Directing the Music Video – Muto: Tessellating
August 15th, 2018
The latest music video from “Muto: Tessellating” was directed by the film studio “Visitor” which is run by two directors from the UK, George Thomson, and Lukas Schrank, creating narrative content and music videos. I talked with George about how they came up with their studio name, how they are able to collaborate even though they live in different countries, and their latest film, a music video for the band Muto called “Tessellating”.
Hi George, so tell us how you guys came up with the name “Visitor” for your studio?
“Sure, the name happened organically. When we would go to meetings at places like the BBC they give you a “Visitor” pass, so we thought it would be funny to just have that as our name and get some free branding :). We also liked the connotations of the word and how it evokes some sense of story and mystery, like an outsider or stranger, there is something suggestive and ambiguous about it that appeals to us.”
Do you guys live in the same area still and collaborate on work in the UK?
“At the moment I’m still living in London but Lukas now lives in Melbourne, Australia. Because we know each other so well and have such a clear way of working the distance and time difference is never a factor and since most of our clients are USA based or in other parts of the world so we tend to just work 24hrs!”
…we also wanted to create something very visceral, a more gritty take on Sci-fi..
On your latest film, “Muto – Tessellating”, were the shots tight and close up intentional so as to not show the locations that it was shot at and to just focus on the characters? Where was the location(s) filmed at by the way?
“Tessellating was all filmed in and around Melbourne, Australia. We are interested in exploring an idea of the future where the world is much closer together with an internationalist outlook. We have always been influenced by the work of J.G.Ballard and the idea of “non-place”, a kind of place-less conformity that the world is heading towards. The modern airport is a good example, where you can move between countries but the airports all ways feel the same, kind of placeless but still diverse.
Melbourne was a great location because it has such a broad set of cultural influences from UK, China, Japan, Vietnam, USA etc and a diverse set of environmental conditions like Jungle, Desert, cities, sprawling suburbs. Its kind of the perfect place for us to explore a Ballardian future. It makes it hard for the viewer to pin down exactly where they are which helps make the film feel otherworldly.
You are right in that we can’t always shoot really wide because if you expose too much of the context things then start to become a bit more recognisable, often we overcome this by tweaking things in post. Our background is in VFX and we like doing the kind of thing where by the end you don’t realise there is any VFX, subtle things to just change your perception of a place like putting in different advertising/signage, or changing the landscape in the exterior of the shot.
But in the case of tessellating, we also wanted to create something very visceral, a more gritty take on Sci-fi where you feel that you are part of the experience. So shooting quite tight with lots of handheld camera, more in the mode of indie film or documentary helped bring the audience into the world and experience it from the perspective of the characters.”
Did the band have input on the story for the film, or was the idea conceptualized entirely by you and Lukas?
“We have worked previously with Muto and the label (Of Leisure) and it is always a great experience because they give us a lot of creative freedom and trust our process. Creativity really suffers when things become designed by committee with too many inputs. Essentially, the label will give us the lyrics and a description of the idea behind the song from the artists perspective.
Then we pitch an idea that is inspired by that starting point. With Tessellating, the starting point from the song was a sort of tragic love story where two people who seem destined to be together can’t make it work for whatever reason. We took this idea and broadened it, to be about a woman trapped in a loop of inter-dimensional travel, endlessly trying to get back to one specific moment that she shared with someone.
We wanted to set up the film so the audience expectation was that they would be reunited but in reality, she can never recreate this one iteration of the loop and get back to her partner, which sort of mirrors the original idea behind the song. “
What scene was your favorite in the film?
“We loved working on the final scene where the female character breaks down on the beach and the mirror scene where she rages against the unfairness of her situation and her inability to find her partner. The shoot was very tight and time pressured so we really relied on the incredible talents of the actor Senie Priti, she really embodied the character and gave such a strong emotional response to direction.
It is a shame that we only had 3 minutes of track to play with because each of these scenes could have been 3 minutes by themselves with the range and rawness of her performance. It was great to direct and we can’t wait to explore more characters with her on other projects.”
Did you guys face any challenges when making the film, what was the most challenging scene in the film, or what was the most challenging part of making this particular film?
“The biggest challenge comes down to production and how we always try and push things as much as possible to maximise a project. With this one we had 9 days from the first shoot day to final delivery, including all post VFX, grade etc. We really enjoy an almost guerrilla style film making process where we are really with the crew and cast, living and breathing the project together and sometimes this kind of intensity in production can help create a tone in the final piece.
There is a gritty realism to this film and a lot of it comes down to the intensity of the shoot and everyone pitching in to help each other. I think filming the jungle scene in the Dandenong’s was also a challenge in itself, getting the equipment in and dealing with difficult terrain.
The actor, Senie Priti, also had to spend quite a long time in a freezing cold river with cinematographer David Rusanow to get the right shot. But both of them were really up for it and just wanted it to be as good as it could be and we love to work with people like that!”
…we tend to function as one rather then sharing out tasks…
How long did the scenes take in the grocery store and restaurant?
“Those were both very quick scenes, filmed in real locations which again helps to great a visceral, sort of realism to the project. They were almost filmed in a kind of documentary style, and then we tweaked the environments in post to add a bit more lighting and help create that otherworldly tone.”
Which one of you, you or Lukas gives direction for the actors?
“We both do. Unlike a lot of duo’s we tend to function as one rather then sharing out tasks, we have specific interests but we agree everything before filming and work together on set so as not to confuse people we collaborate with. In terms of characters we always write a short story for each character, with their lives before, during and after the moment we film them.
This process helps us clarify a real sense of who they are, and then we talk through how that character behaves in different scenarios, even ones that we aren’t going to film so we are both really clear on the emotional mind of the character. Then we try to transmit this to the actor by sharing the story with them and then on set working through a range of emotional proxies to find the right balance in the scene.”
Are you guys working on any projects currently?
“We are currently developing a near future science fiction feature film and a TV series, along side, promoting our short They Wait For Us which has just screened at Fantasia International Film Festival and have some new music video projects lined up!”