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Work & Life: Tom Hardiman, Somesuch
Tom Hardiman started out in his music video directing career under the supercool monicker Dear Mr Quistgaard, before reverting to his original name last year, when he directed videos for Mura Masa, Joywave, and made brand films for Prada x Vogue and Mercedes.
He recently delivered his second Mura Masa video, a VR-inspired work for Live Like We're Dancing. And his new short film, Pitch Black Panacea, co-funded by Somesuch and the BFI, is about to receive its premiere ahead of a run of festival appearances - it has just been selected for Aspen Shortfest.
We talked to Tom about his work and, when he makes time for it, other things outside work - and learn that the man has deep feelings for buffet-style eating, animals that talk, and can happily admit to a fondness for Pret a Manger...
How long have you held your current position? What were you doing before this?
I've been a director at Somesuch for over three years. Before that, I worked at Radio 1 briefly, then found my way to directing via odd jobs in children’s TV and feature production departments.
Basically I did a little bit of everything before putting all my savings into a short called Radical Hardcore, which seems mad in hindsight but made sense at the time.
I put all my savings into making Radical Hardcore, which seems mad in hindsight.
What was your first job, or first significant break in the industry?
My first real break in doing what I’m doing now was a Boiler Room doc, following a few DJs I really like around Portugal. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but I’m into dance music so in all honesty was like I’d stepped into where I’d wanted to be my entire life - and got some mad sunburn which made for a nice memory.
That led onto a short film Slender Bodies... a year without Bowie and Prince, which led onto She Said, with Obongjayer and Kamasi Washington, for Richard Russell's project Everything Is Recorded. I’ve never forgotten how many times Obongjayer was cool to be lobbed across a room by the British Olympic judo girls and never complain once. He’s a brilliant guy.
I’ve never forgotten how many times Obongjayer was cool to be lobbed across a room by the British Olympic judo girls
Name one music video that inspired you to get involved in making music videos?
One music video… agh. Probably Oneohtrix Point Never's Sticky Drama. I was headlong into art film at the time, and even if I knew music videos were always a place for experimentation and creativity, I think that video, with Jon Rafman [who directed it with Oneohtrix's Daniel Lopatin] being an artist, made me look across and want to be involved. Another would be Seth Price ‘A Feeling in the Eyes’.
Name one project you’ve done that was significant as a learning experience – and why?
I’m always after something I’ve never done before, so there’s usually some learning experience, but my most recent two projects stick out. Pitch Black Panacea got me thinking how the process of animation must have played a part in the styles of animators turned directors (Gondry, Canada etc).
The new Mura Masa is something completely different - a full 360 shoot with multiple cameras. The video was shot using a 360 rig from the brilliant guys at Brownian, who usually stick their stuff on the bottom of helicopters for Mission Impossible films.
On Mura Masa we were using multiple spheres to transition between...it quickly becomes a proper brain melt.
Once we had the footage though is when things got going. We were using multiple spheres to transition between, so it was a fairly mad post production workflow. If anyone's seen a flattened-out 360 video file (latlongs) and tried to carve holes in their walls that you can fly through, it quickly becomes a proper brain melt. It’s hard thinking beyond the rectangle…
What advice would you give someone entering your field?
I’m not sure how much advice you can ever give? I guess the one thing I’d say is just do it. That’s not meant to be a bland platitude ripped off a multi-national corporation. I actually mean it, in the sense of: it seems sometimes you try to do all these silly things so your head gets in the right place, and pretend like some magic combination of chair, light, food (or whatever) will lead to the work being done well. But really you just need to do it. Procrastination is the enemy. You just have to stop it winning.
Procrastination is the enemy. You just have to stop it winning.
Tell us something that we don't know about you?
I really like talking animals. In cartoons, films, books whatever. I never had a fantasy about being Dr Doolittle or anything, I just love watching animals speak.
When you’re not working, what do you like to spend time doing?
I was listing my favourite things in life to answer this question: buffets, maps, cycling, lists… then I realised I don’t do much that isn’t somehow work. But if I did it would involve eating at as many buffets as possible. And if there was a map between them, like some treasure hunt, I’d be in heaven.
Where did you go on your last holiday (or vacation)? And where would you love to visit?
I only really travel on work. I went to Albania a few years ago and it was incredible, I would like to visit Japan more than anything.
I don’t do much that isn’t somehow work. But if I did it would involve eating at as many buffets as possible.
Your favourite music videos (by other people) in the past year?
I basically like anything [Brockhampton rapper, director] Kevin Abstract is involved in.
What are your favourite currently-running TV shows?
I’m more a film person. But I thought episode 6 of The Watchmen was incredible, even if the rest of the series wasn’t my thing. And like everyone else, I think Atlanta, Chernobyl, Barry and season 2 of Fleabag are brilliant.
What’s the best movie (or movies) you’ve seen recently?
Atlantiques was a great finish to last year. I think 2019 was the first year I could remember in a while not falling in love with as many new films as I do usually. But in terms of old stuff, Rebels of the Neon God and Dust in the Wind were big moments in the year for me.
Favourite music artist(s), and favourite gig(s) in the past year?
Best gig was Avalon Emmerson DJ-set at Corsica. Best music - I went through a big Finn moment in the middle of the year, I Know I Know had me completely.
Best book you’ve read, and/or best exhibition you’ve seen recently?
Best recent books read, one old, one new: Ben Lerner [Leaving The Atocha Station, 10:04} and Flaubert’s Parrot [by Julian Barnes].
Exhibition? probably Chicago Imagists at Goldsmiths (poster below). I’ve always wanted to see Jim Nutt’s work in real life.
Favourite food and/or favourite restaurant(s)?
I really like Pret a Manger. I like their cauliflower cheese. I like their tuna cucumber baguette. I like their cranberries wrapped in yogurt. And the one pound ginger bread men/women. Getting lunch from Pret makes me really happy.
What’s your favourite political or charitable cause, and why?
It was anything related to Remain! Ha…
Getting lunch from Pret makes me really happy.
Best recent purchase?
That’s a really hard question… I’ve just realised I don’t buy much. I kept one of those blindfolds you get on planes recently and have been sleeping on a few sofas in the past few weeks, finding it in my bag which was like finding something really useful your Mum packed for you and you didn’t realise until you needed it most.
Work & Life - balance/ imbalance out of five (1 for imbalance; 5 for balance)?
I mean, I’m very happy, but my work life balance is terrible. It’s definitely 1, but that’s what I like at the moment at least.
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