You and Benjamin Earl Turner have collaborated together in the past. How do you feel your visions align and what makes the partnership work?

I can't stress enough the importance of trust between collaborators, especially for something as out there as this. Ben and I bring out a boldness in each other. We're not afraid to get weird, and we approach everything with a sort of fearless naivety, like kids.

What were the early stages of this project? Did Benjamin have a concept he approached you with or was it purely based on the track?

Benjamin sent me demos of the tracks, and I immediately responded that we should do a video. I had the idea of an animatronic buddy film as a hip-hop video kicking around for years, so I made a quick treatment. 

 We're not afraid to get weird, and we approach everything with a sort of fearless naivety, like kids.

The concept developed quite organically. There were things I'd always wanted to shoot in a music video besides animatronics, like a performance while getting shot with blood hits/squibs. I got on a phone call with Elise Tyler and Benjamin, and we fleshed it all out and then just rolled with it. 

Somehow, we never doubted the idea, which speaks to that confidence and fearlessness from collaborating with friends.

Benjamin Earl Turner – HEADSPACE/BENT

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The film reveals itself in a unique way and seems to almost reinvent itself at various stages. Were you conscious of how to achieve this in the early stages? Did you ever worry you might be pushing it a bit far?

My philosophy in music videos has always been to keep it moving. Never return to a setup. We just wanted to keep it interesting. The worry for me is always: are we doing enough rather than are we pushing it too far.

There is a lot of freedom that comes from fully independent work, but the pressure is tenfold because you know it's all riding on you.

Ben and I were joking about how we need to make something with the most insane production value. Something that you've never seen in a rap video that will make people think, who the hell approved that and gave them the money for it?

Were there any particular films, directors, or experiences that influenced your approach to this project?

I shared a lot of references with our production designer Andrew Clark and our cinematographer Kate Arizmendi and also our armourers, but the one I constantly referenced most was the feeling of the shootout scene in Takeshi Kitano’s Boiling Point

I love the chaos of it. Sparks flying off the walls. 

It manages to look real and over the top at the same time.

How did the pre-production go on the film? Were you in close collaboration with Benjamin or the label or did you get the idea approved and then roll with it?

Benjamin is an unsigned artist; there was no label. And with no label, no notes. But also no financial backing. If I'm being honest, I don't think any record label would have approved this idea. Or they would have had a deadline that could never accommodate this type of work. Pre-production was mostly about making the creature, Habib. I did storyboards with my long-time collaborator and friend, Jian Giannini. And Elise and I spent days looking for the perfect locations. There is a lot of freedom that comes from fully independent work, but the pressure is tenfold because you know it's all riding on you.

We're very grateful to our production and post partners Love Song, Merchant, Anorak, The Lift, The Mill, Trim, Electric Theatre Collective, and Barking Owl for believing in the vision and getting behind it. And, of course, Studio Gillis. 

The majority of the video was funded by me and my partner, Elise Tyler, through our new company, Joon Projects.

Click image to enlarge

We can't talk about the film without mentioning the incredible creature effect. How did that come about and what were the stages in bringing it to life?

For me, and I think many others, animatronics give a warm fuzzy feeling. They remind me of my favourite film on VHS as a kid: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Or friend's birthday parties at Chuck-E-Cheese watching the 'live band.’ It's pure nostalgia. But it also looks more real than any CGI creature has ever managed to look. 

Animatronics represent what may have been the last golden age in Hollywood. It's the stuff of iconic horror and sci-fi from John Carpenter to George Lucas. For a while, several people were telling me we should just use prosthetics because it would be easier. But the feeling you get from real animatronics is special.

Animatronics represent what may have been the last golden age in Hollywood.

I've known Alec Gillis and his work for many years. I've always dreamed of working with him. So when he said yes to this, I knew we couldn't let him down. The whole sculpting process was very cool to be a part of. Mostly, I trusted Alec; I just wanted something about this big guy to feel lovable and cute. And I told him Habib's an expert grappler, so he gave him a cauliflower ear.

How was the shoot itself? Were there any major difficulties to overcome?

As with any music video, there were a lot of difficulties. Mainly the race against time and the running out of money. It didn’t help that we were doing car chases and shooting guns/blood hits/dust hits, etc., on 16mm film. The shoot was crazy.

Working with animatronics felt like magic. Watching three puppeteers and Dane DiLiegro, the suit performer, working together in tandem was mesmerising. This thing created by Alec and his team kept coming to life before our eyes. And Dane’s movement inside the costume brought so much to the character. Kate and I were giggling like little kids on set. It reminded us all why we got into filmmaking.

Collaborating with Kate was unreal. She really understood the assignment and helped us elevate the work at every turn.

As mentioned, the film's structure goes through various stages. How was realising that in the edit? Did anything change along the way?

Fouad Gaber is an incredible editor. We really let the footage and film tell us what it wanted to be. He and I worked obsessively on this, on 'Spanish Hours.’ He lives outside of Barcelona right now, and early on, I decided I'd stay up all night cutting with him remotely so that he wouldn't be the one to tap out and get tired, and I can go all night. But then I realised he could go all night too. 

So, in short, we went hard.

What kind of audience did you have in mind while creating the film? How has this affected the choices you made during production?

It’s cliché to say, but we just wanted to make something that we thought was cool. 

We wanted the video to read like a poem.

We wanted the video to read like a poem.

If you had to give an elevator pitch to the film's concept and plot, in less than 15 words, how would you describe it?

Big boss gets executed outside a Chinese restaurant and is escorted to the afterlife.

How was the reaction to the film? Do you and Benjamin plan to collaborate again in the future?

The reaction has been amazing. I think people are excited to see something different and something that feels real on screen. I hope we inspired someone out there to go out and make something they believe in. 

Benjamin and I will, of course, work together again. Outside of being one of my favourite musicians, he's a great actor too.