After a childhood remaking film classics and cobbling together fan videos for his favourite band, as soon as he found out he could earn dosh from directing there was no looking back for Stevie Russell. The director is now signed to Sonny London, won at the YDA in Cannes last year and is currently working on a series of commercials around the world. The ‘curly haired little nutter’ from Dublin done good.
LBB> You grew up in Dublin – what kind of childhood did you have and what kind of child were you?
SR> I was a curly haired little nutter, basically. It was a great childhood that I carried, nappy and all, into my twenties. I used to mess around with cameras and make fan videos for Korn and remake things like Terminator and Jurassic Park. Bit of a cliché I suppose, but what good times they were.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes?
SR> There are quite a few – like everyone I guess. Bacon, Hopper, Michael Jackson, Turner, Goya, Kubrick and Fincher are all sound lads. That's a tough question to be honest. So many heroes. Lately, I have been loving what Adam Berg, Fredrik Bond and Ringan Ledwidge do. Those guys are heroes to young directors. Their work never follows fads or current styles, it’s just solid story telling. That’s what I would love to be doing.
LBB> When did you first decide that film was the medium for you?
SR> Pretty early actually. Once I realised that you could do it professionally I was sold. That said, as I reached the end of school I did look up a few ‘proper’ courses. Thankfully I took the film school route.
LBB> Where did you learn your craft?
SR> I studied cinematography in college and learned a lot out of that. I always had my sights on directing but knew that learning a craft would help, and I think it did. I shot stuff solidly after I left college and made the move when I was 25. I can get a lot of material in a day as a result of knowing what works visually – shot to shot, what will cut and what movement will translate well depending on the feeling I’m trying to get.
LBB> You won at the YDA in Cannes this year – what effect has that had on your career?
SR> I hope it has put me in people’s minds. I am working away on commercials all over the place and have travelled a lot this year. I’ve also been chipping away at some smaller passion projects when I get some time, but still waiting for that piece that will lift me up to the next level I guess.
LBB> Your video Kodaline asks quite interesting questions about monstrosity and challenges our reactions to people who are different – where did that story originate?
SR> The idea is a section of a bigger story I am developing at the moment. It is basically Oliver’s [the main character] story. Music videos often have no budget so I sometimes use them to try out ideas for bigger stories. This one really worked out well. I think people are always messing with that theme (Who’s the monster?) and it seemed like a nice simple way to do it. That said I didn’t really intend it to hit people that hard. The response on YouTube has been great and people really relate to Oliver. Originally, it was just about putting a really strange character in a really mundane environment and seeing what would come out of that. We all know what humans are like, so it kind of took on a life of its own. I think the quiet moments in his home work nicely as you realise everyone just goes home at the end of the day and tries to relax, except some people are carrying a ton of shit with them.
LBB> Which piece of work are you proudest of and why?
SR> The one I am cutting right now (I think)… Watch this space!
LBB> When developing treatments, what is your process like? Do you hoard ideas in sketchbooks or are you quite spontaneous?
SR> I am more spontaneous. I just grab an angle and run with it. What else can you do? I used to keep little books but I kept losing them. Now I just hoard stuff I love on my computer, scan things in from books and pull it up if I think it relates to something I am working on.
LBB> As well as your more dramatic music videos, you’ve also done your fair share of comedy, such as your condom ad. Which mode do you prefer working in – comedy or tragedy? Why?
SR> It is so hard to come across good comedy. You see scripts and you sometimes con yourself into thinking ‘I can maybe make this funny’. It’s better to walk away I think. I would really love to do more comedy though. As long as there is good story telling involved, I am happy in any genre to be honest. That is the most important thing for me and it is still the thing that people relate to most in commercials or any medium for that matter. If you give viewers characters and scenarios that feel real and are intriguing, then they get sucked into it. Then you have them.
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