In Conversation with: Dan Swan
As part of Issue One Fragment got the opportunity to catch up with Dan Swan; the artist and film maker favoured by many in the music industry including M.I.A and Rye Rye about his debut film; Lux Laze.
Dystopia is in the very essence of Daniel Swan’s debut short film, Lux Laze, which is an evocative homage to the visual codes of science fiction.
A time traveller reaches an uninhabited single continent of alienating and looming cityscapes. Soundtracked by Jack Latham, who provides a guttural otherworldly feel; the film marks a visual high water mark for a young filmmaker who is making waves with his unique style.
So how did the collaboration with Jack come about?
Dan: Well, do you know the band Lightning Bolt? The drummer has his own project, called Black Pus, and they were originally going to score it, but because of touring they couldn’t. Then I had a week, and asked Jack to do it and he said yes.
So did you just send him the film and get him to come up with something?
Well, no, it’s part of the reason I failed Camberwell [College] actually. I was late finishing the film so I ended up handing in the packaging I’d made with a VHS inside, except I hadn’t finished the film yet so I filled it with episodes of old American sitcoms. Loads of old Will and Grace episodes I think. Then one day I got a call from my tutor saying he’d managed to locate a VHS deck, and my heart just sank.
Do you approach things the same way? Whether you’re doing a music video, or visuals, or a film?
The first thing I did were these collages of Youtube videos, they were short films made out of clips I’d got off Youtube, I’d left the sound hard rigged in, so that it can create its own soundtrack. I don’t think my method of working has changed much since then, except now I’m making these things myself rather than re-appropriating them. I like to use the wrong tools for the job. I liken it to making collages, when you can’t change everything and you have to use what you can use.
You’ve already developed a really unique visual style I think. Especially in Lux Laze where it really seems to suit this sci-fi dystopia the characters explore.
It was more about the visuals, and the style, than the plot. I knew what I wanted visually, and the hardest bit was trying to come up with a plot to match what I wanted to create.
Did you shoot Lux Laze straight onto VHS?
Yeah, which was a real hassle. I wish I had shot it straight onto DV and then moved it onto VHS, it would’ve been a lot easier.
What I especially liked was that, you know how people say sci-fi and fantasy work is really about the present, but Lux Laze isn’t, its so self contained.
People said that it needed some kind of social critique to it, but I don’t think you should approach making a film by saying ‘this needs to be an exploration of what’s wrong with society’, or ‘I need to be dealing with social issues’. I wanted to make Lux Laze because I watch a lot of sci-fi and wanted to reference certain things I love.
What have you got planned next then?
I’m actually starting work on a second sci-fi film, which is going to be a Fata Morgana (mirage) desert type film set in an uninhabited future. There’ll be a machine, the last machine on earth, which has to re-inhabit the earth through this creature, this mutated little thing. I want to get some sort of mutant reptile from a pet shop, but I don’t know how easy it’ll be to get one? It’s all resting on its star character really.
Pick up a copy of Daniel Swan’s Lux Laze over at his website here: www.danielswan.co.uk