Filmmaking | Interviews | New Hampshire

Festival Spotlight: Dirty Night Clowns

1 Sep , 2012  

Written by Alli Rock | Posted by:

The Festival brings together filmmakers from all over New England, with all different styles and stories to tell. Every week, we will be publishing interviews with new festival filmmakers. This week, hear from Ryan Gibeau about his animated music video Dirty Night Clowns.

Ryan Gibeau’s Dirty Night Clowns is “a wonderful tale of curiosity, danger and pursuit,” not to mention a quirky style of marionette animation, all rolled into a music video for Chris Garneau’s song of the same name.

Ryan, a New Hampshire born filmmaker who immigrated to NYC in 2009, talks about the spark that led to Dirty Night Clowns below.

Alli Rock: What inspired you to create this film out of Chris Garneau’s song?

Ryan Gibeau: I have been a fan of Chris’ music for many years so when his album El Radio came out, I picked it up right away. Immediately, on the first listen, I was drawn to Dirty Night Clowns, and on the first time through I had one of those rare moments as an artist when the whole picture just magically comes together in one burst of inspiration. The entire theme, style and story imprinted itself into my mind through the melody and lyrics. I had a meeting with Chris to discuss my concept and he was able to help guide the opening of the story with what inspired him to write it.

AR: What led you to choose this kind of marionette animation, and what challenges/advantages did it bring?

Gibeau:When inspiration hit, there was no decision making. I literally closed my eyes while listening to the track and saw marionettes. In that burst of creativity I made no choices as to what I saw, the music guided each thought. The choice I did make was to believe in my imagination and move forward with the puppet concept.

What challenges did I face? Do I have a max word count for this answer?! The initial major challenge was funding. The budget was out of reach for Chris’ label, management and Chris combined, so it was up to me to find the investment if I wanted to make this video — which I found. The next major challenge was assembling a team that would contribute to and execute all of my ideas and designs. I hired two key artists to ensure our success in creating this video as I imagined it — my production designer, Danielle Brustman and my puppet builder, James Wojtal. I could write 6 more pages on how amazing their skills were and how collaborating with them so closely led to such beautiful puppets and sets. They were true heroes in the success of Dirty Night Clowns. The rest of the crew deserves a tremendous amount of credit as well.

The advantage, I’ve noticed, of shooting puppets is the immediate separation from so many other concepts in rotation on the web. This led to YouTube and Vimeo featuring the video on their front pages and MTV broadcasting it nationally on their LOGO channel as part of NewNowNext/Poplab. I watch a lot of videos and I was excited to move forward on a project I had never really seen done before — not this way. For more challenges and advantages, I welcome anyone interested to reach out and I’ll go into the funny stories, the defeating moments and everything in between…because I could fill a book.

AR: Your film has a beautiful visual style. How did you and your crew create that?

Gibeau: The visual style was something Danielle, James and I discussed for a month before taking the initial step in building. With storyboards in hand we discussed angles, lighting, cuts, puppet style, dimensions, camera movement, etc., to make sure we knew precisely what we wanted visually before moving forward. The literal answer here is the visual style was created through incredibly detailed production design, crafty and skilled puppet design and puppeteering, and the moody lighting and camera movement in in the film’s cinematography.

Two days before principal photography, our DP left the project, so it’s a little known truth, one I have not really publicized, I took on the role as cinematographer. That’s a exclusive announcement! Again, there were 30 other people all playing a role in this so without each crew member we would not have been able to execute so smoothly and accurately to our intended style.

AR: How did living and working in New England affect who you are as a filmmaker?

Gibeau:Living in New England has been a really great place as a filmmaker. I attended college and received my BA from Emerson College in Boston where I studied film production. When I completed school I began working with Local 481, the New England Filmmakers Union, where I worked in lighting on several major motion pictures under some amazing academy award winning filmmakers. I consider those three years my Grad School days where I learned so many skills and techniques I continue to bring with me on each new project.

Living in New England, Boston specifically, gave me the exposure to legitimate film opportunities which led me to believe I could take all my skills with me to NYC and run my own production company. 5 years later I am still successfully running ROCK*iT FiLMS in Brooklyn, NY and applying all those learned experiences. I should be thanking the lawmakers and film commission for increasing tax incentives to filmmakers at the very time I was joining the workforce. The influx of production and my timing was a major slingshot for my growth.

AR: How was your experience at the New Hampshire Film Festival?

Gibeau:My experience at the New Hampshire Film Festival was amazing. The staff was truly caring, genuine and happy to host amazing filmmakers and I was honored and pleased to be received so well by them. Film/Video is a very competitive and difficult profession and respect is not something easily earned — so a weekend of appreciation, kindness and fandom was a very welcomed break from the day-to-day grind!

A major highlight for me was when the judges awarded Dirty Night Clowns with a Best Film award at closing ceremonies – it was my first award as a filmmaker and I was so happy to receive it in my home state with many family and friends present.

Aside from simply enjoying the beautiful weather, new friendships and fun evening events, the speakers and NH Film Commission really brought a great sense of depth and understanding to their crafts and it was enlightening to see how far the NH Film Commission has come and where they plan to go in bringing more opportunities to local filmmakers. I am happy to now be involved in the updates and have a voice when I feel I have something to contribute. I look forward to heading back to Portsmouth and experiencing the festival this year solely as a member of the audience and enjoying others hard work! Thanks so much Nicole, Zac, Nicole, Dan and many more at the NHFF, your festival is one of the best and I can’t wait to enter another project soon!

Dirty Night Clowns is screening as a part of the Festival from Sept 1 through October 15. Check it out here.

Dirty Night Clowns is screening as a part of the Festival from Sept 1 through October 15. Check it out here.