ALI KURR TALKS LOYLE CARNER - QUESTIONS BY LUKE TIERNEY
Ali Kurr has only gone and teamed up with the one and only Loyle Carner, a man who takes his music videos just as seriously as his music, well it looks that way at least. Much like Ali's video for Connie Constance 'Lose My Mind', 'NO CD' is as touching as it is honest. Getting straight into Loyle's world we see family and friends playing the track on Guitar Hero around the house. Slick camera movement is the tool with which we visit these superstars of all ages, ending the cutest mother and son moment. It's easy to see why Loyle trusted in Ali to bring this idea together. We caught up with Ali to find out where the idea came from, how she prepped it and how she overcame constant powersurges to her ronin rig!
Word Is Cheap: Why Guitar Hero? Ali Kurr: Ben’s mum, Jean, came up with the initial idea of friends and family playing the track on Guitar Hero. I guess Guitar Hero is one of those games you play with your family when you’ve had a bit too much to drink at Christmas and what emerges is this sentiment of shared joy while Aunt May unexpectedly takes it pretty seriously on the mic. That’s what I found brilliant about the idea of making a video about a bunch of people playing a computer game; the fine line between thinking you’re destroying it and then checking yourself. It’s absurd but also, at times, dead serious and that’s what I hoped to get across when we were making the film. WIC: Was it hard planning the "one shot" from a practical and technical point of view? AK: I’m a fan of long takes intercut with shorter snappier cuts, like a tango, but when I was first asked to make a 'one shot’, with all non actors, I was quite daunted. There is so much movement around the house, going up the stairs and down ladders before shimmying into a child's den, that we had to plan cuts to allow the camera to be taken off different bits of equipment; which we did to keep the journey interesting. Ruben, Liz and I all wrote down lists of possible places we could create cuts and then just selected the best ones. On the day, however, we had a major technical fuck up and had to reimagine three of the cuts. Luckily we had the editor on set and he talked us through what he also thought would work best which was fantastic!
Whenever I’m working with someone who isn’t necessarily natural on camera I give them a character tick, be that tearing a piece of paper or checking their phone so they’ve got something to concentrate on.
WIC: There's such a touching moment between Loyle and his Mum at the end, how did you cast the video? AK: Originally Ben thought about pulling in some famous faces for the film, but we opted to keep it a friends and family affair. In the first room we meet the conceptual creator of the film, Ben’s mum Jean as well as his brother. Ben then leads us up to the attic, where we see Tom Misch, who Ben’s collaborated with on numerous tracks, and Tom's band. Then the camera pulleys down the stairs and we meet Kris, aka Rebel Kleff, who features on the track, as well as Mikey, with whom Ben set up a cooking school for kids with ADHD in the weeks preceding the shoot (I had promised to help out but got swept away in the sea of pre-production, as I have ADHD as well!). Seated in the living room is Ben’s great aunt and uncle as well as his best mate Eliza, who absolutely killed it on the shoot! Finally, for the child’s den, we cast an actress who could spit the chorus to ‘NO CD’ with so much attitude! Ben’s adopting a little girl with his mum in the coming months, so this character was the embodiment of the younger sister he’s always wanted. WIC: How did you prepare people who aren't used to being on camera? AK: Whenever I’m working with someone who isn’t necessarily natural on camera I give them a character tick, be that tearing a piece of paper or checking their phone so they’ve got something to concentrate on. Over half the cast weren’t used to being filmed, but they all had something to concentrate on: playing the game! By giving people a distraction instantly diverted their attention from the camera which I think definitely helped people to feel more comfortable and at ease. With the addition of Ben as our narrator, who was the lynchpin of the cast, I think this helped to create a calm and relaxed vibe on set.
Whilst I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the process as much, I found the challenge of doing something totally out of my comfort zone really cool. It was this technical puzzle and I loved trying to work out how we would make it happen on the budget and time scale!
WIC: This more conceptually driven video is quite different to your previous work, did you enjoy it just as much? AK: I guess it is quite different to some of my other work, which tends to be more narrative drama based. The pre-production process was definitely very different. Normally I like to do at least 3 rehearsals with the artist, or more if I’m working with actors, I once spent 3 weeks working with actors on developing their characters for a music video, whereas with this film I didn’t get to meet anyone beforehand; except for the girl we cast. Therefore we spent all the preproduction working out the technicalities of how to create the one shot so that on the day I could focus on the performance. Whilst I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the process as much, I found the challenge of doing something totally out of my comfort zone really cool. It was this technical puzzle and I loved trying to work out how we would make it happen on the budget and time scale! However, by the end of the edit I think it’s perhaps more similar to my previous work than I originally thought it would be. I hope elements of the cast's individual characters comes through as well as a sprinkling of a narrative! WIC: Were there any nightmares on the day of the shoot? AK: Something always goes wrong on a shoot, and I think directing is part planning and part reacting. We’d planned to use a ronin, because a steadicam wouldn’t fit through some of the spaces, however half way through the shoot the battery decided it was going to continually power surge. This totally fucked with our weeks of planning, as we had wanted to have exclusively match frame cuts, with distractions in the foreground! I decided to scrap the ronin and go handheld; this meant by late lunchtime we’d technically got no useable footage as I decided it wouldn’t work to have it partly super electronically smooth and then half handheld. I sat with the editor and DP for 15 and planned new cuts that would be feasible with the handheld vibe. We pushed through though and I think the handheld vibe complements the track and feel of the video as it feels less expected.