Mon, 27 Jun 2022 11:32:00 GMT
Oscar’s first experience with a camera followed his love of skateboarding - he wanted to film himself and his friends, so he picked up a camera and learnt to edit so he could do just that. He credits that early experimentation with his lifelong interest in making films and teaching him a lot of skills in the process. He says that he’s always had an interest in cameras and describes working as a “one-man-band videographer” half way through his degree, working on projects for online magazines and filming corporate events. After graduating with a degree in Anthropology (he describes the discipline as a “self-reflexive medium obsessed with the act of observing” and advises burgeoning film makers to study it over a degree in film), Oscar started working in fashion, music, and advertising - he hasn’t stopped since.
Oscar has won a series of awards, including best director courtesy of UKMVA for his work on Bonobo’s No Reason music video and the Grand Prix at Cannes Lions for Nike’s You Can’t Stop Us. He’s also worked on music videos for Radiohead, Young Thug, and Slowthai; directed spots for Apple, B&Q, and John Lewis, and made a number of short films. Today, he tells LBB’s Zhenya Tsenzharyk all about the work that made him…
I don’t have any one person that I turn to, and I don’t have a protocol that I follow when I’m lacking inspiration. I will sometimes go to galleries - it’s always inspiring to see work, ideas, and visuals that you weren’t expecting. I recently went on a spontaneous gallery trip and saw Mark Leckey’s work which was really great. I love physical theatre, it’s an inspiring and fun realm; something in the tone of it speaks to me. It’s very inventive. The final one is dreams - I’m a massive sleep talker, sometime sleep walker, and I get sleep hallucinations, all of which I remember very clearly. My dream space is very close to the surface for me, in a way. Through that I get a lot of images that I wouldn't otherwise have access to in my waking life.
Music channels were a big part of my life when I was growing up. I remember watching MTV, MTV2, and Kerrang - I definitely had a little new metal rock phase. The video that really stands out in my mind from that era is Busta Rhymes’ Gimmie Some More, directed by Hype Williams. It’s completely bonkers - this little kid turns into a monster and completely terrorises his mum in this cartoon universe. It’s batshit crazy. I remember at that time starting to think that it would be cool to direct music videos.
I’m not sure I can answer this one - I don’t think there was ever a singular lightbulb moment. It’s because I’ve been doing what I do now from such a young age, messing around with cameras, from about 12 or 13. I always felt like I wanted to work in film in some capacity - I used to want to be an editor for a long time. And then I thought maybe I wanted to be a cinematographer. It was only by working on very early projects with a couple of friends that I realised, actually, I think I like coming up with the ideas more.
The director whose work I find the most influential is Roy Andersson. He makes very specific, vignette-based, dark and tragicomic work. It's all studio-based sort of recreations of a single scene with a static camera; it's very recognisable. And while perhaps it's not something I returned to, it's been absolutely key for me in I think defining some of my early creative decisions, and setting me down the path I did go down. I think it was from him that I developed a taste for sets and creating built environments, playing with physical effects, plus this visual minimalism - keeping concepts contained. I think it was him who influenced those early music video decisions, which have subsequently defined my style in many ways.
My trajectory from unprofessional to professional is quite blurry. If I had to pick, I would maybe say it was a music video commissioned through my agent by a big label for a band called Zebra. It was a great idea, executed poorly. We got a load of dogs, strapped cameras to them, and covered the band and their instruments in meat with the view of getting the dogs to film the video. It was absolute chaos; shit and piss everywhere. Sadly, the video isn’t online.
I’ve always hated advertising growing up, and I said that I never wanted to make ads. Ironically, I think my aversion to advertising is probably partly why I've ended up doing quite well because it's made me quite picky. It means that I’ve always been happy to wait for the right briefs because I always want to make work I’m proud of.
It’s the video for Bonobo’s No Reason. It didn’t start my career but it was the first time I felt like I'd really made something that spoke to the kind of the style, tone, and quality of the work I really wanted to make moving forward. And it had a big impact. People loved it. It definitely set me on the trajectory of my career.
There’s a documentary I made quite early on in my career, called A Second World. It’s about two things: abandoned Yugoslavian monuments and an old man who can speak to Aliens. I made that with my friend Ruben Woodin Dechamps, who’s a DP, long before anyone cared about what I did. We got an old Ford Transit van and drove around the Balkans for three weeks with a guy who was translating for us, sleeping in the car and making a film that I’m really proud of. It’s since been exhibited at the Getty Museum in LA and it’s been well-received generally. It has a longevity to it that a lot of the shorter form ones that only last a few months.
The first ever ad I ever made was a condom ad. And it got canned, thankfully. I’m delighted it got canned because I would cringe to death if it was released. I used everything I earned from that to finance my short film, Joy in People, so it was worth it and I would do it again for that reason, but it was definitely awful.
I have Charlie Sheen to thank for the ad never seeing the light of day. We had finished shooting it and on the last day of the shoot, the brand had signed Sheen to be their spokesperson - suddenly they didn’t care what we were doing any more. They just wanted a black and white interview with him. Thank you, Charlie!
I just worked on a B&Q ad which was a lot of fun, a very exciting one to work on. When I talk about my disdain for advertising, it’s opportunities like that that make it impossible to say no to because I get to go and build an insane set in Bulgaria and do something completely ludicrous.