By BRUCE DENNILL
Gavin Elder began his career shooting music videos for the Springbok Nude Girls before moving on to film Duran Duran during a tour of Japan and, in turn, making Japan his home. In 2016, Gavin Elder was given the mammoth task of directing the David Gilmour Live at Pompeii show.
In terms of their being filmed, musicians have a different energy to many subjects – perhaps because they’re aware of “image” as a concept and are (consciously or otherwise) behaving in a way that lends itself to drama or interesting footage. Is this a factor in your career?
Not really, musicians are all quite different in the way they present their music. So I try to capture something that is unique about a particular artist.
How do fine artists differ in this respect? They might like to let the work do the performance rather than stepping out in public themselves…
I remember filming Wayne Barker in Nantes, France. He sat naked at a piano, covered in chocolate. Which reminds me – I must find that footage.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you fell into your initial line of work almost by accident – knowing the guys from the Nude Girls personally and then a serendipitous connection with Duran Duran in Tokyo. What, in technical or creative terms, have you retained in the way you work from that period?
I like a certain rawness to come through in the footage I shoot. I don’t think every shot needs to be perfectly lit or perfectly in focus, as the content is sometimes more important than the composition of a shot.
What have you dropped or refined in order to make your output more consistent – and is that an outcome you personally want or simply a more sensible commercial option?
Each project has its own character, and often the subject matter influences or dictates how I approach the style or look of a film.
How important is some sort of sympathetic or empathetic connection with your subject? Is having such a connection a prerequisite for satisfying work or do you also enjoy working across an emotional gap, for more corporate or commercial projects, say?
I think one needs to have an interest in the subject matter, the more informed one is about the subject the better. But you don’t have to be a fan of the artist.
Does scale play a role in this area – your David Gilmour concerts in 4K vs three-minute wine farm promos?
Scale plays a role in how the film is perceived. For [Gilmour’s] Live At Pompeii we had a global cinema release, and watching the concert at the cinema with Atmos surround sound is the closest thing to actually being at the concert.
Finding fresh angles to ensure that new work remains as highly rated as what you’ve already done must be interesting – for instance the microphone recording David Lynch’s voice as he went about his business for one short film. Gimmicks work but don’t necessarily sustain interest. How do you first come up with ideas and then filter them to see what works with what you want to say?
A few years ago, I edited a video for David Gilmour that he shot in Austria. He decided to upload it to an anonymous YouTube page. It’s the sense of discovery that makes this exciting.
I also once shot some very abstract footage in Japan on a 16mm Bolex camera and then edited the footage to a track by Felix Laband. It hasn’t had masses of views but it’s one of my favourite clips.