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The Story So Far... Jay Green, COMPULSORY

The Story So Far... Jay Green, COMPULSORY

Promonews - 10th June 2022

In our new series talking to up-and-coming talent in the world of music videos, we chat with director Jay Green, digging deeper into a career that began long before he started being featured on Promonews...

Jay Green started early on his journey to be a filmmaker. He had only just reached double figures when he started messing with cameras and editing software, making mini-horror films with his mates. "I come from Lincolnshire," he says. "There’s not a lot to do there - you have to create your own entertainment."

When he moved closer to London, aged 20, things really started to come together. He connected with West London's Nine8 Collective in their early days ("when they only had a hundred plays on Soundcloud") and ended up creating a number of influential visuals for Nine8 mainstays Lava La Rue and Biig Piig.

Jay's career has progressed in leaps and bounds since then and has really taken off since he signed to COMPULSORY last year. He gained a new following when he directed the video for Kam-Bu and Knucks' Call Me Back - the start of what he describes as his "monochrome trilogy" of videos, now completed with the just-released video for MiniKingz's New Skincare. Now his fascination with the possibilities of visual effects is taking him into new territory.

We caught up with Jay to talk about his story so far...

Biig Piig - 24K; Lava La Rue - LETRA

"[In about 2016] I had a tiny music blog and would share the music coming out, through that I met Bexey who introduced me to the Nine8 Collective. I met Lava La Rue at one of her first parties she was throwing and told them I also did photography and videos. That's how it started.

Then Aiwa - Lava La Rue - says: 'I'm going to Notting Hill Carnival, bring your camera and let's just shoot a music video.' So it was just me, her, some friends and the camera. Never expected it, but from that video Lava started to get a bit of buzz. The track and video was a bit different and a bit interesting as well, people started looking to see who made it. 

For 24K we had a budget of around £200...

After that, I made more videos for Lava La Rue, and several for Biig Piig. The first one was for 24K - we had a budget of around £200. I remember we had to beg, steal and borrow most of the equipment. Some even came off the back of a truck - a Danny Boyle production some of the crew was working on at the time that we "borrowed" over the weekend.

This is when I first saw the Nine8 collective really shine. They all came together to do the art direction on the video and took it to the next level. It was also my first of many wonderful collaborations with DOP Lorena Pages."

Miles From Kinshasa - Limbo (Short Film) (2017)

"Coming off the back of music videos for Lava, Biig Piig & Louis Culture, Miles got in touch with me and said he wanted me to do a film for his latest project - Limbo. This was my first time working with a label and the budget at the time felt colossal, in reality it was tiny for the project we had planned. I fell in love with Miles' music and was excited by the prospect of doing not just a music video but a narrative film for his whole album. I went all out.

The film took months of preparation, favours and luck to be pulled off. I could talk for hours about all the trials and tribulations of getting that film made, but I'm sure anyone reading this interview knows what goes into low budget music videos/films!

The main things I took away from making this film was cultivating trust with artists, I'm still grateful for the chance Viv (MFK) took on me and the trust we were able to build between each other to create this visual. 

This film was also one of my first major projects with my longstanding DOP Korsshan Schlauer. During that shoot we formed a kind of telepathy that we still have today. In many ways I really see this project as the birth of my style, cinematography & editing-wise. I'm also very grateful to Nowness & Boooooom for featuring that film and validating a young director's dream. The success and response to that film made me really push on and continue doing what I'm doing!"

Kam-Bu ft Knucks - Call Me Back (2021)

"I was listening to the track and also an Edward Snowden interview, where he was talking about mass surveillance. And then I read that London has the most [CCTV] cameras anywhere.

Kam-Bu’s work is heavily politicised, with lots of talk about issues. This song is about phones, all about data management. I had the security tower image, and then the idea developed of everything being shot from the tower. There’s also the racial element too – the bias that comes with the surveillance, the stop-and-search culture.

I’ve always edited my stuff, and the editing informs my directing so much.

To shoot that we had an Alexa Mini with an Angenieux 20-250 lens. We were always looking for a locations in Thamesmead that looked down on the action - and we used a drone as well. Before the shoot, I’d seen the David Hockney joined-up Polaroids. So that was the idea for the chorus - to combine different images. I’d not seen that done in a video before.

I've always edited my stuff, and the editing informs my directing so much. And for me, directing is about knowing what you need for the edit. Being able to make the decisions on cutting is very important to me. I’m really against what I call ‘dump-truck’ directing. At the end of the day, directing is just championing good ideas."

Nine8 - FVR 105 (2021)

"This was a chance to reconnect with those guys. We'd all been our different ways in our careers and came back for that one. And they let me go wild with it - no notes or anything. That is their thing anyway - 'let Jay do his thing'. There's been trust there from the beginning. It was not super-typical of my work up to that point, but it was a chance to pivot to where I want it to be. 

I'm now journeying into 3D, VFX, taking the videos to the next level, to somewhere new. I think VFX has had a reputation of being expensive and time-consuming - it's been a hard sell. But now the technology is more accessible. The barriers for entry are being removed - and it can almost be done in real time. You can almost arrive on set with the FX stuff already built. I think now there's an opportunity - especially music videos - to be harnessing that technology and using it."

BXKS ft Oscar Worldpeace '321' (2021)

"The videos I was known for before Kam-Bu were all very colourful. But after that one, I followed up it with BXKS. At this point I was thinking - what can I take away? What is the core of the idea? Let's just double-down on that.

With BXKS it was about this endless sea of chainlink fences that she's surrounded by. I saw the chainlink fence as symbolizing the effect of algorithms - a box that she's trying to break out of. As an artist she is trying to do exactly that - doing something different within what could be described as a generic genre. And beyond that, she loves The Matrix, so we definitely needed to bring those vibes to it." 

B Live ft Becky Hill & JME - Don't Know About You (2022)

"That one was about showing what I can do in the context of mainstream pop. They wanted a single performance video, and the challenge was to turn that into a more interesting and dynamic video. That where the party cube idea came from - I could then make the one performance set-up as dynamic as possible.

You can almost sketch things out in VFX faster than storyboarding.

My work has been a lot about the use of strobe and editing, and I wanted to retain that, but without the cuts. This has no visible cuts in it. I want to make my videos feel infinite and limitless.

I also think this shows how VFX can elevate things. The pre-viz really helped to get the full vibe of it, and I managed to do the pre-viz in a day, which shows how much faster it is to achieve now. You can almost  sketch things out in VFX faster than storyboarding. And it gives you all the info that you're going to be working with on the day – including the lens, and the size of the studio."

Fly Anakin - Class Clown (2022)

"The way we achieved the look of the image in the video was essentially by abusing a 360 camera. We're using part of that image and putting a frame around it. In addition, we're removing all the curvature of the image, and removing the distortion.

I started playing around with 360 cameras when I was making a video for Biig Piig [for A World Without Snooze Vol 2]. That’s when I realised you could use it like a real camera. It had that option.

This shoot was tough. From hearing about the video to shooting it was just four days. But I knew when I heard the track I had to do it."

Minikingz - New Skincare (2022)

"With skincare, you're always looking in the mirror - it's this quite self-obsessed, egotistical thing that we all do. I thought it would be interesting to have the mirror as the video's centerpiece, and then having lots of like mirrored elements around that - like shooting through a mirror tube. 

So it was really just following that concept of the mirror: having Benji on one side as if he's at home on his own, and then on the other side, having Ragz and Oscar in a party scene, and Benji breaking through the mirror and joining them into the party.

The opening shot is the most technically complex in the video, where we see Benjie, then his reflection in the mirror, come back to him, then come back to the mirror and it's now the party scene. Lucy Ashmore, our art director, fashioned up this amazing system where the mirror was cut into the middle of a flat, and it was double-sided. There were actually two sheets of mirror, one facing towards camera and one to Benji and they could be pulled out on strings or put back in. In that shot, Benjie is looking in a real mirror. We come back and then the mirror's been taken out, and there we have to run everyone in behind.

Again, it was just distilling the video down to its core point, just keeping it focused on that mirror and then just the white and black worlds. It didn't need anything more because their performance was so strong. I didn't want to drown it in anything else."

• Jay Green is represented for music videos, creative direction and commercials by COMPULSORY. For more information contact Lee Fairweather on lee@compulsoryviewing.co.uk.

 

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