Wednesday, 16 October 2013


"Aydin" directed by Pleix, music by Discodeine (Pschent Music) 2013

PLEIX is an award-winning group of seven graphic designers, animators and musicians, who are well known for their idiosyncratic adverts and promo videos. Their work has appeared everywhere from the contemporary art galleries of Europe to prime-time television advertising.

Their promo video for Discodeine's 'Aydin', is a provocatively druggy piece that caught the eye of FUTURE-ROCKER a few months back. The colour palate is so 'us', we had to make it this edition's intro video. Naturally, we always want to know more, so we managed to catch one of Pleix's members, on the hotline from Paris. 

Leti explains the ideas behind it:

It's a colourful and macabre scene that takes place in a villa. A girl tries to remember what happened. Hallucinatory reality or real hallucinations? The two worlds blend in this strange clip. 

The film is made of synthetic images where chrome objects contrast with multicoloured 2D solids.

From a technical aspect, the entire video is made of CGI. Motion capture was used for all the animation, and rendered as coloured solids. This technique is used in 3D post-production to easily separate objects from one another (one colour per object). We liked the effect and used it for the overall appearance. Post-processing was used to add texture to the film. 

All the best from Paris!


''it's within the reach of anyone willing to put in the hours, which are very antisocial''

Shynola are a famous London art collective, known for their eye-catching TV ads and visually-arresting pop promos.

I first heard of them back in September 2000’s edition of Creative Review, when the four members ( Chris Harding, Gideon Baws, Richard Kenworthy, and Jason Groves ) were living and working from their flat in Muswell Hill. In the short space of time from having left the Kent Institute of Art and Design, Shynola seemed to have made a name for themselves with a notable and eclectic client-list, featuring everything from NatWest Bank to rock 'national treasure' Radiohead. 

FUTURE-ROCKER interviews SHYNOLA'S Chris Harding.

FR: Chris, I can state from experience that living with your student mates after college doesn’t always turn out as planned - how did you manage to make it work long enough to establish yourselves?

I know what you're saying! Living and working in each other's pockets can be tough. As to how it worked for us, I have two parts to the answer - we met at art college in the mid-90's and soon realised we were very like-minded. When we started “working” as Shynola, we had already spent around five years collaborating on student films, paintings, poetry, music and so on. Most things we produced in those days were dreadful, but it taught us a lot about getting the best from each other, not being precious and just getting things done. So, it wasn't as quick a rise as it probably seemed, not that I realised anyone was paying attention!
I can't give a definitive description of how we achieved what we did. I think it was just a combination of good luck and hard work. I don't mean any false modesty – I'm incredibly proud of the work we've produced – but I do think it's within the reach of anyone willing to put in the hours, which are very antisocial.

 After starting out as a tightly-knit foursome - how many people work for Shynola now? Is it just the three remaining members ( Gideon Baws sadly passed away in 2008, at the age of 33 ), or do you have a larger staff?

Still just the three of us. For one thing, no-one could ever replace Gideon. And for another, we never wanted to become a company with staff. We hand-craft every piece of work between the 3 of us, within reason. We obviously need a crew if we're doing a live action shoot, and over the years we have met people we like to go back to, but our goal was never to become a production line.  It's a decision that's paid dividends in terms of artistic satisfaction, but we're every so slightly beginning to regret it as our families continue to grow and mouths need to be fed!

Below: Shynola 'portraits'

 Tell us about your amazing new Science Fiction short, Dr. Easy. How did you discover the source material?

Matthew De Abaitua heard through a mutual friend that we were looking for a project to turn into a feature film, so he sent us the manuscript for his book, The Red Men, which was about to be published. I hope he won't mind me saying that when someone sends you their writing to consider adapting for film, there is a certain reluctance because if you don't like it then there's an awkward conversation ahead. So we left it for a while, fearing the worst.

As it turned out, we read it, loved it, and immediately bought the rights to adapt it and started writing a screenplay. The screenplay writing was slow. It took us about four years, being totally inexperienced in the field, and when we had it to a level where we weren't embarrassed to show it, we took it to Warp Films. Warp were into it and took it to Film 4, who also saw the potential.

Dr. Easy is a beautifully-made piece, reminiscent of recent urban sci-fi like the excellent District 9 and Dredd movies. What was the intention in doing a short film? To get interest for a full-blown movie?

Thank you, those are kind words indeed. Being music video directors, Film 4 wanted us to make a short film as a little test of our abilities. So, that's the long winded way of saying Dr Easy is the first chapter of the book The Red Men.
But just to elaborate a bit, our intention was originally to make The Red Men into a feature film. Dr. Easy served not only as a dry run, but to get interest in the larger project, The Red Men.

Explain the reason to use Jellyfish Pictures for the visual effects. Was it not possible to do it in-house?

We simply don't have the manpower or abilities to do what Jellyfish Pictures did on Dr. Easy. We contemplated the idea of doing it ourselves, looking for artists to come in and help us, but I think if we'd done it that way we'd still be animating now.

What are Shynola’s collective influences? Comic-books? Sci-Fi? Cartoons?

Certainly those were our influences in the early days, and those things still hang heavy in our heads and in our work, but these days we take influence from a far more diverse range of sources, from every day life with our families, to films and not least from things we see on the internet.

What’s next for Shynola?

Hopefully more film making. We have built up a head of steam with Dr. Easy, and are just entering a new development phase on Red Men with eyes on actually getting it made ASAP.  As well as that, we will likely always be making music videos and commercials because sometimes it’s fun to work on something that turns around in a matter of months, not years.

Well, we're definitely looking forward to seeing the full-blown movie.

To be frank, I haven't done an interview for quite some time, and it's quite pleasant to think your work has excited someone enough to get them thinking and asking questions about it!

WONDER WOMAN ON FILM: HOW DO YOU 'REBOOT' A POP-CULTURE ICON? - a talk with director Jesse V. Johnson

''She is intense, focused, and physically powerful''

Update 2017: This article was written in 2013, well before Wonder Woman's awesome big screen debut in 2016's Batman V Superman. Future-Rocker will review her actual solo debut this summer, but in the meantime, this article discusses the obvious groundswell of support for a Wonder Woman movie, that surely made the Warner executives think that now is the time to bring her to the screen. First week of June 2017 is when we find out if they got it right. We definitely didn't, when you consider FR's ideal dream-team choice to make the film ( see article ). 

Illustration by Alexi K, 2012/13.

It seems that Wonder Woman fan trailers are like buses: You wait ages for one, and then suddenly two come along at the same time. Evidently film-makers are getting impatient with big studio stasis, and are taking matters into their own hands. Action movie director Jesse V. Johnson puts it succinctly: ‘I just felt Wonder Woman was a terrific character who had been seriously maligned by her on-screen depictions.’

Jesse’s was the first of two completely separate clips to become big internet hits this year. What made him pick the distinctly alt-rock’ looking Nina Bergman to play the iconic character? ‘Nina is an actress-singer I have known for some time. She is intense, focused, and physically powerful, attributes I felt were perfect for Wonder Woman.’

Below: Wonder Woman 2013 ( dir. Jesse V. Johnson ), as played by actress and singer Nina Bergman.

So why are Warner Bros - the studio that owns the entire DC Comics pantheon - so reticent to push ahead with a big-budget movie adaptation of such a well-known character?
The reasons are manifold, but the main one is probably the age of the character herself. Wonder Woman, like Superman and Captain America, is essentially a 1940’s creation, and represents a first-generation of superheroes who became default mascots of World War II America and its ideals, and therefore proves difficult to re-tool in our era of cynicism and suspicion of traditional values and authority. Johnson explains: ‘DC is rightfully protective of its characters - meaning it can be difficult to get a feature going, but that protective attitude leaves a vacuum for a well thought out fan film to make an impact.’

They have good reason to be cautious: As other studio adaptations of vintage comic heroes such as The Phantom, Dick Tracy, and The Shadow have shown, no matter how lavish your period styling and art deco set designs, a movie can easily be regarded as no more than a curiosity to all but the most hardcore genre fans. More saliently, female-fronted action films have also historically performed badly at the box office ( Aeon Flux, Elektra, Catwoman ), and even worse at the hands of the critics ( Tomb Raider ).

So now there are two interpretations: Johnson’s, with its kinetic and punky vibe, and Sam Balcomb's ‘300’-style interpretation, going for that mythical Greek look. Both examples show that with the right vision, it is still possible to portray the character in a credible way.

For the budding film-maker, if the studio is so protective of its property - and you want to make your own trailer - what are the legal ramifications? According to Johnson, ‘I made it with no permission from anyone, and posted it to Vimeo which is non-profit. I made my Wonder Woman with no view to making any kind of financial profit from it, internet profit doesn’t interest me. It wasn’t - and cannot be - the reason for me to make these shorts. I made Wonder Woman to show that I had an artistic vision for the character, that could, with a little imagination, be seen to initiate a successful feature film premise.’

The final result is spectacular. What did the studio make of it?

The WW trailer brought me a wonderful series of meetings with execs at Warner Brothers, it would be a dream come true to work with them, but I believe I am going to have to deliver a more solid reason for them to bank on me as a director of a studio picture. He then adds cryptically, ‘I am working on that aspect as we speak.’

Interestingly, it transpires that the actress playing Jesse's Wonder Woman was a good choice, too. ‘Nina is repped by Warners Records, they saw our short was doing well and put it on their Youtube channel.’ 

Below: Great profile shot of Nina Bergman as Wonder Woman.

Indeed, Nina confirmed to FUTURE-ROCKER that it was an incredible opportunity to work on Wonder Woman with Jesse.’ ( Scroll down to the end of this edition for more info on Nina ).

Sounds like a nice bit of synergy for all concerned. What does Jesse think of Sam Balcomb's Wonder Woman, played by Rileah Vanderbilt?  ( see clip, below ).

‘I like it, the visuals are beautiful, ’ he enthuses.

Below: The second Wonder Woman fan clip of 2013 ( dir. Sam Balcomb )

Below: Wonder Woman 2013, as played by Rileah Vanderbilt ( dir. Sam Balcombe ).

How lucky for Warner Brothers. While they dither in a creative limbo, energetic and talented film-makers are producing movie prototypes for them, creating huge viral publicity in the process - and all completely for free! Warners should fire their publicity departments.

DC is now ten years behind Marvel in terms of getting characters successfully to the screen. One of the reasons could be that Marvel’s characters more readily translate for a modern sensibility, birthed, as they were, during the 1960’s counter-culture. The earliest geeks and hipsters found themselves amused by Stan Lee’s smart-mouthed dialogue, dazzled by the psychedelic visuals of master artists like Ditko, Kirby and Steranko, and thus the characters’ spirit has remained intact ever since.

Unfortunately, the longer Warners/DC wait, the more pressure there is to deliver a massive hit. No executive wants to go down in history as the guy that killed the Wonder Woman franchise, so you can see why the studio doesn’t want to put itself through the pain of another Superman-style reboot. Maybe to play safe, they should introduce her in a team-up context, as with Ben Affleck’s Batman, in the Man of Steel sequel.

FUTURE-ROCKER thinks that a successful Wonder Woman film should be a courageous and full-on Inglourious Basterds-style World War II blitzkrieg, and if it has to be from a ‘known’ director, let it be Quentin Tarantino directing from a David Mamet script.

Ultimately, like their super-strong heroine, Warner Brothers need to man-up - and show Marvel how it’s done.


This is an ongoing series of articles that will be spread across both FUTURE-ROCKER and MONOBLOG over the coming editions, featuring the work of the visionaries who document the more 'colourful' side of 21st Century life.


FUTURE-ROCKER is blown away by Sebastian's vertiginous shots of Dubai's skyscrapers. His super-sharp photographs make the desert city look like a megalopolis from a science fiction movie. How does he prepare for a shoot? See below!

Sebastian says: For cityscape work, you need a comfy pair of shoes, lots of recon work and patience.  Since I mainly shoot late at night it's a lot of long exposures, dodging cars sometimes, getting strange looks and comments from drunk people walking back to their hotels.  I hope to get more elevated shots over the next year from roof tops and high balconies.

All photographs copyright Sebastian Lee, 2013


''I like the idea of data as a raw material.''

Justin Palmer's gorgeous 'data maps' have rightly caught the eye of the design community in recent months. We ask him how he turned a relatively sedate subject - the age of the buildings in the neighbourhoods around Portland - into a prismatic array of futuristic hieroglyphs.

To fully enjoy them as wonderful abstract pieces of art, we've taken our favourite bits of the map and zoomed in. If you want to know more, see the link at the bottom of this page.

Below: Beaverton, Oregon

Below: Close-up of Ladd's Addition, southeast Portland

FUTURE-ROCKER: Justin, These maps are really stunning, and fascinate on so many levels. How did you do them?

The map was possible through open source tools and open access to public data.  The city of Portland maintains and releases a bunch of public data, and the building dataset is one of those releases. The dataset contains a record of over 600k buildings and many of them list the year they were created. 

After acquiring the data, I imported it into the open source map editor, TileMill.   This is where I worked on the visuals of the map, tweaking the color ranges via Carto, adding rivers and parks, etc.  After I was comfortable with everything, I exported the resulting tiles to MapBox and then used GitHub Pages  to host the website.

It's kind of fascinating to think that none of this would've been possible five years ago.  The tools didn't exist, and the data was locked away on some hard drive.

FR:  What does 'data' mean to you? To many people, it represents something scary and Orwellian, whereas you show that it can be have an inherent aesthetic quality.

Data forms the basis of art and information.  I think cartography is an especially compelling use of data, because it's easy for individuals to identify with.  People see themselves, their lives, on a map; places they've been, places they want to go, places they feel safe and places they fear.

I like the idea of data as a raw material.  Like most raw material, it's up to the craftsman to decide if they want to use it responsibly.  Data will always exist, and unlike other raw material, it's only going to become more abundant with time.  

FR:  Have you had any offers to 'do' other cities? Or would you like to?

I've been informally asked to do other cities, but I doubt I will.  Portland is my home and it's the place I identify with the most.  However, I've seen other maps pop up for the Netherlands, NYC, Chicago and London among others.

FR:  What originally got you started?

I guess you could say I started out doing design for software.  Not long after, I started programming in a bunch of different programming languages.  Along the way, data visualization became a great way for me to merge the two skill sets. 

I've been influenced by a number of sources.  I really love the way the NYTimes uses data to help tell a story.  I'm also a big fan of Eric Fisher's work.

Below: North Portland, with the Willamette River on the left

Below: Showing neighbourhoods between Beaverton ( in the north ) and Tigard ( south )

Below: Portland, showing the Willamette River ( grey ), and the Banfield Expressway ( black line curving across the centre ).

Below: Expanse of neighbourhoods, with the Banfield Expressway ( across the top of map )

Below: Map of Portland

Below: Sabin / Irvington neighbourhood, northeast Portland

For get more info - go to Justin's Website and follow the link to his blog.

Our look at the urban environment continues back here in a few months, and also in our sister mag, MONOBLOG.


Okay, so now you're wondering who exactly Jesse V. Johnson's Wonder Woman is... 

FUTURE-ROCKER introduces N.I.N.A.
Photo: Robert Sebree

Nina, you appear to have acted in loads of things, but it's difficult to pin down your biography on the internet. You seem to be an international woman of mystery. What's your background?

Haha, I know, I'm kinda confusing.

I was born in Denmark, Copenhagen - My Father is Russian - I moved to New York alone when I was 17, and moved to LA for good a few years ago!

At FUTURE-ROCKER, we love female vocalists, so it was great to discover that you are a new signing at Warner Brothers. What vocalists most inspired you?

Nine Inch Nails: Trent Reznor, he says what I only dare to think, he's so brave and brutally honest. He's my biggest inspiration.
U2's Bono: His vocals rips my heart out. I LOVE the sound of his throat - he's an inspiration as an artist and human being.
VAST ( Seattle industrial combo ): His lyrics mixed with beauty and aggression I love him.

Massive Attack ( Bristol UK trip-hop combo ): Sonically there's nothing better....

Lisa Gerrard ( Dead Can Dance vocalist and Ridley Scott's soundtrack muse ): She's from another world - her voice makes me cry...

Chester ( Linkin Park ) I LOVE the aggression, makes me feel so good...

Some great picks there. Okay, one last thing. Judging by all your promo pictures, you seem to have a rather pro-choice attitude to hair colour. ( We like our rockers dark and gothic, so we picked only NINA's black-haired photos ). What are you, a blonde or brunette?

I had to go blonde again... my agent threatened to drop me if I didn't... I work more as a blonde in this town!!


''I work more as a blonde in this town!!''

Photo: Robert Sebree