Director Rudá Santos meticulously executes music video narratives
Rudá Santos is a Brazilian filmmaker and screenwriter living and working in London.
Last year, Santos was one of five unsigned British directors to win a place on Three Minutes – Crack Magazine’s incubator scheme funding five music videos by rising talents. The scheme is produced in association with our production company Ground Work and made possible by Burberry, Shure and BFI NETWORK. The project has also received funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.
Santos’ musical universe spans the foundational cosmic jazz of Alice Coltrane right through to the lo-fi kinetic sounds of modern electronic music innovators like Ross From Friends, DJ Boring and Park Hye Jin. His creative vision hinges on similar themes – an artistic marriage of the psychedelic and the DIY.
Born in Brazil but based in the UK since he was 11, Santos made his first animation using a webcam and a Steven Spielberg Lego set. Already in his short career as a director, Santos has established his own style and created work for Nike, Channel 4’s Random Acts and WeTransfer.
His approach seeks out the magical within the mundane, often making use of non-actors and building meticulous storylines from straightforward setups. For his Three Minutes, Ruda was able to collaborate with an artist he already loved and develop a charming piece of work to lead his new album campaign.
Ross From Friends’ musical aesthetic was a natural fit for Ruda’s filmic approach. Favouring lo-fi charm and soft humour over big frills and hard punchlines, they have a creative common ground which comes to life on The Daisy.
They landed on a story which captured their shared love of kinetic motion and unexpected storylines. The concept came via Ross From Friends (who gets a brief cameo) but Santos delivers a surreal twist with his Twilight Zone plot twist and 3D animated sequences. The video’s bittersweet resolution ends up as a visual echo of the track’s emotional pull, a melancholy spin on modern garage.
Setting up at a church hall in a south-west London suburb, Santos and Ross staged a Rubik’s Cube tournament and brought real-life champions of the sport in to star. Working with industry-leaders like colour-grading house Company 3, Greenkit lighting, Panavision camera hire and Glassworks VFX, the story is afforded a level of scale and cinema which the prodigious cubers deserve.
As the video launches, we speak with Ruda about creating a cameo opportunity for Ross, making time for taking time and the challenges of clipping a camera to a Rubiks Cuibe which is being solved at record speeds.
Watch the film in full via the player above and get to know one of the UK’s most talented young writer-directors.
Is this your first music video?
I’ve always wanted to do one and before this I’d pitched on a few but never got anything, so Three Minutes was the first chance that people would take me seriously to make one. I always wanted to do a narrative music video.
What creative input did Ross From Friends have in the music video?
I actually pitched an idea before we ended up with Rubik’s Cube one, which got kind of approved but then we were like, we’re not sure we can make this – it involved 3D bees and things. CGI bees. Yeah, we scrapped that one! But the “daisy” is actually a move on the Rubik’s cube, and Felix was always aware of that, so he thought maybe it could follow a kid going through a speedcubing competition. I knew nothing about speedcubing so it was like a week in research mode, I just watched everything I could on it. We made it more of a narrative-driven thing because the whole narrative is about time loops – you go through the steps and at the end you go back to step one. So the initial idea came from Ross From Friends, and then I just kind of made up a crazy narrative around that.
Are you any good at Rubik’s Cube now?
I’m actually okay. I can go up to like the fourth step, but then I get really lost.
You must have had to cast some real-life Rubik’s Cube champions in order to shoot those scenes.
That was the main selling point of my pitch – I want to make this narrative video but I want to cast real Rubik’s Cubers, which was really good because then we didn’t have to fake anything. At the same time it was tricky ‘cos these people aren’t actors. It’s hard when there’s a big crew and lots of people, and I noticed that some of them found that a bit scary.
Who is the main character?
The main kid is Katie Mouchan-Davies and she was incredible. I literally met her on the shoot day. At the beginning she was a little bit stiff but as we went on and I explained the story and narrative she picked it up quite quickly.
The twist at the end is horrifying – there’s something really grim about the idea of being stuck in a time loop.
The idea of the loop came from thinking about all the possibilities and choices in a Rubik’s Cube. When I got into it I learned that there are these key decisions, a bit like in chess – you open up a range of possibilities and I was thinking about how these choices can affect you.
As a filmmaker do you ever think about how to create your own style without getting stuck in a loop of repeating yourself?
You get used to doing things a certain way. You can try and get away from it, but it will be present in some way. Every film I do is a fictional narrative, but then there’ll be non-actors, or other real elements in the video – I think that’s something present in all of my work so far, which I noticed recently. Even when I think I don’t want to do that, I end up doing it – it’s just the way the mind works.
What did Ross From Friends and his team think of the final result?
I think they genuinely really liked it. Felix [Ross From Friends] is in the video – he’s the blond speedcuber’s judge! His team were feeding back on edits and things, they were very involved.
Your films often feature real people, especially older people. Is that your grandmother making Brazilian cheese bread in Pao De Queijo?
Yeah! I made that film for her birthday and she had no idea I was filming – I had an anamorphic lens on the top of my iPhone, which was good ‘cos she was really spontaneous and didn’t flinch. She loved it. There’s also one called Catch Up, that was with older people at an ice skating centre in Streatham – I call it Fight Club for old people. They’re all over 65, they go in and it’s like school for them again – they swim and play football and tennis. I was going there to play football and I’d see all these elders and think, what is this?! So I started speaking to them and some of them became friends.
The video also hints at paths not taken and things that we might not achieve. What would you have done if you weren’t making films?
I was actually pretty good at football, I could have stuck to that. But probably music. I’m obsessed with music and it’s something that I’ve never touched on ‘cos I don’t wanna spoil the love for it. I like everything but my main thing right now is jazz – John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Alice Coltrane. Making films does get in the way of watching them – you’re suddenly looking at the lighting and you aren’t paying attention to the story. I would never want to do that to music, I don’t want to break that barrier.
What aspect of the video are you most proud of?
We played with a bit of 3D on this one – we got this incredible guy, Andrew Cunningham, and he made the bubble that appears at the beginning and end which I had in my mind to show that [the story] is a loop. Making a music video was very different from what I thought it would be, especially when it’s a narrative film. There are specific sections of the video that work with specific sections of the song, so you have to come up with ways to keep those moments where they are. It was a long, long edit. There were so many ways to cut it, and the way it ended up wasn’t the original idea. You really realise that you make a film three times – you write it, you shoot it and then you edit it. We actually shot it all in one day but I think it took about six months to make – it was a long time!
What was it like being part of Three Minutes with Ground Work?
It was really great. I had worked with production companies before but I really clicked with Ground Work because they seem very in tune with the industry at the moment. It’s just a really great experience. I remember the first chat I ever had with them and they were asking me what kind of artist I wanted to make a video for, and the first one I said was Ross From Friends! They really made my dream come true.