London based writing and directing duo Mathy & Fran came into our London studio this week along with DOP Jake Scott to grade Anna Calvi’s latest promo 'Piece By Piece' with Mill colourist Matt Osborne. We caught up with them, to chat about their inspirations, aspirations and what’s so great about shooting on 35mm.
How long have you been directing together as a duo?
M+F: We've been directing together for a few years. We’re actually a couple so our working relationship has developed quite organically out of our personal relationship.
How did you meet?
M+F: We met studying film together - our first love has always been cinema and when we first started working together we were writing and directing narrative shorts. We have quite different inspirations but it was obvious we connected.
You're grading Anna Calvi today – tell me a bit about it…
M+F: The video concept is based around the theme of synesthesia, a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sense (e.g., sound) produces experiences in a totally different sense (e.g., sight, color). Some synesthetes can hear, smell, taste or feel pain in color.
The lyrics talk about the process of forgetting someone and we had the idea of using gradually fading colour, but we didn’t know at first how this would work as boldly as we wanted across the length of the track – that’s when we realized the way to think about it was as a one shot - there would be no cuts and the colour would become the edit.
Is there a recurrent theme that runs through your work?
M+F: I think colour informs most of what we do. Concentration on the palette usually provides a starting point and structure to what we’re doing. The Anna Calvi video is a perfect demonstration of this.
What are the highs and lows of the process of directing?
M+F: We live and work together so it’s both an advantage and disadvantage to be able to talk about the projects we’re doing constantly - there are so many discussions in the lead up to the shoot that the prep is usually the most challenging part. From the minute we're on set, there are no more questions to ask, so that's definitely the most enjoyable part!
Is there a moment that stands out as the highlight of your career so far?
M+F: The Anna Calvi video has been a real highlight for us. We're also always very proud of our personal projects – one example most recently being our short "The Lights And Then The Noise" – a sci-fi film made on a tiny budget, which has been really well received at festivals.
Fran: It's particularly satisfying when your work is programmed alongside films and people who you really admire. The Lights… was screened recently at the Shuffle Festival before Nic Roeg’s "The Man Who Fell To Earth" and introduced by Jarvis Cocker. Had I known this about myself as a teenager, I’d have been seriously impressed!
You also worked on the latest Kodaline video, tell me about the inspiration behind this…
Fran: We’re really interested in the romance of empty music venues – vacant spaces can feel heartbreakingly lonely and we wanted to capture the magic / transformative process that happens with live music.
Mathy: The idea started with a shell of a building and wanting to re-awaken the space. We chose to put the emphasis on Steve - the lead singer - and use him as a magnet to draw us through the space. It felt like a really nice way of working with his performance; to create something that at first feels lonely, but becomes this full and euphoric feeling as soon as you introduce the band.
In addition to the Kodaline video, you've worked with Matt on a number of other projects – how did you meet and what is it about his work in particular that stands out?
M+F: Matt had been very highly recommended to us by Jake, we’ve been trying to work together for a long time and it’s been really exciting to start this working relationship.
Jake: For me working with colourists is all about finding someone who shares the same taste It’s also great to know that if I can’t make it to a grade, then everything is in good hands.
Matt O: The colourist’s relationship with the Director and DOP are key to producing great pieces of work. When all three are involved you always come up with some really great looks. Because we have all worked together before, there is an element of unity and trust with one another. We all want the same thing - to produce the best piece of work possible.
What part does the grade play in the final film?
M+F: It’s hugely important – like Jake was saying, it’s about finding someone who has the same taste as you but also understands the tonality of your work and the personality of it.
Jake, you shot this on 35mm – what is it you love about shooting on film?
Jake: I’ve been trying to approach jobs with the perspective that everything will be shot on film unless there’s a reason not to. It’s a bit more fun – everyone concentrates a bit harder and I still think it’s the better medium.
Matt O: You can also achieve a really nice skin tone when shooting on film, and highlights that would simply blow out in digital.
What are some of the highlights of what you do?
Jake: Having been able to shoot with some great directors and work with some really talented people across interesting ideas. Also, the times when it really just all comes together are incredibly rewarding.
Do you have a signature style?
Jake: I would say that my signature style is trying to find a place within beauty that isn’t glossy and flat. Something rugged with texture that is also beautiful and has style.
Watch the full video below.