Montreal-based director and cinematographer Derek Branscombe transforms the world around him into lush cinematic landscapes. Branscombe directed his first music video for local band Seoul, which Flood Magazine described as “hypnotic” and “visionary.” Now he’s focusing on new ways to bring his stunning visual vocabulary to life.
By Sara Kloepfer
Let’s start at the beginning. How did you become interested in film?
DB: I was always doing visual arts, like painting and drawing, since I was young. At the beginning of high school I got really into photography. I didn’t think of going into film until I graduated. I came to a Concordia open house and they had a little booth for film production. I like film because it’s a mix of the photography image as well as music. And also narrative, I always used to like writing stories when I was younger. So it really was perfect.
What are you working on right now?
DB: I’m involved in Red Can, a short film directed by my friend Mattias Graham. I did a feature film, Lovers Lost, directed by Alexander Kasstan. This summer I’ll be doing cinematography on a bunch of music videos, mostly local Montreal artists. I just shot one for Rosie Valland. As a director, I’m now working on my second music video for a song called Lawless, by Paper Beat Scissors.
Your first music video for Seoul has such a distinct look, how does your second one compare?
DB: I created this concept, it’s really simple, very feeling and aesthetically based. It’s of these two girls, these dancers, and their relationship. It’s a really natural video — I’m capturing a real relationship with natural light and mostly improvised scenes. It was really nice to shoot. I really love this project because, contrary to the Seoul video, which was going far places I had never been and representing a broad range, this video is really close to home and I’m exploring something really free and mine.
How do you approach shooting music videos differently than films?
DB: There’s a lot of really interesting things happening in music videos and other ‘commercial’ venues for moving image. There’s a bit of a stigma in the film world about these sorts of projects, where people treat them like they don’t have any creative value or substance. I really like music videos because they can be super creative, and it’s a short, contained project.
FM: In terms of your creative process, where do you draw inspiration?
DB: I actually draw a lot, if not most, of my inspiration from the real world around me, my interactions with people and with nature. Experience is very important to me. More so, actually, than other artists or films.. I guess I ingest those things and they eventually work their way through my work in some blended form, but I would say I get a lot more of my creative inspiration from the world around me. I do a lot of different types of art too. I paint now and then, I make music, and I’m starting to work on some sculpture projects. I’d like to think all of these creative outlets are feeding off of each other and working toward some greater whole, some greater work. It’s still too soon to tell.
What’s next for you?
DB: The goal is that I’ll keep doing work as a cinematographer and director and keep climbing my way up to bigger and better projects. I also want to make sure I do some of my own creative projects and see how I can push those things further. It’s sort of a funny time we’re in because there’s this old, traditional model of film and how you get funding. You make a film, and then you need to send it to festivals, and then it needs to play at festivals and win some awards so that you can apply for money for bigger projects. That process takes so long, but right now I’m really in a time in my life where I just want to create and share.