‘The Lights and then The Noise’ dir. Mathy & Fran

A young girl goes to her first gig with unexpected results…

Country: UK
Writer-Directors: Mathy & Fran
Producer: Michael Berliner
DOP: Owen Richards
Key Cast: Emily Taaffe

C8: Where did you get the idea for ‘The Lights and then The Noise’?

M&F: We had the idea of forming a narrative around a live gig and it all stemmed from there, exploring the concept of telling the story of a girl’s first gig experience as if it were an alien encounter.

C8: The film is quite ambiguous. What would you describe as the purpose of the film? – What did you intend the audience to take from it?

M&F: For us it was about creating the sensation of a first experience, so we wanted the audience to connect with that emotion of encountering something that feels otherworldly.

C8: Was the decision to have the film in black and white made before or after you shot the film? Why did you make this aesthetic choice?

M&F: It was a decision we made at the very beginning when we were just starting to form the idea. Using black and white was about placing the action in a kind of bubble and putting the emphasis on the nocturnal contrasts of darkness and light.

C8: At times the film feels very surrealist. Are there any influences from film, art, or photography that you had in mind while making the film?

M&F: In terms of the black and white imagery, we were strongly influenced by Robert Adams’ Summer Nights, Walking, a beautiful series of night landscapes. We also listened to the personal accounts of UFO sightings compiled by Susan Hiller for her installation Witness, which inspired us in shaping the connection between a supernatural and a music experience.  There’s also a bit of The Twilight Zone influence in there too!

C8: The sound design is one of the most interesting aspects of the film. How did you work with the sound designer Tom Gibbons to achieve this?

M&F: We worked with Tom to present the sound in a really heightened way. We wanted to bring a kind of electricity to the night sounds and build up a sense of intrigue before it finally breaks out with No Age’s performance.

C8: The use of light and locations make for a very cinematic film – how did you work with the DOP Owen Richards to capture what you had in mind?

M&F: We’d worked with Owen before and knew he had an amazing eye for composition. We spent a long time talking over the visual references prior to shooting. Owen has shot a lot of live band photography, so there was a natural understanding already there when it came to capturing No Age’s performance.

C8: From start to finish, what did you find the most difficult part of making this film?

M&F: We filmed during an actual live gig, rather than staging the performance element, which was challenging as we had very little control over the environment and things we couldn’t plan for. We only got to see the location the day before the shoot, so we had to work in quite an instinctive way.

C8: You both wrote, directed edited the film. Was it difficult wearing many different hats?

M&F: We’ve always written and directed together, so that side of things came naturally and on smaller budgets we tend to self-edit. For projects that are as personal as this, it can be a really enjoyable process to have such creative control, so we saw it as a luxury rather than a challenge!

C8: How do you work as a directing duo? Do you delegate certain roles to each other or are you both in charge of everything?

M&F: It’s not something we tend to analyse too much. We’re also in a relationship so there’s quite a natural sense of sharing to the way we work, but we don’t consciously delegate or compartmentalise our roles.

C8: You’ve made several short films but also make music videos. Do you feel them to be completely different disciplines or does your work in one area help inform your work in the other and vice versa

M&F: We see them as very closely aligned, but respect them both as quite different disciplines. You’re working to the blueprint of the track with music videos, so there’s a great freedom that comes with making shorts. Music has always been an essential influence on our work, and with No Age’s performance at the heart of this film, the narrative became strongly informed by music.

C8: If you could give young filmmakers a piece of advice what would it be?

M&F: Surround yourself with good people. Filmmaking is such a collaborative experience, find people you connect with and get inspired by them.

C8: What do you feel is the essence of a good collaboration?

M&F: Trust.

C8: What’s next for Mathy and Fran?

M&F: We’ve written a new short that we’re hoping to shoot this year, and our music video work is ongoing. We have a couple of feature ideas in various stages of development too, so we’re looking forward to seeing where those projects go.