What is the best short film you have seen over the last year? 

It’s not new, but Exquisite Corpse, by Malik Sayeed, really moved me. The film opens with a man lying in a hospital bed coming to and, in his half-conscious state, leads you through a series of intrusive, looping flashbacks of a shooting that, to me, feels like some form of stirring reconciliation with the sequence of events that led him to wake up there. 

Exquisite Corpse – Exquisite Corpse: She Walked Calmly Into The Disappearing Darkness

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What website do you use most regularly? 

Could I pretend it isn’t Google? “Dostoevsky SparkNotes”; “Paddy Pimblett MMA profile”; “Why don’t I feel anything”; “I want to leave 02”. 

What product could you not live without? 

Boring, but a notebook and a pen. There’s something about having to type your thoughts that restricts the way they leave you. I used to get stuck writing ideas down and I thought it was because I was stuck on the idea itself. I never imagined that the tech was playing a big part in this. When I stripped things back, the ideas flowed a lot more naturally from my mind onto paper. 

What short film do you think everyone should have seen? 

Field Niggas, by Khalik Allah, is its own beautiful world. You get to see into the souls of his subjects on a Harlem street corner via moving portraits, and hear Khalik’s observations of the faces he observes through their regrets, arguments, affections and observations. Words won’t capture its feeling, but part of the magic for me is the looseness of the piece. Khalik has a special way of capturing the life and essence of strangers he encounters in very simple, uncrafted moments. 

What’s your TV favourite series? 

Maniac, with Jonah Hill and Emma Stone! The plot follows two strangers who connect during a mind-altering pharmaceutical trial set in a retro-future New York City. Each character has a different reason for participating in the experiment: aimlessness, a broken relationship, a disputed diagnosis of schizophrenia. The inventor of the medication claims the pills can repair any trauma of the mind but, of course, like most things in life, it doesn’t go as planned. I liked this quirky exploration of therapy - and the set design. 

What is your favourite podcast? 

There’s a really good podcast called The Struggle, taken from a James Baldwin talk he gave in 1969, that I would recommend for anyone looking for some creative survival. Part of what he looks at is what art does for the human spirit, and I thought his perspective on your responsibility as an artist was really interesting. The importance of creating a space for others to not feel alone or isolated in their darkest moments can get you out of some 'not sharing your work because of perfectionism' funk. 

What show/exhibition has most inspired you recently? 

The other day I walked past Ab-Anbar, a gallery that initially opened in Tehran, Iran, in 2014 and is now in London, and they were exhibiting Majid Fathizadeh’s work. Majid lives and paints in Iran. His work depicts the chaos of our own times, from environmental catastrophes to biopolitics, and the disasters of war - you’ll find yourself immersed in his fantastical world of naked figures crawling into the mouths and bellies of gigantic fish and giants wandering blasted landscapes. Nuts. 

If you could only listen to one music artist from now on, who would it be? 

Dutch pianist Joep Beving. Start with The Man Who Carried the Wind, then go to Impermanence. I went to a performance he did in London and liked the way he created the experience around his music. Simple - just an empty room with a piano. Everyone sat on the floor around him (no seats and your ass on the concrete definitely keeps you engaged!) And no opportunity for applause in between each track. You got to experience the world of his ideas uninterrupted from start to finish. 

If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be? 

I’d love to see delivery timelines that open up the creative process instead of rushing it. 

Who or what has most influenced your career?

I was lit alive again through the work I did with Dave Free. Connecting with someone who isn’t stuck within an “I have to have seen it before to trust and invest in it” mindset is game-changing - and that’s him. There’s a new world of possibility for the ideas in your head if you’re collaborating with someone who thinks imaginatively, outside of trends and proven formats. 

I mentioned his short earlier - it was also special working with cinematographer Malik Sayeed [DP on, among others, Hype Williams' Belly and Spike Lee's Clockers] for The Melodic Blue, a short film we did for Baby Keem [Setton and Sayeed pictured below]. Malik is a legend but, beyond that, a ruthlessly detailed, thoughtful and open human being. Alongside production designer Christian Stone and producer Stine Moisen, we experimented with CG/lasers, went to immersive lighting exhibitions, met with local visual artists, shared musical references - all to evolve Keem’s world we were building with pgLang throughout pre-production. Malik also taught me a lot about being intentional with how you share and give away your time while filming, holding something back for yourself and your sanity! 

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know. 

My best mate in LA is an 83-year-old Arsenal fan, John, the only other person sitting across the sports bar from me at 8am on Sundays watching the Gunners play. Neither of us miss a game, nor a drink, when I’m in town. Miss you, John. Hope to be back soon! 

What’s your advice for someone starting out directing short films?  

Making a living out of directing is difficult, and I never want to lie to anyone who reaches out to me about this! I’ve definitely found it hard at times to get backing, motivate myself and find a way to pay bills. A lot of the more meaningful or rewarding work has a small, or no budget, and can take years of effort. I had the footage from the high security prison [for Slenderbodies' promo, Arrival] on a drive for five years before I was able to raise enough funding to finish the longer form edit. 

Over the past year, as a way of moving through the sludge, I’ve found listening to interviews of some of the great boxers interesting: Roberto Durán, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson. Hearing how fighters prepare mentally - their focus, training and sacrifice - gave me a new perspective on finding drive when I felt a little low on energy.