Jay Green on Kam-Bu's Eton Mess: "We went through three Prime Ministers during the making of the video."
Promonews - 22nd Dec 2022
As we near the end of a tumultuous year, we can look back on a number of videos that have addressed the social issues that affect modern society. But only a few have risen to the challenge of tackling the political turmoil that continues to engulf the UK. One that does so, with biting wit, is for London rapper Kam-Bu's acerbic critique on the ruling party of British politics: Eton Mess.
In just two turbo-charged minutes, Jay Green's video dramatises the corruption of the British political class, personified by Richard Fibber, a Prime Minister who serves the interests of shady businessmen, but is challenged by angry everyman Kam-Bu and is undone by a fatal flaw - his nose, which has a Pinocchio-like tendency to grow when he tells a lie. Which is all the time.
With a judicious use of VFX in addition to his dramatic setpieces, Jay Green has created a powerful modern political satire, with a hero we can all root for in Kam-Bu. So we spoke to Jay about how he managed this impressive feat, on a shoestring budget.
How did the project start for you? Did the idea and the Fibber character come directly from the song, or were you influenced by the brief and/or a chat with Kam-Bu?
JAY GREEN: Kam had DM’d me telling me his initial ideas of a visual depicting the failures of the Government. After a few phone calls and back and forth I came up with the idea of a Pinocchio story centred around a prime minister going up for re-election.
You directed the impressive video for Kam-Bu’s Call Me Back before this, which addresses political issues in a different way. This is more comedic and satirical – but also post-heavy. How much did it feel like breaking new ground for you?
Yes I agree, this was a lot more narrative-driven than some of my previous work, which is something I want to move into more now that I feel I have things to say.
It was made when the country was (and still is) in political turmoil. So how many Prime Ministers did we get through while you were making the video?
From Kam’s first message to me to delivering the final video we went through all three Prime Ministers. Ha!
There's a responsibility to truly believe in the message you're sending.
Presumably the song was written and recorded when Boris Johnson was PM. Richard Fibber is not particularly Boris-like in appearance at least. Was that deliberate?
I felt it was important to make Richard a more universal character than have him attached to any one person. In order to convey the message that this is a more systematic issue than individual.
What were the big challenges of the shoot? Did you get everything you wanted?
Greenscreen shoots are always challenging as it requires an extra level of direction to ensure that all the cast know exactly where they are and what they are doing. However it did allow us to move a lot faster and get a variety of locations/shots we needed to sell this story.
So let’s talk about The Nose! Is it a combination of in-camera practical effects, and post FX? If so, how much was practical and how much was post?
The noses ended up being about 75% CGI. We did have prosthetics but I felt that to truly get across the message we need to exaggerate and animate the nose a lot more than just prosthetics alone.
How much time did you have to do the VFX and post work? What were the main challenges there?
Because we were on a shoestring budget, we didn’t even have money for an art director. So a lot of the production design, props, etc were added digitally which meant mountains of VFX work for me after. Fortunately Kam and his team gave me the time I needed to get everything right. I had about 2 weeks total to finalise the edit and VFX.
How did it feel to make something that has a political edge, reflecting the state of the nation in these strange times? And what did you learn or take away from making the video?
I think whenever you make something with a political edge there is a certain responsibility to truly believe in the message you are sending. It was great to work with an artist like Kam-bu who I share a lot of the same viewpoints and values with.
So the whole process felt so much more organic rather than performative - which is always a danger when creating reactionary/political commentary while it is still ongoing. And I learnt a lot of how to shape a narrative while retaining my style and to not be afraid to challenge authority with my work.
• Jay Green is represented by COMPULSORY. Check out more of his work here.
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Promonews - 22nd Dec 2022