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November 29, 2006

Rudebox Shorts

Rudebox Shorts is a collection of seven short films commissioned by Robbie and created by some of the best independent film-makers. Inspired by a selection of tracks taken from the best-selling No.1 album, Rudebox, they are not simply music videos, but stand-alone short films; viciously funny, touching and wholeheartedly original... And we love them.

After seeing them we're sure you’ll want to know who’s behind the films, so we caught up with the filmmakers to find out what the films are about and just who the creative talents are...

Burlsem Normals

Written and directed by George Kay and Jim Field Smith

About the director:
Jim Field Smith is a young comedy writer and director who has worked with some of the biggest names in British comedy including Ricky Gervais and Armando Iannucci. After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Studies, he did the obvious thing and moved into the world of TV production, working at Talkback Productions on a number of comedy shows, before going freelance and setting up Idiotlamp Productions with long-time friend and collaborator George Kay.

Together they have made the acclaimed mockumentary Missing Moscow and the mischievous documentary series My Friend... both shown on Channel 4. Jim has also directed a number of award-winning commercials and virals, including the hugely successful ''Ave a word' campaign for MINI, which picked up a Silver Lion in Cannes; a major online campaign for Virgin Casino; and the spoof documentary '2054' for agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine, which was recently awarded a Silver Pencil at the One Show awards in New York.

Jim is also a Perrier Award nominated comedian, with an equally broad writing and acting CV. He has a wide range of broadcast credits across TV, film and radio. George Kay is Head of Development at television production company TwentyTwenty, who have been behind award-winning shows such as That’ll Teach 'Em and Brat Camp.

About the film:
"Our ideas usually revolve around either subversion or the blurring of the lines between fiction and reality," explains Jim. “George, who wrote the script, had the idea of a kid who is planning to run away from home – the classic child’s stunt which we thought pretty much everyone would have had experience of. But the twist in Goodbye to the Normals is that it quickly transpires that the kid genuinely is planning to run away from home."“George gave the kid, Magnus (played by Alfie Field), very adult-like dialogue to enhance this effect – and then I chose to shoot it in a way that exaggerated this – placing Magnus in the driving seat, and his parents (played by Steve Furst and Juliet Cowan) on the back foot."

“We were exceptionally lucky in finding Alfie for the lead-role – we saw over 30 boys for the part, and he really stood out. A deceptively tricky part to play, let alone for a seven-year-old, and of course, he is a real star – definitely someone to watch for the future."

“I was delighted to be able to cast Steve as the dad – he’s an actor and comedian who I respect hugely, as well as a friend, so it was particularly satisfying to work with him. And the same goes for Juliet – only a small part in the context of this little film, but she has a wonderfully expressive face and a brilliant naturalistic style that brought so much to the film in such a short amount of screen-time."

Viva Life On Mars

Written and directed by Owen Silverwood and James Tonkin

About the directors:

Owen Silverwood has worked on a variety of music and visual arts projects, both as director and composer, including award-winning short Tomorrow Knows. A graduate of Leeds College of Music, he joined Hangman Studios in 2006. This is the first music short he has directed.

James Tonkin graduated from Rose Bruford college in 2000 with a degree in music technology. Since then he’s worked on an award-winning short for Adobe, and the DVD album for 1 Giant Leap. It was on the back of this project he set up Hangman Studios for music management company IE Music. At Hangman he’s has edited documentaries and commercials and directed music videos for Archive and Robbie Williams.

About the film:
Says Owen: “The story of an east-end cowboy, the idea was strongly inspired by the sound of the song, with its wild-west instrumentation. But it also came out of wanting to make a film involving clubland and the social circles that revolve around it. We combined the two and came up with the core idea of an old man getting ready for a Wild West party. “As the idea developed, it became clear that actually, we really wanted to make a pastiche of the old Western movies. We watched all the classics and managed to extract ideas that we could work into our film; technical things like framing, lighting and over-the-top sound design, but also story-telling devices such as scenes of confrontation ('The wrong saloon').

We felt it was important to keep the whole film light-hearted, because the song is so upbeat and doesn't take itself too seriously. But we also wanted it to have a bit of bite, and so our hero is brought back down to earth with a bump at the end of the film. The film is so fantastical that we wanted to ground it again and give it a sense of reality before it finished and we felt having him as our 'fallen hero' continued the western pastiche right to the last.”

Never Touch That Switch and The Actor

Written and directed by Ben Ib

About the director:

While studying Fine Art at Leeds University, Ben Ib's short film 'Collapse' won numerous awards and was screened on Channel Four's 'Digital Underground' season. Ben then took his experimental video art into the music arena, and started creating visuals for club nights and festivals. He held a residency at the Faversham in Leeds, toured with Paul Oakenfold and the Dope Smugglaz, and VJ'd live at festivals such as Homelands and Glastonbury.

His award-winning experimental shorts have been screened internationally at the Hanover Film Festival, AVE festival (The Netherlands), One Dot Zero, Cinefeel and the Edinburgh Fringe Film festival.

After graduating, Ben moved to London and began directing music videos. His first video, for Har Mar Superstar's 'Brothers and Sisters’, featured Kate Moss in a bear suit. Since then he has worked with Goldie Lookin' Chain, Roni Size, Razorlight and Jamelia. He recently completed visuals for Robbie Williams' world tour.

About the first film, Never Touch That Switch:

“Never Touch That Switch came out of an obsession with the history of magic. A friend got me in touch with Ray Teller from Penn and Teller, who I'm a huge fan of. Teller revealed to me a whole history of the 'Magic Saw' trick from the 1930s,” explains Ben.

“Although the trick has been executed amazingly over the years, I loved the idea of discovering the 'worst ever' performance of this trick, so I invented an imaginary late 80s Russian magic show in which the trick was performed unsuccessfully on live TV... with tragic (and thoroughly unsightly) results. Imagine if this had actually happened on live daytime TV. It would be like Richard and Judy meets the Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

About the second film, The Actor:
“The Actor was inspired by the current boom of US screen-acting and method-acting seminars, which Robbie alludes to in the lyrics to the track. I researched plenty of instructional DVDs, brochures and seminars from courses based in and around Hollywood and I came to the conclusion that a) you’d have to be insane to join one of these courses and b) if you did join your chances of becoming a famous actor would be instantly reduced to zero."“The pinnacle in this genre is the classic series 'Inside The Actor's Studio' with James Lipton. It is truly inspired American programme-making. If you can watch this programme without being sick, then this little film is not for you. Apologies in advance for any offence caused. If, however, you share my feelings on the subject, (and evidently Robbie's, judging by his most excellent lyrics) then you will appreciate that the only possible course of action, should you find yourself enrolled on one of these courses, would be to pull down your pants and show these people your hairy arse. Remember... it's not acting it's reacting!”

Kiss Me

Written and directed by Joe Tucker

About the director:

Joe Tucker is currently at the National Film & Television School, about to graduate with a short animated film which features the voices of Steve Coogan and Ian McKellen. “I've made films, as an amateur, since being young, when I used an old Super 8 camera,” says Joe.

About the film:
Says Joe: “I really liked Robbie's version of Kiss Me - it's a great pop song and the synth melodies reminded me of Spectrum games I used to play as a kid. When I heard his version I immediately had this image of some sort of huge creature, buoyantly strolling down a street, high-fiving people. I thought it'd be cool if he was a boombox man, 'cos then he'd be like some sort of walking party... Plus it seemed to fit in with the old school hip hop references on the rest of the album, but it was a more 'pop' image. And so I figured he should be carrying a little man on his shoulder, in the way a human might carry a ghetto-blaster. I wanted to get him involved in some sort of condensed love story because I figured that was a nice metaphor for pop songs in general and, thus, Tape Girl was born."
“We filmed it on this bizarrely warm day in mid-September and it felt like summer was back again - which was perfect 'cos it meant everyone came out to check out this crazy walking boombox that was strolling down a street in East London. Pete Wood, who played Boombox Man, is 6'9" and in costume (he's) over 7' tall, so it was quite a spectacle. The guy we got to do the high five was just hanging round on the street and he introduced himself to us as General Santana. I told him I thought he looked familiar and he said that was probably because he performs onstage with Babyshambles."

“It was a frantic and crazy day and night's shooting, but well worth it. It's something I'm really proud of. It was a massive break for me as a director and an exciting project to be involved in. There was an immense amount of creative freedom around the whole thing - it was a very generous project and a unique thing, I think, for such a big artist like Robbie Williams to be doing. Yeah, it was cool.”

Bongo Bong

Written and directed by Ken Wardrop

About the director:
Ken Wardrop graduated from the Irish National Film School in 2004, and has recently been appointed to its Advisory Board. His short films include the award-winning Dampened Spirits, Useless Dog and Ouch! His short film, Undressing My Mother, has received over 20 international awards including the Prix UIP at the 2006 European Film Academy Awards.The co-founder of Dublin-based production company Venom, he is also developing his first feature project that will hopefully begin shooting in summer 2007.

About the film:
“The idea for the film came from a conversation I had with a friend about a weird man that lived at the end of his road,” says Ken. “I was of the impression that every road had its own weird character and I started to gossip about my own respective weirdo. Eventually we concluded that these characters probably led far more interesting and happier lives than our own. I thought this would fit well with the lyrics of Bongo Bong."“The final film is full of characters that I cast from an extras website. I did an initial interview with all of them and worked with their own stories to keep it as real as possible. When we went to shoot each interview I would prompt them from the notes I had taken during the interview. None of them had acted before and I think this really helped when they delivered their answers."

“We shot Bongo Bong on Super 16mm film. The majority of the film was shot on a small road on the south side of Dublin. The opening sequence was shot in a fun fair and around the streets of Dublin's city centre. We had a relatively small crew of about six people working on the project over five days.”