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LBB Film Club: Every Carcass Like a Diamond


Favourite Colour: Black explores the distorted experimentation and ethereal influences behind his dark and abstract, genre-defying film, writes LBB’s Ben Conway

LBB Film Club: Every Carcass Like a Diamond

Favourite Colour: Black is the alias of Chris Turner, a commercial, music video and film director, represented in the US by CASEY. As well as working with moving picture, he has also worked as a photographer, specialising in black and white portraiture. Known for creating striking visuals, his innovative use of lighting and penchant for the stylish and abstract, his projects have been screened at award shows and festivals around the world, including Raindance, The London Short Film Festival, The Berlin Fashion Film Festival, OneDotZero, ASVOFF Paris, The BFI Gothic Season, The San Francisco Dance Film Festival, 1.4 and more.

In the commercial space, Chris has brought his unique flavour to projects with many household names including Jaguar, adidas, Honda, AMC and Sprint, as well as with his videos for a diverse range of musical artists such as Birdy, Hurts, Jay-Z, Jax Jones, The Vamps and Gazelle Twin. Recently, Chris released a new short film, titled ‘Every Carcass Like a Diamond’. Blurring the lines between performance, fashion show and cinema, the film is most comprehensively described by the creator as “an abstract fusion of analogue video, photography, poetry and the designs of Jivomir Domoustchiev.” 

After it premiered at Istanbul Fashion Film Festival 2022, LBB’s Ben Conway caught up with Favourite Colour: Black (Chris) to get a peak behind the scenes of this intense and visceral film. The filmmaker shares how he made the video ‘just to make something’ and even edited it himself so that he could experiment with the stylised, lo-fi footage - as well as his desire to channel the monochromatic magic of 20th-century European cinematography.

LBB> Firstly, wow! This film is like a demonic fashion shoot (in the best possible way). Where did the initial creative spark for this film come from? 

Chris> Thanks! I guess that’s what we set out to make. Like most of my own personal projects, it was a case of a set of disparate elements all coming together at the right time. I’d just worked with Alina [Allison] (the model in the film) on a narrative short film, and I’d recently got back in touch with the designer, Jivomir Domoustchiev (Jiv D for short!), who I used to work with years ago. Myself and Mark Prime (Word Cellar)  [writer of the film’s poem] had talked about making a video piece as a follow-up to a poetry/imagery ‘zine we made together in 2020. Suddenly it all clicked into place.

LBB> Did you use Word Cellar’s poem as inspiration for the visuals? Or was it the other way around? You’ve worked with Word Cellar [Mark Prime] before on a print project: ‘OF HOLLOW DREAMS’ - what is your creative dynamic like?

Chris> The poem was written specifically for the project. Mark and I had some ideas about the themes, and then I just left Mark to write it. Once he had finished, I started to lock down the design of the film based on my reactions to the words. But yes - it was also a continuation of our ‘OF HOLLOW DREAMS’ project. Mark and I have worked together for years, we met when he was a creative on a car commercial we did together.

We have so much nice imagery from the shoot, including a set of stills by photographer Teri Varhol that we’re also going to create a companion print piece to go with the film. 

LBB> How did you create the eye effect that appears at the beginning and end of the film? It’s quite eerie!

Chris> One of the things I was planning to do for a specific scene was to recreate the in-camera ‘glowing eyes’ effect used in the original ‘Blade Runner’ film. Ridley Scott and co. did it using two-way mirrors to help reflect light from the eye’s retina directly into the camera lens. However, one of the DV cameras we used to shoot our film happened to have a night vision mode which just created the effect automatically. It looked great. So, it was much easier than I’d thought it was going to be.

LBB> There is a fashion shoot feel to the piece - did you take inspiration from the fashion world? Who did you work with for the costumes and scenery/props?

Chris> The costumes are by the stylist/designer, Jiv D. We worked together years ago and had recently talked about doing something together. I sent him a treatment which was all black and white - very lo-fi, textured imagery - and then gave him free rein as to how to interpret the look, using his own designs. 

LBB> The flashing lights also give the impression of flash photography at a fashion runway/shoot - similar to your ‘HALLOWED’ film for the English Ballet!

Chris> I just love strobes! Can’t get enough of ‘em.  

LBB> The music is also a key element to this project - how did you work with Edward Blakeley on this film? Did you have any tracks or clips to inspire you or shoot to?

Chris> Edd is amazing. We’ve done lots of commercial projects together, and we’d discussed doing something more experimental for a long time. He scored my recent narrative short ‘Leopard Heels’ at the start of 2022, and so I asked him if he wanted to do something darker and more abstract. Luckily for me, he said yes. I built a temp score using all sorts of random stuff - a lot of ‘90s industrial music - and once the edit started to fall into place, I gave it to Edd to reinterpret in his own way, using the temp track as a tonal brief. Each scene needed its own unique pace and tone, but it all had to feel like it reflected the same mood. Edd nailed it almost on his first go.

LBB> The production has a lo-fi feel to it, what was your camera and lens set-up(s) for this film? Did you work with any interesting rigs or technology on set? 

Chris> I’ll take that as a compliment! Yes, it was always the idea to create visuals with a lot of texture and noise. I didn’t want it to look clean. We had a C300 camera there to shoot some scenes, but it was a backup, really. Much of the main footage was shot on VHS and DV cameras, and then digitised from tape. This meant we had three cameras rolling on set, so I could operate one of them myself. VHS is so fantastic to work with. When you’re digitising the footage, you can pause, stop and rewind the tape, capturing beautiful glitches and distortion that it would take ages to fake in post-production. 

For the background, we used a projector to project various imagery - landscapes by Teri Varhol, snow and weather effects, and a whole load of abstract patterns and animated typography. 

LBB> You’ve worked in black and white plenty before - more so in your still image work than in videos - what do you enjoy about working in this style? And how did it affect your production process?

Chris> There’s a quote by [legendary Canadian photojournalist] Ted Grant that says, ‘When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their souls’. I shoot portraits on 120mm and 35mm film and I just find that black and white seems to show a different side of people. 

In terms of moving image, I love the ethereal aesthetic of black and white films like ‘Wings of Desire’ (Wim Wenders), ‘Orphée’ (Jean Cocteau), or more recently, ‘Ida’ (Pawel Pawlikowski). I’m often looking to recreate that kind of on-screen magic. 

There was a practical issue too. Because we used a few different types of cameras, the look of our footage was really mixed. Also, on the day, I dropped the hired VHS camera and broke something (oops) meaning we could only view it in monochrome. So, making the final film black and white helped unify the material. 

LBB> How involved were you in the edit process? What were some of the challenges and key ideas you explored in the edit?

Chris> I edited this film. I wouldn’t normally do it - I have a few great editors I usually work with. But this time I just wanted to experiment and do a deep dive into the footage we shot. I don’t know how I would have briefed an editor on this, so I just had to find my own way through it. The challenge was to make it feel like it had some kind of structure, as it wasn’t actually shot with any in mind.


LBB> What is something that you’d like the audience to take away from this film?

Chris> We wanted to make something that used words, images and music in an exciting way. It’s not a short film. It’s not a music video. Every now and again I need to make something for the sake of making something, with no specific end goal. I hope people can appreciate it for what it is. And of course, as with all the best poetry, interpretation is the random factor. People will respond to the words in different ways and find different meanings in them. I find that exciting. 

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CASEY, Thu, 12 Jan 2023 18:10:00 GMT