British filmmaker Chris Boyle is quickly carving out a name for himself against the masses of aspiring directors – with a growing number of unique video clips under his belt and a TV series with popular British channel E4 (Skins, Misfits) in development, it’s hard to imagine him stopping anytime soon. And there’s no denying his love for all things visual when watching his clips; Boyle layers text, color and different forms alongside each other like a schizophrenic collage, creating a jigsaw of pop cultural references and pulp film moments.
Chris was charming enough to take the time to speak with us about his latest project, a collaboration with Brit cult-favorites Emperor Yes which sees the band fighting a killer gang of bees. If you’re worried it’s going to be a more schlock, less style don’t worry; influences abound in the clip, from Japanese game shows to David Cronenberg‘s The Fly.
We spoke exclusively with Boyle about his various influences for the clip, working with an independent brand like Emperor Yes and what’s he’s got planned next within his warped wonderland of filmmaking…
Portable: How did your involvement with the clip come about?
Chris Boyle: I’d made a video for Three Trapped Tigers and Summer Camp which members of Emperor Yes also play in, so when they were putting the EP together, Ash dropped me a line, told me about the project and sent me the track. I liked it, so off we went.
P: There’s plenty of crazy stuff going on in the clip, but what was the original idea behind it? Did you and the band come up with a concept or was it more a matter of drawing inspiration from the music?
Chris Boyle: The track itself is pretty psychedelic! Actually, it was great as the band gave me a huge amount of freedom, they just wanted to be in it. I guess that they probably knew it would be some sort of a narrative led, comic, slightly macabre and partially animated… thing; as those seem to be the re-occurring themes through most of my music videos!
Specifically, the idea for a narrative for the promo came out of me being somewhat uncomfortable about performance in music videos, I rarely do it as it often doesn’t seem to make much sense within the context of a video’s world. I find it kind of operatic, someone is stabbed and they don’t scream, they sing! Thus, doing it as a kind of over the top horror movie made sense to me and we went from there, setting it in a studio, so we could legitimize them syncing to the track and getting the lovely comedian Dan Schreiber to come and play a dangerously naive producer.
P: The clip is a visual feast of stylistic influences, can you break down some of them down for us?
Chris Boyle: Ha… well, in essence it’s a bootlegged, video nasty. I kind of imagined that the original betamax had been re-versioned for Japanese TV at some point so anime segments and subtitles have been added, then it’s been pirated, or torrented or whatever, and then finally uploaded to the Internet.
For the content, I tried to shoot lo-rent versions of moments that I like from genuinely good horror movies of a certain period, definitely Aliens, The Fly, and The Thing all feature. Then with the animation I’ve always liked moments when films cut away to animation and this was a really opportunity to go nuts with a kind of Gilliam zaniness.
P: Tell us about the production of the clip. How did you combine the animation, gif-style imagery and the main narrative together?
Chris Boyle: Despite the fairly haphazard nature of the final product, I started with a fairly accurate story board of the entire video, it kind of made sense to do the externals as animated sequences as they would be much harder and more expensive to get right, and as I mentioned, I wanted a couple of Kill Bill-esque cutaways. I was amazingly fortunate to have the help of Sam Ballard for the animated sections, he’s an incredible artist and drew awesome frames which I then helped to animate. We shot it on location at House of Strange studios in a day. It was busy!
P: One of the great things about the clip is how much fun you manage to make a wasp infestation look. How important was it for the project to have a sense of humor and not take things too seriously?
Chris Boyle: The band might correct me, but I’d call what Emperor Yes is making pop music, it’s not taking itself too seriously, it’s kind of up-beat and fun, so I think my instinct is to go… okay, let’s have more people exploding then, and keep it all tongue-in-cheek.
I do quite a lot of darkly humorous stuff, the video I made before this, for Emmy The Great was a kind of rom-com about necrophilia (but not as gross as that sounds). I think that there’s probably comedy in every situation, for better or worse, life is funny.
P: With the reach of Youtube, Vimeo etc., what do you think makes a music video stand out against the torrent of other releases on the web?
Chris Boyle: I’d imagine that there’s a venn diagram of money, a good track and an engaging visual and it’s not easy to get an end product with one of those traits, rare to get two and almost unheard of to get all three, but to get serious exposure you’ll almost certainly need some sort of combination… Although, it’s actually a great benefit to have multiple video services, since it gives you a couple of bites at the cherry. We were really fortunate that this got chosen as a ‘staff pick’ on vimeo which meant it loitered on the front page of Vimeo.com for a day or so and got some great exposure.
P: You’ve got plenty of projects in development, what’s next for you?
Chris Boyle: I’m a bit all over the shop at the moment, split across a few projects, I’ve spent the last few months working doing creative direction on video games and trying to make music videos in the gaps. I’ve got a TV show in development in the UK that hopefully will see the light of day next year and, I’ve got a tiny period feature to shoot too. It’s comedy, but not horror!
Nevertheless the bigger stuff comes and goes and phases in and out of existence; you’ve got to keep plugging away at it and so hopefully I’ll be able to shoot a bunch more promos or other short form stuff in the interim.