YouTube videos have created their own language, structure and form.
I wanted to both see the world of CE reimagined as a video game and then present that through the prism of a twitch streamer or YouTuber that is digesting and analysing C.E. and then re-outputting content about it.
It is as much about the specific nature of user-generated content and streaming culture as it is about ideas found in video games.
Did you work closely with an agency creative team or directly with the brand’s founders?
I don’t ever work with a creative agency. In this and every case, I came up with the idea and wrote the script myself but this time I needed a production company to help me film it (thank you Somesuch !) and also had a friend help with the AR component.
I didn’t share the script or anything else with the brand beforehand. I think I just delivered them the final film.
Cav Empt, Item Guide and Best Build for PVE & PVP
Any major challenges in the production of the film?
Not really ! Which is quite surprising as the brand is based in Tokyo, the film was shot in Los Angeles and the narration was recorded in Scotland. There was a very experimental AR feature that I wasn’t entirely sure would work and the whole thing was done in a couple of days with a very small budget and no permits if I remember correctly.
Did the Cav Empt founders initially approach you, recognising a kindred eye to make the first film almost a decade ago now?
I’ve known the brand’s co-founder Toby Feltwell since I was a teenager and I’ve been a fan and supporter of the brand since day one. I think we have found a groove now where we will hopefully make an ambitious-art-video-lookbook once every couple of years.
Is your heart and mind currently immersed in a particular video game?
Elden Ring. It’s the most recent game by From Software and directed by Hideo Miyazaki, the creator of Dark Souls. He makes the most interesting and extraordinary games and this is his most ambitious to date.
I am also part of a video game discussion group. We meet on Tuesdays and have been playing our way through the Metal Gear Solid series of games by Hideo Kojima. We take turns in providing the group with supplementary reading material to use as a basis for our critical analysis of the games.
How would you sum up the ethos and vision of your production company Safe Crackers?
I value imagination and innovation over pretty much everything. Imagine yourself as the audience, desperate to see something new and fresh. What does that look like ?
Basically – just be dope.
The Art of Warez, hacker art in the time of dial up modems
Fanzines, art projects such as your gallery installations, videos – do they all interconnect?
Absolutely! I don’t see any benefit to making a big distinction between conceptual or commercial work. I’m only interested in communicating ideas. I particularly like making branded work as it allows me to present ideas to a much larger and more diverse audience than a gallery show affords.
Do you have any specific rules when you’re making art /films?
Always look for the most interesting way to say the thing.
If it’s not secret, what are you currently interested in / working on?
I am currently making a series of large collages for an art exhibition later this year at Nanzuka Underground in Tokyo. I’ve also just launched a cannabis and clothing brand called Opera House which will be in stores soon.
My dream is to write and direct an inflight safety video for an airline company. Hit me up !
Safe Crackers website