Five Minutes With David Rusanow
We caught up with the director of Lower Specturm's gorgeous Proxima video clip.
David Rusanow is a cinematographer and director based in Melbourne, Australia, who has shot video clips for the likes of Worlds End Press, Big Scary, Snakadaktal and more, along with TV commercials for The Coffee Club, Dunlop Volleys and Doritos, and his own short films. He was also the director of Lower Spectrum's Proxima video clip. You can watch it below, along with getting to know the extremely talented (and insightful) Rusanow below that:
Congratulations (and also thankyou!) for the video for Proxima (and your whole body of work) – what drew you to the track initially?
I'd worked with Ned previously on the clip for Khlever and when he was preparing the Proxima EP he sent me through the whole unmastered album. I actually really liked several tracks on the EP and I wasn't instantly drawn to Proxima, but after a couple of re-listens it really grew on me and I could see the cinematic elements really coming out.
What was the process like between you and Ned in terms of working on concepts etc. we know he’s very visually minded as well - how much of it was collaboration?
The process between me and Ned is quite fluid and works surprisingly well considering where in different parts of the country. I'd send him ideas of what I was thinking and he would email me back with his thoughts and what he liked, then I'd rework things from there. I think we share a similar aesthetic so I'm pretty lucky he will just let me run with some crazy ideas that other people would probably shy away from. Ned is a film composer as well so a lot of Lower Spectrum's tracks has these great cinematic moments, which make them instantly visual and emotive.
Which is great for music videos because they're basically soundtracks and we just have to find the visuals and story to suit.
Did any other ideas or works influence you and the tone of the music video?
I really wanted the tone and visual style to be a continuation of the Khlever clip and early on I worked out a mythology that would continue from the story in the Khlever clip. No one will probably see it, but I like clips that have there own inner world going on and esoteric narrative that you don't realise is there until you see them in context. The song also had some really dark elements and deep bass in it so I wanted to compliment that with a narrative that had some darker visuals.
A lot of post-apocalyptic films came to mind while I was working on the concept - I think one of the major ones was the NZ film The Quiet Earth - mainly the end scene where the main character is looking out over the ocean at this surreal vista. I also looked at a lot of photos of nuclear fallout bunkers and underground bases. Mostly stuff from the 50s to get an idea of what they would have in there.
The locations for the video are superb, what other locations did you scout and why did you choose to film where you did?
I really wanted the location to be quite alien and unrecognizable. I shot Khlever in the north of Iceland so I had a hard act to follow in that respect. But I wanted to continue that element of the location being a large part of the video, but also not something you see everyday. I'd been to the location before and was amazed at all the underground tunnels and strange forts and knew that I had to shoot something there.
The location kind of dictated the story in a lot of ways. The beach location was also very near by and a place I had been before. Both locations where very devoid of people too which was a great plus for filming! Originally I wanted to shoot in some locations in Thailand and Asia but we realised early on that the budget and logistics might be out of our reach. Also keeping the locations simple for the budget was a consideration.
All of your works have beautiful cinematography, what interested you in specializing in being a DOP?
I've always done photography and been interested in cinema so Cinematography felt like a natural progression. I actually studied to be a director for three years as well so every now and then I like to combine the two to keep me on my toes. It's also nice to shoot and direct a narrative because it really makes you think about how you are telling a story visually. Narrative uses a different part of your brain I feel then just shooting a performance video.
Who or what are some of your influences or reference points when it comes to film and techniques?
Sometimes it's nice to start from a single image rather than a specific film. It's easy to get caught up in trying to replicate when you reference something in the same medium. Where as if you work from say a photo or an image it's generally the mood and lighting that you are working from. In terms of filmic references I watch a lot of stuff and it's hard to pin down one influence sometimes. You have to be flexible. With this clip for Proxima I was watching a lot of handheld films and music videos to get an idea of how they where moving the camera.
Most of the effects in the music video where done in camera. The flashing colours at the end on their faces, the warping flesh, these were all ideas I'd had on other videos but never got to use fully. A lot of this comes from experimenting and testing. I wasn't sure how the flashing colors were going to work on the day but once we set it up I was amazed at how weird it looks.
Even your TVC’s possess a very sophisticated aesthetic, is there an art of complimenting words to film/visuals?
I think the art is in keeping a consistent tone throughout your images and visuals. You see so many videos that are not sure what there trying to be. If you set out to make a dark comedy stick with that tone. Think about what your trying to say and stick with it. There are major shifts in Proxima going from the dark of the tunnels to the sunny almost advertising shots of them on the beach, but then we return to that darker tone when things start to get weird. I'm not sure if it works! But I knew I had to return to the darker elements towards the end of the clip, because if I stuck with the happy ending it wouldn't have been very rewarding.
What have been some of the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt over the years, be it working with artists, within the industry, or others?
I think the most valuable lesson I've learnt is just taking time to listen. You can learn a lot by listening.
Looking back - do you have any standout achievements in the past you look back on most fondly, and looking forward - what are some of your goals/places you want to take this career?
I'm not sure I'm pretty hard on my own work, so there's a few jobs I think back on and realise they came out better than I realised. Proxima was a big task as I was basically organising most of it myself. But I'm happy it came together at the end because it was something visually I was really interested in putting on the screen. I'm looking forward to maybe shooting/directing a lot more music videos in the future.
Can you tell us what’s coming up for you project/life wise in 2016?
I'm looking at doing a bit more work overseas this year, mainly in Europe and currently finishing off a few narrative short films that I shot late last year, and mainly shooting music videos for other directors. But looking forward to putting together another clip of my own. Who knows maybe even another Lower Spectrum clip!
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