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Filmmakers not content with Royksopp success

After music video featured at Cannes Lions festival, Korea-based team looks for more opportunities


An older Korean couple living life in the fast lane might not be the first thing on every ad exec’s mind.

But it was the subject of a music video that made it into the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity ― the advertising industry’s top awards festival.

It was the work of CONTENTed’s Neil Dowling and Nils Clauss who teamed up with Park Nam-hui to produce the video for a competition.

Genero.tv ran the contest with Norwegian band Royksopp in which entrants submitted videos for each song on the band’s album “Senior.” Theirs, for “Senior Living,” was one of the nine winners.

The video was presented at the British Film Institute in London as part of a retrospective of Royksopp videos, where it caught the attention of Saatchi & Saatchi. The firm then picked it as one of 17 shorts for the Cannes showcase, an annual event that provided exposure for directors such as Jonathan Glazer, Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze early in their careers.

The inspiration for the video came from several directions at once, including a photography project.

As well as studying for his final year at Chung-Ang University’s film school, Clauss is also photographer and won the 2011 European Prize of Architectural Photography for a series he shot in Seoul.

Around the same time Clauss was shooting a series of portraits of older Korean people, a chance encounter with an old man on the street opened doors for Dowling. He was Korean, and his homework was to talk to foreigners in English.

“I found out that there was this one course only for retired people, who were learning English for the first time in their seventies,” explained Dowling.

“I went along to the class to do conversation with them, and they were just such an interesting group of people. Everyone had a certain passion in their life. A different hobby or something that they were into.

“And because I don’t speak Korean I don’t really get to see what’s behind people usually, but I know there is more there if you look. So I got interested in older people at the same time as Nils and we both said we should do something about older people in the video.”

When the opportunity came up for “Senior Living,” they seized the chance.

It wasn’t without hiccups. The two nonprofessional actors they had planned to use dropped out. One did so a few days before filming, and they had to hire one from an agency.
Nils Clauss (left), Park Nam-hui and Neil Dowling. (Paul Kerry)
Nils Clauss (left), Park Nam-hui and Neil Dowling. (Paul Kerry)

While they had planned to work with a nonprofessional cast, Clauss said it was a good move to hire someone.

He explained that older nonprofessional actors tend to be more unsure about what they are doing, which can slow down the process. He pointed out that this was more of an issue the larger the crew was.

But Clauss said there were positives to working with nonprofessionals.

“They have so much naturalness and so much innocence which gives it a nice flavor,” he said, adding that they are more willing to help out in areas that actors traditionally wouldn’t be expected to.

When he and Dowling worked on a subsequent music video ― for “Lonely C” by Wolf + Lamb vs. Soulcap, part of !K7’s DJ Kicks series ― he found the actors were prepared to muck in with other jobs.

Dowling said the narratives for CONTENTed’s work were generated by what he thinks of as a conversation. The story for the “Lonely C” video, for example was developed by discussing the lyrics.

“The narrator (of the song) is basically burning up with the frustration of not being able to express his love for somebody,” Dowling explained. “So we just talked about a lot of things and came up with the idea of a love between a pair of twins, whose love for each other has gone across the line, but they keep it inside.”

He said further discussion led them to develop a very static style to the video to keep a sinister atmosphere that pervaded the family.

“We have some images like the father hacking at the hay and the mother chopping up the food. There’s the suggestion that there’s some sort of violence coming down the road.”

Now joined by Park ― who was Clauss’ senior at Chung-Ang and also co-wrote and produced the movie, “Enlightenment Film” ― they are looking for more success in promotional videos.

“That’s the direction we are trying to move in,” said Dowling. “Since we did the music videos we’ve had a lot of attention from different music labels and also some different Korean companies.”

But while they are keen to do more music videos they did turn down a project, partly because of the music and the budget.

“There’s been quite a bit interest and I think also our videos, although they were seen mostly by people outside of Korea, we’re also on some blogs here as well and some people found out about it,” Dowling said.

“If you don’t like the music it’s hard to get ideas and also to get working on something,” Clauss points out.

In terms of commercial work, they aren’t aware of anyone else doing the same thing. Clauss said filmmakers and photographers normally came to Korea for more documentary purposes.

“There’s always people trying to leave their country and discover new things and present them back home. I think that’s a big thing. But on the filmmaking level, I don’t think so,” he said.

For Clauss, the country is also a source of fresh visual material.

“If you look at the Wolf and Lamb video, we shot it in the countryside in Korea, and I think that for people overseas it’s a totally new imagery,” he said. “This Korean country life, partly in its awkwardness, and I think for Koreans its interesting because they’re quite impressed how it depicts the originality of the country life.

“But we are also aware that as much as it’s interesting for an international audience it’s also maybe a barrier. It will not always connect well with the image of the band.”

Dowling said one thing Korea offered was that it was relatively easy to film.

“If you try to shoot something in Europe, in most places there lots of things like you need permits and you need insurance ... It’s always quite difficult,” he said. “In Korea it’s just easier to get things done.”

You can find CONTENTed’s work, including a trailer for a full-length feature film “Sarang Hey” due to premier at the Galway Film Festival in Ireland, at contented.ie. Clauss’ photography is at www.nilsclauss.com.

By Paul Kerry (paulkerry@heraldcorp.com)
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