Us is Christopher Barrett & Luke Taylor. We first started experimenting with film in our final year at university where we studied graphic design. It was a competition to make a music video for Thom Yorke, we basically set up an installation and got a friend to point a camera at it and film it, to our surprise we went on to win. After winning we didn’t make another film for a couple of years. As we studied graphic design, the thought never even crossed our mind that we could get a career in film. We actually opted to set up our own design studio. Most companies we worked for, we found dull and draining. We wanted a hands on approach to work, we didn’t want to be tiny cog in a huge company.
We spent a few years doing a lot of random projects and in the end found our way back into film making. It was for a friend Dels (a UK rapper), he approached us to design him a logo. We agreed but wanted to create a complete package. Everything from his typeface, LP cover and even his video, a complete 360 visual identity.
It ended up taking over a year to make the video. It was a green screen shoot with a load of compositing, something we had no knowledge of. But once it finally came out, it did us very well and we started to get noticed in the film world.
We then did a second video for him which got us signed to Academy Films who we have been with now for 5 years.
We are still driven by the same things now as we were at university. We are constantly searching for that perfect idea. Because we don’t have a background in film, we find our inspiration comes mainly from other mediums. I would say our main inspiration comes from observations of life, essentially “truths”, things in life that people share a connection to, something you can’t deny.
Your Short “The Sunday Times – Icons”. How did it all begin? Why did you choose to represent The Sunday Times Culture in such a different way from other magazines advertising? Did you choose the icons by yourselves? And why them?
It all began with a very simple and bold script from Grey London. We like to make films that engage people and question what it is they are watching. We saw an opportunity in this script to do exactly that.
In the original script they wanted to represent 12 icons, our gut reaction was that were too many. We knew the joy of this commercial was going to be the transition from one scene to another and we didn’t want to rush them. So we started to do some maths and quickly worked out that 6 icons would be the magic number.
Once we knew we could only have 6 icons it was then all about choosing Icons that were relevant but that would also allow for seamless transitions.
As it’s a one-shot video, What difficulties did you find in shooting it? How much did you rehearse? Why did you opt for that technique? Did you want to make an implied meaning? I had the impression that the change of scene wanted to recreate the change of page, could it be this?
Well, there were quite a few difficulties we had to overcome. The biggest was purely getting everything in one take with no secret cuts or special effects.
We were very driven to get it in one, even when we were told by most people that it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. We are very stubborn and love challenges so this was right up our street.
As it had a relatively low budget and time was against us, we only had two days to build the set and shoot the film. This meant we were building whilst trying to light it and work out a plan. We made a super rough, low-fi rehearsal / previz before, this gave us a rough idea how we would move the camera. See here the tests we did.
We always try to go into a shoot with as much planning and prep work done before hand. This shoot had quite a lot of unknowns until we had built the set and were ready to shoot. This didn’t actually happen until mid way through day 2. This left us with half a day to get it, we were shooting our rehearsals as we never knew when it would all come together.
It was one of those shoots that needed everything to be perfect in one moment. We started to get worried at around 4pm on take 13, we were so far off getting it that we started to wonder if we would need to move to plan B. But then like magic it all started to flow and sync up, everyone on set was working in harmony and it just came together. We got it on take 16 but ended up shooting another 11 takes. You can see how we made it here.
It was a one shot because of the original concept from the agency, it was about finding all your favourite things in one place. It felt completely integral to this core idea.
The thin line between commercial concept and personal research. Where does the commercial concept end and where the personal research begins?
We try to only work on projects that truly excite us, films that we want to spend our time working on. The Sunday Times commercial for example was just as much an art film as it was a commercial. I think this is why it resonated with so many people, you’re watching it as a film rather than being sold something. That being said we are very much aware when we are making a commercial that it’s not ‘Our Film’. We are hired to direct a film for someone else’s brand. At the moment we are spending our time in between jobs writing our own short film. It’s very exciting to be working on something thats all ours. It’s important to us to do self initiated work, it keeps our brains happy.
Where do you imagine yourself in five years?
Who knows that’s the joy of life.