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Interview: 'Axolotl' Director Tu Neill

Interview: 'Axolotl' Director Tu Neill

Friday 24th June, 2016 9:37AM

Earlier this week The Veils released their incredible video for 'Axolotl' the lead single from their forthcoming full-length record Total Depravity which was produced in conjunction with hip hop heavyweight EL-P. In the wake of the video's release UTR was lucky enough to obtain a wee interview with director Tu Neill and get a peek behind the curtains of the captivating clip...

Hu Tu! Can you tell us a little bit about your background - have you made music videos before?

I am a Fine Arts graduate from too long ago. Been living outside of Aotearoa since 2010 and making all sorts of stuff from music vids to commercials and documentaries. Mostly documentary work though. My creative partner Nick Dwyer and I made a series a couple of years ago called Diggin In The Carts about the history of Japanese video game music and we have a feature doc in development about Pac-Man as well as a series about new music in the Middle East.

Can you please describe the story behind the video?

There are loads of ways to read it and we wanted it to be like that. No specific agenda. Finn and I just wanted to have fun making something that paid homage to some of our favourite things in film and art. The song has a strong, dark tone and we wanted to make something visually that reflected that, without being too serious. So a B-grade horror film, set out of time and place seemed like a good place to start.

The landscape looks quite familiar, where was it shot?

We shot it over one night out on the dunes near Lake Wainamu at Te Henga on the Worley/Wheeler land. I think there were about 30 of us all up cast/crew. Tim Flower and I got there early around 2pm to do a walk through and we wrapped just after 7am. It was a long night but rewarded myself with a nude swim in the lake before I drove home.

How did you create those tentacles?

My art director Sinclair Lonsdale and I, along with the help of a few others, made those tentacles. Sinclair was the genius behind them though and did most of the leg work. We used, a big heavy chain with some tubes from Para rubber which he carved down to a point and then painted with black latex. Then finished off with some of that sweet as black slime. It was pretty funny lubing up a chain outside his garage in a gated community in Grey Lynn and then pulling a big thick black rubber tube over the top of it. Safe to say no one said hello. Sinclair got the slime made by some special FX dudes who made it out of the stuff they put in mince and cheese pies to make it gooey. I think they made it black with loads of instant coffee powder. Apparently it was pretty yuck but 100% safe to eat...

Did you lean on creative influences to come up with final concept?

Yeah totally! The whole thing is a homage to classic cinema. Specifically 50s/60s creature feature stuff and the odd nod to Jodorowsky throughout. We shot with old Kowa anamorphic lenses. We only used practical FX. I'm not massive on CG stuff. In fact every effect in the video is done with practicals. Tentacles and all. The ones which grow out of the main monster were done with ink being squirted into a plastic plate. The tree that grows out of the ground, all of it. Even the font at the front was hand drawn. I think figuring out how to do things practically is one of the things I love most about movies. It is the magic bit.

Was it difficult decision not to include an Axolotl in the video?

I heard they smell funny so nah not really.

If you had to pick the MVP on the day - who would it have been?

Really hard question as I can't stress enough how far above and beyond the call of duty everyone went that night. Very long hours for all, loads of mosquitoes and tons of black goo and sand. On the night it would have to be Ben Cragg who plays the Darwin character, by a whisker. We made him run up a lot of sand dunes. He also had to roll down a number too. Full commitment, no stunt man. He also had to put a lot of goo in his mouth repeatedly. All of this without a single complaint but as I say, a very narrow margin between him and everyone else on the night.

Video Credits

Director: Tu Neill
Producers: Alexander Gandar and Billie Ruck
DOP: Timothy Flower
Art Director: Sinclair Lonsdale
Costume: Gavin McLean
Makeup: Tanya Barlow
Gaffer: Richard Schofield


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