Director Hugh Mulhern, who DN last featured as part of our coverage of the NFTS graduate showcase last year, returns today with a new Riff Raff Films produced music video for artist Hak Baker. Mulhern’s video is a chaotic blaze of live action and animation, showcasing the pure chaos of a night on the town through a blend of forms and styles. The seedy, twisted imagery of the animation in particular feels like it could be lifted from a Robert Crumb comic or Ralph Bakshi’s controversial Fritz the Cat and the frenetic camerawork perfectly reflects the descending feeling of losing your inhibitions. With the video’s recent online release, DN discussed the process of making it with Mulhern, talking through the challenge of blending animation and live action footage, the equipment necessary to pull it off, and the freeing creativity afforded to filmmakers through making music videos.

How did you get involved with Hak Baker and how involved was he in the creation of the video for Doolally?

Myself and Hak have been trying to work together for a while but Telephones 4 Eyes was the first music video we made together alongside some social media stuff for the overall album campaign. Hak is very hands-on across everything he does and with the video he took the lead on casting for example because he wanted the people he references in the song to feature. His team are incredibly supportive and there’s a real culture of collaboration that’s led by his Creative Director Nadine Persaud.

I wanted the video to feel like a night out.

What did pre-production look like on Doolally?

Fairly hectic because we decided to throw an actual party so the usual stress of organising a shoot mixed with putting on a party. We were very lucky to have the party sponsored by Sailor Jerry so we could get a promoter named Kemmi Morgan on board to make sure the party side of things ran smoothly.

At what stage did you decide to blend AI generated animation with live action footage and how did you go about preparing and executing that?

That was in the script from the start. I wanted the video to feel like a night out so we didn’t want to storyboard too much but there were a few key moments in the song that I wanted to hit like the balloon head at the door, the axe and the car sequence that we needed to approach with more planning and control.

What kit did you utilise across production to attain the energised, frenetic feel of the video?

We shot on a mixture of 16mm, Alexa and 360 cameras.

Could take us through post-production. Who did you work with on the live action and AI generated elements of the video and how challenging was it to bring these ideas to life?

We had quite a big team to share the load. Ed Fay started the edit and then Joseph Taylor finished it off. This is the first time I’ve worked with two editors outside of myself cutting something and it was hugely beneficial and definitely something I want to try again on a bigger scale. Ed’s incredible with found footage, give his Instagram @edjazeera a look to see what he does, so he’d pepper in bits of found footage in our sequence that would then work as a guide for our AI animator, Dom, who can be found at @infinite_____vibes on Instagram too. We tried prompting a few different batches but the bulk of what we used came from using Fritz The Cat which was appropriately seedy.

We were also working with two 3D animators, @cmkrealm and @andrzej9k who each were given different moments to work on. Conor (@cmkrealm) had the task of creating Jack’s inflated head, we originally scanned his head but the file corrupted, so Conor had the hard task of doing it from eye. With so many different elements working together, the online, final comping and the grade really made sure everything sat together well. Daniel Morris and Andy Francis at Gabha Studios were on Zooms until midnight with myself and Joseph Taylor getting everything to fit. There was a moment when Andy really pushed the grain on the animated footage that suddenly made it all sit together. It was one of those final touches that made it feel like a whole new piece of work and made the late nights feel worth it.

What do you enjoy about making music videos and how do you feel they develop your skill as a filmmaker?

I just love the freedom of it but as much as you can learn from it you can pick up bad habits. Making music videos is like your dodgy cousin teaching you how to drive. You can do doughnuts in a car park, but you don’t necessarily know how to parallel park. There’s definitely stuff that carries over to narrative, but I sometimes view music videos as a space to sort of make with no filter and no consideration for the audience. I think there’s a huge amount of value in getting that stuff out of my system so that when I finally get into making long form narratives, I don’t try to force any grass puppet mickys in.

There’s definitely stuff that carries over to narrative but I sometimes view music videos as a space to sort of make with no filter.

What did you learn during your time studying at the NFTS?

How to parallel park.

What can we expect from you coming up?

I’m turning towards home a bit more in the coming months. There’s a lot of really amazing new music coming out of Ireland at the moment that I’m making some work for. Although the budgets aren’t always generous with a new artist the creative freedom and ambition make it worth it. I definitely want to push into the bigger budget music video space this year so we can really expand on the techniques we’ve developed between Telephones 4 Eyes and Doolally but it’s definitely about finding the right artists to work with. Maybe it’s the elephant in the room but music video budgets just seem to be shrinking and to pull off something worth watching you need to beg, borrow and steal. If I’m going to do that for an artist I have to really believe in them.

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