Posted 27 June 2017
Interview by Indi Davies

How filmmaker Elliott Arndt made the most of his network, and Facebook, to create his latest music video for City Slang

Creating psychedelic worlds and wonderfully weird characters, Elliott Arndt is a London-based musician and filmmaker with a fast-growing reputation for striking video pieces. Since graduating from London College of Communication in 2014, his output has included over 15 music videos for various artists and a short film for Channel 4’s Random Acts series, commissioned by the ICA. As one fifth of Cristobal and the Sea, Elliott serves as one of the band’s core members as well as managing all of their supporting visuals. With an upcoming album due for release later this year, he was tasked with creating the video for the band’s single ‘Goat Flokk’ on a modest budget. Here Elliott describes his process for the project, and how he makes the most of a talented pool of friends, and Facebook, when producing with limited resources.

Elliott on set

Project Background

I joined the band Cristobal and the Sea a year ago, but I’ve been friends with them for a while, and have done all of their artwork from the beginning. We recorded a new album in August which is due to come out in September, and the album campaign started with the release of this single. This was the first track of three, and it needed a video, so it was only natural for me to make it.

The label we’re signed to, City Slang, have always totally trusted my vision and allowed me to create whatever I thought was right for the band. I’m usually put in charge of the video right from the start, then once the ideas come together I’ll create a treatment. There wasn’t really a pitch at any point, and the treatment was mainly for the crew, so they had a clear idea of what we were going to be doing.

I kind of set my own brief for this video. I’m in charge of every aspect of the band’s visual output and had been working on the general aesthetic of the new album for some months – from the album artwork to the press photos to the videos to the tour posters. I had to make the video fit within that world, also keeping in mind the next music videos for the campaign, and make it all interlink.

‘FLO’ for Channel 4’s Random Acts, directed by Elliott
‘Vanishing Twin Syndrome’ by Vanishing Twin, directed by Elliott

Research Insights

The way I approach projects of this nature really varies. Sometimes there’s an idea that I’ve been thinking about, and the right band or brief shows up and I’ll take that opportunity to bring it to life. And sometimes the brief is so specific that it’s only a matter of giving it my own spin. Other times the band is involved from the beginning and we’ll write the idea together, but if the brief is completely open I’ll improvise the whole thing. It can also be a more rigorous brief, pitch or development and shoot. In most cases I’ll be working on ideas on my own for a few days before I send anything over.

In terms of research, I watch a lot of music videos and films – although not as many as I’d like, and look at a lot of photography to inform my practice too. Quite a few friends of mine work in the same field, so we’ll share and discuss things we like all the time. I think it’s crucial for a director to have a good grasp of the different worlds involved in bringing a vision to life – whether that’s set design, new technologies or costume – so I’ll stay informed on more specific fields too.

If I get the job through friends or other contacts, the first few people I’ll get on board are the DOP and a producer (if I can afford one). And if I’m working with a production company they’ll be with me from the start, helping me develop a treatment, working out budget and generally making my life a hell of a lot easier. For this piece I worked with our DOP and colourist Joe to research the look, costume ideas and location, both in pre- and post-production. However, as the piece was very spontaneous and quite raw, I’d say we did less research than on most projects.

“I’m usually put in charge of the video right from the start, then once the ideas come together I’ll create a treatment.”

Elliott’s treatment for the music video
Elliott’s treatment for the music video
Reference images from Elliott’s treatment
Reference images from Elliott’s treatment

Development and Production

I started working on ideas for the video during the last few days of March, then sent over the treatment on April 6th, and we had two weeks to get everything together. We shot on the April 18th and 19th, but since we went on tour with the band, we didn’t have time to edit straight away.

When you’re working on low-budget shoots you have to juggle a lot of different tasks, which makes it difficult to really pay attention to one thing at a time. I think I was mainly trying to stay focused on the impression the audience would take away from the video, and the band’s new material in general. It can be quite difficult to do that when I’m going in deeper and deeper into the production of the video, so it’s always a challenge. But whatever the budget is, and however the audience reacts to the work, what’s really important to me is that the crew are happy with the outcome.

Filming the longboarding scene
Filming the longboarding scene
Filming into the night
The camera set-up for the longboarding scene

I owe my life to Joe, our DOP. He’s extremely skilled and a truly dedicated friend who’s been by my side since the beginning of my career. He’s worked tirelessly (usually for little or no money) on all sorts of really whacky projects of mine, and he really inspires me when we work together – I admire his passion, dedication and the way his craft remains at the centre of everything he does. Our assistant producer Ted Kayumba also spent an unhealthy amount of time building and working stuff out for the shoot, and our drone operator Ed Stone drove down from Somerset just to get these couple of shots.

As usual, one of the biggest challenges is making things work on the available budget, and everything that this entails: shooting in particular locations without permission (using drones, smoke grenades and blocking roads), shooting with natural light and the sun setting too fast. But I guess all these things are also what made this shoot so fun.

Aside from that, a really important tool for me on low-budget shoots is Facebook. I’ve cast so many people through putting the word out on there and found so many props, costumes, locations, crew members – you name it. The rooftop location in this video came about through Facebook posts and friends tagging their friends. So did Harriet, our longboarding queen. Then on more physical terms, it was essential to have the van to drive around in, and our good friends (the ever-amazing Deadbeat Films) lent us all their camera equipment for free.

“I’ve cast so many people through putting the word out on [Facebook] and found so many props, costumes, locations, crew members – you name it.”

Stills from the final music video


I finally sent over the first cut on May 4th, and the final on May 8th. Then Joe did some colouring work on it, and we had it completely ready on the 12th – we decided to go with the third cut we made. Once again the team was really happy to go with whatever I wanted, so it was quite flexible. We delivered the film as a compressed, YouTube-ready file along with an uncompressed file. The label and our PR team (Stereo Sanctity) worked on the release for a week and the video premiered on May 17th over at The Line Of Best Fit. We’ve had a really great response so far, from the team to our friends and the press. It was doubly exciting for me because we’d been working on this new music for months and hadn’t shown it to anyone.

The final video for Cristobal and the Sea’s ‘Goat Flokk’

Interview by Indi Davies
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