In the sixth installment of Frame By Frame, Belfast-based photographer and filmmaker Colm Laverty takes a look at the making of the rather spectral video for ‘Iris Influential’ by Lisburn alt-rock band Mojo Fury. Speaking to its creator, Daniel Holmes, Colm looks into the influences and inspiration behind the video, the production methods that were utilised in its making and Holmes’ thoughts on video-making in general.
Hi Daniel. First off, tell us a little bit about your role on this music video.
I directed and edited the video.
In a sentence, what sets ‘Iris Influential’ apart from other Northern Irish music videos?
To be completely honest, I haven’t really seen a whole lot of other Northern Irish music videos since I haven’t been living here for very long. Based on the small sample of what I have seen, it feels like the ‘Iris Influential’ video is a bit darker than most which I hope feels strangely refreshing to local viewers if that is indeed the case.
How was the idea conceived?
I was sent the song by the band and then gradually developed the initial premise of the various people being inexplicably drawn towards the performance. I then just built upon that idea in ways that I felt were visually appropriate for the song. I liked the idea of keeping everyone’s destination a mystery for as long as possible until everything comes together in the end.
What were your major influences coming into this project?
The idea that we’d have the speakers facing the ground to attract everyone to the band was inspired by a scene in the film Upstream Color. Some of the lighting aspects were influenced by the work of a photographer I really like named Tonje Thilesen.
The video’s climax bears striking resemblance to the landing from ‘Close Encounters’, among other things. Were there any deliberate references or homages to a certain piece of art?
Well the ‘Close Encounters’ resemblance wasn’t deliberate but I do love that film so it makes sense that it might have snuck its way in there. Other than the ‘Upstream Color’ thing that I mentioned, there wasn’t any kind of conscious attempt to reference or pay homage to any other works but I’m sure there’s probably more things I’m not aware of, as is usually the case.
How well do you feel the ‘Iris Influential’ video reflects the themes and concepts behind the track itself?
My approach to the video was more about trying to capture the tone of the entire track visually rather than to reflect the lyrics and I think we accomplished that. It’s a tricky balance trying to do something that’s relevant to the track while not being too on-the-nose. I hate it when you watch a video and it feels like someone is literally just acting out the song’s lyrics.
How large was the team working with you on the shoot?
It was a very small but very efficient crew. For the performance shoot, we had Darren Chesney as DOP, Youcef Boubetnikh operating B camera, and Kevin Treacey as gaffer. For all the actor-based material, it was just myself and Darren.
Where and when did the shoot take place?
We shot the performance part of the video on a field next to where James (Lyttle, guitar/vox/keyboards) and Mike (Mormecha, frontman) live in Lisburn quite some time ago, back in October I believe. All the material with the actors was shot in four different sessions throughout the following weeks around different parts of Belfast.
Take us through the process of shooting the actors. Were the band present for these scenes?
That process really consisted of myself and my DOP Darren going out with each actor individually and covering a lot of different ground throughout the far reaches of the city. We tried to get a variety of environments to create the sense of a far-ranging scope with the different people. We shot way more than we needed and I’d say only about 10% of it actually made it into the video.
How well were you able to find the right balance between artistic freedom and compromise?
The band were great and pretty much gave me complete artistic freedom from the get-go after approving the initial treatment I had sent them. James had some great suggestions during the editing process that I think really helped the video and were in no way a compromise.
Did you face any obstacles (physical and metaphorical) when it came to shooting outside at night? Northern Ireland’s track record for calm weather isn’t exactly stellar…
The weather was surprisingly cooperative. However, a much more unexpected obstacle arose when a flock of about fifty cows wandered into the field minutes before we planned to start shooting. After twenty minutes of debating what to do and pondering a possible location change, our multi-talented extras proved to be adept cow wranglers and chased them out of the field.
How was the band’s experience performing on camera?
As most know, Mojo Fury have been around for a while and certainly know how to look good on camera by now. I don’t remember having to give them any direction regarding their performance whatsoever and they all seemed comfortable throughout the whole process despite having to play the same song twenty times in a row in a cold field in the middle of the night.
Tell us a little bit about the editing process.
It was my first time editing anything on Final Cut Pro X which has its share of well-documented quirks but once I worked my way around those, it was a pretty straight-forward process. My main goal was to balance out the performance footage with the actor-based footage in a way that maintained the level of mystery I wanted without it feeling like it was ever dragging on.
Has producing videos affected the way you now perceive music?
Only in the sense that when I listen to music, I’m always trying to conceive new music video ideas & imagery just as an exercise. The process of making videos helps you to do that a bit more efficiently.
How do you feel Northern Irish music videos have changed over recent years?
Like I said before, I haven’t been living in Northern Ireland for long so I’m not exactly well-versed in the history of the videos from here. That said, I’m sure it’s the same here as it’s been everywhere else lately where the influx of accessible & inexpensive technology has bred a variety of great and inventive videos that couldn’t have been made before now.
In what ways has new technology affected your attitude toward music videos, and the industry as a whole?
It’s the first time in history where pretty much anyone can access the necessary tools to make a music video or film which is amazing for a lot of pretty obvious reasons. The flipside of course is that with so much new material constantly being made, it’s getting much harder to stand out from everyone else and make work that’s memorable. I see a lot of music videos and other pieces of film that look great and are well shot but then I never think about them again once they’re over. That’s something I’m trying to avoid with my work as my filmmaking career continues.
Do you have a favourite local music video?
I’m not sure if I have a favourite, but I remember being particularly impressed with the video for ‘Lost At Sea’ by Cashier No. 9 when I first saw it.
What would be your nomination for the greatest music video of all time?
Clarence Carter – ‘Strokin’’
On a slightly more serious note, I used to spend hours on end as a kid watching my VHS recorded copy of Janet and Michael Jackson’s ‘Scream’ video so I’d probably have to say that.