KEVAN FUNK TALKS BRAIDS – TEXT LAURA THOMPSON
Multitalented filmmaker Kevan Funk directs short films, music videos and is currently in the process of creating some feature-length projects. All of which lead with the same key element, a powerful, emotive narrative.
This video comes from BRAIDS, who like Kevan, are born and bred Canadians. The track, ‘Mini Skirt’ focuses on and features front-woman Raphaelle Standell-Preston. With strong feminist lyrics Kevan has built on from this topic to create a beautiful work of art. ‘Restraint’ is a term Kevan uses when describing developing his ideas for the video and creating its content symbolised through Raphaelle’s hair-braid throughout the video, which sees her being shot across different backdrops comprising of natural elements, neutral tones and using the game of life that is night and day.
Before I end this introduction and let you read my interview with Kevan, I want to leave you with three words in a quote he gave regarding the video’s concept; ‘control, conform and dominate.’
The band BRAIDS are fellow Canadian’s, had they been on your radar previous to “Miniskirt”?
Yeah, BRAIDS had been on my radar for a while. We actually all come from the same part of the country, Alberta, which has quietly become this strange hotbed for music (Purity Ring, Mac DeMarco, Calvin Love, among others, all hail from there originally). I knew BRAIDS from their debut album, Native Speaker, and was also a fan of Raphaelle’s other project, Blue Hawaii. I was particularly drawn to them in terms of a desire to collaborate because their music lends itself well to the type of work that I’m interested in making; it’s complex, layered, often a bit beguiling and full of ideas. I actually first got in touch with them a couple years ago, blindly over email. It took a while but finally found this project to work together on.
What is it that attracts you to music video projects, do you actively look for them or do you find they come your way?
It’s a bit of both I suppose. When you first start doing music videos you really have to chase after the artists that you like and try to convince them that you have something valuable to offer. Which can be challenging because a lot of artists are inundated with that kind of solicitation, particularly interesting bands. I can only imagine how exhaustive it is on their end. But more and more I find that the work is coming to me, which is refreshing in that when you have someone reach out you know that they’re coming to you because they appreciate your body of work. It’s a liberating dynamic, because you’re no longer in that position of trying to form your work in a way that fits a presumptive mold of what you think that artist (or label or management) wants. You can go out, confidently, and create work that excites you. Coming from a narrative background, that’s what I love about the music video medium; it can be this great testing ground of experimentation and discovery.
“Miniskirt” has strong female messages, visually and aesthetically how did you explore this theme?
As much as I love the song musically, I was drawn to it specifically because of the content. My narrative film work is almost always driven by some sort of sociopolitical interest, so the track fit nicely with that, something that is fairly rare in music videos. I mean, you can say that the song has a strong female message, because the authorial voice is that of a woman but I think that its message, in terms of being a position or opinion, should transcend gender at this point. I find it incredibly bizarre and frustrating that the label of feminism is often used to marginalize a particular view/statement/issue as being extreme or niche. It’s a manipulative semantic perversion, one that has long been perpetuated. I think to not identify as a feminist (regardless of ones gender) at this day is age, to not acknowledge that equality should be the minimum expectation, is legitimately insane. When it came to the video, I think we quickly realized that we needed to find a visual language that was complimentary, as opposed to trying to create images with the same direct force of the lyrics. It would just be too exhaustive for the viewer and likely diminish the power of the track. So in finding that visual language for the video, I went back to the basic thematic element of the song, which to me is this assertive defiance towards a culturally entrenched patriarchal construct. That ubiquitous patriarchal apparatus operates through these means of control and commodification. The parallel between the exertion of that power over both femininity and nature (two things that are often historically linked in this cultural narrative) became the conceptual basis of the video. It seemed to provide the right sort of visual language for what we wanted to achieve, something that was direct but not literal.
You rarely feature a performing artist, did that change your approach to the project?
That changed out of a sense of necessity, in terms of the desire of the band. Again, I made narrative films before I made music videos, so I have a specific bias to that approach. Ideas start from a thematic place for me, not an aesthetic one. But this song was very personal and Raph knew that she wanted to be performing the song in the video, which I definitely think was the correct choice. I usually steer away from performance based stuff because I often find it very flat and uniteresting. But once we had the conceptual elements there to support the performance, to give it something to correspond with, I really enjoyed working outside of the dramatic structure. And her performance is incredibly strong. Ultimately, there is still a story being told in this video, and that’s what always anchors me.
On a day-to-day basis what inspires you and sets off your mind to ‘create’?
I’m mostly inspired by my reaction to the world around me, again, generally in sociopolitical terms. I grew up in a household where empathy and critical thinking were held as the most important virtues. So a lot of that drive to create stems from a desire to actively engage with the things that capture my attention, emotionally and/or intellectually. And I simply like to work a lot, I try to do so as much as possible. There is a kinetic energy to that sort of continual momentum. I am very grateful to be in a position where I get to do what I love on a daily basis, which is something that I’m very aware and appreciative of, and is something that fuels that relentless momentum.