Essential: Works is an interview format that Directors Library regularly hosts with film and video Directors. We ask directors to name three key and influential works under the film, campaign and music video categories. The series aims to broaden horizons of reference and acknowledge works from the back catalogue.
For our eighth instalment, we got in touch with Frank Lebon.
You can check out one of Frank’s recent music videos below and other work on the link.
Sundress – A$AP Rocky (2018)
Directed by Frank Lebon
Below are Frank’s picks and what he had to say:
Essential: Films – Frank Lebon
I find the daunting question ‘what are your favourite films?’ almost impossible to answer. There is only one film I can mention in confidence as always being in my top ten and thats ‘How To Draw A Bunny’. Apart from that my other film choices could only be ones I have watched recently that have made an impression.
1. How to Draw a Bunny (2002)
This is the most unsuspecting film, it has everything from art to mystery murder. I love watching documentaries on my favourite artists as they inspire me to work. This film not only does that more than any other but tells a wonderfully bizarre story about an amazingly bizarre human. Beautifully made and scored by Max Roach on a drum kit, amazing!
2. Being There (1979)
Directed by Hal Ashby →
This film is as funny as it is emotional and as truthfully insightful as it is surreally pointless. Reminds me of one of my favourite books, The Tao of Poh. I was so excited to find a Hal Ashby film (starring Peter Sellers!) that I had never seen before. Feels quite poignant with the current state of the US presidency. It also has one of the best endings ever made! I think Chance is a character that will stick with me forever.
3. Trouble Every Day (2001)
Directed by Claire Denis →
Claire Denis is a new discovery for me, this film sticks out for many reasons, firstly it stars Vincent Gallo who I’m a big fan of. It’s a sexy vampire story that walks the line perfectly between believable and unbelievable.
One film I watched recently that’s missing from this list is Tokyo Godfathers by Satoshi Kon, thought it would be good to mention an anime as I have such a love for the medium. I like how coincidental and lucky the story is, good storytelling is able to do this and not have to explain itself.
Essential: Music Videos – Frank Lebon
Unlike with the films, where I have hundreds of favourites, I am definitely limited to a top 6 all of which I want to put on the list. So I’m not sure if it’s allowed but I think I need to mention a few others that had just the same chance of making it to the top 3.
Mention: Side By Side – Sir Spyro
Directed by Henry Schofield →
Recently made and one of the best grime videos in my opinion.
Mention: Protection – Massive Attack
Directed by Michel Gondry
One of my favourite Gondry music videos – it is saying so much but doesn’t fully explain itself, I spot something new every time I watch it.
Mention: Chalo – Esau Mwamwaya
Directed by Tim & Barry →
Tim and Barry babysat me as a little boy, I grew up watching their videos, very important to London culture and a huge source of inspiration to me and any youtube grime channel (they mastered the format before anyone else).
The reason I think it’s important to mention all of my favourites is because I believe making a really good music video is a very hard thing to do. In my opinion the best need to be a perfect balance between aesthetic, story and allowing the tune to bang. If it doesn’t look good, no thank you. If it doesn’t say anything, no thank you. If it doesn’t work well to the song, then no way. What’s great is that you can hit the nail on the head with these 3 things to make a wicked music video no matter what the budget is.
1. Piece Of S*** – Ratking (2013)
Directed by Ari Marcopoulos →
Ari Marcopoulos is a great photographer, this film serves as a lovely portrait of Ratking. It is simple and honest. Shot in the small studio space where Ratking would practice. So important though is that Ari must have realised the fact that the energy and even the sound of their music was so amazing when played live, so what way to represent them better than to shoot a live performance. Also has Josh Safdie on second camera! I play this video to get me going before I go on a night out or to wake up my girlfriend.
2. Naked Life – Oko Ebombo (2013)
Directed by Oko Ebombo →
Oko not only writes and performs but also directs his videos. What is effectively a very simple film shot on a very low budget has had loads of thought and work behind it, trying to subtly tell the story of Okos early/naked life. Location, dance moves, outfit, format and everything else has gone through an internal battle in Oko’s head, all these ingredients accumulate to make a simple an moving video, working seamlessly well to the song.
3. Fine – Micachu, Brother May & Baker Trouble (2016)
I’m not sure who exactly is behind this film… maybe its Mica and May, I don’t know. It’s a really lovely example of very simple storytelling (getting ready for work) with little camera tricks that elevate the low quality of how it was shot. Also, it has a great sense of humour which feels very important for music videos.
Essential: Commercials – Frank Lebon
I love anecdotal ad campaigns, short and funny, usually selling a chocolate bar or beer etc my godfather Daniel Kleinman makes amazing ones! Though in the realm of commercial video making those videos are not the ones that inspire me the most. It’s best when outsider videographers get a chance to work commercially.
1. Dr. Strangelove – Trailer (1964)
Directed by Pablo Ferro →
Pablo was one of my 1st hero’s in the movie world, in university I studied graphic design and imagined myself one day being in a similar position to Ferro. He is best known for his title sequences in films, also being asked to re-edit certain scenes (like the polo scene in The Thomas Crown Affair or the sex scene in Midnight Cowboy). His adverts where so creative and graphic, though so old they are hard to find now. This campaign trailer he made for Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove is unbelievable though.
2. Act da Fool – Proenza Schouler
Directed by Harmony Korine
Harmony is a hero of mine, though he isn’t why I included this ad, I felt it’s important to add some fashion to the list as the only commercial work I have done has been for fashion brands. These ads are rarely about telling a story but are totally aware of trying to make something interesting and ‘cool’, this is great because it allows one to really play with the art of filmmaking. If it’s for the right client at the right time and all the stars align you can end up making beautiful things and also get paid wodges of cash for it!
3. Nothing Beats A Londoner – Nike (2018)
Directed by Megaforce
I know this definitely isn’t anything to do with ‘outsider video makers’ being a Nike commercial directed by Megaforce… but its f***ing sick. Best add I’ve seen come out recently, saw it and wished I’d made it.