You are a relatively new to the filmmaking scene. When did you decide to pursue a career in film?
Ever since I can remember! I was always making videos ever since my mum brought home our first family video camera around the year 2000, which I officially hijacked.
What are personal attributes that make for a good filmmaker, and what do you do to foster them?
I like fearless filmmakers, who can tastefully break the rules of conventional cinema within certain contexts, which is probably why I am drawn to the music video format at this current stage in my career. This may be because of my constant need to explore beyond the boundaries of general aesthetics seen in most films and how attributes such as composition, lighting, movement and realism can be toyed with freely and without scrutiny from the public, which may not be the case if I were to explore it within the short film arena- once I am ready and prepared, that is when I will feel the need to slaughter those aesthetics of the traditional film format and make something psychedelic.
Having said that, I find it hilarious that in recent years, popular music videos have been warped slowly towards what I would consider very traditional, almost cinematic imagery, which is quite beautiful and works for some clips, yet I believe this imagery that is slowly dominating what is fashionable for the aesthetic in a music video is a negative thing is a variety of aspects. For example, I have seen so many clips shot of RED, which instantly forces filmic, cinematic-style aesthetics upon videos, such as how the large weight of the camera instantly forces it to be constantly on a tripod/dolly/crane and how editors being afraid to tamper and experiment with the footage in post due to the original source footage being so ‘pretty’.
I believe that if the video is an extension of the music, the visual really shouldn’t be about how clean or how cinematic it looks, it should almost be formed in a similar fashion to that of good aural aesthetics in music: for good music, it really comes down to the vibe and the character and texture within the synth or the passion in the vocals and raw aggressiveness of that bass-line. Some of the worst songs I have heard (from my opinion) have been recorded perfectly and have amazing quality, yet it still doesn’t stop me from ripping my ears off. I think the same should go for the visual aesthetic that connects to the song- in other words: save the $$$ for production design and lighting and don’t go spending it on a RED, ok? Although, hey, if the budget is there, by all means go crazy and shoot on RED! Why not shoot on two REDs at the same time and make a 3D music video? I hear YouTube supports that format these days…
In regards to film, I always love a writer and/or director who allows their characters to give performances that elude to a story that is further beyond what we are actually shown. A filmmaker who considers the role of the audience in the writing of the film, in the sense that they are given the opportunity to fill in the gaps of the story with their imagination, is a winner in my eyes.
What films have been the most inspiring or influential to you and why?
I have way too many films that have influenced me in numerous ways, but I’ll give you a quick fire of a few that come to mind.
Donnie Darko (2001, Richard Kelly) – For obvious reasons relating to the “breaking of conventions” and psychadelia vibes.
Shortbus (2006, John Cameron Mitchell) – For how the Director worked with the actors closely and developed the characters with them over a long period of time before forming a loose script and eventually shooting it on a budget of peanuts.
Risky Business (1983, Paul Brickman) – The way it captures a perfect transition in the protagonist from a state of vulnerability/innocence and sexual frustration to a liberation that inspires any of us to destroy all fear that stands in the way of perusing our own goals.
Black Swan (2010, Darren Aronofsky) – Loads of money at the disposal and yet the Director has no fear in implementing very raw cinematography that transports the film to a different realm of realism in my eyes while adhering beautifully to the concept of the film changing in correspondence to the protagonists headspace.
I have been mainly watching music videos at the moment, due to my obsession with them (if you haven’t already noticed). Here are a few videos I have obsessed over this week for a number of reasons:
Avicii vs Nick Romero – I Could Be The One
Talk Talk – Living In Another World
Royksopp – What Else Is There?
Your main focus to date has been on music videos. What’s the main difference (if any) between approaching a music video as opposed to a short film?
I am currently writing a short film script that merges strongly with music and I am really hoping to blur the lines between the two formats (The Avicii clip I mentioned earlier merges the two formats nicely, but is considered a music video), but I think the obvious main difference is a lack of freedom and fluidity in how things pan out in the edit, as well as the fact that dialogue is introduced, so you need to hire a sound crew, you need actors to rehearse lines, you need a quiet location and a super quiet generator if there is no power. It essentially just becomes a whole lot more work, yet I believe similar effort is required in conceptual development, which is always the most difficult part in writing- finding that spark and inspiration that ignites a magical idea.
How do you find gigs directing music videos? Do the musicians approach you themselves or do you approach them with ideas?
Like everything, it has all been through networking that I have been connected with the bands that I have worked with so far. My first official music video I practically begged the artist to do it for free and now I am lucky enough to have artists approaching me and hiring me, which is such a surreal feeling. I think if artists weren’t approaching me at the moment, I would find a song that I would love to do a video for and then pitch a treatment to the band for a video that I could direct for the song.
How closely do you work with the musicians? Do they have the final say creatively?
It all really depends on the artist or song, sometimes I have complete creative control and get to decide on most things, where other times the artist is more closely involved with elements of the writing, shots/scenes, production design and other various elements. I always say that the artist has the final say creatively regardless of how much they leave it up to you, but I think the important thing is to gain a trust with the artist at first and have them believe that you can deliver the goods. If not, they will be breathing down your neck every few seconds at your every move, which can be disastrous! Prepare to put in the hard yards to gain the trust, but once you have it, that’s when magic happens!
Can you tell us a little about what you are currently working on?
I have recently just come back from going on tour with a Finnish trance act, Super8 & Tab, for Future Music Festival, which was the most amazing experience. I shot behind the scenes material that will be collated into a 2-3 minute visually orgasmic piece that highlights the tour. It should be released early April, so make sure to check their Facebook page to see it!
I am also working closely with a Melbourne band, DEJA, who I have been shooting music videos and behind the scenes material for. Their music video that I directed for their song “Holiday” has recently been released and I am currently working on conceptual development for the video for their next single “Still Falling”, which has more of an urban glittery, laid back vibe to it similar to films such a Drive and The Virgin Suicides. To see both videos head to their Facebook page and ‘like’ away!
Can you elaborate on certain filmmaking techniques that help define what you consider your style?
I think I finally discovered a sense of what my style was upon completion of my Media degree at RMIT University, which is still a little bit difficult for me to define, but there are some characteristics that I find favourable in my current techniques. I have often used overlays for a lot of my films and music videos, but I am currently trying to only use them when I feel I really need to and when I feel as though it can support the experience of the story the is unfolding. Therefore I have been experimenting with traditional edits, such as a straight cut from one shot to another, which forces me to strongly focus on the movement within the frame and how that movement can flow nicely into the next shot and in time with the music so it doesn’t become distracting. In the past I have relied numerous techniques, such as building up the exposure in an exponential curve in the last 3-6 frames of a shot, which provides a “flash” effect and prepares us for the cut that is about to follow.
In the music video I am currently working on for DEJA’s “Still Falling”, you will see some new techniques I have never released in a video before, which explore the concept of Parallax, in which I will be shooting with 2 cameras to create a 3D “wobble” effect. Stay tuned!
Do you see yourself shifting towards more narrative driven filmmaking in the future?
Absolutely. I am doing music videos at the moment because that is what I am passionate about at the moment. I have so many ideas for short films and so many characters I am excited to share, but the time will come soon, unfortunately not so much right now.
How important is the local filmmaking community to an independent filmmaker. Do friends in the same industry help each other out? How important is support from other filmmakers?
All of the above questions have the same answer: it all means everything to the life behind the filmmaking community. One of my first music videos featured my friend and talented actress, Stella Foster, who volunteered to get blasted with coloured powder for the sake of art, not for money, not for fame, for art. Without that local connection, I would’ve had to hire someone, which instantly puts a price on art. I don’t believe art has to have a price, as long as you have community and maybe only a little bit of coin for some coloured powder, of course. I am also waiting on the day where I will happily hit Stella back with some assistance on whatever project she has going.
So many backs to be scratched and scratched back for the sake of art- get scratchin’!
What failures (of your own) have you been able to learn from? How did they change you and your process?
The only real failures I have had in my eyes so far have been when I accidentally have deleted footage (which has happened twice) to a small magnitude. I could’ve killed myself both times, but it was an important lesson to learn…both times.
Also, I look back at my work and see countless flaws, but I think these flaws are beautiful, as they mark an innocence and progression with my abilities, just like how I love to look back at that footage from my mum’s camera and marvel in my terrible writing, bad camera angles and locations etc. The progression and journey is the fun bit and once you learn to love the flaws you cannot help but make, then you are somewhat at peace in the never-ending journey we are on for creating that perfect piece of art.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life creating film?
Everyone says this, but it’s true: MAKE THINGS! (Constantly- and share it with the world. **Thank You, Internet**)
But also, BACK UP YOUR S**T. (Seriously)