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The Questionnaire: Scott Altman

The Questionnaire: Scott Altman

Promonews - 14th Jan 2016

Scott Altman grew up in Sandyford, Dublin, and started in the film industry as a teenager - as a pyrotechnician at Aardmore Studios - before training in animation and VFX. He joined MTV in London in the Noughties, creating Promax Award-winning campaigns for the MTV Europe Awards. That's when he began directing, and in 2014 he founded Defunct Films, where he has directed and executive produced hit pop videos for Shift K3Y, Philip George & Anton Powers and the baby-buggyboard video for Jax Jones' Yeah Yeah Yeah. - while also building a directors roster including Denise Alder and Brendan Cleaves. Scott, 36, lives in Peckham, and his new ad campaign for new 'mocktail' brand Freshbe has just hit the screens. 

Education: St. Mary's College C.S.Sp; The Irish School of Animation (BCFE); FÁS - Screen Training Ireland in association with Pixar and UCLA; Goldsmiths, University of London. 

Previous occupations: Pyrotechnician at Ardmore Studios; CG supervisor at MTV International & UK; VFX Supervisor at Nickelodeon UK.  

Favourite music video of the past 12 months? 

My favourite more underground music video is Flying Lotus, Coronus, The Terminator –again, it's a cool idea, has a bold style and also works very well to the track.

Favourite video of all time? As a kid, two videos had a major impact and helped me visualise a possible career in the industry. Firstly, Michael Jackson's Thriller, directed by John Landis, which blew my mind (along with everyone else's) and fuelled my passion for art, atmosphere, performance, style and everything creative. Secondly, Aphex Twin's Windowlicker by Chris Cunningham, which I also was blown away by. At the time I'd never seen anything like it and even by today's standards, it‘s still looks incredible.

Favourite publications/websites: It's tricky to find free time to browse online these days but when I do I'm usually scanning through various industry-based apps, blogs and websites. I'm a fan of the VEVO app for browsing the latest in music videos or IMDB for keeping up to date on what’s happening in movies. 

Favourite food/restaurant: Before moving to London I lived and worked in Bangkok. One of the best things about living there was Thai food. Mussaman and penang curries, and mango sticky rice are personal favourites. A Vietnamese restaurant called Viet Grill is located opposite where I previously lived on the Kingsland Road and to this day it's one of my favourite restaurants. Saigon pork belly with jasmine rice and banana fritters are what I usually go for.

Favourite drink/drug: Coconut water is great, but if I'm out with friends I'll have Guinness or Weisse Beer. Without a doubt love and work are the best drugs to me. No man-made chemicals can top the buzz I get from either."

Last movie you saw (and was it any good)? 

Favourite directors: David Fincher, Mark Romanek, Darren Aronofsky, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicolas Winding Refn, Alan Parker, Mathew Vaughn, Mel Gibson and Gaspar Noé.

Last gig you went to (and was it any good)? Last gig that stands out in my mind was Pharrell Williams at the O2 in London and yeah, I loved it. His performance was effortless and the atmosphere was fresh.

Favourite bands/artists: I'm a fan of good mainstream music of any genre so that could be anything from Hozier to Bieber, Rick Ross to Coldplay, Jessie J to Pharrell, Diplo to Ed Sheeran.

Currently reading/favourite book: Mike Tyson's biography is sitting on my desk, which I will begin reading one of these days. I really like Cormac McCarthy's No Country For Old Men and John Ridley's Stray Dogs.

Favourite job (or jobs) of the past 12 months? I recently directed four adverts for Saatchi & Saatchi as part of an online campaign for a new mocktail drink being released on the market called FreshBe. One of the overseas shoots involved three camera units shooting simultaneously. The main camera was on a boat at sea with one of Ridley Scott’s DPs, the second camera was underwater with two professional scuba divers and the third camera was high in the sky, overlooking the scene. I was directing the lot at the same time and for a moment had to question if it was really happening. It was an amazing experience.

How did you get a start in the business? It's hard to pinpoint how exactly as I don't feel it was necessarily one thing or another but more a culmination of many things that then had an impact and got me the breaks. The main thing is passion and to really love what you're doing, that's what will get you through as you'll never give up and have the tenacity to push on.

What was the first music video you worked on - and what were you doing on that job? 

What equipment do you rely on most to do your job? Not too much. These days I can get by with a laptop or simply a mobile phone if I'm lucky.

What was the most challenging job you’ve worked on? My recent music video for Jax Jones was always going to be a challenge as it was shot overseas, involved three very young kids, three dummies (to replace the kids), custom-built longboard buggies and skate tricks combining the lot. 

In post-production I then removed and replaced the heads of the dummies with that of the kids (during the more extravagant trick shots) and also tracked, and composited Jax Jones artwork onto random street signs within the video. After a lot of very hard work it was all worth it and thanks to Hanan Cher at Polydor for pushing to get the ambitious idea made!

What’s the Next Big Thing you’re working on? Towards the end of the summer I directed a teaser for a long form project we're looking to get off the ground at Defunct during 2016. Called 'Riot Club,' the project stars Alan Ford (Snatch) and Adam Fogerty (Legend) and is related to teens and a London-based boxing club, during the riots of 2011. We've just delivered the teaser this week and will be getting stuck into that from early 2016.

What would most improve your life? I can't ask for anything to improve my life. I'm lucky enough to be doing what I love doing and making a career from it. Everything is going in the right direction and I can't ask for more than that.

Best moment, or fondest memory, of your career thus far? 

Worst moment? Early in my career I directed a couple of videos for renowned acts that in the end didn't get released. At the time that was hard to take but similar has happened to many established directors at one point or another during their careers. I learned a lot from those experiences and it's been of benefit ever since.

Biggest frustration? Being the owner of a production company, I oversee and executive produce shoots Defunct produce, which works well and runs smoothly. Although when I have to executive produce shoots I'm personally directing, that can be more tricky as I'm juggling the two roles (creative and business). Under these circumstances you need a great producer who can work in between and speak with you as both a director and executive producer. If both parties respect each other and good communication skills are in place, then all should be functional and run smoothly.

What’s the big issue or issues facing music video makers right now? Declining budgets are the main issue as music videos take time and resources to produce but the budgets are too low for what needs to be invested. Directors spend a lot of time pitching and companies spend even more time operating, producing and delivering jobs but in the end there's little or no profit from music videos. We all love making and watching music videos but it's a sad case if you can't survive or grow from creating quality work, which apparently now has the greatest reach to kids online. 

Person you most admire? 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in music video production? Make the most of every opportunity that comes your way as you'll grow from every job you produce. Try to play as many roles as you can on each project so you learn and give each video your distinct style as that's your selling point, and is what will set you apart from everyone else. Finally, remember to make money elsewhere but balance your time and energy effectively or you'll drift one way or the other and be dissatisfied. 

Any hot tips on who will be the future stars in music video in the next couple of years – directors or otherwise? There's a lot of talent out there but who the future stars are all depends on who works hardest and is lucky enough to get the opportunities. You can have someone who's exceptionally talented but unless they get the opportunities and support they need, when the doors open, their true potential won't be exposed. The same applies to smaller companies as they need to regularly win jobs to survive and grow, which in the long-run benefits the entire industry and keeps us all going and doing what we love.

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Promonews - 14th Jan 2016

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