The Prism Prize is an award established to recognize the artistry of the modern music video in Canada. After watching hundreds of videos, a jury consisting of journalists, filmmakers, artists, and other members of the Canadian music and film industries voted for their favourite music video to win a Grand Prize of $5, 000.
With the Top 10 Best Canadian Music Videos of 2014 officially announced to the public, A Music Blog, Yea? were pleased when given the chance to interview the 2015 Prism Prize nominated filmmakers. In this interview, we speak with — Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux — directors of Pup’s Guilt Trip – to discuss their video’s highlights, favourite films, and dream collaborations. Read our interview below, and check out all of the other interviews here.
AMBY: Welcome to AMBY and congrats on being a Prism Prize nominee! Please explain to our readers how you first got into your industry.
Chandler: I was really into film in high school, I made short films and a documentary and worked at the Blockbuster Video. But when I went to university for Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto, it was a really rigorous theory-based program that kind of convinced that films were something to be studied, and not certainly made by me. I also started doing a lot of arts criticism and became a critic. It took a really great screenwriting class in my last year of school to convince me to apply for the Writer’s Lab at the Canadian Film Centre. A week before the program began, I shot a music video for this local artist Marker Starling that was inspired by John Cassavetes’ “Husbands.” It was such a fun experience and it taught me that I could put my education and background into practice and make films again. I met my collaborator Jeremy at the CFC – he edited the music video I shot and we started directing together. Since he comes from a hands-on DIY filmmaking background in Vancouver and I have this weird hoity-toity education in screenwriting/film criticism, I feel like we kind of make the perfect team.
Jeremy: Yeah, I sort of grew up making basketball mixtapes and skate videos and no-budget docs. I went to film school as well but basically skipped most classes to either be on set or in the editing lab. In that way Chandler & I ended up with pretty different but complimentary paths. We like to joke that our videos are basically Chandler setting up the most beautiful moment and then me trying to set it on fire.
AMBY: What inspired the story/concept told in your nominated video?
Chandler and Jeremy: We felt like the first video we did with PUP (for “Reservoir”) did a good job of working with and building on the legend of the band’s no-holds-barred live sets and with this one we wanted to keep expanding the mythology of this punk band that’s always on the road. At the time we were making the video, all the members of PUP had recently quit their jobs and moved back in with their parents, so that they could commit completely to this punk band dream. We also knew that different members of the band had been playing together since they were all pretty young, with new guys joining over the years. We wanted to take those true details of a group of friends abandoning everything but their commitment to each other – this sort of band as a wolf-pack mentality that they have – and blow it out into a gnarly origin story . We were inspired by classic coming of age movies like “Stand By Me”, “Son Of Rambo” and “Over The Edge.” The guys in the band are really wild and cool people; once we started picturing what they were like as kids, the story started to come together.
AMBY: What was one of the highlights you had while creating the video?
Chandler: Working with our exceptionally young and talented cast, especially Finn Wolfhard who embodied the role of “Young Stefan” instantly. He came out with a shaved head and these ripped jeans, touting his prop razorblade around. We had “x’d” out the logo and I remember him telling the DP “all these X’s are for the cops I killed, the next one’s gonna be for the one who got my poppa!” Finn is like 11 years old but he can tell you about The Clash and is incredibly knowledgable about pop culture and film and music. He’s the coolest kid ever.
Also location scouting through the Squamish/Brackendale area with Jeremy and our producer Daniel Code was amazing. Being from Toronto, you don’t even think Canada looks like the West Coast. We drove through this mossy rainforest to find a location, I remember looking up and there were just eagles soaring overhead. I was like “how is this Canada?!!”
Jeremy: It was great to be able to work with a bunch of really talented friends from BC that I hadn’t seen in a while (especially my friend Dan Code the producer, who really put this crazy thing on his back and carried it), my dad came down off the mountain to help build the jam shack set, we put Fraser Brown (the amazing DP from Toronto) up in my mom’s apartment… really feels like that’s the best way to make stuff. Also gotta mention Grant Lawrence showing up on a really intense, freezing rain evening and just crushing it; if the song had been 7 minutes long there would have been a great extended version with him and Finn (“Young Stefan”) just whispering unholy threats and staring murder at each other in the woods.
AMBY: Which other videos or films have you been enjoying lately?
Chandler: Music video-wise, I was really inspired by the “Passing Out Pieces” video by Mac De Marco and always think Grimes does interesting videos. I love the work of Leblanc and Cudmore, Emily Kai Bock, Angus Borsos and Jared Raab. And am always inspired by Spike Jonze’s old videos (I just keep watching “What’s Up , Fat Lip” over and over again.)
I just finished the last season of Girls which had some super outstanding episodes this season, both from a writing and directorial point of view (“Ask Me My Name,” “Sit-In”, the finale). I love “Broad City” and the web series “High Maintenance.” And I’m always trying to watch like weird 1970’s comedies by Albert Brooks, Mike Nichols and Paul Mazursky, Powell and Pressburger movies and anything with like a really salty dame like Barbra Stanwyck or Bette Davis in it.
Jeremy: Just saw the new Hiro Murai – Earl Sweatshirt video and am pretty excited about it. My friend Graham Kew just put out a Twin Rivers video that’s really cool too. There’s this Toronto short film called “Hole” directed by Martin Edralin that totally blew my mind, it’s on the festival circuit now so if you get the chance to see it you can also get your mind blown. Oh and this british movie called The Selfish Giant! Like our music video, it’s about these rough neck kids but these guys make our video look like the family circus! Other then that have been watching a ton of cartoons, as we’re working on an animated video (our 4th with PUP!) next.
AMBY: If you could work with any other musician to collaborate on a new video with, which would you choose?
Chandler: I love BadBadNotGood’s record with Ghostface Killah, July Talk, the Kendrick Lamar album kills me, St. Vincent and TOPS. That being said, my inner 15-year-old would probably spontaneously combust if I got to work with any member of The Strokes.
Jeremy: Japandroids! There’s this band called Two Gallants from San Francisco that I really like, and we keep bugging our reps to get us in. Pkew Pkew Pkew (gunshots) have a good record coming out. Maybe a wild rap video with Future. Are the Phonemes still a band? I just found out they’re from Toronto and always liked them.
AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about you that nobody knows yet?
Chandler: I put it all out there on Twitter.
Jeremy: Chandler doesn’t like birds!
Thank you Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout