They met through working independently making music videos for the band The Neighbourhood but they soon found their individual skill sets were more powerful when they collaborated on films. Now the Californian new directors Daniel Iglesias and Zack Sekuler have teamed up as a duo.
The narrative of your latest film, Female Robbery for The Neighbourhood, is compelling and sinister. Can you tell us please how the story evolved and what you drew upon for inspiration.
Daniel: Jesse [the band’s frontman 20-year old Jesse James Rutherford] wrote the lyrics and he explained the basic story to us: a little girl trapped in an abusive household who prays for an older woman to rescue her by stealing her away.
From there we took that story and, continuing with Neighbourhood aesthetics, we embellished and elaborated. Treating the video took a long time as we went through many treatment drafts. Zack and I always try to push our boundaries and challenge ourselves conceptually in an attempt to raise our own bar. One of the ways we love to do this is by manipulating the element of perspective. In Sweater Weather we manipulated the viewer’s perspective via the 70/30-split screen. We knew we wanted to continue to attempt forms of manipulation with Female Robbery.
Zack’s design mind explored concepts of complex camera movements and motion graphic typography while I tossed around the idea of French New Wave infusions and explored more filmic and stylistic sensibilities.
Zack and I want all of our work to be highly stylized. So one thing I tried to do was embellish the narrative. I don’t want to give anything away yet, but we placed more subtextual significance upon certain objects in the video to give them greater symbolism. We also twist perspective and foreshadow via the opening dialogue. So all of these ideas caused our treating process to get pretty dense. But once it was all constructed, the rest of production went much more smoothly for us.
It’s mysterious who is killed, can you enlighten us please?
Zack: Well actually, nobody is killed. We wanted to make this a video that had that mystery at the end: who is being buried? Is this “female robber” good or bad, and so on. You actually see what’s being buried at the very beginning of the video during the bell hits. We wanted to tie this object to all of the negativity in the little girl’s life and show that in the end while it may seem like she is the one being buried, it is actually the object that holds all of her negativity.
How did you two meet and begin working together?
Daniel: Both of us have been close friends with the entire band for years. Near the very beginning of The Neighbourhood’s career, we both did film work for them independently.
Zack created the original found-footage video for the track alongside Jesse, and I created a live/stage concept and video for the band. When it came time to create the video for Sweater Weather, the band, being pleased with both of our work, asked us to team-up for the production.
It was a fabulous experience that lead Zack and I to build our own film production company and the band’s management has employed us to handle all video work. Since then our professional relationship has blossomed into a close friendship.
How do you two work together as a directing team. Do you have specific roles or is it more organic and you collaborate on everything?
Daniel: Zack and I work great collectively and we do so in a manner that’s organic and an even collaboration. When writing treatments and creating concepts we bounce ideas off of each other until the framework is composed. So, each of our productions is born a patchwork Frankenstein monster covered in both our fingerprints.
When it comes to execution it is very loose. We handle everything together and we don’t assign ourselves specific roles. However, our own specific artistic disciplines tend to speak for themselves and work accordingly during execution.
I’m currently studying acting and film production at Chapman University, so I tend to lead the principal production aspects, such as the directing. However, while we do have our own artistic specialties, we’re both 100% involved in the entire creative process together.
Do you ever have major disagreements over how a production should work or is there an intuitive knowledge of what is the best idea?
Daniel: I think the best thing about working in a team is trying to impress each other. Zack and I are both very particular in our own way and we both have very strong visions. So naturally there is constant healthy deliberation between us. But we both possess similar goals and tastes, so most of our intuitive feelings are in synch.
You’ve shot other videos for The Neighbourhood including one for the same track Female Robbery.
Zack: The first Female Robbery video was just an idea that Jesse and I came up with on the way back from eating burritos. This was before The Neighbourhood’s identity was even revealed, and we wanted to capture the look and feel of the band without showing who they actually were. We came up with a lot of the graphic elements that The Neighbourhood would use and then we tried our hand at cutting together old footage to a track. It was kind of a gamble that wound up paying off.
The guys in the band are very close friends of Daniel and mine which really helps us working together for the end result. I would say that the creative process is very collaborative with Daniel and I throwing ideas back and forth and agreeing or disagreeing until we both wind up liking something. We both have very different personality types, but it winds up helping us be more creative in the long run because we know that if both of us can like it, it has to be pretty good.
What is behind your decision to shoot in black and white?
Zack: The Neighbourhood is black & white. It’s something we’ve agreed upon since the beginning, maybe that will change in the future, but for now that’s how it works. I love color and would definitely be interested in working with it on other projects.
When you are not making music videos what are you doing?
Daniel: I’m continuing my undergraduate BFA at Chapman’s film and theatre schools. I’m auditioning in LA and acting in lots of other productions while, obviously, continuing to expand my production company with Zack and handle video work for The Neighbourhood. As for my team with Zack, we are continuing to head The Neighbourhood’s video department and looking to expand our company’s work to future clients and our own features.
Zack: We’re based out of Los Angeles. I do a lot of different things, I have a punk rock band of my own that I play with and I also tour manage The Neighbourhood when they’re on the road. I have a Bachelors from Cal Arts in graphic design and up until recently I had a job doing branding for a company. I think I speak for Daniel and myself when I say that we definitely want to direct videos full time, whether it be commercials, tv shows, or films; our goal is to create things that push the boundary of narrative and style. If only we could agree on a name for our production company.