Director Rollo Jackson has come a long way in the past few years, since the release of his now seminal documentary ‘Tape Crackers’ (essential viewing for anyone with even the most fleeting interest in jungle pirate radio, and is something of a go-to man for electronic music’s great and good, having directed promos for the likes of Chase & Status, Wilkinson, Hot Chip, Danny Brown, Squarepusher and Toddla T, to name a few.
He joins a panel of filmmakers and electronic musicians, which also includes Kate Moross, Chris Turner, Gazelle Twin and Scanner, at LEAF’s VIDEO ELECTRO! event at the Genesis Cinema in Whitechapel on the afternoon of Saturday 7th March for a Q&A about ‘what makes a great music video’. We’ll be showing some of our favourite electronic music videos of the past 12 months, with music from Disclosure, Hercules & Love Affair and Iamamiwhoami, all on the big screen. And then we’ll get to hear from the filmmakers themselves.
Ahead of the event, we caught up with Rollo to find out how he got into this filmmaking lark…
How did you get into making music videos, and how did you come across your first big break?
I got into music videos after leaving the world of television which I had started to hate (the hierarchy, the lack of production value, the formulaic nature of it) to go make music documentaries for labels. I didn’t study film or anything like that, I think DJing as a teenager and then teaching myself how to edit was as much a factor in wanting to make videos as anything. Not really sure if I had a big break as such, more like a few moments that helped get me noticed, doing videos for friends in bands such as Man Like Me and then projects like Tape Crackers that attracted way more attention than I thought they would.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in any one shoot?
Coercing Danny Brown to rap on the top of a 7th story building in Paris with a straight drop on all sides was quite a challenge. It was the first time we’d met, first shot of the shoot, he was on tour and exhausted and it was getting dark. We worked it out though. The biggest challenge though is nearly always the same: time and money! That said don’t think that more money always equals better work.
How much do you collaborate with the artist when making a music video?
Does it ever feel like a battle to establish your own ideas, or is collaboration an element of the work that you enjoy?
It totally depends on the relationship with the artist; I’ve been really lucky in that a lot of the videos I’ve done I already knew the artists or had worked with them so it felt collaborative from the start or rather my ideas were already informed by a friendship or understanding. I think you can tell when artists and directors ‘get’ each other and when they don’t.
Which music videos (or films generally) have given you the biggest inspiration with your work?
I think there was a period when I was a teenager between 95-98 when Kids, The Idiots, Festen, Belly all came out and I saw them all in the cinema with my best friend and something changed in my head, I felt like I was watching something I hadn’t quite seen before, whether it was for the technique (Lars Von Trier), the characters (Harmony Korine), or just a moment of aesthetic (Hype Williams). Those films plus anything Werner Herzog says. Anybody that unforgiving, uncompromising and unrelenting is an inspiration. Ditto the work of my friends Oliver Payne and Nick Relph. I’m constantly inspired though, more often than not by old films or art or simply the very raw. A mobile phone clip uploaded on YouTube by Wiley is just as pleasurable to me as a beautiful Jaques Tati tracking shot. I have no real desire to constantly be up on every new film or music video, there’s too much good art and music being made. I’d rather go see a Cory Arcangel show and get drunk with my friends than worry about what’s new on Promo News. Life’s too short and I don’t want to be locked into a single industry like that anyway.
What’s the best piece of advice you could give to an aspiring music video director?
Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Learn how to use something, anything, and then experiment with it until it breaks.
What are you working on at the moment and what’s in the pipeline?
I’m finishing off an advert right now. Then there’s a few different things I’m trying to make happen, a big music documentary, a feature film, a trip to Tokyo, buying a rolex… A range of hemp clothing. (Only joking).
Video Electro! + Q&A with Rollo Jackson, Kate Moross, Chris Turner, Gazelle Twin & Scanner takes place at the Genesis Cinema, Whitechapel
2pm – 4.15pm on Saturday 7th March.
Tickets are £10 from Ticket Tannoy.