FRANKLYN BANKS TALKS BILLIE MARTEN - TEXT EMILY HARRISON
It’s rare that a music video so distinctly conveys a feeling, yet deliberately leaves the viewer confused and questioning rather than spelling out a clear narrative arc. But that’s exactly what happens in Franklyn Banks’ new video for Billie Martens haunting track ‘Bird’. In it we watch a girl walk purposefully from her house straight into the depths of a large, dark lake, as the screen repeatedly flicks from darkness to light. Who is she? What's wrong with her? What is she doing in the lake? All these questions and more are left enticingly unanswered. But then, that’s exactly what Banks intended.
Fresh off the back of the success of ‘Detroit’, his surreal Forest Gump esc video for Gaz Coombes, we chat to Franklyn Banks about not spoon feeding meanings to his audience, his penchant for the lake district, and his natural attraction to the loners and dreamers of this world.
Word Is Cheap: As soon as you heard the song did you immediately get the sense the video was going to be as dark as it is?
Franklyn Banks: No that came a bit later actually after a few conversations with Billie, I do have a tendency to write fairly dark scripts but on this occasion it initially had a lighter tone, more about removing yourself from a bad situation and being set free in a positive light. We had a few phone calls / texts and the idea we developed became a lot more severe.
we just had to plan the moves really well so they’d match up as we didn’t have the time or money for motion control. I owe a lot to Emilio and his Steadicam, and Chris and his excellent editing / frame matching skills
WIC: Why did you decide to create a video that leaves the viewers questioning the action within it?
FB: Personally I like to be left with a question when I'm watching something and not get spoon fed a big fat meaning. For me Music Videos are simply about creating something to match the feeling I get when listening to that particular piece of music, and definitely not about ramming an over zealous narrative or concept down your throat.
WIC: You seamlessly transition from the night and day, what was the reason behind this creative decision and was it easy to achieve?
FB: This was the first part of the treatment I wrote. Billie's vocal recording is very tight in on the mic, so close it's like she's right there in the room whispering in your ear. You can really hear every little bit of pronunciation in the t's and ess's at the end of each word. It almost sounds like delicate clips and popping noises, and that to me sounded like a tiny switch being flicked on and off. That's where that idea came from initially..
To keep switching between night and day gave it a real kind of trapped, groundhogday-esque repetitiveness and that fit really well with the themes Billie wanted to illustrate so I went with it...
Shooting it... we did everything twice, first at day and then at night... we just had to plan the moves really well so they'd match up as we didn't have the time or money for motion control. I owe a lot to Emilio and his Steadicam, and Chris and his excellent editing / frame matching skills.
WIC: Was this one long, long day? How did the shoot go?
FB: Yeh one long shoot day but we were up there for a few days beforehand which was great to able to do a thorough recce. Then we shot for about 14 hours straight, so there were a few zombies staggering around at the end of the day, but yeah everyone properly turned up and worked hard, what more can you ask for?
Everything seemed to go to plan apart from not finding any waders to get the shot of Elle (actress) walking into the water, lucky I packed my swimming shorts as back up then hey!
WIC: The location is beautiful was it hard to find, what were you searching for?
FB: I shot alongside Buttermere Lake in January when we were filming my Gaz Coombes video.
I've been back to the Lakes a few times since so its been in my mind for a while to find a reason to go and film there again, but it seemed a great fit for this video to be able to really heighten that isolated and lonely tone we wanted to get across, it's very remote!
Finding the house was one of those weird moments when everything just kind of falls into place and you brick it because it feels a bit too good to be true.. It was the closest house to the bit of beach I wanted to shoot on and aesthetically similar to something you might find in upstate New York or Maine or someplace like that. It turned out the couple who own it are massive music fans and amazing human beings. They opened their arms and home to us and made the whole process a lot easier than it should of been.
WIC: Your videos have a real sense of place, how important is location to you? Do you have a personal affinity with the outdoors?
FB: I guess this ties into the type of stories and characters that interest me and where you might find them, the loners, dreamers, downtrodden, eccentrics. I'm starting to spend a lot of time actively seeking these type of people out for my photography work, and thats taking me around the country a bit. You just end up with a massive location database in your head and it's especially useful for working tight budgets as it's essentially free art department when you find an amazing place to film.
I do have this magnetism thing going on with the Lake District at the moment though as I keep finding myself there, I've always been a city dweller but I can feel that time coming to a close fairly soon. It's pretty hard not to fall in love with the place.