an interview


Fellow collaboraters Rob La Terra and Karla Gilbard (KAIAR) interviewed eachother about the importance of sharing a visual language when approaching a collaboration.

K: What’s the importance of visual language and how did you go about implementing it for the Human video?
R: In film terms, visual language relates to the type of artistry you use to convey emotion in order to best tell a story. Our language is spoken through lighting, framing, colour palette, the editing style, acting, the list is endless. But each project also needs a different visual language to best represent that story.

For example, if you want to tell a story about two people falling in love (excuse the cliche) then you’re going to come up with a visual language that best conveys that emotion. In Human we wanted explore the beauty behind pain and the breaking through of that external wall that most people hide behind in order to not feel emotion so we created a specific visual language that would hopefully convey that sentiment. We took what are perceived to be beautiful objects and broke them down. We shot a lot of close ups to really magnify what was happening on screen. We opted for a 4:3 aspect ratio to make the world feel compressed. We shot in harsh and brittle landscapes. We employed practical effects which created that fractured look during your performance takes. But this doesn’t mean I’d use that exact same visual language on the next project. The imagery constantly needs to adapt, change and be tailored toward the project in order to it justice.

K: What tools, networks, and resources you each use to connect with creative community how effective they are?
R: If I want to look for creatives to collaborate with there’s heaps of ways to do it. If you're willing to get out of your comfort zone and message someone there’s an abundance of different online platforms for all different types of creative mediums that allow creatives to connect. Things like facebook groups, forums, blogs etc, just google, it's not that hard. I mean I found you [KARLA] on Triple J unearthed and contacted you to do our first music video together. It's a cop out to say there's nothing out there or there's no one to collaborate with, there’s heaps of creatives out there who want to work and want to produce art. Don’t get in your own way.

K: The idea of 'finding your niche'
R: I guess there's a misconception that you need to be able to cater for everyone. They’re called generalists people that can kinda do a bit of everything and that’s great, but someone who really has a niche has mastered something very specific. In a creative sense it's a style that they've developed and honed in on and are now getting commissioned because of  that vision, that “visual language”. This is something that develops over time though, it’s not innate at the start of your career, its something thats nurtured by constantly doing the work, constantly reviewing and assessing your work and figuring out your tastes, what makes you tick and slowly you build that niche. I think it's a very rewarding way to go about approaching creative work especially if there's no one else doing what you can do. You’ll find you can get a lot of work out of it.

K: Have you found your niche?
R: No, I don’t think I have. I don't think I differ greatly to other filmmakers. I haven't really found a way that I can contribute or express myself in a different capacity. I’m influenced by a lot of other visual artists and I experiment with and mimic a lot of their style but I guess that’s just part of finding your “niche” or style and the way that you want to tell stories.

K:How do you approach each collaboration?
R: If we get specific like a collaboration with a musician as a filmmaker, I like to see it as the artist already has the vision- at least emotionally- otherwise the music wouldn’t exist- the lyrics wouldn’t be there without some kind of idea. So my approach comes from wanting to stay true to the artists music and wanting to do the song justice. It’s not about me injecting my own ideas into it until I’ve understood fundamentally what the songs about, where the inspiration came from and the artists way of thinking. Technically speaking, we both come from very different disciplines, the one thing in common is we’re both storytellers. The artist might have a vague idea of a scene, a feeling or emotion or in your [KARLA] case a reference of a visual style. It’s my job to build on that aesthetic, to build a story and bring my own creativity to it as well. The thing about a collab is that it’s a two or more people working to towards a common goal, it’s balancing different ideas and it’s obviously going to flow a lot easier if you’re all in a trusting relationship where you can share ideas freely within a safe and judgement free environment.

R: Past personal experiences/anecdotes when it's gone wrong/right in a collaboration?
K: Because you’re giving away a percentage of control to someone else it's inevitably going to change, so you need to be sure its changing for the better.

In the past I’ve thought that getting along with someone on a personal level means that you should collaborate but now I don’t think that's effective. It’s like you get along because you’re similar but working together creates a whole new dynamic and I think because of this you inevitably meet dead ends- probably because you are too similar.

I’ve been in situations where myself and my collaborator couldn’t see eye to eye visually. I think in that situation it became about personal style clashes: their style was a story projected on top of another story, and mine was to serve the story more literally.

R: What do you look for in a collaborator?
K:  I guess the natural move is to go with someone who’s just passionate, but it’s not enough! What I’ve found is that you need a dynamic where one team members strength fills in the gap of another’s weakness, a really simple example of what I might need would be somebody who has a better idea of timelines and deadlines and therefore help to execute the project smoothly, because I tend to umm and ahh a bit.

I think again, you need to be in a dynamic where all parties are serving the project, rather than serving an ego or one-sided vision. When you (Rob) and I first met to discuss our first project together - Know Myself, your first questions were “what does this lyric mean, what is the story?” and then you went away to find your own truth within that  - I think that created a really strong foundation for complete collaboration, and that’s what I look for.

R: And I guess to add to that - maybe that's crucial to finding a collaborator as well is that you’re not afraid to say “mm nah i don’t really like that”, or to challenge each others visions, push aside the egos to ultimately better the project and the final piece

R: How  easy can it be to find people who share your vision?
K: Sometimes it happens in a roundabout way and they find you. I think this happens on all levels of collaboration; even in the management field. Like someone who knows their own craft well, has stumbled across your work and already knows what your artistry is about before they’ve even contacted you. I think if somebody knows they can contribute or be an extension of the project they’ll generally seek you out. That’s my experience with it, but I think it goes both ways. I think it can be easy (as it has been for me) to find that person who shares your fundamental mission.

R: Does every collaboration have to be a success?
K: No, I think unsuccessful collabs are part of the process. It's like a job- if you see collabing as such there’s going to be a period where you have your training wheels on and there’s going to be hiccups and I think everyone's guilty of that. You become a better collaborator and you also know what you want in the future.

R: I think it’s important to be aware that not every bit of work you produce is going to be perceived as a “masterpiece,” occasionally you will do shitty work which I guess is just part of being an artist.