Challenging the pulpy energy of a crime thriller, directing duo Tom & Theo’s music video for Cheap Electric Pink Wool’s 01G is a tale of deceptive thievery. Their video follows a thief as he embarks on a heist to capture the magical goose that lays golden eggs. What’s most impressive about the filmmakers’ video is how they’ve managed to achieve its cinematic sensibility with only themselves as crew. As the duo note below this is “low budget filmmaking at its finest”. The pair show that you don’t need lofty ambitions or a crew of hundreds to achieve a video which is tense, exciting and stylish. Directors Notes is proud to premiere 01G on our pages today alongside a conversation with Tom & Theo about the process of creating cinematic work on a budget, designing the heist sequence in Tom’s back garden and the challenge of visualising the mythical golden goose.
How did you first come in contact with Cheap Electric Pink Wool for this video?
Cheap Electric Pink Wool are a duo we’ve known for a long time. They came to us with their track 01G and asked if we’d be interested in making the video for it. They’re super open and collaborative and they didn’t really bring a brief, so there was quite a lot of scope for where we could take it. It was Theo who came up with the narrative approach and he more or less wrote the whole script.
Once you had the concept of the goose down, what was your next step in thinking about how you would visualise it?
It became pretty clear that a big challenge was going to be setting up the concept of ‘The Goose’, and we eventually landed on animation being the best way to approach that. We got in contact with Daniel Prothero, who was into the idea, and as soon as he started sending us looks and mock-ups, we knew that that side of things was going to work. He really knocked it out of the park.
What obstacles did you face in bringing 01G to life as a two man crew?
The pre-production/production process was a bitty one, but we also got really lucky with everything falling into place. The budget for the project was tiny, so we’d accepted from the beginning that we’d just be crewing it ourselves. Theo is a DoP by trade, which certainly helps. Tom’s done his fair share of different crew jobs and is pretty versatile on that front. Being a crew of two also allowed us to take our time with things and be relaxed with the schedule, as we only had to worry about ourselves and the cast, (Ryan Jefferies and Niki Usagi), who are CEPW themselves anyway. After that it was mostly a question of finding interesting locations.
Being a crew of two also allowed us to take our time with things and be relaxed with the schedule, as we only had to worry about ourselves and the cast.
Theo has an ongoing photography project which he spends a lot of time in Silvertown for, and we found some great spots around there, getting particularly lucky with the warehouse location. They were super chilled out and just really accommodating. Some of the other locations required a slightly more guerrilla attitude, and there were certainly moments where we thought people were about to call the police on Ryan before they noticed the camera.
On the subject of the camera, the video feels really cinematic, how did you approach shooting and what equipment did you use?
We shot on the Blackmagic URSA, using DZO Pictor Zooms. For the budget and schedule we had, this kit made by far the most sense, but it’s also what Theo uses for a lot of his documentary shoots, so we just felt very comfortable with it and knew that for such a run-and-gun, unprecious shoot, it would really do the job.
Could you walk us through the making of the heist scene? I imagine that would’ve been the most challenging part to execute.
The biggest challenge in terms of the live action shoot was definitely the heist scene. We designed the move in Tom’s back garden, working out all the cues and beats, which made us feel more confident about it. Even so, us being the only two crew members made realising it on the day tricky. That wasn’t helped by our speakers breaking just before we started rolling, so Theo was the only one listening to the track as he operated. Tom’s never focus pulled in his life but he somehow managed to only ruin one or two takes. Although, in fairness, he had a shit monitor, a focus wheel you can only operate using one finger, and no marks to speak of. So, all in all, he didn’t do too badly. It was a lot of fun, all really collaborative, with everyone offering something. Even the guys playing the security guards, who were just mates we’d roped in last minute, had helpful suggestions.
The final scene was also a bit of a creative gamble. The idea for that sort of effect where they fade into each other came from Blade Runner 2049 and that scene where Ana de Armas and Mackenzie Davis blend into each other. They achieved that in such a low rent, practical way, and we found that pretty inspiring, and wanted to try something similar to represent Ryan being taken over by the Spirit of the Goose. It was really cool when we overlaid and lined up Ryan & Niki’s faces for the first time – we weren’t able to try out the effect before we got hold of the circular track on the day of the shoot, so the first test was a nervy moment! Tom also got to realise his lifelong dream of being a Grip, as well. There was one almost catastrophic moment where the dolly careered off the track, but apart from that, it all went pretty well. Again, it was a really hands on situation: just us two, Ryan and Niki. We were shooting in a disused church, and we slept overnight there. Ryan and Niki slept in their car. Low budget filmmaking at its finest.
How much did the edit affect the structure of the film? The chapter headings definitely added to the pulpy vibes of the whole film.
For the edit, Theo got a really rough cut together, then sent it to Tom, who recut it. We’d then send it back and forth, recutting all the time. We’ve never actually worked like that before, but once we landed on that process, things really flew. Right at the end, we decided chapter headings would add a lot in terms of helping tell the story and also setting a pulpy cinematic tone. A really good friend of Tom’s from the States is a very talented typographer and graphic designer (Jon Hartman at Wunder Werkz). He loved the cut and might just love Tom too, so he knocked out the font for us in a matter of days. It really does make the whole film so much stronger, we’re thrilled with it.
Some of the other locations required a slightly more guerrilla attitude, and there were certainly moments where we thought people were about to call the police on Ryan before they noticed the camera.
The final challenge was getting a good grade and a few bits of VFX done. That’s probably where we got most fortunate, because we took it to UNIT and they just did us a huge favour. Nick Dalby was an absolute dream to work with doing the grade, and Jake Saunders and Tania De Sousa really did us no end of kindnesses by fitting us into their schedules and getting their Flame Op, Scott Ryan, to work on the transitions.
What can we expect from the both of you in the near future?
We’re currently editing a series of short documentaries with some inspiring athletes, and also have a long-term documentary project in north Wales on the go. Theo’s also DoP-ing a Channel 4 documentary at the moment, which is going to be big, but he’s not allowed to talk about it…which makes him feel very important. There may be some more Cheap Electric Pink Wool tracks soon as well, which will hopefully mean a few more promos being thrown into the mix. We’re just happy to be shooting again, to be honest.