Australian director Tenika Smith on balance, storytelling and her latest work
Interviews • 6min read
Interviews • Written by Genero
We recently premiered the stunning official music video for ‘Sounds Like You‘ by Audience Killers, which was commissioned via Genero and directed by the talented filmmaker Seb McKinnon from Five Knights Productions.
A beautiful tale of a young girl who finds a fallen star, the video is a captivating little story, and you can watch the full clip above. We caught up with Seb to find out more about his visual style, creating the film and shooting on the freezing coast of Canada.
Filmmaking becomes incredibly fun and exciting when you or someone from your crew says Wait, what if we did this! In those moments you become a kid again.
Audience Killers 'Sounds Like You'
I actually studied Illustration and Design in Montreal, and my first job out of school was working as a concept artist for the video game company Ubisoft. I was also discovering music production at the same time, so I was painting all day and making music at night after work. Music opened paths within me I never knew or felt before. Visions, stories, characters, scenarios would sprout within my imagination; things coming from a subconscious place, not from thought but from pure emotion. I just felt within me a necessity to bring them to life, and the best way to do that was through film.
My best ideas have come from music production, and then, in turn, working on films inspires my music. For me, the two art forms feed each other continuously. Luckily, my brother Ben was developing his filmmaking craft years before me, so with his help, support and guidance, I was able to jump into that relatively quickly.
Thank you! The story of a young girl discovering a fallen star and attempting to put it back where it belongs is loosely based off a storybook I’ve been working on for a few years with humanitarian/fair-trade foundation Pure Art. I illustrate a yearly Christmas card collection for them, featuring a similar fantastical concept, and 100% of the profits go to sending children to school in impoverished areas of the world. The story is ongoing, and in a few years, we’ll have enough illustrations to publish a children’s book.
Of course, there is always a part of me that looks at my artwork and wonders if there is a way to turn it into a film or video, so when I discovered the Audience Killers brief and heard the song, something clicked and I felt things matched up perfectly. So I simply took the premise of the children’s book, put an original twist to it, and it took a life of its own the more I listened to Sounds Like You. Ideas like the star attached to the fishing rod, the meeting of the old fisherman, the grand finale on the boat are all ideas born from listening to the track. That’s when I got excited and opened up Photoshop to create storyboards and concept art with digital painting tools.
It is always a challenge, but you just have to be persistent! And to have a clear vision from the beginning certainly helps, but I think it’s important to leave breathing room and keep an open mind from beginning to end on a project, in order to allow new and better ideas come to you. Filmmaking becomes incredibly fun and exciting when you or someone from your crew says Wait, what if we did this! In those moments you become a kid again.
This is my 3rd project shot in Newfoundland, and I’m familiar with the moody wet weather it’s known for, but I didn’t expect it to be so cold. I mean, I knew it would be cold, but not that cold. It was difficult because we were working with a 6-year-old girl who had to wander around with no hat and no gloves when the camera was rolling. She could barely grasp the fishing rod at times. Apart from that, it was magic.
Newfoundland is truly one of Canada’s gems, especially if you’re someone who enjoys rugged, desolate landscapes and the sea. Certain parts of the island feel truly mystical. There’s a strange and unique energy about it that keeps drawing me back!
We wanted to shoot on Red Epic or Dragon, but when we crunched the budget numbers during pre-production we had to find an alternative. Ben really knows the Sony Fs-700 well, and paired with the Odyssey 7Q recorder, we were able to capture images in 4K and get those nice slow-mo moments. Pairing the Fs-700 with a kit of Zeiss Superspeeds worked wonders for us in the past, especially on our Kin Fables Trilogy, so that’s what we did. We then had a gimbal and easyrig set-up for the boat scenes, to assure smooth movements, and the rest was mostly shot on a tripod.
Everything was shot with natural light in Newfoundland, so we simply made use of reflectors and diffusers. In the city, we used existing street lights, and a small portable LED light for close-ups. Not only is Ben the best cinematographer I know, but he’s also an incredibly gifted colour grader. All the scenes on the boat, for instance, where shot during the day, and I was amazed by the final look he achieved.
Some of Five Knights Productions’ regulars: 1st AC Benjamin Granet, Stephen Robusto on Production, Simon Lacelle on Sound Design. They are a core part of the team, and we’ve braved multiple shooting adventures together! But a huge part of the credit goes to Jeanne McKenny, our Newfoundland producer, who aligned everything perfectly for us when we got there, and the VFX team, Sebastien Proulx and Nick Deziel, who despite their already packed schedule, managed to commit to this project with unyielding dedication and high spirits!
In truth, everyone involved was so helpful and willing, like the Newfoundland locals Gerald Leamon and Tony Coleman who provided the boats, and local Gerald Parsons, who played the fisherman. Marine Atlantic (they run the ferry between the mainland to the island) even sponsored part of our trip there! It was an intense shoot to put together in a short period of time and was only made possible thanks to the goodwill of all.
Yes. I think what I like most about that term, magical realism is the implication and importance of subtlety. I like creating videos with a fantasy element, but restrained and simplified. I’m after a purer state of magic, rather than something pompous or gaudy.
I’m actually really really happy that you and the client like it! This was my first Genero commissioned video, and I felt a greater pressure than usual to deliver the goods! I think Audience Killers really deserve to go big. They seem so passionate about what they do. The whole thing was a fantastic experience, with intense moments of exhaustion in between, but that’s filmmaking! I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more Genero projects! Thanks so much for the support.
A huge thanks to Seb for chatting with us!
Interviews • 6min read
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