OzHipHop.Com Forum

[OZ Interview] Brendan Hay – Producer & Director of ‘Rhythm and Poetry’ (interview by kTpure)

kTpure - 13-12-2007 at 01:36 PM

Brendan Hay

Brendan Hay is a film producer and director running his company Underground Transmitter out of Melbourne. He regularly films all over Australia and Rhythm and Poetry is his first feature length project. In between shooting a music video on an island near Karratha, Brendan took some time out to answer a few questions about both the challenges and satisfaction of being an independent filmmaker.

kT: Can you tell us about your background – did you grow up in Melbourne?

BH: I grew up around Melbourne’s west. I was sent to a private school at a young age, then decided I wanted to make films so bailed to a public school in Footscray which was good for character building, and made me realise that the world revolves around more than money.

kT: Have you have any formal education & training in film/photography?

BH: After studying year 11 and 12 film and media I gained a diploma in what’s now called ‘Screen’. I’d already got making crap films out of my system in high school and I had the skills to start working as a video editor in second year.

kT: How did you ‘cut your teeth’ in the film industry? What has made up the bulk of your industry experience to date?

BH: I’ve worked in a few production companies as a video editor. I didn’t want to be a director in film school, and that’s what led to me becoming a filmmaker who can take on many roles. I’ve been on a lot of sets and worked on a lot of projects...so basically leant from other's mistakes. And that’s a lot cheaper than doing it on your project!

kT: You have made a few music videos covering a few different genres…what has been your favourite clip to make?

BH: I just made a video for Brisbane rap artist Rainman where he walked around Melbourne holding a placard with the lyrics from the track on it rapping his message to people on the street or on a train. This video was great to make and proves that limited budget doesn’t dampen the idea; sometimes it fuels it.

Rainman - Australian Story

kT: When was the idea for ‘Rhythm & Poetry’ conceived?

BH: I’d been into local rap artists for a couple of years or so and had played around with the idea of making a film on it, but I couldn’t grasp the best angle to approach it from. But then everything started to get a lot bigger with artists selling lots of records and shows moving to bigger venues. So it went from trying to write a proposal for funding to realising that if I didn’t start filming I’d miss what I was trying to capture.

kT: Three years is quite a long time in Australian hip hop. Was your initial idea to make the documentary the same as the finished product?

BH: To a degree. I jumped into interviewing artists from Melbourne, and anyone who came to Melbourne so I could get as many artists as I could in the production. As the interviews took place over three years some of the answers became less relevant as the project and the scene moved on. But to me the core of the film is really about identity and self-expression, so with a timeless theme like that it will never go out of date.

kT: When you decided to make ’Rhythm & Poetry’, where did you start? Was contacting artists the first step?

BH: Initially I approached a few artists for an interview to see what sort of answers I could expect. One of my colleagues also knew someone at Obese, and when they found out I was legit, gave lots of support to the project and it grew from there.

kT: Can you tell us a bit about the technical side of the filming process? What equipment were you using to capture live shows and interviews?

BH: When I first started I borrowed friends’ 3 chip DV video cameras, then onto Digital Betacam, and few of my mates are camera people so if they were on a film set and the camera wasn’t being used on the weekend we’d take it out and shoot a gig or nice shots of the city. I wanted to make sure it felt like a film, so we also went around for a weekend and shot some 35mm motion picture film of the elements. So it was filmed on about 6 different formats, but through the magic of colour correction it has a fairly consistent look.
The audio from most live gigs was recorded to DAT tape, and some of the bigger ones into Pro Tools LE on a Mac PowerBook G4 through an MBox.

Funkoars Live

kT: What were some of the biggest challenges on the filming side of things?

BH: For the first couple of years I didn’t own a video camera so filming things last minute became a hassle. But the biggest challenge is making a film that is reliant on the contributor's responses to make a story. And with some of the more established heads it took a long time to get their support. Gaining the trust of artists was challenging at times, but is also important on a production like this.

kT: How long has the post-production taken you? Editing the film yourself must have been a monumental task…

BH: My background is in post production, but I was planning on getting someone else to edit so I could separate myself a little from the process. But after that didn’t happen I cut it myself. The vision edit officially started on Christmas Day 2006, then the sound edit for four weeks in June, then went into a mix theatre and did the full 5.1 digital surround soundtrack in July 07.

kT: What have been the biggest hurdles on the overall project? Were there any particular aspects that you just didn’t anticipate being as challenging as they turned out to be?

BH: Music licensing was a challenge as finding out who controls a track can take some digging. Filming with no external financing was harder. There was interstate shooting, but I couldn’t go everywhere. I made up for that by grabbing artists when they were in Melbourne.

kT: Has the project been totally self-funded?

BH: Yes! Respect to the independents! I was initially going to try the whole government funding path but that takes years of procedures. I wanted to capture the evolution in the local hip hop scene that was happening in front of my eyes so I had to go out and capture it.


kT: Aside from the artists featured in the doco, who else has been involved in making the film?

BH: Most of the crew I went to film school with, and we’re all mates who work on each other’s projects. Jacob Simkin, who’s a director of photography, filmed a lot of the interviews along with my other mate Matt. On the sound side John Koutsoumis and Scott Langham did a lot of the location sound and John Kassab did the sound editing, with Nick Jacka doing the DVD authoring. Aside from them I did everything from producing to promotion.

kT: How did it eventuate that M-Phazes did the original music for the doco?

BH: I was talking to DJ Flagrant, who manages M-Phazes, about something else and he asked if I had anyone doing the score. Up until that point I had used lots of different tracks to edit to, so the beats kept the story moving when no one’s talking.

kT: When & why did you decide on the name ’Rhythm and Poetry’?

BH: I didn’t have a title for the film up until the end of the edit and it freaked me out. I didn’t want to use any hip hop clichés or try to make a catch phrase, so the title was crucial, but impossible. I was speaking to Pac Diesel one night about rap music’s expressive nature, and near the end he mentioned that “a lot of people don’t know what RAP stands for, it’s rhythm and poetry.” I was sold.

kT: What else are you currently working on?

BH: I just shot a music video in Western Australia, but I’m still trying to make the release date for getting the DVD out. And when you’re literally doing it all yourself it’s hard. But after this I want to keep the music videos going, so if anyone out there is serious about their music and wants a video with some thought behind it let me know.

Bliss n Eso

kT: Tell us about ‘Underground Transmitter’. Do you have a five year plan?

BH: I’ve worked for companies and started companies with colleagues but the way I work is very internal and I’m hardcore about my projects, so it made sense to create a symbol of what I’m trying to achieve. Underground Transmitter is being designed as a platform for creating and releasing independent thinking that has an audience.

kT: If someone gave you a million dollars for business expenses – how would you spend the money?

BH: Probably a better-funded version of what I’m planning, which is to walk the Earth for a while and make a film about it. I’m also looking to develop film projects I can produce myself, so funding makes that easier.

kT: What would be different if someone gave you a million dollars to spend on anything you wanted?

BH: I’d do similar to the business version. As an independent filmmaker you don’t work for 8 hours then go off to your home life, your films are your life. But having said that I do deserve a holiday after making this film so lots of nothing would be on the menu.

kT: Any last words?

BH: I set out to make an un-biased concise history of hip hop culture in Australia. I contacted people from all sides of the coin in all parts of the land. So if someone asks me why a certain artist is not in the film it’s because they either couldn’t be bothered, what they had to say has been covered, or it couldn’t work time wise in the production schedule. I invite constructive criticism from those who understand the constraints of making a product and actually getting it out there. My independent approach means that I haven’t really had to compromise the film, only to the degree that some artists made it difficult for me to have their appearance or music in the film.

This film covers topics and history that most fans and even crews wouldn’t know, so I propose we make Rhythm and Poetry mandatory viewing for anyone new to the scene, or prepare to face the hate from those who have found their voice and know their history.

Rhythm and Poetry is out December 14 and can be pre-ordered HERE.

Click HERE for more info.


Interview by kTpure

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