From Jude Law starring Dior advertisements in the Bahamas to clips for Sia, Unkle, Placebo and Digitalism and personal projects which saw his little brother ran through a plate of glass in his underwear – the work of Collider’s Daniel Askill is as varied as it is prolific. We recently spoke to Askill about his illustrious career thus far…
P: How did you get started in the creative industry? And when did you first know you wanted to work in that industry?
DA: Since I was a kid I was always involved in music. My Dad is a musician and my Mum was a painter when I was growing up, so I guess I was always involved in that sort of thing and in my late teens I started making a bunch of short films, so yeah it was always going to happen.
P: How did you start Collider? And how did you meet the other guys?
DA: Basically, Sam who manages the business side of things, I met him at school but he went off and started studying philosophy, and I met Andrew in the design side of things when I was at Uni, so I met them both a while back. We all went off and did our own thing, I was living in London and went to St Martins and I started directing fashion things and bits and pieces, and after a couple of years of living over there, I came back and reconnected with them and we basically decided it was time to start doing something.
P: That time in London, going to Central St Martins, did that inform your idea of design?
DA: I think so, it sort of evolved it. That time in London definitely had an impact and I don’t know if it was particularly because of Central St Martins, but I guess just living overseas and that was when I really transitioned more from design into directing. I tried to make some money while I was starting at St Martins, but they out of the blue offered me to direct this perfume thing and then one thing lead to another from there, so yes it was important.
P: How does the creative industry in London differ to that in Sydney?
DA: Like anywhere outside Australia, it’s just a bigger pool of people I guess. London is a bit more creatively driven and the industries are more financially driven when it comes to creativity. But then Australia is great because it is a really small community and it’s really nurturing because there’s not as much distraction. In a funny way and on some levels it’s a bit of a bubble. That’s what I find really interesting because [Australia’s] not caught in the rat race the way those bigger creative centers are. There’s a lot of interesting people here who can share their own little, creative dreams outside the more competitive places. I think it’s really healthy to have that confined experience, with the freedom and the intense creative environments.
P: Are you based in Sydney permanently now or do you still move between New York and London?
DA: I’m not sure to be honest. I’ve been based in New York for the last two years but I got back out here a couple of months ago now. I think I’ll stay here at least until February or March, because I’ve still got some stuff in storage in New York. But it’s good to be back here.
P: You mentioned your Father composed music and your Mother was a painter, but your brothers are also immensely talented in their own right, growing up was there anything that really nurtured that creativity? Where does that come from?
DA: I’ve got to put a lot down to my parents. A combination of my Dad who was and is a musician, so there was always that there. My mum was just so supportive of anything we wanted to do. My brother Jordi has got a great imagination, and has a very particular and interesting take on things but there was always that support and we could do whatever we wanted. Recently, we’ve all had the opportunity to work together a lot and I’ve just come back from doing a BMW ad in Austria and Spain which would have a bit boring if it wasn’t for the fact that my little brother Lorin was there directing it with me and Jordi came over from London to style it and yeah it’s really good working with them because there’s a kind of unspoken language.
P: You mentioned Jordi going back to London and you living in New York recently, what’s it like when you all get together, the whole family in a room working on stuff together?
DA: It’s great. It’s so nice when we’re all back and that’s the other reason I love Australia because we all end up back here with the rest of the family. During Summertime there’s a room at my partner’s old house here that we can chill in and put all our creativeness in.
P: Obviously, because you all know each other so well does it ever get really easy to fight or get annoyed at each other? Does it ever come to that or is it all smooth sailing?
DA: It very rarely ever comes to that. I’ve got so much respect for them and I kind of think they feel the same but I don’t know what they say behind my back, but I think we all have a lot of respect for each other’s ideasâ€¦ Usually it tends to run pretty smoothly. I think everyone brings something really different, like Jordi’s imagination goes to places mine would never go to and I’m probably a bit better when it comes to the technical side of things and the pragmatics of realizing something but those types of things really play off each other.
P: What has Collider been working on at the moment? Who are your newest clients and what have your newest projects been?
DA: The last thing I was really involved in before I went away was a project with the Sydney Dance Company that we produced here through Collider, but they’re working on all the new campaigns, art direction and photos for them and I think they’re working on something for Dion Lee the fashion designer. Another director who worked with us has been asking us to do something for Cadbury. And Joel just finished doing something for Qantas. And then they’ve got their little side art projects, I’m writing a long film project with my brother which is still probably years away, but that’s what I’ve been spending my days on.
P: Like a feature film?
DA: Hopefully. I don’t like talking about these things because I’ll probably still be talking about them in five years time.
P: Well, what’s been the most surreal project you’ve worked on?
DA: It probably goes back to the first short film we made which was called ‘We Have Decided Not To Die’ it was one of the first things we did when we started. I still remember the day we were filming the scene where my little brother Jordi has to jump through this glass window and he’d just come out of hospital at the timeâ€¦
P: That scene is amazing visually – is that actually Jordi running through the glass?
DA: Yeah it’s actually Jordi running through the glass in his underpants! But it was really intense and that combined with the fact that he’d just been really sick and those sheets of glass were really expensive and they’d already blown over in the wind and we basically had just one left.
P: So that was just one take and Jordy did it perfectly?
DA: Well, he actually got two gos at it. We had four sheets of glass and two of them smashed in the wind, so we got a profile shot and then we basically had just one take left to get the head-on shot , so it was kind of stressful.
P: You mentioned that Jordi was ill before that – and then you turn around and say I want you to run through glass in your underwear and I want to film it. What was his reaction to that?
DA: It was something that was planned for him to do just before he got sick. Even after he was sick he was still pretty keen for it but the person I did have to ask was the person doing the rehabilitation at the hospital and I think it was one of the strangest questions he’d been asked.
P: You also cast yourself in the middle section, how did you achieve the jumping effect?
DA: I just literally jumped off a ladder and kind of reversed it. We also ripped the engines out of two old Ford Falcons and spray painted them black and then they get pulled together by a cable and smash together. It’s basically two shots together.
P: Was there an element of danger in that?
DA: No, well I was nowhere near the cars. But when we were actually shooting in the place where the cars crash everyone kind of had to cross their fingers and I hid behind a box. But we had a great stunt guy who was involved and he has a lot of experience in smashing up cars.
P: You’ve also done videos for Digitalism, Sia and Placebo. Do the treatments come from pre-existing ideas or is it conceived when you hear the music?
DA: The treatments you conceive that aren’t used by one artist – you do keep them on your computer and definitely you start re-working ideas that you wish you got to use before but you use it in a different context.
P: So, you’ve got a big black book somewhere of treatments?
DA: Yeah, even at Collider we’ve got a folder that has treatments that are given the green light and there’s always rejected material.
P: I can imagine a lot can go wrong on the set of a music video. What can go wrong and what disaster stories do you have from shoots?
DA: The Unkle video I did, thank goodness nothing exactly did go wrong but there were a million potential disasters in that one because we had this poor guy in this glass box that eventually explodes. So we had a massive human size glass tank made and the guy in the tank was hoisted up by his legs upside down and put down into the tank as water filled the tank. Even if I put my head into the bath upside down I come up coughing and splattering but this guy had such a bad cocaine habit that his nose was made of steel and he was able to sustain being upside down like that immersed in water. Millions of things could have gone wrong in that situationâ€¦
P: Any other crazy moments? The “Pogo” clip looks like it would have been an arduous process…
DA: Ah, yeah that was interesting. It only took two days but it was a long two days. We were in one room shooting frame by frame going around in circles. Not to mention we had these girls jumping up and down basically non stop so by the end of each day so the room just stunk like a sweatbox, but it was worth it in the end.
P: You’ve also done an ad for Dior, what’s that like working with a massive crew and much bigger budgets?
DA: Personally, I really love the balance of doing those big budget commercials and then doing smaller projects. As I think back on what I’ve done and what Collider’s done, its always been a balance between projects with artistic integrity regardless of budget and projects with big budgets that allow you to work on a big canvass and play with big toys with big crewsâ€¦ but yeah I really love both of them definitely.
P: How many people were you working with on that particular shoot?
DA: Any sort of commercial shoot on that scale, like the BMW one, literally on the set there’ll be often a crew of up to 60 or 70 peopleâ€¦
P: And Jude Lawâ€¦
DA: Oh yeah, and Jude Law (laughs)
P: What was it like directing Jude Law?
DA: He was a lovely guy. It was great working with him.
P: You mentioned that balance between work with creative integrity and work that pays the bills, you started off with We’ve Decided Not to Die and now you’re doing more commercial work for Cadbury and BMW, do those clients allow you to retain creative control or is there a real battle between Collider and the clients?
DA: It changes from job to job. I think that’s an inevitability when you sign up to do advertising you know there’s always going to be compromises and I think that almost always without fail that there’s some sort of compromise along the way and that becomes the challenge and how to deliver itâ€¦ what they want and need and still try and end up with something that you feel proud of.
P: What advice would you have for young creative’s or young people who are entrepreneurial and want to start creative agencies like you guys have done?
DA: As much as possible and for as long as possible hold on to the integrity and the quality of the work that you want to make, and try to compromise that as little as possible. If you keep making the work that you feel is strong and has integrity to you, then other things will come as a result of that.
P: What have you learnt along the way? What do you wish you knew before?
DA: When opportunities arise that feel good, go for them. Don’t spend too much time over intellectualising them. When I think about that there was probably a few times there where I could have moved a bit more swiftly and followed my heart instead of trying to over analyse what’s going on.
P: Finally, you’ve worked with big fashion brands, huge bands and big companies, who would you love to collaborate with?
DA: To be honest I’m really trying to focus on my own film at the moment, that’s what my focus is. But having had the luxury of collaborating with a lot of interesting people I’d love to do a video for Battles actually, I really like those guys. I mean, having worked with him a long time ago, I’d also love to work with Alexander McQueen again.
P: Well good luck with everything Daniel, I’ll be interested to see where the script ends up
DA: Yeah so will Iâ€¦