Bradley & Pablo
Bradley & Pablo are a British directing duo currently based in Los Angeles specializing in music videos and commercial content with a distinct blend of youth and pop culture with concept driven storytelling. The director duo has created music videos and commercials for artists and clients such as Dua Lipa, Nike, Charlie XCX, and Nicki Minaj. We had a chance to sit down with Bradley & Pablo and learn more about their journey thus far as well as their future plans.
How did your interest in directing begin?
P: While we were in university, we started experimenting with 3D software, Maya specifically. The first films we ever made were these crazy 3d environments that we’d just fly a camera through. They were like architectural fly throughs of these worlds kind of like guiding a viewer around a digital sculpture. We made these for an East London fashion brand called Illustrated People. So, there was never… we both came from an image making and a graphic design background… so it wasn’t a traditional filmmaking kind of thing. After making those, that’s what sparked the interest in making live action films. It kind of became a commercial possibility and a new way of expressing ourselves.
What has the journey been like from making your first video to now? What’s the biggest thing you have learned?
B: The journey has been extensive and a massive learning curve. Coming from graphics and animation, we used to seclude ourselves in a room for days on end which is a very different skill set to being on set and directing a crew, and working with talent. Learning to go from computers and personal projects, where you have unlimited time to experiment and no client to answer to, is worlds away from making a music video. So, I guess, from our very first music video, it was about A - technically figuring out what works best shooting practically and B - how to engage an audience with live action performance.
I think also, particularly for us, It’s understanding the classic creative balance between commerce and art - in the case of most music videos we tend to make a film based around the artist’s performances, which is important and what I think the audience more often than not want to see... but you’re also striving to create a conceptually driven story which might be more artistically focused. That’s a challenge as a director, coming to terms with that. At the end of the day, music videos are a commercial practice, and when you manage to find a perfect point between the two approaches, you’ve hit the sweet spot. That’s what we’re working towards anyway...
P: Whilst making our first couple of fashion films in this fully animated way, with a few little green screen moments, I was assisting a director named David Wilson who’s with a company called Blink in London. One of the EP’s there named Steven Whelan along with Sibylle Boetgger where into what we were making and picked us up, mentoring us through our first steps in live action. We did another fashion film for Christopher Raeburn which was still within this CG world but was more character driven. After that, we did our first music video for an artist named QT which was through this underground pop label called PC Music. We built a relationship with them and from there worked on 3 or 4 videos together which fully gave us our first taste of making music videos.
At this point, the music videos we were making and the artists we were working with were geared towards trying to in a way comment on pop culture from within it its structures, which was really exciting. Looking at the traits of music videos and pushing them to an uncomfortable extreme. Basically, it felt like we were coming in through the back door and it took a year or so to figure out how to flip that and start making stuff which worked outside of that context.
What has been your favorite project to direct thus far into your career?
B: Probably Motorsport. For purely careerist reasons, it felt like it was a big stepping stone. It was a big step to work with these huge artists. It felt amazing. Going forward from that, it was Silk City and Dua Lipa because I feel like we kind of got to a point where we really loved what we made. It felt like we had matured quite a lot as filmmakers.
P: My favorite one is probably still ‘QT’. I feel like... it partly came from not being used to the pace at which music videos are made at. We were let ourselves really indulge in the behind the scenes, conceptual building of that world. It doesn’t necessarily come across fully for the audience, but we were so deeply in that space for about a month leading up to the video getting signed off, which you don’t always have time for… and then, if it’s not that, then it was probably ‘Vroom Vroom,’ because it felt like the turning point where we started to try and make videos that were going to be sincerely helpful for the artist and about their world rather than something that’s primarily for ourselves.
How would you describe your duo dynamic? How do you split the roles?
B: It’s evenly split. Conceptually, in the treatment stage, we might go away for a day, listen to the track on repeat and then come back, converge, and get the google doc going. We run through each other’s idea, pull some bits, and bring something together. It’s very collaborative and it works well. Going into the pre-production, same thing. On set, we split slightly so one maybe one of us is more with talent and the other with crew.
P: Yeah, I agree. I guess, there are just things you might be more interested in, that you get more into on certain projects. For example, there might be this really specific piece of set design that I’m really into that no-one else cares about.
B: I think that’s also one of the major benefits of being a duo. You both find little things that you might obsess about more than the other. Therefore, more things get obsessed about. So, yeah, it pays off. I think compared to other groups who do tend to split the roles more, where one might lead a project then the other one will lead the project afterwards… we don’t do that. It’s always together.
We loved “Electricity.” How did the concept come about and what was it like shooting at ODR studios?
B: We had a concept before this concept, but we couldn’t do it because we didn’t have enough money. So… we had to think of a way of containing parts of it, and bring in new aspects which gave a smaller scene more meaning. Basically, pulling it off in one location, but making it interesting and giving it a bit of backstory. We knew that we wanted to do it in New York...Also, being from London, we’re inspired by anything that isn’t London. So, we had to do it in New York - that was the first thing. We knew wanted to get aspects of dance music and of course the heyday of dance clubs like...Studio 54 and Paradise Garage were based there. We then started thinking about Electricity and blackouts. Kind of literal, but it made sense. We started to think about how this New York blackout created an amazing sense of camaraderie in the city and we started reading stories online by people that were there and they were very interesting and inspiring to read about. It all started to make sense to bring people together in one massive spontaneous party at Dua Lipa’s loft conversion in the true New York spirit during a blackout… and that’s how the concept came around.
P: We had to shoot overnight, obviously, because it was a blackout. We managed to find this studio in Newark (ODR Studios) and we shot all night until 9 am in the morning. We had this scene where the sun finally rises again and everyone’s delirious, lying around at the end of the party. I think when you feel a bit tired and crazy while shooting, it helps you get into the right frame of mind. We were so tired and fucked up on adrenaline. It just felt like I was at the same party.
B: Also, ODR was a fantastic space. We were lucky to have found it. We were also the first people to use it in a music video, which made a big difference. Finding a space in New York was actually incredibly difficult. We had 3 days of location scouting and we visited over 12+ places. We found this place and it was the perfect, quintessential New York warehouse loft.
What inspires you?
B: I think our number one go-to is always speculative futuristic fiction. That stems from not only the aesthetics of the future, but also thinking about… politics. Whether you call it politics or an interest in the general makeup of society I‘m not sure. We love imagining how technology, politics and society is moving and then how it could all end up looking. Those ideas tend to form lots of little ideas in the projects. For example, in ‘Motorsport,’ although it’s a small detail, we were thinking about what the advertising would be in a futuristic city. On all the billboards, there’s loads of little brands and advertising based on the idea of disaster capitalism - for example survival packages for natural disasters. In another project, one that we’re pitching at the moment, it revolves around the idea that these girls live in pods, and they basically don’t experience anything real anymore, everything is a simulation.
P: From the beginning, there was also this interest in different kind of crossover practices. What i was saying about how we first started doing music videos/ film when you are half operating in that space but also kind of an outsider it opens up different kind of possibilities. And although we are developing and growing as filmmakers working with PC music on these projects at the beginning i think has definitely shaped our approach. There are also people like K Hole, a trend forecasting group that sort of worked in this liminal space between art and trend forecasting or Shanzhai Biennale an ever morphing corporate entity/art project or as they put it an “art project posing as a multinational fashion brand posing as a biennial.” that have always been really inspiring.
What’s your dream project to direct?
B: I think for music videos, it’s to continue working with big, inspiring musicians and people that we can get involved with on a long-term basis. A long-term goal is to direct a feature film or a long-form piece where we can spend a year a two getting to the very depths of it. Telling a complete story that we can really go at.
P: Right now i’d just like to have ages to spend on something, whether or not it becomes a feature film or something else. Either that or a two million pound Charli XCX video.
B: I think whether it’s a feature, or a music video, or TV… Just something which has an imprint on popular culture - our own little mark on history ;)
Any upcoming projects you would like us to know about?
P: We’re working on a short film where it’s based around a new sub-culture of kids in an inner city estate who are obsessed with pregnancy and pregnancy prosthetics, trying to emulate characteristics of pregnant women because pregnancy doesn’t exist anymore and is something which is fetishized or thought about romantically and nostalgically.
B: That’s going to be a short film. It’s going to be interesting, examining beauty sub-trends and stuff like that.
P: Also, hopefully a big pop video. We’ll see...