Cut and reset: The Class of Three Minutes
In the summer of 2020, we were proud to tell the world about Three Minutes – an essential new incubator scheme for young directors. Our aim was to open doors for those looking to break into the film industry by giving aspiring directors their first major commission: a fully-funded music video. The project is an initiative from Crack Magazine and its production company, Ground Work, with support from Burberry, the BFI Network and audio brand Shure.
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.
The panel was made up of some of the most influential figures in visual culture. Robbie Ryan, the Oscar-nominated cinematographer behind works such as The Favourite, Marriage Story and C’Mon, C’Mon. Akinola Davies, known for his work exploring Black British history and his Nigerian heritage, and videos for the likes of Blood Orange. And Oscar Hudson, another groundbreaking director from London, who has picked up Best Director Awards at the UKVMAs and created mind-bending visuals for Radiohead and Young Thug.
They were joined by South London rapper Flohio, Guardian film critic Simran Hans, the BFI Network’s Talent Programme Manager Caragh Davison, director Fleur Fortuné and Morgan Clement, founder of the Object & Animal production company which has made music videos including FKA twigs’ Cellophane and Rosalía’s De Aquí No Sales . London cinematographer Olan Collardy, responsible for videos for the likes of Octavian and Jorja Smith, and director and writer Abteen Bagheri whose music video credits include A$AP Rocky and Blood Orange completed the panel, alongside photographer and Crack Magazine’s Art Director Michelle Helena Janssen and her creative partner and founder of the ABAGA VELLI clothing house, Ade Udoma.
From the 350 young directors who applied, just five were awarded a place on the scheme. These creatives went on to create five very different music videos – offering a vivid pin-drop on young British creativity. Styled exclusively in Burberry and shot at our London studio by Zeinab Batchelor, we’re honoured to introduce you to the Three Minutes Class of 2020/21.
Avesta Keshtmand is a British-Afghan filmmaker living and working in London.
Growing up on the pirate frequencies of grime and UKG, Keshtmand’s gritty, impactful style is tailored towards artists who have something to say. Having assisted London director Bafic on a number of multidisciplinary projects, her work has an experimental style built on clear ideas and distinctive presentation. For her Three Minutes video, Keshtmand found a new visual language.
Emma-Jean Thackray is the Leeds-born, London-based bandleader, composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer whose limitless approach to music-making sits at the heart of her explorative, off-centre jazz sound. Inspired by both Alice Coltrane and The Beach Boys, Thackray’s debut album Yellow was released earlier this year to widespread critical acclaim. Through ecstatic pop hooks and intricate instrumentation, Thackray paints a bold picture of a future where all music carries meaning for the body and mind. Lead single Say Something, and its video directed by Keshtmand, serves as that vision in microcosm.
Inspired by the themes and aesthetics of sci-fi, psychedelica and B movies, Thackray and Keshtmand tell the story of an outsider at a dinner party full of mass-produced foods and judgemental side-glances. Lost in her own world, Thackray is then transported to somewhere more natural, flowery and free.
To construct this deep-coloured landscape, Keshtmand drilled into a well of wide-ranging references. “We referenced the sci-fi movie Logan’s Run but we took it into our own hands and thought about ourselves and how we can imagine a whole other world. It’s about being stuck inside and what happens when you’re unable to branch out and explore the earth around you. Even with the food, we referenced Soylent Green and factory foods versus things that felt freeing and natural. For the flower set we looked at Kanye West’s Sunday Service performance at Coachella and also looked at Richard Mosse’s photos of Congo.”
Reflecting on the collaboration, Thackray says: “Musically, I love when my compositions are a vehicle for others to improvise on and bring their own personalities to the sound world, and visually this is how we worked too. I gave the idea, the seed, and the director and producers took things to another level and together we’re all part of the bloom.”
Reflecting on the finished piece, Keshtmand says, “I’m proud of everything. Not just the video but every person involved in the video both before and after. I’m proud of it all. And it’s just nice to make something… and be paid for it!”
Edem Wornoo is a British filmmaker and screenwriter living and working in London.
As a kid, Wornoo would make comic books. He now creates work that paints “street level fantasy”, weaving extraordinary, spectacular elements into everyday narratives. Closely tuned into UK rap and hip-hop as well as artists like James Blake and Sampha, Wornoo has a striking gaze driven by both dreams and humanity.
For his Three Minutes video, Wornoo maintained that cinematic gaze and expanded even further. Enter Wretch 32, the iconic Tottenham rapper who, across almost two decades on the scene, has cemented a status as British rap’s most insightful and imaginative storyteller. From legendary radio freestyles to searing political commentary, his reputation is built on a knack for pairing slick wordplay with poignant messaging. In 2021, his place in the pantheon of the genre is secure.
To launch his surprise project, little BIG Man, a nine track meditation on “incarceration, violence and poverty”, Wretch worked with Wornoo on an epic 11-minute short film weaving tracks from the project into a narrative about the cycle of reoffending, inner turmoil and home. Shot on location in London, the film explores themes of work, community and performance with scale and sensitivity.
“It’s really funny because I remember one morning lying in bed thinking ‘Yo, I wish I could do a music video that was a play.’” Wornoo tells us, “And then I got this brief through and thought ‘this is serendipitous!’”
This idea of theatre – of things being written – was key to Edem unlocking the concept. “The theme is theatre and the parallel of theatre with reoffending. Looking from the outside in, people see reoffending a certain way. If we look at theatre – you go, watch a show which people perform, the curtain drops. Then they perform it again the following night. Reoffending can feel very similar to that – you do something wrong, go to prison, come out and do the same thing again.”
Reflecting on the video, a towering achievement for a director this young, Wornoo is committed to continuing to create work which sparks questions among his audience. “I think I want people to take it as a conversation rather than a definitive answer.”
ZMARAKS is a British-Pakistani filmmaker and visual artist from Bradford who works between their home city and London.
They approach their work without any preconceived notions around prescriptions or constraints. Inspired by artists like Three Minutes’ panelist Flohio, Sevdaliza and FKA twigs, they take an holistic approach to their art – creating high-concept, abstract atmospheres fuelled by sound and vision.
For their Three Minutes project, they were able to expand their vision of caustic scenes and immersive
narratives by connecting with two artists with a similarly hyperreal worldview. Namely, London-based oddball pop producer MISOGI and French singer/composer Oklou. On their collaboration, Bunny, the pair find a common ground on a high-impact, tears-on-the-dancefloor banger. It’s the kind of song which makes anyone with a visual imagination run wild. And they did.
Ghouls, fat cats, a Lynchian butchers and bandaged punters; ZMARAKS’ knack for finding horror and fantasy in everyday scenarios is in full effect on this pint-sized blockbuster.
On the collaboration, MISOGI told us: “When I saw the treatment for the video I knew I had to go with it. They understood from the beginning that I wanted the juxtaposition of a creepy video and a cute song to be really prominent and they definitely delivered exactly what I wanted.” “The video really was a reflection of where I was at,” ZMARAKS says. “At the time I was writing the treatment I was in Pakistan stuck with my grandma. I was watching anime and kept thinking there had to be a way of bringing that in. I started thinking about the Manga series Tokyo Ghoul, it’s got this element of “human vs. monster” which I wanted to communicate. I wanted to bring forward some really beautiful, non-binary, ethereal characters showing this energetic confidence.”
Having their ambition fully invested in was a new experience for ZMARAKS, an artist dedicated to spotlighting the visions and voices of lesser-seen talent. “It’s been such a catalyst for my career. This is literally my second video! It would never have happened if it wasn’t for Three Minutes. I have major imposter syndrome and this process has really established my confidence. It’s shown me that I’m worth it.”
Rudá Santos is a Brazilian filmmaker and screenwriter living and working in London.
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 magic 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 brought a surreal touch 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.
“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,” says Santos. “The main kid is Katie Mouchan- Davies and she was incredible.”
Counterpointing the documentary approach to casting, Santos undertook an extensive post-production process with 3D animation and intricate VFX. “Making a music video was very different from what I thought it would be. 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!”
Naomi Grant is a writer, filmmaker, and freelance journalist living and working London.
By no means a complete newcomer, Grant’s filmmaking endeavours started at the age of 18. Now 23, the past five years have seen her lead multiple projects which offer intricately-sketched portraits of the Black female experience. Through her work as a founding member of the artist collective, LAMBB (Look At My Black Beauty), Grant uses the medium of film to explore the themes of womanhood, Blackness, and their intersection, seeking to “redefine images of Black and brown people in the media, by creating content that authentically represents their stories, and provides a platform for their voices”.
Underpinning Infidel is a narrative of strife, but it is ultimately a sense of triumph that prevails. A choir of backing singers reinforces Infinite’s hypnotic vocals which, despite their mournful tone, deliver the defiant message: ‘I’m not gonna hide’. “Naomi understood the assignment!” Infinite told us via email. “When we spoke I told her exactly what I wanted and she shared her vision and it all just went perfectly together. I really appreciate her artistry and I appreciate her taking the time to listen to what my vision was. That’s important to me… Naomi is everything and more.”
Her contribution to the Three Minutes music video scheme stands testament to her merit, and sees her develop the rich, dream-like quality which has become synonymous with her identity as a filmmaker.
At age 14, Infinite Coles made his debut at the Wu-Tang , where he performed a rendition of O Holy Night to an audience compiling members of the infamous rap group. Crediting his uncle and visionary leader of the group, RZA, for inspiring his music taste, Infinite’s own soul-stirring releases reflect the soundtrack he grew up on: from Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye to more recent artists such as FKA twigs and The Internet.
This arc overcoming suffering was something Grant instinctively tapped into on hearing the song for the first time. “I was very moved by it. When I first listened, I heard a lot of pain. But, after a while I began to get a sense of overcoming and celebration, which definitely fed into the music video’s narrative.”
Looking ahead, Infidel feels like a mission statement from a director who will keep imagining and building on their own terms. With a new short film completed and ready for release, the inaugural Three Minutes scheme has provided an impactful co-sign. “It’s certainly important that my own identity is reflected in the work I produce,” Grant adds, “I’ve always been somewhat hesitant to claim the role of director because, as I said before, I’d never really seen many directors who look like me. Seeing so many people invest faith into one of my ideas has been a huge confidence boost.”
Find out more about Three Minutes here