Set in a landscape which combines London’s brutalist architecture with computer-generated skyscrapers, the new short film by Factory Fifteen for The Bug's "Function / Void" sees the daily, monotonous routine of its protagonist suddenly and inexplicably start to crumble. A collaboration with digital studio and production company Nexus, the new video, premiering today, was created for two tracks off The Bug's album, Angels & Devils (out now on Ninja Tune) and was produced in conjuction with The Creators Project.
Factory Fifteen, the creative studio consisting of Kibwe Tavares, Jonathan Gales, and Paul Nicholls (see our past coverage of Factory Fifteen here), has a background in architecture. Their work often draws on this to explore sci-fi landscapes, speculative ideas, and near-future tech. For their new short film, they wanted to create an end-of-the-world scenario that showed the disintegration of a totalitarian world.
As part of the exclusive premiere of the new video, The Creators Project fired a few questions off to Factory Fifteen to find out more about the film and the ideas that informed it:
The Creators Project: How did the sound of The Bug’s tracks inform the video?
Factory Fifteen: Through talking with Kevin (The Bug), it was clear that he wanted something different, surprising, unexpected. From the beginning we were working with two very different tracks with one video. Once the main narrative idea had been thought through we played with the idea of the slower, daily routine section being cut with "Function" which was the more aggressive of the two tracks and the breakdown being cut with the more ethereal "Void" track. We liked the polarity this created. Naturally having two tracks with a transition created an interesting structure to work with. Luckily Ninja Tune and Kevin were open to how the two tracks were cut so we had quite a lot of freedom in that respect.
What were some of the real-world locations you used? And why did you choose them?
We wanted to feature the residential aspect of the world in a modernist development to emphasis the protagonist as an individual in a large system. The first key location for us was his apartment, as much of the story unravels there. We called on our friend Armando Elias, who is one of the founders of Craft Design. They had designed and built a truly unique one bedroom studio apartment which had a lot of the characteristics we were looking for. It even had a hole in the wall for a coffee machine, which we replaced with our designed-to-fit pill dispenser.
With its raised, open, central bedroom area, we found some great shooting angles, too. We shot the street scene at the Alexandra estate in North London; it’s a beautiful iconic estate with some really striking geometric structure. We liked the idea that these residential units made up the foundations for the corporate towers above, and the Alexandra estate lends itself spatially to this perfectly. It’s also a great balance between a utilitarian estate, but without a dystopic and stereotypical council estate aesthetic that’s pretty overplayed in UK television.
Can you tell us a bit more about how Lebbeus Woods inspired this piece and what it is you find so interesting about his work?
In the early stages of the project we were pretty taken with a lot of Lebbeus Woods drawings. We wanted to create and destroy a world, but in a way that was beautiful and fantastical. Lebbeus’ work often creates an ambiguous aesthetic that in its nature is deconstructivist but is essentially propositional. We use inspiration and references as a starting point but as we start to test and produce the work we try not to be restricted by them as we stray or create a new direction.
The deconstruction/disintegration of buildings and cities is a theme in your work. It appears again in this. What draws you to this aesthetic of artful destruction?
There are several reasons why we are continually drawn to the deconstruction of architecture. One maybe because we studied architecture; we were all inspired by deconstructivism in architecture and find a beauty in the aesthetic of destruction. In this project we wanted to parallel the breakdown of the individual with the breakdown of the system. For us this was represented by the world and so became a literal collapse. Narratively for us this references the disintegration of non-physical things that have huge implications on our world, like the financial collapse and the economy of a city. For us the city and buildings are a character, the destruction of the world is as much the collapse of the protagonist’s world.
Can you talk us through some of the computer interfaces that appear in the film. What served as inspiration for those?
We set the protagonist as a worker within the corporate world. We wanted the office environment to feel very much like a contemporary but modernist office. It's a bit of mash up of some of the offices in Jacque Tati’s Playtime, Winston’s role in 1984 and some kind of future call centre. We wanted his role to be one of many workers for a data company in analysis and trading. Most of the screens are of identity information, analysis or value. It was also a good opportunity for us to cameo Manga and Grouper (Liz Harris) who feature on each of the tracks; you can see their identity profiles on the overhead shots in the office. The interfaces are purposefully touch and gesture operated to set the world in the future or alternative present. I think its important in this scene to help establish the world without being too over the top. The desk interfaces are quite modest in a way and just an exaggeration of existing technology.
With the screen on the pill dispenser machine in the apartment we wanted the interface to be more personable than just graphics. It’s somewhere between Apple’s Siri and a weather presenter, but really it’s just a read out for multivitamins and supplements. We didn’t want this to really be footage or a mesh head so this sequence was shot using the Kinect to get both the video and depth passes. These were used to animate the head whilst re-projecting the video texture to define the voxel tones.
Why did you choose to shoot in black and white?
We love how evocative and graphic the album artwork is. We wanted to continue the monochromatic theme and have wanted to do a black and white stylistic project for a while.
The video is a mix of CGI and actual places—what do you enjoy about mixing the two?
CGI and visual effects are a really exciting tool that help you shape and tell a story the way you want to. For us this also helps us build a world off of elements of London we liked, but with the freedom to add and control it into something new. It’s always a challenge to convincingly blend real and created spaces but sometimes that’s a good thing and forces you to make decisions about the world and architecture.
It’s set in a dystopian world. Is it a warning or an exploration of the aesthetics of this type of sci-fi trope?
I think this project is partly an echo and comment on today’s society and partly a nod to totalitarian fiction that we love. We wanted to subtly have a take on these types of sci-fi without being too clinical with it. We like the idea of a totalitarian system that you opt into, rather than be controlled by in an authoritarian way. It’s an exaggeration of our smartphone culture, analysing, tracking our lives and suggesting supplements to us we think we need.
For more of The Bug, check out Noisey.com's interview here.
Artist: The Bug
Director: Factory Fifteen
Production Company: Nexus
Label: Ninja Tune
Commissioner: Maddy Salvage
Producer: Beccy McCray
Production Manager: Caroline Milsom
Director Of Photography: Luke Jacobs
Lead Actor: Gary Grant
Lead Actress: Ani Lang
Focus Puller: Tom Mcmahon
1st AD: Dan Precious
2nd AD: Alex Paterakis, Carmen de Witt
Gaffer: Joel Rainsley
Focus/ Gaffer Assistant: William del Rivero
DIT: Prince Yemoh
VFX Supervisor: Matt Townsend
Animation / VFX: Alexey Marfin, Jonathan Gales, Paul Nicholls, Prince Yemoh, Isaac Eluwole, Carl Kenyon, Ares Simone, Roberto Brichese, Matt Townsend.
Tracking: Tom Carter, Kibwe Tavares
Rotoscoping: Sinjarajan Studios
Kinect Character Development: Eran Amir
Offline Editor: Paul Hardcastle
Post Production Consultant:Dave Slade
Studio Manager @ Nexus: Natalie Busuttil
Art Director: James Hatt
Art Dept Assistant: Rebecca Carey, Michelle Renee
Art Dept Runner: Arthur Menezes
Stylist: Crissie Aranda
Hair & Make Up: Bobbie Ross
Hair/MU Assistant: Maggie Forrest, Sharon Chagger
Production Assistant: Billi Hatfield
Production Runner: James Alexander
Unit Minibus Driver: John Targgart
Security: Per Doda
Extras: Kimberley Goldsmith, Mark Craddock, Silvia Ferreira Santos, Susete Furtado, Justinas Vilutis, Eran Amir, Patrick Dishman, Freny Pavri, Roberto Brichese, Konstatin Zhukov, Peter Efe
With thanks to:
Pete Spence and all at Walthamstow Pumphouse Museum Trust
5 Merchant Sq
Jimmy, Wayne & Godfrey at Robin Hood Estate
Michelle Myrie & The Film Office
Vince, Rhian & Team at Film Fixer
Craft Design for Flat Design and build:
Designers: Armando Elias, Hugo D'Enjoy