Austyn Gillette 'Leaning Into Your Palms' by David Findlay
David Knight - 13th Oct 2023
Professional skateboarder-turned-musician Austyn Gillette and Agathe Rousselle - of the Cannes Palme d'Or-winning Titane - play siblings whose relationship is defined by the small moments, and yet framed by a catastrophic event, in a groundbreaking work by Canadian director David Findlay.
Findlay is the director of acclaimed, award winning short films Lay Me By The Shore, Found Me and others. The video for Gillette's Leaning Into Your Palms demonstrates that he is a filmmaker with a breathtaking range of skills and huge potential.
Firstly, as a sensitive director of actors, he creates a mood around his two leads with a cinematic sensibility that has the viewer on tenderhooks. Then quite seamlessly, he introduces a real blockbuster moment. It's a tracking shot, which starts with the brother and sister cycling along a road, and then almost imperceptably elevates into magic realism - a flashback to the event that shattered their lives.
It's an incredibly well-crafted and brilliantly achieved storytelling device which is both a departure from the character-driven piece that has preceded it, but also a crucial part of the greater whole, and vital element in guiding the viewer to connect with the characters - and ask more questions about them. When we come to awards season next year, this one is going to be involved.
Having been thoroughly wowed by this video, Promonews emailed over some questions to David Findlay about the Leaning Into Your Palms video. He kindly explained all...
PROMONEWS/DK: How did the project start? How did you connect with Austyn?
DAVID FINDLAY: I knew of Austyn as a successful pro skateboarder for a long time. A few years ago I discovered his music and really connected with it. So about one year ago I emailed him and we began a correspondence, looking for a way of collaborating. After some back and forth he sent me the demo to Leaning Into Your Palms'. That was very exciting. I knew instantly there was something special to be done.
How was the narrative of the video conceived? Any input from Austyn?
DF: After receiving the song we hopped on a few long phone calls and discussed where the song came from for him as well as how I felt listening to it. These were very rich conversations I look back on fondly. Austyn had an openness about him and I could just tell our sensibilities were quite congruent. Interestingly that's almost always been my experience meeting or working with people who's music I deeply connect with. In a strange way it's as if I know them already.
I went away for a few weeks and wrote a treatment, with pretty much full carte blanche from Austyn. I knew the song should be about a relationship. And I wanted to depict it from a perfectly equal and balanced perspective, in every way, shape or form. That's where the idea for the mirror shot emerged.
But I felt romantic relationships are so difficult to depict successfully in such a short amount of time. Somewhere along the way it all came together when I figured these two should be siblings. There is a sweetness there that I thought worked well and supported the song's more somber notes. Certainly, somehow, that is drawn from my own life but then at the same time very far removed from my own experience - just something that I, as the characters in the video, could imagine and feel very vividly. Austyn told me he loved it. I was actually quite shocked (and happy of course) when he told me he had no notes and was all in.
How much time did you have to prep the shoot?
DF: This was a "friend and favours" endeavour, no doubt about it. And when that's the case, that means that in lieu of resources you need time. So I flew to Vancouver on April 15 a bit more than a month before our targeted shoot dates. The DP Jeremy Cox and I spent so much time scouting and meticulously planning. That was a lot of fun.
A lot of energy of course had to go toward convincing people. Convincing crew to jump on, convincing locations, cast etc. It's all a bit exhausting but actually is in fact a part of it I like, assembling and cherry picking a perfect, compatible crew and cast.
We had to push the shoot a little bit once or twice. So all in all it was a 6 week full on prep time and 3 day shoot + what I have now infamously dubbed a cheeky "Day 0", and stealing the airport shot early on the morning of equipment returns.
And that amazing tracking shot - was it all done in-camera?
DF: That took a lot of preparation. We sent out casting notices all over Vancouver for a long time and reached out to close friends as well to see if they were keen to come out and participate in this thing.
Very generously, a lot of people showed! We had to be meticulous with the speed of it, how long it lasts and so on, so that it would perfectly fit in the song's finale. So again, it was a matter of finding the perfect location, and once we had it, a question of rehearsing as best we could in advance.
It was indeed all done in camera. A stabilized head was mounted to the front of a pick up truck. On the day I think we shot 6 or so takes. With the help of my 1st AD Brock Newman and the entire team we would review takes on the monitor and jot down precise notes to give to each performer and how to choreograph and time the whole thing. It was a real team effort but the hero here is Jeremy Cox who on top of framing and coordinating, mounted all these lights, assisted by his team, to create the beautiful silhouette effect.
How did Agathe Rousselle get involved?
DF: Like everyone I saw her in Titane and knew she was special. Funnily enough I first reached out to her American agent. He wasn't so thrilled at the idea and already expressed what the cost such an endeavour would entail. So I did what anyone would do and quickly turned around and reached out to her French agent. He put Agathe and I in touch.
We had a nice zoom call where we talked a lot about music and found our sensibilities and tastes were closely aligned. Then she mentioned the music video for Alex Cameron's Stranger's Kiss directed by Jemima Kirke as one of her favourites. And that's when I knew our minds were in the same place. She was game, ready to jump on a plane to Vancouver from Paris and it was on!
Did anything change in terms of how to tell the story, once you arrived in the edit?
DF: In my past few films, quite a lot happens in the edit. I make discoveries while editing, but also usually shoot a bit more than I need to Because in a way I know that, for example, out of say 8 scenes I shoot, not all of them will be home runs - that's just the truth. So I'll write more and shoot more than what I know I need, never quite knowing which are the scenes that will turn out amazing and which ones less so.
With this one it was a very different approach for me. I had very precisely pre-edited the scenes to the timing of the music ahead of time, which made me a little nervous to be honest. Most of it worked very well, but like with everything, some re-thinking of the order of certain scenes needed to happen once in the editing room, and that's where editor Emma Backman came in and did such amazing work. That mostly had to do with clarity, with understanding their relationship But in terms of story I'd stay we stayed quite true to the original intent.
David Knight - 13th Oct 2023
- Production designer
- Brendan Megannety
- Movement Director
- Amy J. Gardner
David Knight - 13th Oct 2023