Griffin Stoddard is a director based in New York City specializing in music video and commercial content. Griffin's visual style is characterized by its gothic, surreal, and dream-like qualities. We had a chance to sit down with Griffin to hear more about his career to date and what inspires his work.
How did you first get into directing?
I started making films in 3rd grade with my friend. We were learning about typical storytelling structure in our reading class, and we started making stupid little movies on his dad's mini DV camera for school projects. It was mostly just an excuse for us to dress up but I really liked it and kept doing it and decided that was what I wanted to do with my life. It combined everything I was interested in and it was a way for me to live in my fantasies. I continued to make little movies with my friends and eventually I came to New York for school. I was in school here for about three years and it’s something I wouldn’t do, or at least do differently if I could go back. But directing always felt like the most logical career path for me to go down.
Can you tell us a bit about your new project Come Follow Me Down?
Management for that artist [George Taylor] approached me almost a full year ago with the track. The first time I listened to it, I was immediately hit with this very specific visual of pentecostal snake handling preachers. It’s kind of a terrifying thing to watch, the way they handle the animals and move their bodies... The sonic qualities of that track just somehow immediately sent me there, so I started building a concept around that. Originally, I wanted to do the whole thing in this deep south, backwoods swamp type of environment with mossy trees and muddy rivers. Travelling wasn’t in scope which forced to keep tweaking it and it kept boiling down. I bounced a lot of ideas around with my DP Oren and it ended up becoming a more conceptual interpretation of that original world. The rest came pretty naturally since the lyrical and thematic content of the track is familiar to me so it was really just kind of easy for me to pull these feelings out and assign them characters in the world that we built.
What is your favorite thing about directing?
I don’t know if I can give an absolute answer for favorite. Something that I really enjoy is being trusted by other kinds of artists to visualize something that they’ve created but don’t necessarily know how to translate into images. I think that it’s a really special thing. When I was young, I was constantly being told that I needed to be happier and that I needed to be like everyone else: to go see Star Wars and to draw pictures of fire trucks. I wanted to wear black capes and witch hats and draw dark things. I was always being told that something was wrong with me by teachers and stuff. To now be able to get out what’s in my mind and be appreciated for that, and for people to recognize that as my style and say “I want you, for what’s in your head,” is hugely rewarding to me.
What are the most challenging aspects?
I have a really hard time asking people for favors and asking people to go above and beyond to serve my vision. I really hate asking a lot of other people, which happens frequently as a young filmmaker, so I find that I tend overextending to the point where it could compromise the creative.
Also, working on fashion and more commercial projects can be challenging because I’m used to being the lead creative on a project. Being given something else and building a film around that is challenging, but it’s an important skill. I get nervous that I’m going to be making something that isn’t authentic. But in the end it doesn’t matter because you have to make a living and those types of projects will allow you to create more projects that you’re passionate about. Somehow it always makes it in there anyways- the part of me that makes my style what it is somehow finds its way in, even if I’m consciously trying to make something that’s bright and commercial. There’s always something that is a little bit of me.
What is your dream project to direct?
A film like Maleficent. Or rather my idea of what Maleficent should have been. Maleficent was everything to me when I was a kid, a huge role model and stylistic influence. I followed the production of that film as much as I could for years and when it came out, I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down.
So I guess my dream project would be a big budget fantasy or horror film with some fabulous evil female characters, something that I could fully let loose with. But, I wouldn’t say that it’s the one thing I’m working towards. I want to keep making stories that are a really nice overlap of all of the things that make me excited. I think that my prefered style falls somewhere in the horror genre, and I think that there are a lot of good films coming out now that are somewhere in that area, but I want to create my own space in feature films.
How do you hope to see your career evolve over the next 5 years?
I want to work with some artists that I admire in music and fashion and continue to build up a body of work that speaks to my ability to tell stories and deliver a really consistent brand. Then, eventually apply that to features.