Thomas English has been a successful Steadicam operator for more than a decade, and now he's also an increasingly in-demand DoP. Even in this tumultuous year he has continued to progress in this new …
Work & Life: Charlie Von Rotberg, Stitch/Homespun
Charlie Von Rotberg has been one of the busiest editors in London's music video world for the past couple of years. His portfolio includes videos for Lewis Capaldi, Michael Kiwanuka, Skepta and Elderbrook x Rudimental - the latter nominated at the UKMVAs last year.
Formerly a drummer in a band, since downing his sticks to edit professionally, he has become a favourite of directors like Louis Bhose, Luke Davies and Jamie Gyngell - for whom he edited his winning short film at last year's Homespun Yarns. Charlie's progress has been recognised with his recent promotion at Stitch and Homespun to full editor status.
Charlie, 31, grew up in Crowborough in East Sussex, then went on to study graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts, in South London. He has been a South London resident every since, and he currently lives in Lewisham with his girlfriend Sonia and their cat, Peaches. And not surprisingly, the former musician and now music video editor knows his stuff when it comes to music, and has some excellent listening suggestions.
How long have you held your current position? What were you doing before this?
I’ve been at Stitch/Homespun for three years as an assistant, moving up to editor recently. Before going into editing I was a drummer in a band and moonlighting in several other professions, as you do being a musician: barman, barista, drayman (someone that delivers beer kegs), runner and ‘videographer’ to name a few...
What was your first job, or first significant break in the industry?
I had just started running at a Soho production company part time when a friend of mine asked me to make a music video for his band. Pretty out of my depth, I borrowed a camera and lights from the production house - the guy in that department did me a real solid - went out and gave it a go. The video didn’t turn out too awfully either, so I started making promos for other musician friends. I guess it went from there!
I was out of my depth, but my first video didn't turn out too awfully. I guess it went from there.
Name one music video that inspired you that get involved in making music videos?
Flying Lotus - Coronus, The Terminator by Young Replicant. I love Flying Lotus as an artist and have always found his music particularly visually evocative. This video just has a certain magic to it that just sucks you into it’s world, a really hard thing for a 3-5min piece to achieve and the sign of a great music video in my books. It’s eerie and mesmerising, and one of those videos that really sticks with you. It also hauntingly reflects on the social/political climate in America. Big fan.
Name one project you’ve done that was significant as a learning experience – and why?
A couple of years ago I worked on a short documentary piece called Jab Jab, which was a portrait of Grenada's annual J’ouvert festival; an amazing midnight congregation where thousands of Grenadians parade head-to-toe in motor oil as a symbol of remembrance and defiance.
The directors had a rough idea of how the film would come together but when shooting in 100% humidity with no crew, plans can change quickly. We had to re-think a lot of it in the edit and how to tell the story, history and context in an unplanned way. It was during this process I really started to discover the power of editing - albeit through extreme frustration. When you’ve been on a long journey with a piece of work, it’s very satisfying once you finally get it singing.
What are the favourite projects (music videos or otherwise) you’ve worked on in the past year or so?
Music video-wise probably Elderbrook x Rudimental's Something About You by Luke Davies. Just a really great succinct concept that is woven into every detail of the video, and a really fun one to cut. Luke did an amazing job.
Something About You is a really succinct concept that's woven into every detail of the video - a really fun one to cut.
Non-music video I’d say a short horror film I cut at the end of last year called 4x6 by Jamie Gyngell, for the Homespun Yarns competition. It was very challenging to develop a character in a such a short space of time with the added element of having to make it scary. I learned a lot on that one.
What are you currently working on?
I’ve got couple of promos lined up with directors I’ve not worked with before, which is always exciting. Apart from that, being a better person.
What kind of work would you like to be doing in future?
Regardless of the genre, work that’s collaborative, fresh and challenging.
What advice would you give someone entering your field?
Quiz the people you look up to, learn from your mistakes and KEEP GOING.
Tell us something that we don’t know about you?
I once drove from the UK to Ulaanbataar in Mongolia which is roughly 10,000 miles of road, dirt and sand. Looking back now not a particularly eco-conscious way to travel, but we did raise a lot of money for worthy charities as a result of the trip.
We also gained many, many stories including dysentery in the desert, camping in Tehran, and bribing an Uzbek border guard with a watermelon and wind-up torch, to name a few...
I once drove from the UK to Ulaanbataar in Mongolia - roughly 10,000 miles of road, dirt and sand.
When you’re not working, what do you like to spend time doing?
DIY, listening to music, going to exhibitions and the cinema, and I like to take photographs. Anything that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer basically...
Where did you go on your last holiday (or vacation)? And where would you love to visit?
I’ve just got back from a snowboarding holiday in the Alps. It’s very quiet and serene in the mountains and the air is noticeably fresher. It was fantastic. I’d love to visit Antartica before all the ice melts :(
Your favourite music videos (by other people) in the past year?
Rosie Lowe - Pharoah by Matilda Finn. Wildly creative and inventive storytelling executed beautifully. Anyone that makes promos knows the restraints we are often under, but this proves how a great idea will always prevail.
What are your favourite currently-running TV shows?
MindHunter, Succession, Wild Wild Country, You - absolute trash but good fun.
What’s the best movie (or movies) you’ve seen recently?
Vice - a jaw dropping and terrifying insight into the Iraq war and US politics. Also another very watchable performance from Christian Bale.
Favourite music artist(s), and favourite gig(s) in the past year?
My records of the last year are Solange - When I Get Home, Floating Points - Crush, Tyler, The Creator - Igor, Robyn - Honey, Andy Stott - it should be us.
I didn’t get a chance to see many live shows last year. However I did catch The Fat White Family at the London Forum during the summer. I’ve been a fan for a while and seen them play across London many times, often in intimate smaller venues. However that show felt like a real moment. They’ve just kept plugging away at it and to gain worldwide success without compromising their art is phenomenal.
When I'm not working I like to do anything that that doesn’t involve sitting in front of a computer.
Best book you’ve read, and/or best exhibition you’ve seen recently?
Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition @ The Design Museum; Olafur Eliasson @ Tate Modern; Shot In Soho @ Photographers Gallery; Dorothea Lange @ Jau De Pomme, Paris
Favourite food and/or favourite restaurant(s)?
I could eat pizza for every meal if necessary, However favourite non-pizza restaurant I’d say Zeret Kitchen between Camberwell and Elephant and Castle. Authentic Ethiopian food, with amazing vegetarian options.
• This is a co-production by Promonews and Stitch/Homespun.
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