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Categories: Interviews

The avant-garde director of famous music videos and shorts, Luke Losey, chats to us after our screening of his latest short One Last Dance.

Luke Losey made his name by directing several very popular, and experimental, music videos for likes of artists such as Orbital before going on to direct live shows for The Libertines, The Verve and Mott the Hoople as well as more mainstream shorts. We had the chance to ask him a few questions about his career thus far after screening his latest drama short, One Last Dance, to thunderous applause at one of our recent monthly Jam Sessions.

What first drew you to film?

I went with my mom to see Huckleberry Finn in the Leicester square as a kid; the movie was very disappointingly sold out but next door there was a rerun of 2001: A Space Odyssey showing. I swear I had been looking at that poster of Bowman’s helmet my whole life like an itch I couldn’t scratch. I don’t remember but my mom tells me I begged her to take me and wasn’t put off despite warnings about its length and subject matter. She relented and that was that – it was the most visceral experience of my young life, simultaneously blowing my tiny mind and sweeping me up into a love of film that hasn’t left me since. Around about the same time I was shown, on a raggedy old VHS player, La Jetée by Chris Marker. I have no idea how but I ended up with a copy and it became like a cuddly toy is to some kids – I was obsessed, all a bit weird in one so young.  I think the extraordinary filmic beauty of 2001 and the handmade experimental nature of La Jetee are still my personal favourites.

Who were your earliest stylistic influences?

Films like Gilliam’s Brazil, Jordan’s The Company of Wolves, the Bolex brothers’ Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb and later Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children – the handmade quality and beauty of them had a very powerful effect on me, they made me feel I could “do it”. The look of The Box and its dystopian feel are informed by those movies, which I watched over and over again. I have a thing for fairy tales that those films seemed to channel into me. As a kid I was really into pre-Star Wars sci-fi movies like Silent Running, Andromeda Strain, THX 1138, Terminal Man, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Solaris, Dark Star and TV shows like the BBC show for kids called Changes. I loved The Midwich Cuckoos and listened endlessly to Low by David Bowie. Somewhere in all of that with a very healthy dose of the comic 2000AD are the embryonic influences of many stylistic choices over the years.

Loneliness and individuality are very prevalent themes in your work, do you think the way people consume media now has made it a more personal, rather than social, experience?

Yes I think it has become more personal and less collective in some respects – wandering around stuck to our screens, no doubt it must stifle dreaming a bit. But the death of cinema, exhibitions and gigs hasn’t happened, has it? We still collectively want to enjoy those things en masse. I think anyone can feel a sense of isolation and loneliness even in the most connected world. Feeling alone isn’t mutually exclusive to being alone. For me, I’ve felt like an outsider all my life and that seems to come up again again in my work. As a kid I always imagined myself like some kind of Thomas Jerome Newton character and when I first really got the chance to direct something substantial (The Box) Tilda Swinton became that outsider, alien character who seems to hang around my subconscious and show up in a lot of my films in various guises.

There’s a lot of imagery and ideas in your films that most people would classify as horror, do you think your work is accurately defined by that genre?

I would say my work has elements of nightmares and dystopian fears, magical realism of a darker kind perhaps? I’ve never been a consumer of horror in any big way so I wouldn’t say it’s an influence but I very much like the idea of  “the other” or “the unknowable” not in an HP Lovecraft kind of way more like the alien in Under the Skin, Hal 9000 or the vampire in Let the Right One In. Ideas of immortality and not being human are fascinating.

Music is another very big part of your films, what does the relationship between film and music mean to you?

I have always looked at music as being part of the story rather than an addition to it, a way of describing the parts of the narrative we can’t see. Music in my work often ends up being my idea of the “soul” of the film and I mean that quite literally. A feeling we can’t describe in words that inhabits the emotional part of the story. It’s a hugely powerful thing. I believe that it tells you when it’s working symbiotically with the image at a very subconscious level.

After the great screening at our Jam Session we were very happy to hear that your latest film One Last Dance was selected for the Manchester International Film Festival and the Dingle International Film Festival. What’s that experience been like?

The festival thing has been great. I sat in an audience in LA who had no idea who I was and watched people crying all around me during the ghost dance scene. The weirdest feeling, I can tell you. It’s great to see the work on a big screen and then often at festivals to talk about it afterwards. I’ve enjoyed the whole festival experience a great deal.

One Last Dance feels like a much more dramatic venture from your usually more experimental work, is that the direction you feel you’re moving in as a director?

I’ve been going that way for a long time now, it’s just the early work seems to have a life of its own and still be in demand. So I guess in that strange way it came to define me until One Last Dance made a bigger splash. But yes I’ve officially moved into drama, just don’t expect a rom-com anytime soon.

You directed a short teaser for a film based on Jessica Albarn’s book “The Boy in the Oak”, what can you tell us about that?

The idea was to raise awareness amongst financiers to get some development money together for a script, that worked and we have a fab script written by Geoff Cox who works a lot with Lucile Hadzihalilovic whose films I adore (Innocence, Evolution). It’s inspired by Jessica’s book but kind of expanding that fairy tale world she created into something longer with her original story lurking at its heart in the form of a fable. I guess a fairy tale more like Pan’s Labyrinth than Harry Potter – but very much its own story. It’s proving to be costly as a production so it’s sitting on the shelf for now but we are ever hopeful it will come to fruition. I would certainly love to make it and continue to collaborate with Jess Albarn as I love her work, her man (Serge Teulon) shot both The Boy in the Oak and One Last Dance – he is an excellent DOP. So we are all part of an extended creative group that are friends. Fingers crossed on that one.

What’s next for you?

I’ve developed a treatment with Klaus Fried called The Boy Who Loved Dinosaurs which is part ghost story, part road movie about a man on a quest to avenge to his son’s death from an airplane crash. It’s a darkly comic and redemptive tale of a metaphysical connection between two men a continent apart, the tragedy that bonds them and the moral dilemma they must face. One man is following the flight path the fatal plane took across Europe on foot, guided by his son’s ghost, to kill another man who happens to be the air traffic controller, who is living with the deceased flight crew waiting to die. It’s actually a very funny, emotive story about loss. We are actively trying find a producer and raise some development money for a script. I’m also trying to option a book but I won’t jinx it by saying its name but it is also dark and funny and, back to that old chestnut for me, dystopian.


Mark Birrell

Mark is the editor of The Spread as well as a freelance copywriter and lifelong cinephile. For writing enquiries, you can email him at mark@cinemajam.com and you can follow him on Twitter @markwbirrell

Posted on May 8, 2017

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