This Week in Music Videos: A Conversation with Chris Toumazou, co-founder of Compulsory

Hello again, fellow readers. Jourdan here and I’m back again (yes seriously) with another great interview that I did with another well-established music video director.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to interview Chris Toumazou who co-founded Compulsory, a U.K.-based production company with a unique approach to making music videos and managing talent. The way in which Compulsory works is pretty similar to the way we work here at Us vs Film in a sense that we both discover promising new filmmakers before they break out into the mainstream.

In this lengthy, but insightful interview with Chris, he talks about the importance of catching and developing new talent, the ongoing success of Compulsory, his experiences in the weird land of Austin, TX, and his creative process as a director.

(UPDATE: If you don’t mind hearing me say “cool” or “awesome” way too many times, the link for the audio file of the entire interview is available at the very bottom of the article/post. Thanks for your patience and enjoy!)

JV: How are you, man?

CT: I’m good man! Thanks for having me! How are you?

I’m pretty good, dude! So how’s it over there in the U.K.? Is it hot, I presume?

Yeah, well it’s rarely really nice outside, so it’s quite hot and quite sunny, which is always good, so I can’t really complain, I guess. It’s pretty nice.

Awesome! [Laughs] But seriously though, to start things off, can you talk about Compulsory, the production company that you co-founded?

So basically, I guess the idea behind compulsory, through obviously what is now ‘Compulsory’ started with myself and Kieran Mandla, who’s my business partner and editor, and we were basically at university when I think we started. We were just wanting to get stuff done and we didn’t really have any money or anything and then we started doing corporate videos for clients and small businesses and then we started making money out of it, and we were like, “Okay, well you know, we realize we can make something out of this” and then we wanted to do something creative and for us, I think we’ve always just loved music videos and we’ve always grown up watching music channels.

Obviously, our generation’s music channels are very different to the early 90’s MTV music channel stuff, but nonetheless, we still love music videos and wanted to get into it and so I was quite lucky that some of my friends are in music and are doing quite well. And then… just through doing the mainstream corporate-y stuff just wanted to make a transition and then we did and then we started doing more music videos and started getting more interest from bigger record labels and then a bunch of the videos that we did ended up doing very well and were quite original and quite different to the mainstream stuff. And that’s how it all started really.

Awesome, awesome. So not only are you a director, but you’re also an executive producer at the company, correct?

Yes! So basically, I co-founded the company with Kieran and we basically are the Execs. And we also look after a bunch of other directors whose work we also just really admire and love and represent them for music video works within the UK. And the way the company works is like any production company structure where you’ve got a roster of directors, and that’s the way it normally works, and you get a roster of directors around the vibe or whatever it is that you feel you’re doing. And for us,  I think championing new young talent and stuff that’s really creative more than anything is what it’s about for us. So that’s how it works, and obviously, we have 3 or 4 producers freelancing and we have obviously different crews of people when we do a video. So 15 to 20 people depending on what your crew is needing for a video.

And what do you think was the video that really got the company noticed?

I think probably the first one, the one for My Panda Shall Fly “Opening Brace”-

That was an awesome music video, by the way!

Oh, thank you! I’m glad you liked it! Yeah, it was a lot of fun to do and I think it was great because (Suren Seneviratne) is actually a really good friend of mine and it came about where I just wanted to show people what we wanted to do. We’ve never really done anything like that before and didn’t really have the trust before to do something like that and then he was kind of like, “Yeah, cool! Just go for it!” He believed in me, which was really great and we came up with this concept. I went away with a couple of ideas that I had. I was watching a lot of European cinema at the time and a lot of it was quite cold and quite awkward and I think, weirdly enough, that’s probably how I got my style, I think – if I do have a style, which is now quite rapidly emerging.

And yeah, it started with that video and we shot on 16mm actually, which was, again, amazing to, you know, shoot your first serious video on film. And yeah, that’s the one that got the acclaim. It was doing ridiculous rounds on the Internet. I mean, it hasn’t got loads of views, it’s probably got about 40-50,000 views on YouTube, but I think it went around the right channels where it was one of those videos that, I think, because it premiered on Noisey and also because My Panda Shall Fly is quite a cool underground artist, I guess it was the kind of the video that people probably saw more within the music circles than the mainstream, which obviously was great because that got us the attention of more record labels and so forth.

And it got selected at South By Southwest this year, right?

Yes, and that’s the one that went to (SXSW), which was, again, obviously incredible.

And congrats by the way!

Thank you! Yeah, I know it was amazing that was such a cool experience […] Austin’s just the place that I think is just amazing because it’s such a creative place, I guess when obviously a festival like (SXSW) is one. But everyone is just really chill and everyone’s just championing new creative work, which is always great and the people that run the festival are just really good as well. They’re really interested in finding out about new and alternative music videos and short films and documentaries and stuff. So it was really great.

Awesome, awesome! Yeah, we’ll talk more about your experience in Austin in just a little bit. But going back to Compulsory… So Chris, can you talk about how Compulsory works, especially when it comes to developing new talent?

Yeah, so the way that Compulsory works is basically we are a small production company that deals with music video and small-scale commercial and branded content […] And the way that we use that structure within new directors  we represent is to try and get them to do music videos first because music videos, I feel, is a great stepping stone for anyone who wants to get into directing.

As much as it’s probably the most competitive industry, there’s something about it where  it’s built with a lot of people that are really creative and really want to make some great work and I think that for any director that wants to get in and find out what it’s all about, not even like the good points, which is getting your video out there but the stress of the whole thing, the production, and the good and bad points of any project that you’re directing, music videos is like a small compact version of making a short film or making a feature or making a documentary or something, and you’re working with a client as well, which obviously is a bit different, but the client/artist is like the script, if that makes sense.

Yeah, of course.

And the way that we work is we only really represent directors that we feel are fit within the Compulsory mould and then we try to get them work based on the work that they want, fundamentally, which I think we do quite well, and also getting them stuff that we feel works within the Compulsory model and what we feel we’re representing as a company.

Awesome! So it’s a great stepping stone for any young filmmakers out there…

It’s a lot of stress […] but the most fun I’ve had has been on music videos. I think there’s just nothing that compares to it… It’s a difficult industry and it’s very competitive. There’s just something about it… If there wasn’t, I don’t think anyone would be in it anymore, but clearly, there are a lot of people that are.

But you guys are doing really well. I mean, as far as I can tell based on your body of work that you guys have produced.

Yeah, we’re quite lucky. I mean, that’s the thing. We only really do music videos if we want to do them so we’re quite fortunate in that sense. We never  approached a music video just because of the financiers behind it, but I think that’s more of a company model and that’s, I think, the reason, the key to our success because obviously we’re a young company and we’re fully aware of that. But I think the reason why things have worked quite well is because we only really take on work that we feel passionate about, or that we like, and that drives us to want to make more work. And I think that’s the way we’ve started to make a bigger name for ourselves in the music videos and it’s getting bigger and bigger because we are picking work we actually feel that we like, for one thing, and then obviously, are passionate about creating.

So Compulsory has worked with a lot of record labels before. Which ones have you worked with?

I think we’ve worked with a few different labels, really. Both Independent and major from the likes of Sony and Atlantic records to RNS, Five Easy Pieces, stuff like that as well. In terms of working with different record labels I’d say the approach does differ somewhat. I mean, on a smaller video you probably won’t get a commissioner if it’s for a smaller record label, but you might just be working with a manager who acts as the commissioner. Or on a major, you’ll get a commissioner. You know, there’s a video commissioning department for each major record label, there’s 2 or 3 people that work full-time facilitating and delivering music videos for their artists.

Its been quite great, to be honest. […] There are different approaches to how you can work with a music video regardless of the record label. I quite like having a commissioner. Every time we’ve worked with one, its been quite nice, to be honest. We’ve never really had any issues or stress. Its always been quite supportive. That’s also down to the reason that we’ve got the work in the first place has been because people have reached out to us based on their interest in the type of work that we’re doing. So natively, there’s a certain level of respect there.

And with every record label that you’ve worked with, is there a specific approach or a specific process that you guys have to cater to?

I’d say there is something quite specific. Depending on the director and depending on the relationship, I think sometimes if you’re working with a major record label and you don’t have any affiliation with the artist, and you’re working straight with a commissioner, then it’s a more of a procedural way of working. Its quite structured and so forth, whereas if you’re working with a smaller record label and you’re working with an artist who’s more hands-on, who’s more creatively inclined with that video, what might then happen is you’re working more with the artist than the commissioner themselves.

That said, each way works. It just depends on how I think fundamentally, your relationship is working with whoever you work with. I think when I look at our work in general the best stuff and the stuff that we’re proud of has always been from the really great working relationships that we’ve had with commissioners and artists and all the other people in the music industry that facilitate music videos. We all just got on on a certain level where we just get each other and I think because we work like that. you come up with a better product and it doesn’t even feel like a product. It just feels like you had some fun with people that you know are likeminded and you’re just making videos, which is kind of cool.

And how often do you reach out to labels and brands, as opposed to vice versa?

We reach to brands and labels quite often as well, to be honest. You know, you gotta do that as well. I think being a production company, the way that driving new business for anyone that’s really savvy, it’s just about going out there not being afraid to say, “Hi, I exist! Do you wanna go for a coffee?” And I think if you’re that social person, then that’s how you’ll get some of the best work because sometimes you’ll get approached by loads of people.

We get a lot of stuff that comes through our end that, being honest, we might not even wanna do because the work might not be good or we might not like the artist or we might not just gel with whatever’s going on. But sometimes, the best stuff has been when you reach out to someone personally and go, “Hey look, I really like what you’re doing. We should maybe collaborate and so forth.” I think that’s happened with us with music videos. Definitely, artists have done the same with us, so we just thought, “Why not do the same?”

Yeah, I mean it’s all about getting into the pulse of what’s happening, basically.

Yeah, it’s literally just about keeping a finger on the pulse and just being able to know what’s happening all the time and just going out and just meeting people that you wanna meet. I have a bucket list of artists that I wanna contact and have been contacting […] I used to be quite the opposite way  in clients. I used to just get stuff someone through all the time because obviously when you get your name out there, stuff just floods through in anyway, but it’s nice just being able to go out and just put together that list of artists that you wanna work with and just going, “Hey, what’s up?”

So how does Compulsory separate itself from other production companies when it comes to representing new talent?

Okay, good question! I’d probably say that the one thing that we do when it comes to representing new talent and how that differentiates us from bigger production companies at the moment is that we don’t try to sign too much new talent that we can’t take on. So what we’ve done now, which I think that me and Kiran are very happy about, is we’ve created a mould, which is a selection of directors that feel like a bit of a collective. Like, there’s something very creative about all the work that we do and it’s not really pop-y or mainstream. It’s probably more quite out-there and quite alternative.

So by having a selection of alternative directors, obviously, that has an impact on the type of work that going to be bringing in. But at the same time for directors that want representation, if they were to fit into the Compulsory mould, I guess or whatever you’d call it, it’d be, I think, a specific type of original work that just doesn’t really feel like you’ve seen it before somewhere. I think for us, what we’ve always tried to do is we never try to represent loads of directors that we could never get them work because that’s wrong and unfair and it doesn’t really work.

I mean, a lot of the bigger production companies that have directors on their roster end up signing loads of people, literally […] 15 to 23 people. But realistically, no matter how big you are, the chances of you pitching, getting 23 people work within a month, it’s never gonna happen, ever. So I think for us what we’ve done, and even though we’re smaller, we’ve tried to keep a realistic selection of directors that we feel, first of all, work within what’s going on in the industry right now, you know? Their work is current, has got their finger on the pulse, and we try and pick directors that we feel not only do they work now, but they have some sort of longevity to them. It’s all about playing the long game anyway.

If you’re gonna be directing and you wanna just make music videos and make loads and loads of stuff, you’re gonna burn out within the next couple of years, or you’re just gonna be that guy or that girl that just makes  those types of videos that are just really commercial and no one really wants to see them. And then you’re never gonna really make a feature or do anything commercial or do whatever because you’ve lost your style. So for us, it’s basically about waiting for the right project for our directors and I guess incorporating a roster of directors that we feel is working for us as a company and that really works about what we’ve got to say.

So it’s all about compartmentalizing your roster and just really finding directors who really do represent your vision and also trying to nurture them along the way, right?

I think for us, definitely because we’re more of a creative-based company rather than a mainstream-based production company. We really take on projects that we want to take on more than anything and I think we’re very fortunate that we can afford to do that. Some people can’t and I guess that reflects on the type of production that they are getting involved in.

There are a lot of production companies that don’t do that and they just pick whatever. I mean, you know, they’re still doing very well, but they just have a very different approach. I just think that if I look back at the success of the past year of the pros and cons and what’s done really well and what hasn’t, the thing that’s worked for us has always been having a distinct vision, having a roster of directors that we actually, genuinely believe in, that we can get them work, and at the same time, just not having loads of directors that are never gonna get any work that are just gonna sit on a shelf somewhere.

Yeah, and speaking of your staff, I know Compulsory recently added a new director, Victor Pakpour to its roster…

Yes.

When it comes to representing new directors, does your company have any specific criteria for that?

Yeah, fundamentally, just hopefully work that we haven’t seen from other people before […] We’re a young company, which is one of our strengths and we try to play to that by championing other young creative people, so rather than sign a roster of people who are already established, not that there’s anything wrong with music video directors that have been working for years, but it’s just a very different process. For us … we want to be this intermediary where we always catch the talent  before anyone else has found it and wanting to nurture that. I mean it sounds really fucking cliche, but I guess just building on it and just bringing talented directors from whatever corner of the world they’re from and try to bring them and get them pitching on really cool work and that’s kind of how it works.

That’s really cool because you guys try to focus on developing new talent more so than finding people who are already established, right?

Yeah, I mean we’ve had talks about established directors and we are still in talks with some established directors joining the company the more that our acclaim is building and growing, the more people want to be a part of what we’re doing. I think there’s nothing wrong with it, I’m not opposed to it, but I just think that the best talent at the moment is coming from people that haven’t been in the industry because they haven’t been I guess not exposed to the industry, but I guess they just have a different approach. It’s just coming from a creative space that’s so young and fresh and new… Obviously, that’s gonna translate well to the ideas and in the end final product, so why not champion new people and rather than just go to the existing same few directors that you see their names pop up all the time?

Yeah, for sure. Ever since then, the body of work that you guys have produced is really amazing and how often do clients reach out to you guys for collaboration?

In terms of […] labels or do you mean…?

Labels and brands, I guess.

All the time. We get probably about 3 to 5 pitches a week from record labels. Yeah, I’d probably say about 5 new clients  end up  coming through the door for a chat. Maybe every two weeks, something like that. It’s getting more and more […] You never know who’s gonna come through the door, but normally we’ve got some people that help out with sales as well and we get quite a lot of people all the time, really. I probably couldn’t pin down, but I’d say within two weeks quite a few people through.

You guys are really gaining some popularity, so congrats again!

Thank you!

And since most of your music videos and commercials have this surreal, but subversive quality to it, how much creative freedom do you guys have when it comes to working with music labels and brand companies? I mean, I imagine it varies, right?

Yeah, I mean it varies on the client and also it varies on the product that they want so if you’re doing a commercial and you’re doing it for a big brand, it’s  probably gonna be an unrealistic that you’re gonna get a lot of creative freedom, but then that said, the people have come to us for work in the first place -weirdly enough and I think it just depends on your company model- but for us, have been people that have been clients from all walks of major record labels or indies or bigger brands or smaller brands have always come to us because they’ve been like, “Okay, we like what you’re doing. It’s very different.” So what we try and do is encapsulate what exactly it is that Compulsory means to them and try to translate that for whatever different project it is.

Awesome! And going into your accolades for just a moment, you guys were nominated at the UKMVAs for the music video that you did for the band Tropics for their song Home and Consonance, which is an amazing music video, by the way and we’ll talk more about that later, did you get more clients after that?

Yeah (laughs). Yeah, a hell of a lot! I think that’s the one that was like, “Okay, cool. These guys are serious.” And then that really changed the game for us and also the funny thing is the artist and their management reached out to us after the (My Panda Shall Fly) video […] Someone sees one piece of work and if they like that, then you’ll make another piece of work and if that does well, then you’ll get more clients. It’s a bit of a spiral, which has always been great, I think.

It just goes to show that work begets more work.

Yeah! […] It’s not that I don’t believe you can’t work up in the industry, but I think the reason why we put together our production company was because we knew that, in terms of creativity, you can work and grow and grow as a director […] It’s kind of like if you want to be a director, and this is the thing that I love about all the directors that we’ve got on our roster is that I really have a lot of respect for them because they’ve literally just gone out and gone, “You know what? Screw it. Today, I’m a director. I’m gonna direct stuff.” And they’ve just gone out and done it and it’s been great.

And Max Maccabe, one of the first directors on your roster, he recently got nominated at the Berlin music video awards for the music video that he did for Moody Good, is that correct?

Yeah, that’s it.

Cool! And what was it like for him and for your company just to get recognition at that?

Yeah, I know it’s amazing! It’s really interesting, obviously, seeing that. It’s putting into action that their words are really spoken to you about just now, which is we just want to champion new young talented directors that got fresh ideas who have got the potential and Max, he’s always just been one of those guys as long as I’ve known him. Funny enough, he was actually at university with me. He was a year above me at university and he always had something about him. He was always a really creative person and he’s just got really good ideas and he’s just a great person to be around because he’s so humble and he’s just got really great ideas.

And he did this video for Moody Good that we got him through MTA records, which is a record label in the UK that’s run by the artist Chase and Status, who are really great artists and they’ve got this really great record label where, similar to us, they’re championing really cool new music and Max just seemed to be a perfect fit. And the video’s pretty good, obviously, and that’s how we got nominated. It’s good to see, first of all, his first real live-action piece that he’s done get the acclaim straight away and its got him a nomination for “Best Director.” I mean, that quite incredible.  We’re really proud of that and its been great ‘cause we really want to get him to do some more commercial work now and also some bigger videos so it’s great.

Cool! And congrats again to you guys, especially to Max Maccabe!

Thank you! I’ll tell him. Well, he’ll hear the interview (laughs). But I’ll let him know.

And going back to your experience at (SXSW) this year, what was it like for you guys to be recognized at that festival especially in a different country?

Yeah, that was insane! Being honest, and obviously we know (SXSW) was like a big deal, but we didn’t realize it was that much of a big deal to be turned up. This is a bit of a rubbish analogy, but it’s like when you’ve got that badger around your neck and you walk around Austin ‘cause you have to have it around all the time, people do look at you like you’re some sort of like weird doctor or something. They expect you to be really cool and stuff so yeah, it was a lot of acclaim a lot of respect because obviously, they like the work and people take notice of you and obviously, they acknowledge the fact that being in a festival is quite prestigious for (SXSW), which is great.

Awesome! And so how’d you guys like Austin?

Oh man, Austin has got a special place in my heart. It was probably one of my favorite places I’ve visited outside […] Well, just in my travels in general really. There’s just nothing really like it. […] London’s very populated very heavily and there’s loads of people. I’ve been to L.A. I’ve been to Paris and a lot of cities. Whereas Austin feels like its own little small world, which is obviously really cool and the world’s inhabited by loads of creative people. And I guess that might also be down to the festival itself, but the experience was great. We met a lot of equally creative people out there, made some great friends, met some people from the U.K. out there, actually funny enough ‘cause it’s a small world.

Did you get to check out a lot of bands over at (SXSW)?

We checked out a few. Well actually, we met up with Tropics and Cloudboat, who I did another video for just before I went out there actually, and met up with some management from here that we knew and then we checked out a bunch of new people. We went to the Huh What and Where party, which like Kaytranada and guys like that who are doing really big things in electronic music now. So we went to that and went to just a bunch of more like record label-y kind of stuff so we didn’t really see much live music I’d say, but a lot of more performance stuff and lot of electronic music, which is quite different to band stuff.

Sounds pretty fun! There’s like a mixture of business and pleasure at the same time. And so I think we’re going off track for a little bit, so let’s go into your work as a music video director. How would describe your approach to making music videos? ‘Cause some directors like to compliment the artist and their songs and other directors  construct a narrative out of the songs while others prefer to make music videos that are purely based on emotions and feelings.

I mean, it’s such a weird one. I think I’ve got my process, which basically is… I just think it’s just my own specific process, this is quite personal I guess, which is I like spending time with the artist, like first of all, the one thing I say is for me to do a music video, it takes a lot. Not because I’m really picky, but just because I have to really connect with the song to actually like and want to do it and have a passion to do it so I end up spending a lot of time with the artist before anything happens. […]

We get pitches from major record labels and that’s very different, but if it’s a smaller artist or someone that’s upcoming from a cool independent label, I’ll spend a lot of time talking to the artist figuring out what the feeling they had when they made the track or what it is that they wanted to convey. And then after that, I’d just go away and isolate maybe an emotion or something that I feel relates to that, that might be quite personal to me, and try and put something of myself in the video that’s relatable. And that’s how my style works, really. I think it’s just a case of not really drawing from lots of other music videos  even though I’ve watched hundreds of music videos, but it’s more about the relationship with the artist and how that ends up bringing its own organic end product.

Not only is it based on how you feel, but the artist as well.

Yeah, I mean that was the thing  about Tropics. It was really cool because we would have so many talks beforehand. I remember because me and (Chris Ward) from Tropics are really good friends and he’s one of my closest friends. We’d always bond over references and more importantly, what the song meant for him and then how I had an idea that I felt would fit that mold and go from there.

Yeah, it’s a good segue for my next question. So going into the Tropics music video, which is, like I said before, an amazing fucking music video, I did this article, which was a compilation of great, lesser-known music videos of 2013 and I really wish I added that video into the list!

(Laughs) Oh man, I’m glad you liked it that much! That means a lot, actually. I think for me, it’s definitely one of my favorite pieces of work that I’ve done. I’m quite weirdly connected to the work that I make quite emotionally. I think it all comes from a space where I’m really in a certain mind or something, which sounds really wanky, but it’s true.

But it does show in the video, though. But what I love about it was the twist in the middle. Without giving too much away, what was the inspiration behind it?

[…] I got this idea from Chris where it was quite a melancholy track and it was about this feeling of being lost […] When he made that, it was about going back to a place that you’ve known but then going back there and having no connection with it and feeling quite dead. And this idea sparked with me. Just that lonely, isolated feeling that you can sometimes get in life and certain scenarios […] And then I translated that into a concept and that’s kind of how it came about, really.

But yeah, the music video does start off on a really melancholy tone, but then it does turn into something that’s really very intimate and… a little heartwarming, if that’s a correct way to put it.

Yeah, that’s the intention. I didn’t want to have something where at the end of it you didn’t really have a grounding for it. it’s interesting because that’s probably the most resolved video that I’ve made. Actually (My Panda Shall Fly) is pretty narrative […] But yeah with that, I think it was just about this isolation… That was the main theme and the loneliness and relationship in general.

Cool, cool. And you recently directed a music video for the band Cloudboat, which was another awesome music video, by the way, which looked like a very surreal musical. Since you shot the video on 35mm film, can you talk about the process of shooting in that format?

Yeah, I mean basically, shooting on film in general is probably the best way to learn how to shoot a video, really. It depends on what you’re like as a director. Some directors like to do multiple takes and do loads and loads of coverage whereas for me, I’ve always known exactly where I want to go and exactly what I want to portray within a vibe or a sense of the frame. […] shooting on 35mm is very expensive, so it needed to be a video that I knew what I wanted to get from. The process was quite interesting… Tropics was the one that was shot on digital and that you get playback […] You get to replay what you’re doing and get to see what the take was like.

With film, you don’t really get to do that if you’re shooting on a lower budget. You’ve got standard def monitors and it’s more about you directing from eye and you really seeing the work of the actors in the flesh than just staring at a monitor and just being like, “Yeah, that’s fine. That’s cool.” And that was really nice because that was very similar to the way that the (My Panda Shall Fly) was shot because that was also filmed on 16mil. 16 or 35, it doesn’t matter what it is. If you shoot film, it’s just a very different process to digital. And one thing that I think is definitely very helpful to me as a director, especially as a young director, I just realized that it’s a medium that definitely fits the kind of work that I’m doing.

I mean, obviously, another thing about film is obviously when you finish with it, you’ve gotta wait ’til you go to the lab and then you gotta wait ’til it gets processed and then you gotta get it transferred and all that kind of stuff, which obviously, some people might be a little on edge about. I love that. It’s just amazing. It’s like a kid at Christmas, really. You just wait to open your presents, which is obviously what you shot a couple of days ago.

Yeah, I mean it makes the production process worthwhile, you know?

Yeah! It definitely keeps you excited and you lose sleep so it’s pretty good! It keeps you awake.

Basically you just have to shoot everything and just hope for the best afterwards.

Well yeah. But it’s not even a case of hoping for the best because obviously the thing is if you’re gonna shoot on 35, you’re gonna shoot on film in general. You need to know where the hell you’re going […] It’s good for a young director, but also it’s bit of a catch 22 because if you’re a young director and you don’t really have that much experience or you don’t really know where you’re going with an idea, then it screws you over because you really need to know what you’re doing for it to come out well.

Of course.

I’ve been quite fortunate that, like I’ve just mentioned, for me, […] when I’ve had an idea, when I’ve had a vibe, or when I’ve had a treatment, I’ve always known and have this really strong connection with what I want to say, what I want to achieve and  portray. So I guess I’m quite glad, but then also it’s been quite intuitive. I’ve always known where I want to go. And also, having a good director of photography makes it possible to shoot on film and to get the look that I do because I always collaborate with the same  team and that’s also helped me as well.

Awesome! And the fact that you preplanned everything… I’m pretty sure it made everything faster for you, right?

Yeah, we had maybe like 30 minutes of film, something like that…

Oh wow.

But not much at all, so it was just a case of, you know, you gotta just practice before you let the camera roll […] We were always practicing and making sure that we got shots that we wanted. Experiment with a little bit, obviously, but we did that without shooting the film. And then there were a couple of shots that we had some film left over that we experimented with after, which is also great.

Cool. And I know I- This is another question I asked to David Wilson like a month ago, but are there any particular music artists  that you’d love to work with someday?

Yeah, there are loads […] Have you heard of Mount Kimbie?

No, I haven’t.

Mount Kimbie are this amazing electronic duo from South London and they were on a small label called Hotflush Recordings and they’ve just gone to Warp. They, weirdly enough, on the bucket list of artists have been there […] I think they’re quite big and quite respected, but they’re not mainstream at all. They’re just incredible. Their music is so atmospheric and so profound. It would be an absolute honor to work with them. So on the off chance that Mount Kimbie are listening… Yeah, Compulsory. Just hit us up! [Laughs]

Yeah, if any commissioner is listening to this interview, please hire Chris Toumazou to direct an official music video for Mount Kimbie!

But yeah, anyone from Warp records just hook us up! No, I’m joking. But yeah, there’s Mount Kimbie and I mean, I think it’s probably for me, music videos, weirdly enough ‘cause I listen to a lot of electronic music and lot of not-quite-mainstream music. It’s like smaller artists are probably more intriguing to me than major artists. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to do something for a huge artist. I think it’d be great, and I think it’d be quite interesting ‘cause obviously I think that I’m building quite a distinct style in my work now. That’s obviously quite intentional and that’s about me but also about the connection that I have with the artist most of the time. And I think it’d be interesting to translate that with a bigger, more commercial artist as well. But I think in terms of artists that I like, Mount Kimbie, something with Boards of Canada, but with a big budget would be quite cool. […] The lot from Huh What and Where, like Kaytranada and stuff. I think they’re great artists. Anyone at 4AD Records or XL … There are a lot, basically.

Cool. And the fact that you work with smaller musical artists, it also corresponds with how you work with directors who are starting out and they’re also developing their talent along the way, right?

Yeah, I think the thing is, it’s quite weird because actually now because obviously the music video industry is very small and everyone knows everyone. Speaking to some of our friends who are established music video directors in a sense they’ve done really big videos, it’s interesting because everyone seems to want to do the smaller stuff and I think the reason is because there’s just a level of creativity and also with independent artist and smaller record labels, there’s a certain approach to the music that I guess is quite similar to the reason why people want to make music videos is ‘cause you want to provide your artist but also an audience with an idea or with a look or with a concept or something that feels quite original. Well, I think good directors want to anyway. It’s helped a lot because obviously the directors that we have wanna work also with the artist that they like, which are also not necessarily like mainstream as well.

And so any other projects that you’re currently working on?

We’ve got about 12 videos that we’re pitching on at the moment across the board and then we’ve got a bunch of other things. There’s a documentary that I’m gonna be working on at the moment, but I can’t talk too much about.

That’s okay.

We’ve got some commercial stuff on as well, but I can’t talk about the commercial stuff either. But yeah, in terms of music videos… Yeah, this is really annoying, I guess I can’t talk about it, really. But yeah, there’s a fair few things going on at the moment, which obviously I’ll keep on a loop and let you know and fill you in.
For sure, and we’ll show it exclusively here on Usvsfilm.com, I think. [Laughs] So you are working on a documentary. Is that gonna be your first feature film, or…?
It’s a music documentary, so it’s not gonna be like a feature-length thing. It’s gonna be quite a small thing, but it’s more of a creatively driven music documentary on an artist.

Cool! Well, listen Chris I’m very grateful to speak with you today, man and best wishes to you and the folks over at Compulsory! And where can people find you in the interwebs?

Ah, the interwebs. If people wanna hit us up, they can hit us up on twitter. Our twitter’s (@Compulsoryview) or our website compulsoryviewing.co.uk. Or Vimeo. And also, if there are any young directors that have some great work, we’re always looking for new talent as well so if there’s anyone that wants to get in contact, we’re always happy to lend a hand or give some advice and just talk to likeminded creative directors.

Well you read it here, guys. I’ve no doubt that Chris Toumazou and his production company are gonna keep making great work and will get more attention from more clients. Hopefully, one of them will be Mount Kimbie. Keep a lookout for Chris and his production company because we’re definitely gonna hear back from them in the near future.

A million thanks again to Chris Toumazou and folks at Compulsory and thank you, fellow readers! Take care.

Here is the link to the audio file of the interview:

 

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