Director: Natalie van den Dungen
Natalie was born in Melbourne. After moving to Sydney in 2001, she volunteered at The Australian Film, Television and Radio School for two years and was then employed as the in-house camera operator for MTV. In 2002, she returned to Melbourne and worked as a camera assistant on several large-scale drama productions until 2007. Coupling her love of music and film she has since become a full-time freelance director of music videos, live DVD's and music related documentaries.
Natalie’s first foray into music video making won her 'Best Music Video' award at The Heart of Gold Film Festival in 2007 for long time collaborator Darren Hanlon's 'Elbows'. Her music video for Dan Deacon's 'Paddling Ghost' was invited into festivals around the globe including Pictoplasma Animation Festival 2009 in Berlin and was included in Pitchfork's Top 40 videos of 2009. Her videos have frequently been 'Indie Clip of the Week' on ABC TV's RAGE.
In 2010 she released her first DVD Unfamiliar Stars for the Australian band The Lucksmiths, which features the band's farewell concert and a 22-minute documentary following the band's final days. She has also filmed extensive band tours across the USA and Europe for Darren Hanlon and Ned Collette. In 2011 She directed and edited a series of music videos for Australian super group Seeker Lover Keeper (Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby, Sally Seltmann) starring three of Australia's most renowned actors - Aden Young, John Waters and Barry Otto. Natalie has also completed another music DVD for Australian band The Drones ' A Thousand Mistakes' (Shock) featuring an intimate set of rarely played songs.
More recently, Natalie has made her first TV length documentary Persecution Blues: The Battle for The Tote in 2011. Persecution Blues premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival where it sold out in 24 hours. Persecution Blues also had a 3 week exclusive theatrical release at Cinema Nova in Melbourne. The documentary was commissioned by ABC TV with post production funding through Screen Australia and will be broadcast in early 2012 followed by a DVD release through Madman.
She now resides in Sydney and is currently in pre production for a music video for Rhys Muldoon.
Q. What inspired you on your idea for the videos?
The initial idea of a male actor singing the lyrics actually came from Sarah Blasko when she had been a part of the production of Hamlet several years ago. Barry Otto was acting in it and she had fondly remembered his singing and dancing backstage before the show.
We were considering another idea, but it was seeming too complicated for the quick turn around considering we needed to produce 3 videos at once.
As soon as I heard Sarah's idea I knew it was the one to go with and began developing it straight away. I liked the idea of exploring men singing women's songs, with women's voices. It seems to take away any bias and makes it purely human. It changes the way you take in the lyrics. With the SLK record the girls are singing each others songs, so it felt like an extension of that.
Q. How were you approached for the job?
I've been friends with Sarah for a few years now and was contacted by her manager Edrei Cullen. Edrei asked if I'd be interested in making 3 videos in 5 weeks. I'm always up for an ambitious project but I had to work out if I could commit enough time to the project as I was in the middle of the edit for a documentary project ( Persecution Blues). I ended up taking a brief break from the project to make the videos. I'm glad I did.
Q. Why did they want to get so many videos produced in a such a short period of time?
I guess it was because they chose to do 3 videos rather than just the 1.
Q. How did you approach such prominent actors to the project?
All the actors were approached by the artists directly as they knew them personally...John Waters is Holly's neighbour...They were all delighted to be asked to sing the girls songs. They are all fans of their music, much as the girls are all fans of the actors.
Q. What were the limitations you faced with the production?
Time, made more extreme than usual due to making 3. The concept therefore needed to be simple, the edit needed to be simple etc etc.
Q. Who were your key collaborators?
Germain McMicking was the DOP.
Matthew Walker and I both edited.
Kimberley Forbes was make up artist.
Q. Have you worked with any of them before?
Germain previously shot my video for Darren Hanlon - Butterfly Bones. He's incredibly easy to work with and always shoots and lights beautifully. As for the editing, this was the first time I shared the editing load so the first time I'd worked with Matt. He has a great eye for detail and has a great deal of editing experience. Matt also made the behind the scenes video for the project. It was a nice change to have a team mate in post production. Kimberley did the make up for the Seeker Lover Keeper photo shoots but this was the first time I had worked with her and like the rest of the team was wonderful to work with. It was a very relaxed set.
Q. What did you shoot on? What lenses did you use?
We shot on the Canon 5D with Leica Prime Lenses. I really like the look and affordability of these cameras, but I am pretty keen to try out an Alexa...
Q. What was the process you took in producing the video?
I started with a very simple concept that allowed for plenty of improvisation on the day of the shoot. I wanted to give the actors room for interpretation. So the first thing to sort were the actors. Holly, Sally and Sarah went about recruiting and I started searching through Sydney's finest second hand stores for props that might inspire the direction for the 3 characters. I find I'm able to develop my ideas if I see objects or spaces first hand, it triggers my imagination.
I wanted to give them each a basic theatre like set and minimal props for them to work with. I also wanted to film them in the same space, with a consitant look, that could be slightly altered. We filmed in the Sidetrack Theatre in Marrickville, which seemed fitting.
I spoke to Aden and John on the phone repeatedly and met with Barry prior to the shoot. We discussed their interpretations of the songs and developed characters for them based on their ideas and the girls ideas of what the essence of each song was.
This was a different way of working for me as I'm used to planning every moment in the video to the second. It was a great experiment for me.
Q. So it was one big day? How long did each sequence take?
We shot each video as a half day 5-6 hours each over a day and a half. This included an hour or so with the actors on the set improvising.
Q. Were all the actors present during everyones separate sequences?
Not generally but John was there for the tail end of filming with Aden and Aden dropped by the next day while we were filming Barry's.
Q. Do you wonder why more great actors don't feature in local music videos?
Yeah, I think there are so many great actors in this country that would love to do something they don't usually do. I guess a lot of bands are 'acting' in their own videos also but perhaps known actors aren't always considered as they think the actors may not want to do it. But really they're music fans like anyone else and are happy to be asked to do something with music acts...from my experience anyway.
Q. How involved were the band and label?
Since Seeker Lover Keeper is a collaboration of 3 solo performers it meant there were 3 times as many managers involved and of course 3 artists, but fortunately just the one label! Despite that it all seemed to go quiet smoothly although the email threads were ridiculously long.
Everyone seemed to have faith and gave me room to produce something a little unorthodox. Plus, I always like to know the artist personally, or get to know them rather than be some kind of gun for hire through a record label, so this was another case of working with friends.
Sarah and Sally were on set for the shoot ( 1/2 day shoot for each song). Holly was on tour so she couldn't be there. But everyone was trusting of what I wanted to do and happy with the results.