British music artist James Blake announced his forthcoming album with the release of Big Hammer, and with it a music video directed by Oscar Hudson that follows a string of robberies.
“What I got from the brief was that the track and the album, broadly, was going to be a bit of a change of pace for James in a sense – that he was going to go back to his roots in terms of producing dance music, more than his recent output,” Hudson says, “and that that in itself was going to be a significant change or something slightly disruptive.”
Hudson came back with something just as disruptive to match. The video opens with four young people having a bite to eat, before the camera then reverses away from the scene: it’s attached to the car that the group have just ploughed into the restaurant.
Their trail of destruction continues as they get themselves ready for a day of robberies, smashing into stores selling swag bags, balaclavas, and hammers (and an ice cream parlour, because thieves have a sweet tooth, too). Somehow more euphoric or darkly humorous than sinister, the video is like a modern-day reimagining of Pulp Fiction, which of course opens with criminals in a diner.
“Most of the exteriors and smash-y bits happen on this backlot in Bulgaria that we redressed and repurposed for our needs,” says Hudson. “There’s very little VFX, if any, in there. It’s all just driving through walls, really.”
The director, who’s known for his immersive, point-of-view camerawork and off-the-wall ideas, explains that the dashcam perspective required three different camera setups. “As the film goes on, there comes a point where the car stops being a real car and as they get hammered – no pun intended; as they get drunk – at the club, the perspective becomes this funny handheld dashcam vibe,” he explains. “We basically 3D-printed a replica of the bonnet of the car and put some mini headlights in it, so we had this handheld car rig that would follow them as they went to the kebab shop.
“And then we step down again into this really mini car perspective, which is a really small model of the car we used. We put a tiny endoscope camera inside of the car and then shot from inside the car, and then drove into the kebab shop, and then into the orgy.”
Crashing the actual car through walls involved meticulous planning in advance – not necessarily for safety reasons (“You could run through [the walls] if you wanted”) but for maximum efficiency. “We only had two goes at every smash, tops, and also because of the schedules, if we got it first time, we had to move on because we didn’t have time to reset,” he explains.
Hudson previously directed the wacky video for Slowthai’s track Feel Away, which featured Blake alongside Mount Kimbie. Like Big Hammer, that video also involved creative directors Crowns & Owls. However, this marks the first time Hudson has himself collaborated with Blake. “It’s kind of a dream in a way, doing a music video for something like this, because it’s so expressive. It gets really weird, and has lots of different musical progressions, and it also contains a bit of aggression and angst.”
Big Hammer is out now; pulsefilms.com