Director: Christopher Hill

Director: Christopher Hill

Artist: Cut Copy

Video: Free Your Mind 

How were you approached for the job?

I'm good friends with the band and have worked with them a few times before. 
They had a long list of people they were approaching about curating the entire marketing campaign of the album. I was one of the names on the list. 
We chatted about a number of ideas over lunch, got excited about the prospects of the collaboration and it went from there. 

What inspired you on your idea for the video?

Firstly, the 'Free Your Mind' song itself.
The vibe of the track at almost 6 minutes long made me instantly think I had room to breath in terms of creating a more character driven narrative that blended elements of comedy and drama.
I had a few ideas along these lines but the idea of the cult seemed to fit most naturally with the themes of the song.
From there I researched cults in general… The Source Family, The Family, The Manson Family, Heaven's Gate, the NBA...
A few films stood out for me at the time, 'The Idiots', 'Excalibur' and Cronenberg's Canadian made films. 
There's probably an endless list of things that inspired this video... including my own life. 

What do you love about the film 'Excalibur'? I remember when I first saw that film as a child, It completely blew my mind. 

John Boorman has made a bunch of great films… Deliverance, Zardoz, The Emerald Forest, etc…
Excalibur is a far more dirty, violent, sexual and psychedelic version of the Arthur story then you would initially expect. It blew my mind as a kid too... 
The script itself is a great reference for the struggle to maintain power and leadership, the corruption / perversion of that power and the psychological torments of an adulterous love triangle.

What was the budget?

You can always do with more.

Tell us about the production process?

Originally we were going to shoot in Australia. We had a location, casting, crew all organised for a shoot just outside of Melbourne. 
Then Alexander Skarsgard was suddenly on board as the lead actor and I had to relocate to LA as he was only available to shoot for a limited time.

Once I got to LA I started all over again, briefing a new DP, production designer and wardrobe person etc… a day of casting to pick the right combination of cult members.
Picking out a wig and fitting it with Alexander whilst we discussed his character and wardrobe. 
Alexander was a total professional, we discussed every aspect of the character and his back story, including whether the cult leader would be a briefs or boxer shorts type of person. 

We spent a lot of time searching for the perfect location as I had written something very specific into my treatment. 
From there I went through my script with the DP, production designer and 1st AD to block out the scenes. 
Then I put together a precise shot list with the 1st AD… I had a few extra scenes that I knew I could cut without compromising the narrative (which I did cut).  

Finally, a long but enjoyable 14 hour shoot day, followed by Ten Pin bowling and cocktails. 

Did you have a notable Australian actor originally cast as the Cult leader?

No, but I did have some very good actors lined up for casting. 
A director friend of mine had also offered to favourably mention it to Ben Mendelsohn and David Wenham as he had worked with them before. 
Both would be great to work with but I'm not sure if they would have been into it. Although, I can really see Ben Mendelsohn playing some sort of cult leader and I've always thought it would be amazing to work with him. 
Alexander was perfect and once I started to think of him for the part I couldn't imagine anyone else.

What were the limitations you faced with the production?

The same limitations everyone has with production: Time and money. 
However, I always try to design my projects from the start to fit within those pre-determined limitations so that hopefully their effect on the final outcome is minimal.

What was the turnaround?

About 5 weeks all up. 
2 weeks pre-production to shoot in Australia which we cancelled. 
1 week of pre-production in LA. 
1 day of shooting.
1 week of editing. 
1 week of minor changes + colour grade. 

Who were your key collaborators?

Australian Producer: Niamh Peren
LA Producer: Jason Baum
DOP: Larkin Seiple
Production Designer: Maxwell Orgell
Wardrobe: Michelle Thompson
Makeup/Hair: Candice Birns
1st AD: Jesse Fleece
Editor: Hank Friedmann and his dog 'Shep Proudfoot'
Plus Cut Copy and Alexander Skarsgard. 

Have you worked with any of them before?

No. They were all new to me but most of the crew had all worked together a lot before which I think helped in making the production run like a well-oiled machine. 

Are there differences between Australian and American film crews?

Technically speaking no, except that music videos are seen as more of a legitimate format in the US. 
Unlike Australia, there is an actual infrastructure for music videos there with production companies, commissioners, agents and festivals / awards devoted to the art form. 
Some people basically make their living solely from music videos. 
For these reasons it is easier to get much more professional crews devoted to your project. 
This is not the same in Australia, where music videos run on the smell of an oily rag, with many begged favours. 
Most of the music videos I've done in Australia, Ive acted as producer, director, production designer and completed the editing and effects. 
I've worked with some great crews in both countries and in the end the difference between crews probably comes down to budget and personal contacts. 

What did you shoot on? What lenses did you use?

Arri Alexa and a set of Kowa Anamorphics. 

Where was the location?

On a ranch about 45min out of LA. They grow chillies, corn and oranges there. 
The house was unoccupied except for a huge mouldy turd in the non-functioning toilet. 

Was the post-production done in the USA also?

Yes. It was easier to work that way. 
I edited with Hank Friedmann in LA and Varnish completed the online and color grade. 

How involved were the band and label?

The band were heavily involved in the beginning but once they were happy with my final treatment they basically left me to my own devices. 
Cut Copy's management (Punk Da Funk) were really supportive and were crucial in making this possible. 

If you had a chance to approach it again, what would you do differently?

I don't think I could have done it differently and got a better result under the circumstances. 

However, if I had more money, 2 days shooting would have been nice. It would have allowed me to explore some of the scenes in more depth and shoot some extra ones… 
but then the video possibly would have ended up being 10 minutes long. 

If there was no time limit on pre-production, I'd ask Alexander to stop exercising and put him on a strict diet of only beer and hamburgers for 6 months so that he developed a pot belly before we shot. 


  1. This is clearly raw footage video post production. I understand what you're saying because I felt the same way initially. It felt more like "peeking under the wrapping" so to speak, and I kind of enjoyed it.


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