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Work & Life: Dan Cadan, The Graft
Yorkshireman Dan Cadan, 44, has worked extensively as a writer in film and TV for more than twenty years. But this year has been one of his most productive in music videos as, together with Scully (aka Jonathan Mowatt) he has directed three videos for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - most recently exploring hardship at Christmas time in the Wandering Star video, starring Stephen Graham and Hannah Walters.
Dan, (above; photo by Rankin) spent a decade writing alongside Guy Ritchie, and his extensive list of collaborators include Madonna, Idris Elba, Will.I.Am and Goldie. His repertoire of films include international award-winning short, The Devil’s Wedding and 2018 debut feature Walk Like a Panther, set in West Yorkshire, near Huddesfield where he grew up.
Having directed or co-directed videos for Mumford & Sons, Rick Astley and the Kasabian video for Ill Ray - the latter featuring his wife Lena Headey - Dan joined The Graft for music videos and commercials last year. He says: "I prefer people to know about my work, than me personally - although much of my work says a lot about me personally, if you look closely." But we decided to ask Dan about his work and life anyway...
How long have you held your current position? What were you doing before this?
I’ve been writing for over 26 years, directing for over 15 years and creating for over 40 years...
What was your first job, or first significant break in the industry?
As a runner for Guy Ritchie and Matthew Vaughn on the post production of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels.
Name one music video that inspired you that get involved in making music videos?
Spike Jonze's video for Beastie Boys' Sabotage.
Name one project you’ve done that was significant as a learning experience – and why?
Working on Snatch [directed by Ritchie, produced by Vaughn]. I learned so much about the cinematic storytelling process from concept to script structure and dialogue, right through to shot framing, editing and colouring. Not only did I learn a lot, I was able to confirm much of what I thought I knew.
I learned so much about the cinematic storytelling process from concept to script structure and dialogue [working on Snatch]
What are the favourite projects (music videos or otherwise) you’ve worked on in the past year or so?
Our three Noel Gallagher videos - Black Star Dancing, This Is The Place and 'Wandering Star. And writing with Goldie and Clint Dyer on the TV series that we're developing.
I loved the challenge of putting the Black Star Dancing video together. We scoured through over 35 hours worth of [70s and 80s TV show] The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club footage to find every nicotine-stained finger tap, well-coiffured head nod, increasingly-energetic pensioner dance, and 1980’s TV icon that would cut and synch perfectly.
And I love Noel’s performance in the vid, as he wins the crowd over without really giving a fuck. He’s just there with his band to play, whether they like it or not. You can really feel the discomfort in the room at the start - it’s quite painful! I also got quite the kick out of watching/hearing Scully dealing with Bernard Manning Jnr and Bobby Ball...
Wandering Star is me getting back to what I really love. Shooting narrative - and working with Stephen Graham and Hannah Walters.
This Is The Place was a different kind of challenge - working with archive footage can be problematic but this was a most particular twat at times. Every image has to be cleared or blurred or some other nonsense that just injects a whole world of pain into the process. It’s not like we just picked any old shite and slapped it behind NGHFB’s - we had to be meticulous.
Wandering Star is me getting back to what I really love. Shooting narrative - and working with Stephen Graham and Hannah Walters. I just love a story...whether I’m telling one or hearing one - and this track brought us the ideal opportunity to tell one.
How did you start working with Jonathan Mowatt (Scully)?
We started working together on Black Star Dancing. That video was his idea. Scully doesn’t come from this world but we’re old pals, so he contacted me to see if I could help him out. And I could, so I did. And so here we are, about to shoot the fourth video for Noel.
Scully, however, proved himself to be rather revelatory in a creative sense. He has some great ideas and knows what he works - and he’s a fucking joy to work with. And I’m not greedy - I’m all about collaboration. Anything that can make a story/video/film/TV episode better, I’m all for it. I know plenty of directors who would shudder in fear and probably prolapse if sharing work and/or a credit was suggested.
Advice? Keep the faith. Take the inevitable knocks and learn from them - you’ll soon learn to knock right back.
What are you currently working on?
The next Noel Gallagher video, which we are scheduled to shoot in early Jan 2020. Developing a TV series with Goldie. Developing several of my own projects for both film and TV.
What kind of work would you like to be doing in future?
Directing more feature films, whether written by me or other writers.
What advice would you give someone entering your field?
Keep the faith. Take the inevitable knocks and learn from them - you’ll soon learn to knock right back. Accept criticism (you don’t have to believe it - just accept it) and don’t allow negativity to swallow you up - because that is so very easy to do. Learn to identify and combat ‘resistance’ - because ‘resistance’ is, and always will be, your greatest foe.
When you’re not working, what do you like to spend time doing?
Being with my children; reading; watching a great movie or indulging in a binge-watch.
Where did you go on your last holiday (or vacation)? And where would you love to visit?
Kamala, Phuket - it was a transformative working holiday. And I would love to visit Vietnam and see more of Asia.
I know plenty of directors who would shudder in fear and probably prolapse if sharing work and/or a credit was suggested.
What are your favourite music videos this year that you weren't involved with?
Lena Headey’s video for Freya Ridings You Mean The World To Me.
What are your favourite currently-running TV shows?
My guilty pleasures are The Crown and Ray Donovan.
What’s the best movie (or movies) you’ve seen recently?
Joker, The Irishman, and American Woman.
Favourite music artist(s), and favourite gig(s) in the past year?
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, The Lightning Seeds
Best book you’ve read, and/or best exhibition you’ve seen recently?
BOOK: The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
EXHIBITION: Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition (at the Design Museum, London)
Favourite food and/or favourite restaurant(s)?
Favourite restaurants are The Palomar, The Barbary, El Gato Negro and Canto.
What’s your favourite political or charitable cause, and why?
Kiva and Think Equal. Kiva because they enable the self-empowerment of those deemed less fortunate. Think Equal because they instill compassion, equality and understanding through teaching social and emotional learning to children from an early age.
Best recent purchase?
Best recent purchase was bought FOR me - a Sony Waterproof Walkman. It has a built in MP3 player, so you can download music and swim in the ocean or a pool whilst listening to the soundtrack of your underwater life. Game-changing….if you can swim.
Work & Life - balance/ imbalance out of five (1 for imbalance; 5 for balance)?
If you’re asking where I’m at - it’s probably 3 - if you’re asking where I would like to be, it’s obviously 5.
• This episode of Q&A series Work & Life is sponsored content, co-produced by Promonews, The Graft and Rankin Film.
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