Christophe Collette

Christophe Collette

Aug 01/2013
by Glen Leavitt photography Neil Mota

If you follow Canadian independent music, you’ve probably seen the work of Montreal-based photographer and cinematographer Christophe Collette. He has provided the visual accompaniment to music by an incredible array of Canadian talent including Arcade Fire, Islands, and Coeur de Pirate. In addition to his music videos, Collette is a prodigious creator of artistic short films, fashion photography, and commercial spots (even if, God forbid, art and music aren’t your thing, you’ve likely seen Collette’s advertisements for Kraft, Home Depot, or Dell). Now Collette is preparing for the release of his first feature film, Brick Mansions, an action movie by first-time director Camille Delamarre, starring RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, among others. (Brick Mansions is the American remake of Luc Besson’s District 13).

Collette’s visual style is both nostalgic and forward-looking. His short films and music videos often combine older cinematic techniques like stop-motion animation with contemporary digital effects, and it’s often hard to determine where the old tricks end and the new ones begin. “I am very much interested in both older techniques and the cutting edge ones, but I often find myself seeking inspiration in films and photography from the early 1900s. I try never to copy but more to digest those inspirations and recontextualize them.”

Collette is picky about the bands he works with, seeking out sonic equivalents to the images he creates. “There is a rough poetic edge to the images I like to make, the music I listen to has the same attributes. Bands rarely are involved in their music videos to the point of selecting the cinematographer. It happens but it’s rare. The opposite is more common, I am quite selective when it comes to music videos. I really have to like the band, the director, and the treatment.”

Music videos in particular are dear to Collette’s heart, as they have been to other visually inventive filmmakers, like Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry. And while the music industry in general is not in hearty economic shape, that can have advantages for adventurous music video directors. “Music videos are a special medium for filmmakers, it seems like music videos are there to push boundaries and define new aesthetics, nowadays even more. Budgets are tighter than ever but everyone involved in the process gets a chance to do pretty much whatever they want, and that’s priceless. It is a beautiful territory and I will try to keep shooting music videos throughout my career to keep a fresh outlook and perspective on my craft.”

An action movie is a natural fit for Collette’s cinematographic style. His videos, often shot in dreamlike slow-motion, focus intensely on the movements of bodies in space. Aesthetic compatibilities aside, the move from music videos to feature films was a challenge for Collette, which he describes in quasi-religious terms. “Brick Mansions was (our) first feature film and it was a beast and a real baptism by fire for the two of us. Although a movie is a whole different ball game, the music video background we brought in helped a lot. We had very little prep time, so we had to be clever, efficient, and creative. I sometimes think of Brick Mansions as a music video that lasted 65 days!”

“The biggest challenge was the approach itself, Camille’s style meant multiple cameras shooting multiple angles all at once, I had some experience shooting with two cameras, but none with four or more.”

In addition to his work as cinematographer, Collette has directed many of his own short films and music videos, so I asked him if he had any aspiration to direct a feature film. “I have some ideas I’d like to explore in the long format genre, but for the moment I prefer dedicating myself to cinematography. I like jumping from one universe to another, working with different directors and exploring.”

What started in an airplane hanger has now become something of an annual pilgrimage for music lovers seeking one of most diverse festivals in the world. Iceland Airwaves 2015 served up an array of both established and emerging hip-hop, rock, indie and electronic music. Even larger than last year, the festivities were stretched over five days, November 4th-8th with over 240 acts appearing in over 50 official/unofficial-venue sites across the long weekend. From hostels and record stores to the Reykjavík Art Museum, the majority of public spaces were transformed into a stage. The opening night was something of an Icelandic showcase, as Reykjavíkurdaetur (translation Reykjavík’s Daughter) unleashed it’s 13 piece all girl hip-hop collective earning rousing responses with an explosive set at NASA. Dressed in nude body suit’s the girls took turns passing the mics to trade verses and deliver hard choruses shouted in Icelandic. Much kike SXSW, bands take the opportunity to play several shows over the course of the festival. Milkywhale (formed by choreographer Melkorka Sigríður Magnúsdóttir and musician Árni Hlöðversson of FM Belfast) had a string of sets including the festival’s opening at the very packed Laundromat Cafe. The post-pop duo are Iceland’s equivalent of a slightly


Mike Fleiss

We’ve all seen the bumper stickers – the line of rainbow coloured, collared bears dancing along the back of some asthmatic old car on its way to a festival. Beyond the bears, we’ve delighted in the genius ice cream flavour that is “Cherry Garcia,” or thought that wearing a wreath of red roses would be the perfect accessory to a rock show. The almost cult-like status of The Grateful Dead is so prevalent, so omnipresent, so engrained into our society that many people don’t even realize what the tie-dyed, trippy references harken back to. Which is a shame. Their music was innovative and spoke for a generation of young souls who couldn’t explain what escape they needed until they heard it booming out of a speaker during an acid trip. The idea of the Grateful Dead has somewhat taken over the music of the Grateful Dead for subsequent generations. Director Mike Fleiss has successfully managed to bring it back to the music with his new documentary The Other One. He lets the story of the band be told first-hand through the oft-overshadowed Bob Weir (lead singer, rhythm guitarist and writer) as well as 30 years worth of archive and interviews.