23 April 2007

Interview: TYLER JAMES (director)

I discovered Tyler James via Antville with his unique video for Low in the Sky's "Cool Sanson". It reminded me a lot of Aleksandr Petrov’s work with a unique twist in that in place of paint, Tyler has used sand to create a texture all his own. It's available in Quicktime format HERE on Tyler's site or alternatively below in low quality Flash video.

Tyler was born and raised in Atlanta and grew up wanting to be an inventor. He enjoyed making things was delighted at the creation of his alien “contact machine” which despite being unable to contact aliens, managed to disrupt television transmissions in the household.

Always loving art and being inspired by the work of Michel Gondry, he went on to attain a degree in video art at the now extinct Atlanta College of Art. With his video for Cool Sanson (his second), he is showing promise and is full of enthusiasm for the craft. It will be interesting to see what comes next.

What do you feel makes a great music video? Likewise, what do you feel makes a bad video?
A great music video should complement the music and capture the attention of the viewer. It should also be entertaining enough to view multiple times. A bad video is just the opposite.

What was the inspiration behind “Low in the Sky”? And can you tell us about the technique used for animated sequences?
The song, as well as my own past, inspired the video. The song starts out innocent and childlike, but it quickly changes to become more ominous. I wanted to merge a childish activity (playing in a sandbox), with a more mature subject,(domestic abuse). As far as domestic abuse goes, it is a subject I know all to well. Growing up, I had an alcoholic father, and I experienced it first hand.

To create the sand animation, I first desaturated and upped the contrast of my original footage. Next, I made a DVD of it, and on a thin sheet of plastic I traced every third frame from my T.V. with a dry-erase marker. I then took the plastic sheet to my dining room table and painstakingly sprinkled the different colored sands onto their designated shapes pinch by pinch. I then photographed each frame with a digital camera. All of the transitions were created by blowing on the sand.
"Growing up I always thought that movies and commercials were magically created in far off land."
In our initial “discussion”, you mentioned that Michel Gondry was a key figure in your decision to get into directing. Can you explain what you admire about Gondry’s work and the influence of his work on your own creations?
I really admire how innovative he is, as well as, his lo-fi special effects. Growing up I always thought that movies and commercials were magically created in far off land. After seeing Gondry’s work, filmmaking became much more tangible to me, because he often reveals his tricks to the viewer. I love his use of in camera effects.

Which other directors or individuals works have captured your imagination and why?
Jonze and Cunningham, of course, but also oldies, like Welles and Hitchcock. All of these guys were pioneers in their own right, and I admire the fact that they weren’t afraid to do things differently.

You also mentioned that you wanted to be an inventor when growing up. Has this lingered with you and does it play a part in your work?
Absolutely. In a way, I would consider myself an inventor, but instead of inventing products, I am inventing ways to bring my ideas to life. In fact, the problem solving portion of directing is what I enjoy most. I love sitting on the couch in the morning with a big cup of coffee and my sketchbook, deciphering how things are going to work.

What have you learned since leaving the Atlanta College of Art? What surprised you?
Since leaving school, I learned that all of the extra time I thought I was going to have, doesn’t exist, and I am really surprised that I already want to go back to school.

Which artists from other disciplines do you admire and what would you say their influence has been on your work (if any)?
I really admire the work of the surrealists, though I am not sure that my work directly reflects any surrealist influence. I hope to make their influence more apparent in my future works.

Are there any other artistic skills that you would like to learn and why?
I would like to hone my photography skills. Growing up I always had painting and drawing classes, but I never took any photography classes. At this point in my life, I think I would benefit mostly by learning more about photography.
"The reason I like it so much is because of how clever it is, the way it tricks the eye."
Would you share with us a photograph which you feel is great and explain why you feel it works so well for you?
I am really bad about remembering names, but as it just so happens, I recently was admiring a photo by Miro Svolik, titled, “And Fly”. It is a photo of three people lying on a large slab of concrete. The picture is taken from high up above, and the people are positioned in such way that their bodies make up a shape resembling that of a bird. The reason I like it so much is because of how clever it is, the way it tricks the eye. I would love to animate this piece.

Miro Svolik's "And Fly"

Are there any independent projects which you are working on or have in development? What aspirations do you have for the future?
I am gearing up to shoot a music video for Snowden. It is not going to be a stop-motion, thank God, but it too will require loads of work. Also, I hope to work on lots of little experiments I dreamed up while sprinkling sand.

As for the future, I am getting ready to go back to school for my masters degree in film. I am extremely excited to have two years to experiment with readily available equipment. After that, I hope to get picked up by a production company, and get paid to do what I love, though I would do it for free.

Thank you, Tyler. I hope you continue experimenting with your work and carve out your own niche in the world.

"Cool Sanson" Quicktime
"Break" Quicktime

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