French digital artist and director David Tomaszewski on keeping busy during lockdown, making an innovative new music video for French artist TESSÆ and a sort of “french James Bond”…
Hi David! How are you today?
A nice cup of coffee and chocolate-filled cupcakes always make a great day. How are you?
I’m feeling positive thanks!….Please introduce yourself and what you do to our readers?
I am a London based director and digital artist. I do music videos, feature films main title design, short films, VFX, art drops (sticking free drawings on walls so people can pick them up) , and I enjoy wandering around London for inspiration.
You recently worked with French artist TESSÆ on her new video – how did that come about?
The label commissioner and manager at Belem / Wagram knows me well. We’ve been working together for 11 years now, on a regular basis. We just finished 2 videos for another artist from her roster, Seb. And I sent her test footage I did using videos of London shot with my phone, riding my bike, and combined with visual effects and motion design. The label, the artist and her manager liked my tests/proofs, and I sold them an idea for that song, with a simple concept : an amusement park / ghost train of “bling” and instagram “celebrities”..
It was filmed during a ‘locked down London’ – what was that experience like?
For the city parts :It was nice and fun in the way I enjoyed riding all over London on my bike, discovering new places, new streets, all empty. It was like filming the “recce”. It had a slightly bitter taste because of the covid-19 situation, and London looked like a ghost town. But I try to see a silver lining in it as it was very easy, since I could go and film everywhere I wanted, without a permit. I could also shoot fast since I was never disturbed by any traffic, or any unwanted extra in the shot, or any white van than can basically ruin the esthetic of your shot. I tried filming retakes for a short film I’m editing now this week, but all streets are busy again, and you don’t have as much freedom to film now. I don’t see how I could film that amount of footage, even if I had a professional camera, a filming crew, and permits, like I usually do. For a music video budget, iphone + bike seemed like the only valuable options (as drones are not allowed in London without a permit too). At the end, it ended up being a total of 6 filming days, 6 different bike rides, for London only.
For the performance part, the talent was filmed in her sister’s bedroom, in Marseille, France, on an improvised blue carpet / mat as a blue screen backdrop, with the help of her manager and a videographer. I directed the filming on zoom, from my flat in London, and it went really well at the end. I also contacted FPV drone pilots from various countries. 25% of the video is edited with their amazing shots. It was nice to virtually meet talents around the world. I truly hope I can meet them someday and collaborate with them in real life
Finally, I filmed all the POV / gunshots in the living-room, using our personal blue screen backdrop. My partner and producer-actress Naila Mansour- who also happens to be gun trained for film – did all the shooting guns performance. A music videos usually has 1, 2 days or 3 days of filming. This one was probably more like 8 days total…
How have you been keeping yourself busy in lockdown?
Besides the Tessæ “Bling”, music video, I am now busy working on a main titles sequence for a french feature film, a sort of “french James Bond” named “OSS 117” with academy award winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist), directed by Nicolas Bedos (La Belle Époque). We did the filming back in december 2019, and I am now editing it and creating all the VFX and motion design, so it looks like a cool tribute to 1980’s cinema and the James Bond main titles sequences I enjoyed watching growing up. I also started a personal project, a short film we finished filming in our living room (and a lot of streets of London as well) with Naila as the lead, and some additional guests. It started as a joke, like “let’s shoot something”, like a home video, but it is now getting more and more professionnal and ambitious so I can’t screw it up. Another challenge!
Who are your biggest influences?
Chris Cunningham, Jean-Paul Goude, David Fincher and Paul Grimault, to name a few. But for the Tessæ video, music video director Jim Blashfield was my main inspiration. His videos for “Sowing the Seeds of Love” and “Leave me Alone”, really impregnated my mind as a kid.
What was it like working with Sia?
Sia is known as being mysterious and not showing herself in the spotlight. So I never had a chance to meet her. i don’t think she wasn even in the studio recording with Gims, the featured artist, on that song. So we cast a young actress portraying her for that video, like she does for her own music videos and own albums.
What is your work process like
I’d say first: a lot of research, sightseeing, wandering around, and doing nothing. Inspiration and ideas come from these. Then I start writing, drawing/sketching. For a video : I listen to the song on loop, many many times. Sometimes ideas come right away, sometimes I need another walk out of the house for ideas to come. But usually, I stick to my first ideas and develop. Artist and labels always need reference pictures, or videos. Most of the time, I create them with my own drawings, or photoshop pictures / collages, and if I have time, I edit a video mood board. Then you have to do a budget with a producer and production manager.
Once the script and budget are green-lit, I scout locations (which is one of my favorite part of the process), and start sketching wardrobe, or looking for reference pictures on internet. For art department, it’s the same process. And then you meet every department chief, art director, director of photogaphy, 1st AD, wardrobe stylist… And you do reunions, pre-production meetings. That was the case from 95% of my videos I’ve shot in the past 10 years, before Covid-19 happened.
On the Tessae Bling video, the process was different in the sense I had to do everything myself : scout, ride, light, frame, shoot, re-shoot etc. No crew. Just me. The only thing in common with every other job pre-lockdown is the post-production process : I edit, color grade and do all the VFX myself.
What are your plans post-lockdown?
I can’t wait to be on set again and see my friends, colleagues, and crew. I miss that part of the job the most. And also, one of the best part of being a director is travelling and discovering new places and new filming locations. I also have a feature film in development, so I expect to work on that project as much as possible if investors are ready to get movies made again. The future is still blurry, but I hope to keep shooting, keep doing more music videos, but also content, commercials, shorts. On long term: platform shows and features.
If you could collaborate with anyone – dead or alive – who would it be
Boards of Canada. Zero 7. Peter Fox, and his band SEEED. Jonny Greenwood. Jackson and His Computer Band. David Arnold, and Trevor Horn… To name a few.
What’s been the biggest challenge in your career so far?
Every project is a challenge as it seems like I always try to avoid doing jobs to easily. It it’s too easy, it can’t be good. Maybe I have to work on that 😉
The biggest challenge is to keep creating new, fresh content, and original ideas.…Maybe the most challenging shoot was in December 2019. We were a crew of 45-50 people, in these beautiful woods : Puzzlewood, Gloucestershire, on muddy paths, chasing the sun (who sets at 4pm at that time of the year). We only had 1 day of filming. So in order to get a good music video, you better bring back a lot of footage. It was super tight, but thanks to my amazing 1st AD Luke, we always get the shots we need.
Where can we find you online?
Any last words?
To you : Thank You ! 😉 And to readers : Keep creative !
Photo by Bernard Testemale