BA (Hons) Film graduate Russell Cleave was recently commissioned by alt-rock band Gold Key to produce a music video for their new single ‘Kerosene’, which received a debut feature in Kerrang magazine to announce it’s arrival.
Russell’s experience as a Director of Photography with film collective South of Devon Films and as a Technical Demonstrator for the college’s BA (Hons) Film programme certainly came in handy for creating the piece using the cutting edge equipment and studio facilities at the college.
We caught up with him to find out more about how the film was made, and what’s next for this Plymouth-based filmmaker...
How did the opportunity come about to produce this music video for Gold Key?
Initially, the band contacted me following my work with previous bands, I'd also toured with members of the band from their previous projects (members of Gold Key have previously played as Gallows, Sikth and Blackhole) when I was in a touring band called Brotherhood of the Lake.
Since then we've built up a good working relationship and ‘Kerosene’ is actually the fourth video I've made for the band so far.
What was the creative process like, working with the band?
By this point, as we had already worked together, they completely trusted my creative input. They had a few ideas for videos on all of the tracks from their upcoming album, but they had zero ideas for this song, 'Kerosene'.
I listened to the track and the lyrics, and I suggested that the track conjured up images of a female astronaut alone in space, who was very anxious to come home after a long mission.
They loved the idea, but then I suddenly had the task of making a space shuttle with very little budget!
The film was made entirely using the college facilities, you must have had to get creative?
I love making films on a small budget because a lot more creativity comes in to play. If someone gives you a £10,000 budget to shoot a music video about an astronaut then you could book flights to the states and shoot it in a NASA shuttle. But that’s not so creative and I enjoy the challenge of using what you have to take people, in their minds, to the perceived location.
The shots for Kerosene were purposely tight and low-lit so as to not show too much of the interior of the shuttle. This allowed us to keep the build to a minimum, a window, cockpit seat and a back projection screen.
Experimental filmmaker and BA (Hons) Film graduate Amber Amare worked with me on this video, through the storyboarding, shot list and image research. I had visualised the aesthetic for this but she was working to put it all into practice.
The props were sourced from the local scrap-store on Union St, including wires, cables, fabric, industrial tubing. The costume was actually very basic after we'd looked at shuttle astronauts portraits, we decided on an orange boiler suit and a helmet. The seal around the neck of the NASA space suits looked like a washing machine seal, so we bought one of those and it worked perfectly.
What equipment did you use?
We used the Black Magic Ursa 35mm cinema camera, Carl Zeiss and Canon L series lenses, Arri tungsten open face lights and the new LED Kino Flo for the colour shifts and various grip arms, flags and diffusers, as well as a back projection screen with a digital projector.
How long did it take to complete the project?
Not long, I spent a week or so researching imagery, working out what we could achieve by making the most of the location and camera movements.
I then spent another week with Amber collecting materials and props, so we were ready for one evening of set building, ready to shoot the entire thing the following evening.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge we faced was casting. With just one actor involved, I wanted a believable look for the astronaut. Rebecca Clough was my first choice, but as she's not an actor she took a little persuading and direction on set, but she came across great in the finished film.
I wanted to create a weightless feel to the video without having to suspend people from wires, that definitely wouldn’t have fit in the budget, so shooting in slow motion gave us a gliding, floaty feel. We sped up the track by 50% for Rebecca to mime along to, this meant we could slow the footage down 50% for the edit. So one of the biggest challenges for her was to learn the sped up lyrics.
What's next for you?
I and Amber Amare are in the process of making another music video as we speak for the band Palm Reader. I’m also shooting a documentary film for Judith Noble for the Seeking The Marvellous - Ithell Colquhoun, British Women and Surrealism Symposium taking place later this year.
South of Devon Films is also in the pre-production stage of a second short narrative drama about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that we will be shooting in June.