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Greg Jardin's Concept Art

Greg Jardin's Concept Art

The director talks about his heartstopping stop-motion films in this excerpt from shots 140. director Greg Jardin’s stop-motion music videos are technical triumphs that also manage to remain uplifting, warm-hearted affairs and are almost guaranteed to generate a viral online buzz. David Knight meets a director now keen to test his high-concept approach in adland.

There was a time when Greg Jardin was struggling to convince record labels and bands to commit to his high-concept ideas for their music videos. Now he has a different problem – persuading them that he is capable of making more than highly conceptual videos involving stop-motion animation.

But when you consider much of the work he has made in the past couple of years, it is perhaps an easy assumption to make. It really started with his video for Canadian outfit Hollerado’s powerpop anthem Americanarama, featuring the band interacting with animated visuals – generated by people rather than computers. Behind the band, 24 people are lined up on four levels of scaffolding, providing a skip-framed, choreographed display of graphics with different man-sized cards – the sort of visual idea that rock band-cum-visualperformance artists OK Go would die for.

More recently, he made a stop-motion tribute to the late Joey Ramone and his home town, for the song New York City, featuring dozens of New York residents – including a smattering of well-known faces – morphing into each other as the camera leaps forward around the city.

Jelly bean tour de force

And between those came arguably his greatest tour de force thus far, the jaw-dropping music video for Kina Grannis’ In Your Arms, where the Californian singer-songwriter performs with colourful, perfectly rendered animated backgrounds created entirely from jelly beans. That low-budget video – which took nearly two years to complete and was made possible by jelly bean company Jelly Belly – is virtually a test case on the effectiveness of social media in generating publicity and views for an inspired piece of filmmaking.

It was a viral sensation on release, notching a couple of million views on YouTube within days – and also crossed the digital divide into TV and magazines. “It really made me appreciate the power of Twitter, Facebook and sharing in general,” Jardin says. “I knew it had the potential to do well online, but I was surprised how fast people saw it and how fast it spread.”

With his Hollerado and Ramone promos also becoming viral hits, the LA-based director appears to have the knack for getting the right kind of attention in the digital domain. His best work may be high-concept but it also has a mainstream appeal, and he is clearly a performer-friendly director: the artists stay centre stage and give winning performances – Grannis being a case in point – in very demanding circumstances.

Even when the artist is necessarily absent, as with Ramone, his videos are people-focused, uplifting, warm-hearted affairs. He has also directed a couple of crowd-pleasing commercials. In his ad for Earth Hour 2011, the Australian initiative against climate change, he orchestrated hundreds of volunteers to create giant images shot from above to promote its energy-saving message.

And, earlier this year, he also wittily updated the legendary 60s ad for Die Hard batteries, featuring a car left for months on a frozen lake. His version, called Frozen Lake Revisited, could be described as its little brother – featuring a toy car to promote Die Hard’s domestic-use batteries.

Building a reputation

But in truth, the current momentum for Jardin is very much in music videos, and he is cultivating an enviable reputation. But he says there’s just one issue: “It has been a bit of a hurdle, lately, trying to talk to people into doing things that are not stop-motiony.”

Hailing originally from Washington DC, Jardin describes himself as having been an ordinary movie-loving kid until his horizons were radically widened by seeing Larry Clark’s controversial Kids in the mid-90s. “That was the first film that made me think that maybe I could make films myself,” he says. That journey began at college in North Carolina in the late-90s, when he joined his school’s rudimentary film course. Then he went to work as a runner/PA on movie shoots in New York. “I realised I had no technological knowledge of filmmaking whatsoever,” he says.

So he applied to attend the super-intensive graduate film programme at Florida State University, becoming one of only 24 students accepted annually on the course. Suddenly, at his disposal were film cameras, 35mm film stock, Avid suites and more – and he didn’t waste his big opportunity. “The programme has state funding, so they already have budgets for making films,” he explains. “Everyone directs three movies while working on everyone else’s movies, and everyone has to pitch to direct a thesis film – which they only give for five people to direct. I was one of the lucky five.”

Subscribers to can read the full interview with Jardin here, or in the new issue of shots magazine, issue 140, out now. To subscribe to shots, click here.

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