Fink’s ‘Shakespeare’ starts “Oh why, oh why do they teach us Shakespeare, When you’re only 16, with no idea, what it all means” oh why! Kids haven’t a clue even when spoon fed the ins and outs of the Montagues and Capulets, Ollie Murray however has managed to create the most digestible bitesizes in understanding love and pain. On a cold day in London I’m certain I wouldn’t want to bump into either of these two. Not your typical crazy Londoner instead the body-contorting broken-hearted Charlie and Shaadow dancing the narrative. We had a chat with Ollie to find out if he could communicate through words rather than dance (turns out yes), how his style has shifted and a little about his new feature ‘A Stranger Kind’.
Word Is Cheap: Dance music videos are incredibly hit or miss, this is definitely a hit! Was it your first in that genre?
Ollie Murray: I agree. There needs to be a strong psychological motivation for what’s going on otherwise the video will fall flat. I’ve worked with dancers 3 or 4 times on various different projects and I’m always on edge right up until the first couple of takes when I can see things are actually going to go to plan. As long as the dancers’ movements are motivated by an emotion and everything is related back to the story you want to tell then it keeps things fresh, interesting and engaging.
Had you worked with choreographer Del Mak before?
This was our first time working together and it was great. He has a good understanding of camera and he made it really easy for me to translate my ideas into practical information for the dancers. He was there all night making sure Charlie and Shaadow felt safe to experiment. It’s very exposing for them to dance the way they did and there was very little rehearsal time so having a choreographer was essential for bouncing ideas back and forth.
With the narrative told through dance was there a lot of pressure to find the right dancers?
Absolutely. We needed a convincing couple who were strong actors and brilliant dancers. Del went out and put a list together in a ridiculously short amount of time. I’m always astonished at the numbers of amazing dancers there are in London. We’re very spoilt in this city. I chose Charlie and Shaadow because of their contrasting styles and passion for the project.
The dancers seem to have the city to themselves, were there any fears/problems with public interfering?
We shot through the night in very out of the way places so hardly anyone was around. I was really pleased we managed to pull that off. I guess if you see Charlie contorting her way down the pavement towards you at four in the morning you skip to the other side of the road! Shooting out on the street can be tricky though. I like it because it adds an energy that keeps everyones focus on the job and you don’t hang around in one place any longer than you have to.
Your style has become less abstract, there’s now a real clean aesthetic, what drove this shift?
I really only used abstract imagery in my early videos because I didn’t have the money to do what I wanted to do in-camera. Using effects was the most economical way to explore new ways to make images without compromising my ideas. Bands like The Horrors and Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs make otherworldly music and the visuals I made for them needed to be otherworldly too. Unintentionally that abstract style became the one bands wanted me to continue working in. Now I’m a little further down the line in my career I’m able to work with more resources and try to tell compelling stories. Every now and then it’s fun to dive back into working with abstract visuals though. I just shot a video for Noel Gallagher where we shot large portions of the video through prisms and shattered glass.
Tell us a little bit about ‘A Stranger Kind’. Is it as scary as it looks??
I hope so. A Stranger Kind is a surreal horror-comedy that puts a dark, contemporary spin on the fairy godmother tale. I’m really excited to get out on the festival circuit with it next year.
We assembled a great cast. Eleanor Tomlinson who stars as Lily is fast becoming one of the UK’s top young actresses and she is superb in the film. It’s my longest and most ambitious film to date by far and its starting to open the doors to feature length projects so I’m very proud of it.