September 7, 2012


5 Essential Things We Learned From Dirty Projectors' Short Film Q&A

Hi Custodian—a short film directed by David Longstreth and starring his band Dirty Projectors—premiered last night in New York (and thanks to producers YouTube and Pitchfork, you can watch it above today). Although it's 20-minute film that's not really about anything—the imagery of shuffling religious clerics and a man on crutches climbing a mountain are straight out of an Alejandro Jodorowsky cult film—it's still a wholly engrossing experience.

The fact that first-time writer/director David Longstreth was able to captivate an audience's attention for 20 minutes without offering any semblance of narrative was both a credit to the Dirty Projectors' music (cuts from Swing Lo Magellan played throughout) and director of photography Bobby Bukowski, who created a vibrant palette of colors reminiscent of Powell/Pressburger... and iPod commercials.

Following Hi Custodian, Longstreth, his band and DOP Bukowski stuck around for a Q&A session that touched on everything from Die Hard to Longstreth's impetus for getting behind the camera in the first place. Here are the five essential things we learned:

1. Self-Directing Was Guitarist/Vocalist Amber Coffman's Idea

Longstreth said the band filmed three music videos for their last LP Bitte Orca, but they shelved the two after "Stillness Is the Move" because "we didn't like how they came out." So Coffman responded to Longstreth's fastidiousness by suggesting he just do it himself next time: "Amber had the idea—because I'm such a picky pain in the ass—that I should direct them myself."

2. Longstreth Digs Die Hard

When Bukowski first met Longstreth, he said he was momentarily concerned when the indie frontman said Die Hard was one of his favorite moives. "It's a really great story," Longstreth explained, laughing. "John McClane is an enduring character."

3. Dirty Projectors May Be Taking a Break

"We're done making albums," Longstreth said at one point. "We're only doing features from now on." Although the Dirty Projectors singer-songwriter seemed to be joking, it does sound like they'll be taking at least a brief hiatus after this album.

4. The Visuals Were Influenced By Prince, Kanye West and Vermeer 

DOP Bukowski—who has worked on everything from a JTT-starring Disney film to Pearl Jam videos to Weeds—said attending a show of photographer/director Cindy Sherman with Longstreth was "pivotal" for them making the film together. He also spoke of visual references to Dutch painter Vermeer. You fancy, huh? But it wasn't just high-art influencing this movie—Longstreth name-checked Purple Rain, A Hard Day's Night and Kanye West's directorial efforts over the course of the Q&A session.

5. No One Is Quite Sure What Hi Custodian Is

"I don't know if it's a film or music video or something else," Longstreth admitted. "I don't know the first thing about directing… but I like to drop myself into situations where I have no idea what I'm doing." The one thing he could say with certainty about Hi Custodian was that it is a "weird, surreal journey." 

True that. But why not watch it above and decide for yourself!