Filmmaker Gavin Elder has created films for the likes David Lynch, Mark Ronson, Duran Duran, ACDC and Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. Here, he speaks to Paige Nelson about his career highlights, the challenges of shooting in a Roman amphitheatre and capturing the atmosphere of live music on video
1. Did always want to work in the film industry?
I picked up my Dad’s Super 8 camera when I was ten years old. The unique Super 8 sound, and the tactile feel of film running through the camera lit something inside me.
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2. Who have been the most interesting people to work with so far?
Working with David Gilmour has been an absolute high point. I remember the very first day we started filming at Bray Studios, he was rehearsing with the other members of Pink Floyd [Rick Wright and Nick Mason], and someone shouted, ‘Let’s do C Numb!’ They launched into ‘Comfortably Numb’, and the hairs on the back of my neck jumped up.
3. How do you create the atmosphere of a concert in a film?
This varies from artist to artist, but I think the most important element is for the performer to be relaxed enough with the process of filming that they focus on the music and their performance. My role is to then select camera positions and capture the show without being obtrusive. The musical highlights, subtle glances and infectious smiles between band members together with the audience create the magic.
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4. Is there any person you would drop everything to do a documentary on?
Don’t they say you should never meet your heroes? Working with David Lynch on a project for Dom Pérignon was extraordinary; he had such a great sense of humour and incredible focus while working. I remember the laughter, and a great sense of team work.
5. Are there any artists who have inspired your works?
I think street art as much as fine art has influenced my approach. I’ve made films with Faile, Shepard Fairey and street artist Ludo. Giles Walker made a phenomenal piece titled The Last Supper which I documented. I travel extensively and different cities around the world contribute to the vitality and energy in my work.
6. What are biggest challenges of any project, and how has the pandemic affected the film industry?
When we filmed Live At Pompeii all the equipment had to be hauled by hand down a specially built road to the edge of the Roman amphitheatre – a logistical challenge, which the local Italians rose to. During the show, a rogue drone flew dangerously low over the audience and a laser team tried to disable the drone’s camera with a focused laser beam. The drone footage has never surfaced so perhaps they were successful.
The pandemic has been devastating [for the film industry]! Numerous projects have been cancelled, although some work has started to trickle back now. There have been some interesting online concerts and new approaches to entertaining fans, but it’s difficult to replicate the live feel, the bass in your chest, the shared experience, the intensity.
Follow Gavin Elder on Instagram: @gavin_elder