Broadsheet: How did you get started?
Jack Toohey: I’ve always been doing it, as a little kid I made Indiana Jones spoofs with a friend on film. I started taking photography seriously in Year 10, first as a hobby – then I started to get more work. With the advancement of DSLRs it was a natural thing to start doing video again.
Rory Pearson: Two of my friends are in a band, Rooms, and wanted a film clip for one of their songs. Another friend, Marcus Aldred-Traynor and I had always wanted to make videos together. I directed and shot the video and enlisted another friend, Leo Townsend, to do the lighting, and Marcus produced it. We made it over three weekends. From that, another friend who works at Monday Records recommended me to her boss when they needed a clip for Spookyland. Marcus, Leo and I formed a production company called Varna Park and made the video for them. Since then, we’ve been getting approached by record labels.
I work at a multi-national video production company – making music videos, for me, is a point of artistic expression that I don’t get from my job. I don’t do it for money – you can’t make enough – it’s a portfolio and a showcase of our talent.
Given The Chance - The Kite String Tangle. Directed and edited by Jack Toohey
BS: How do you come up with the concept for the video?
JT: For the Indian Summer clip [Shiner], they sent me a few videos that they liked as a style guide; they didn’t want a specific storyline, just the characters. I remember laying on my couch, putting the song on repeat and listening to it for an hour, with my eyes closed and note pad in hand. All of sudden, [in my mind] there was a truckie with a bouquet of flowers doing, “she loves me, she loves me not” and I wrote that down. I wrote down twice as many characters as were in the final clip.
With almost all clips, I’ll have to listen to the song on repeat and get away from everything else. Often the best ideas are the first ideas I have, and they grow from it. If I come up with 100 different ideas it gets diluted.
Shiner - Indian Summer feat. Ginger and the Ghost. Directed and edited by Jack Toohey
RP: You work on what’s available to you, from the band’s style, to the song itself and lyrics – if there are any. You try to decipher what the songwriter wants to say and let your idea form from that. The Silly Fucking Thing [by Spookyland] clip was quite formal, based on The Virgin Suicides and American Beauty. It was a different way of filming to Rock and Roll Weakling, which was action based. For that one, defiance was the general theme. Marcus [Gordon, the lead singer of Spookyland] was going to deliver this song, (which in his mind was a misfit anthem) whether you liked it or not.
I came up with the idea of a boxing ring – which is an allusion to the great boxing films, which still have an amazing role in cinema. Combining that with the theme of defiance, it gave the clip more energy. We found a boxer that was a seven-time world champion in Thai kickboxing and had a fighting director instructing Marcus on how to take a punch, and the boxer on how to throw a fake one. We didn’t know if it would work as it was very formulaic to film, but it all came together in the edit.
Rock and Roll Weakling - Spookyland. Directed by Rory Pearson (Varna Park)
BS: Tell us about your methodology as a filmmaker.
JT: With post-production, I work instinctively. I’ll have all the footage and I’ll do a rough edit in an hour or two and leave it for a few days. That first couple of hours is when the skeleton of the edit happens; I do the finishing touches later.
RP: I come up with treatments – the idea and the concept thoroughly explained, assisted with images and references so it puts in [the band’s] mind’s eye what they can expect to get. If [I] spend more time on that pre-production phase I rarely get a treatment rejected.
As a collective, we want to have a narrative aspect in all our clips because at the end of the day, we want to get into film as producers and directors. First and foremost, it can’t be boring. Sometimes clips are one-trick ponies and 20 seconds in you’re bored already. So it has to be visually interesting, good-looking and elicit an emotional response. It has to say something. If you can succeed in those three points, you have a really good clip.
The Silly Fucking Thing - Spookyland. Directed by Rory Pearson (Varna Park)