Sunday, 20 May 2012

#ESPspotlight Interview with Carly Cussen!





...Carly Cussen

I hope you're sitting comfortably because this one, my friends is a MONSTER....

This week I sat down for a chat with a hugely inspiring, warm, friendly and down-to-earth young lady that I first came across last April.

Having taken part in Urban Development's 'How To Steal My Job' seminar; I was immediately intrigued with her knowledge and ability to hold her own amidst her fellow 'Big Gun' panellists (Logan Sama, Austin Daboh and Charles Gordon), who had more than a few years on her in their respective games. Those points already in her favour; she then went on to talk about her own story in a field that I've always had a keen interest in, and hooked me as an instant fan.

To say that she is an 'Industry Leader' is something of an understatement. Carly is the 'Go-To' woman if you want conceptual visuals like nothing anyone else is doing and she's #TeamUK Baby! I can't even take the credit for going in during our interview - she did that with her candid openness, I was just honoured beyond belief to be a witness!

Read for yourself how your usual #FindOutFriday evolved into a MONSTER Spotlight Interview. The lighting maybe soft, but the focus is sharp; please welcome Carly Cussen to the frame...








Carly, a MASSIVE Thank You for taking part in this week's #SpotlightIntervew; I'm honoured to have you! Let's get down to the good stuff...

Everyone knows Jamal (Edwards) now legendary story; but tell us about how the video bug bit you? What led you to become a runner?

I went to Drama School, so I was forever Drama-orientated anyway. I think I was about 13 when I watched the 'behind the scenes' of Lord of the Rings and I kind of just decided from then that I wanted to be like Peter Jackson and shoot big-budget feature films. When I was in school, there was no such thing as this people going to college and having the choice of all these different courses. I don't know what there is available now but with me, it was just your GCSEs and your A-Levels - that was it. You could go on to college or University, but every course was quite basic; so I didn't have the option for Film or Media, or all those different avenues that they have now. I was 15 when I did my last GCSE and you used to be able to buy in WH Smiths, a book with all of the media contacts in it. It was quite expensive, about £60? So I bought the book while I was working there and I wrote to different film companies. I remember I wrote to Kenny Crouch who did the wardrobe department for all of these massive Hollywood films, then I finally heard back and went to work for a company called Pagan. Now at the time, the video directors there were like, Max and Dania and they were doing the So Solid videos and a lot of the new, up and coming urban stuff. So I started by making tea for them, doing a lot of the running around on set; I was learning the ropes as I was going but I was only just 16, so I couldn't really do too much because of my age limit. It was PTE that I started working for, as a Production Assistant when I met this guy called Danny. We just decided that we can do our own videos! There's this channel called Channel U and people were doing independent projects so we just started doing our own stuff. It's very similar to Jamal's story because when I was 17, my Nan bought me my first camera. I shot a video for a guy called Tinie Tempah...





Now back when we were 17, 18, he was absolutely nobody! He was just this new guy that had come out of Plumstead or wherever!  We shot this crazy little video that's now got millions of hits on YouTube and that kind of really kickstarted me...I got asked to work for Channel U, started doing loads and loads of Grime videos and then the projects just started to get bigger and bigger! Me and my partner Dan went different ways and I said "Right. I'm going to stop doing performance videos!" A lot of them were in-studio or very basic because of the budget; so I said to myself I'm going to start shooting Grime videos that are different. That's when my new phase came about. So I did 'POW' (2011) where we were robbing banks, I turned Ghetts into an alien, I did an Army one with Marger and ScruFizzer, I was doing 'Young Guns' with Devlin and Ed Sheeran where they were superheroes...


I started taking the Grime songs and artists and trying to break out of the typical box. I did the follow up to 'POW' with 'Mindspinning' and slowly but surely, they were getting millions of hits. I think I did Devlin's 'Marching Thru the Fog' next, then Griminal's 'Supa Dupa'...and I was going up in the quality as well. I was starting to get recognised and I realised this was where I wanted to be; this is what I wanted to do. Obviously I couldn't do it with every video because of budget restraints and all that sort of stuff. But then I got picked up by Luti Media; a big production company who shoot artists from all around the world - Kanye West, all those sorts of people and now I'm working for them; writing and I've done a few pop videos. I did the Street Dance 2 video, I did the Alex Saidac video for PUMA...So yeah, I'm just building up into the Pop world! And the BIG picture, in the long run, is to go back to the beginning, hopefully write my movie, go back to being Peter Jackson and hopefully win an Oscar! I've had this picture of one sitting on the back of my door since I was about 14 years old, so every time I close my door, that's the first thing I see - hopefully one day it will be a real one!


Obviously it's not been an easy ride and one thing I've never, ever done is expose the truth of what I've been through. I've been beaten up, I've been robbed, I've been in buildings while they were being robbed, I've been shot at; I've been sat in the back of Police cars for 6 hours while Forensics have taken over the place...I've gone through the shit as well. There are times when I've been sat on my bed and thought; "I'm going to give up. I hate this, the fact that I've just been gashed by the Police in the middle of South London for being robbed". There were really, really tough times where it kind of feels like it's not worth it anymore; but then you just remember why you're there in the first place.


I can't remember what I was editing late one night but the building got broken into and burgled while I was still in it. I had to lock myself upstairs - I was absolutely PETRIFIED; the Police were called, it was absolutely HORRIFIC. When I say to people "I've struggled loads since I was 16 years old", people assume I mean I've struggled with budgets, struggled with clients, struggled with getting bigger videos, getting bigger projects...the fact that it rained on a shoot day when you're supposed to be shooting outside is the least of my worries! I've been on-set where people have been like "Oh My God, they've got guns, we're gonna get robbed!" And you've just got to grab your stuff and RUN.


And was that because you were working within the Grime scene or for another reason entirely?

Oh absolutely! It was the typical story of 'you're one gang, we're another, you're on our turf shooting a video and we're not having it - we're gonna rob your camera!' The second time was 'Oh you're not allowed in Hackney so you're gonna get shot at'. There are elements of Grime that are based on actual gang 'warfare', if you like; in that sort of destructive manner - it happens sometimes. Even though Music Video Directors aren't real, videos are filmed and based in real life, so circumstances do happen. I was filming, minding my own business in the middle of Kidbrooke Estate and these guys just came from all directions...What I did, which was ridiculous and I totally regret, was try to fight for my camera. I tried to hold on because I bought it myself. I'm not kidding - half of it was on finance, but I'd saved up and I was paying it off with my wages, working at Channel AKA. I even said to the guy "Look dude, this is my own camera, let go". Thinking back, I can't believe that I argued with this guy; my Mum, the Police, everyone said: "You absolute IDIOT, you could have gotten stabbed over that".

But my camera just meant so much to me. It was my whole life! I filmed everyday, I worked in the music video industry every day. I was 19, 20 years old and I'd worked hard for that camera! Three of them jumped on top of me, I was black and blue by the end of it. It's my fault, I should have just dropped the camera and walked off, I wouldn't have gotten hurt, but I wouldn't. Even after they hit me the first time, I was still clinging on for dear life, screaming. Obviously, they got it in the end - there's only so many times you can get hit before you let go; so they took it and the lenses and the tripod!



You've earned the title of the 'Princess of Grime'. Was it a conscious choice to go in the Grime direction as opposed to the mainstream?

Yeah, that's nothing to do with me by the way! D'you know what it was? I was 16 and at the time, the fashion was that everybody was listening to Grime and so I kind of fell down that route, especially after I shot for Tinie Tempah, Nu Brand Flexx and Mr. Wong. But it's also the style of music that I was listening to; so I enjoyed shooting Grime videos and they were easily accessible. People had their own money, it was all very Independent-based and it was easy for me to make peer tracks, get budgets then go and shoot videos. Then I started working at Channel U, then Channel AKA and in amongst doing the TV shows and adverts, I almost felt like I was studying Grime at the same time. Back then, when we had Presenters we obviously had to figure out questions and put together TV shows, so you're constantly studying the theme. Then a couple of years later I realised hold up; this theme needs a change now. We need to stop doing these typical 'hood', graffiti, 'hoods up' videos with gangs of boys...we really needed a shift in visuals. I was sick of green screen, I was sick of in-studio videos...I thought no, I'm going to do something completely different and that's kind of where I went with it. But at no point did I not want to do Grime; I enjoyed it a lot at the time. I'm going to get really deep now...Grime was the only music that I listened to growing up, that wasn't manufactured. Everybody wrote their own lyrics, everybody wrote their own songs, everything was raw, everything was based on inspiration and on day-to-day lifestyle. That rawness kind of helped with my inspiration. When I listened to Pop, it is very manufactured, it is very cheesy, it is very typical, so everything was bland. Whereas with Grime, there was a little bit more of a core hunger there to want to push it into a different level...

I'm honestly SO surprised to hear that from you!

I'm assuming stereotype-wise, everyone's always surprised to hear that! People have actually said to me: "I'll bet you live in the Country and your Mum bakes cookies!" I didn't! I don't come from a perfect background, I've always lived on a Council Estate. I suppose because of my job, I've had to speak politely to go along this respectable route of trying to keep everything professional and carry myself in a certain way...But the truth is that I have not lived with money myself, I do not come from a rich background; I was lucky enough to be given a camera by my Nan for my birthday, but I was not brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth!


I can understand that; if anything though, I mean more from the Female perspective? I know for me personally, I love Hip Hop, but the Grime side of things is a bit hard for my taste!


D'you know that's exactly why, if you look back at my very first videos - especially Tinie Tempah's, you'll always see the edge of romance and the love story in them! I can list off a good 10 videos from back in the day, that really did have that edge of either light-hearted comedy, or romance, or even fantasy...I remember shooting a video called 'Hooligans' - this is ironic - with Ghetts and Griminal who, at the time were probably the hardest Spitters, but the video had a fog in it, it had a Spider in it...I brought a complete fantasy element. Back then I didn't have any budget, so I couldn't do anything big and amazing; but I always brought a different element to the videos. The further along I went, the further I pushed the envelope.





I mean, even though it was supposed to be a bank robbery, my 'POW' still had that kind of moody edge, rather than a very raw edge. The original was quite aggressive and very 'gang-looking', very dark. Whereas my version was still dark but it was more kind of movie-looking.

Since we're on the track, we may as well touch on the mini-MOVIE that was 'POW 2011'! In addition to wrangling the likes of Lethal Bizzle, Ghetts, Kano, JME, Chip and the rest of the packed line up, I know you faced quite a bit of flack for the storyline. Can you talk through how you came up with the concept and kept them all in check long enough to go about executing it?


I never got any flack myself. The only thing it could have possibly done is pigeonhole me a little bit; so that when I tried to break into the Pop world, everybody was saying "Oh, she only does Grime, she only does Grime, she only does Grime...". But when you actually look at the cinematography of it, I had a lot of Production companies that do Pop actually ring me up based purely on the style of the cut, the way that I lit it, the way it was actually put together...so for me 'POW 2011' only did good things. YouTube comment-wise, the video was doing well. The song got a bit of crap off of the Pop people but as far as the video's concerned, I think it did me wonders, really! 





When I first got told "You're gonna do 'POW 2011'", I basically watched 'Grime 2003-4'; every video, every track that came out during that era and thought what is the worst stereotype of Grime? It's the fact that the boys look like drug dealerscriminals...they just look like they're up to no good, never doing anything, always getting arrested. So I thought I'm going to spin the stereotype on it's head! Instead of doing a club or performance video, I'm actually going to make these boys do the worst thing that they could do - I couldn't obviously kill anybody because that's just too far - I'm going to make them all rob a bank! Because no-one's expecting that!


When I told Bizzle, he was like "Are you serious? You're gonna take all these stereotypical Grime artists and make em go rob a bank?!" I told him "Yeah! It makes perfect sense! Everyone's expecting you to pop champagne and dance with girls in clubs, drive fast cars and look glossy with your bling...everyone's going to expect that because it's what Grime is about and where it's going, but NO! I'm going to flip it and come backwards" and I think it worked!


I remember back years ago, I would walk on-set and hear: "Are you the Make Up Artist?" I'd say "No, I'm the Director" and NOBODY wanted to see it! Nobody wanted to see this 16-year-old, White girl, turn up and tell everyone what to do! It was HARD! People would try to flirt with me, they just took the complete piss out of my whole existence when I was 17, 18-years-old! I had BIG arguments, I've been called rude and all sorts of names but you just have to put your foot down. I will literally ring up Wiley and say "Where are you? MAKE SURE YOU TURN UP, I can't hear excuses right now!" It's hard, but once you've built up the respect levels - I'm going to respect you by shooting you an amazing video and you're going to respect me by just trusting me and listening to me; all of a sudden, you do one video and it's like a realisation - "actually, she's right", then you do another video "I think she's getting better"...by the fifth video, it goes without saying; "there's your time, you turn up here, you do that, you go into make up..."





It's taken me about four or five years, but I've finally managed to get every artist to wear make up! They used to walk on-set and be like "NO! I'm not wearing make up!" I just had to put my foot down and say "You have to". Some have been really co-operative, don't get me wrong. I've had some battles, but I got there in the end! Getting those lenses into Ghetts eyes was the hardest thing - I'm not kidding and you can quote me on this - I had to pull his eyelids open with my bare hands shove those lenses into his eyeballs! He sat in that chair and was like "Carly, they're not gonna go in, trust me, my eyes are not gonna have it!" He looked like he'd been punched in the end, it was so red! Bloody nightmare, he was quite surprised himself that I managed it! There are some artists out there that have got the charisma to do what it takes to get there in the end. When Ghetts was standing in front of the mirror he looked ridiculous. He had two weird, alien-looking things coming out of his eyes, the video was not 'to style' yet, it was just completely WEIRD and when he first watched it in edit, he panicked. He was like, "Carly this is so far way from what I am, from what my Grime fans like, I'm nervous. I'm scared of the reaction..." I told him "Look, you're just different and they will respect you on that basis alone, just trust me..." It went out and within a few months, he was back with a remix, wanting to put the lenses back in!





So the last 8 years have prepared me for all that. It's just natural, it fell in to place. Once you've done 200 videos - and bear in mind that I'd probably shot all of those artists individually before then - it was like second nature. You have an instinct for it but also, 'POW 2011' was not a Pop song. It wasn't made to entertain Pop fans. This video and all of its content was done to entertain the audience of 'POW'. Now when I was speaking to Chipmunk and Kano, they knew full-well that they weren't going to come out looking a million dollars; it wasn't about looking like this could be a Kanye West video. They knew that I was impressing one kind of fanbase only and that was Grime fans - nothing was supposed to be glossy about it. So when it came out and didn't impress the Pop world, that's probably because it was never, ever meant to. 

A year ago, you said that one of the biggest challenges you face as a Director, is to get Artists to "let you do what you want with their music and then pay you for it!" ('How to Steal My Job' Seminar, Urban Development, 2011)

With the notoriety you've gained, do you still face that same difficulty? If so, how do you handle it?

In the Grime scene no, I don't. Trying to convince Ghetts that I'm going to put contact lenses in his eyes and make him an alien was hard; and I've done it before with Marger, trying to get him to wear a full Army uniform was hard work because the Grime scene has got a lot of front. But you crack that, do the video and have everybody say it's amazing...all of a sudden, they'll suddenly think "Hold up, I'm gonna trust Carly now!" For me, that happened with every artist, Ghetts, Lethal, Devlin, Griminal...everybody just ends up saying "There's the song, do what you want!" Gracious Kay sent me a song a couple of weeks ago, to shoot the following week and he didn't even know what I was shooting until the day of the video! I literally edited it a week later, it's done and dusted and he's happy as Larry. I think once you build up trust with people that become friends, it gets easier.


You've mentioned trying to break into the Pop world - I wouldn't have thought it would be that difficult with skills like yours and the CV to match? Does producing for the genre really differ that much?


Trying to walk into the Pop world and doing the same thing? No. It doesn't work like that. They're like, hold up a minute...what are you doing? You're writing script after script after script, tweaking it, changing it...doing your research on the artist / client; it's completely different! In the Grime scene you ring up the artist, go and grab a coffee and have a chat. Even ones that I'd never worked with before, we would meet up and they would say "Carly, here's my product, here's all my songs, this is where I want to go". I had the background, the research and the resources to really manipulate the video. In the Pop world you get a song, you get a brief, you get a budget, you have to write a treatment and you have to fight for it. Nobody trusts you because as far as they're concerned, I'm just Carly Cussen 'The Grime Director' and all I've shot is Rappers screaming their heads off about a load of nonsense and made them into 'quirky' little videos! So that doesn't necessarily mean that all of a sudden I can go shoot a Pop video - they're completely different styles and that trust is not a given.

You don't just stick to one form of hardware. When it comes to your technical knowledge and experience, what's the ratio of  classroom to 'on-the-job'?

I got scrutinized for saying this last time, but it's the truth - I never went to college, I never went to University. I have gone online and looked at blogs on different equipment, but I've never read a textbook. I've never listened to a teacher tell me how to do anything apart from on-set. So I can honestly say; I think a good 99% of what I know, I learned on-set or practising - trial and error, trial and error, trial and error...


I taught myself to edit, I taught myself to light, I taught myself to film...I'm not kidding; I built every set! From 'Marching Through the Fog' (Devlin)...




To 'POW'; even the recent ones, with the car - I built everything myself. I mean obviously, I got my family or friends in to help me paint and stuff; but everything else, I've just done myself. I just watched people. When I first started and I was making tea, I was listening to words and thinking ok; so he's calling that a 'Kino', which means that light must be a Kino; he's calling that a 'Can', so that must be what the film goes in; I just watched, learned and put things together...I'm very, very dyslexic. I can't spell four of the days of the week. I can't spell 'Wednesday', I can't spell 'Saturday', I can't read or write anyway! I was crap in school, I failed all of my GCSEs...I would not be able to pick up a textbook, read it and learn anything, because I wouldn't have a clue of what any of them were talking about. I've got a photographic memory so I literally just study, watch, look and that's how I learned 'that light, going in that direction, gives it that look', 'that camera, on that shutter angle, gives it that look'...Over 8 years, it becomes second nature.

I'm sure that you get asked a lot if there was a video that you wish you had directed; I'm going to go a slightly different route, though. Is there a video that although you've loved, you saw a completely different concept for? If so, what was it and what story would you have told instead?

SO many times! Especially American ones, when you hear the song come out a couple of weeks later? When I was younger, I used to practice writing by listening to a new track and writing a concept for it. I've done it about 30 times? I know it doesn't sound like a lot; but when you see the actual video come out and you just think, all that wait and then you did that? For an actual example though; I had a different take on Rihanna's 'Russian Roulette'. Although, the video that they shot was probably better. It's an amazing video - incredible, I absolutely love it and the editing in it as well, but I had a completely different concept. I've written ones to Bruno MarsNe-Yo and Nicki Minaj...GOD HELP the Music Industry if someone gives me a Nicki Minaj song because I've actually written a concept already that's in the bag, ready to go, that I think is SuperHot! So I'm waiting because I really want to do that!




If I had to describe your Signature, I would say it was that your videos are miniature movies in video form. How would you describe the 'Carly Cussen signature'?

D'you know what it is? First and foremost, my inspiration was movies, I've always wanted to bring that element in regardless. I love difference and I love uniqueness. God help Universal and Sony if anyone gives me £50,000 to shoot a video because they'll have issues, trust me! I don't know if you've ever seen 'Young Guns' with Devlin and Ed Sheeran, but I didn't have much budget to work with because it was an Independent project. Now if I was given 50 grand to shoot that, I would have made X-Men 5, it would have been a whole different ball game! If you ever came on-set for that, you would have laughed! I'll go through it from beginning to end:




We got Ed on first...we nearly gassed the whole location out with smoke because we had too much fire; we had Production Assistants either side just lighting things up, the little fire in his hand was a BBQ lighter...it was so ghetto; we broke every Health & Safety rule within the first 10 minutes of shooting! The rain for Devlin was just a hose pipe thrown on him! The wind on Yasmin was just a big wind machine and we had all these newspapers flying around...the rock? We were literally throwing it at Griminal, his trainers were RUINED! The poor guy was literally just getting mud launched behind him, it was horrendous! When you see the Scientists and stuff shaking, that's me on the floor, shaking the whole thing! I had no money but I still wanted to do the concept; I still wanted to shoot four elements being monitored. The idea was that subliminally, they're the four elements of Music and that's why Lewi (White) was studying them. But I just told myself that budgets are NOT restraining me, I'm going to do what I want to do and that is that! I literally caused chaos but I still got it done!





I can't go for that with every video, because a lot can be dictated by the artist themselves, or again that budget. But every video that I've had full creative control of definitely has a fantasy element. 


Well first of all I have to take my hat off to you, because you would absolutely not have known, just by watching! The second is I HAVE to ask: HOW do you make your videos look so 'big-budget' on a shoestring?


This is probably the first time I've ever said this and I really, genuinely mean it - I think that through so many times of practice and experience, I've just learned simplicity and organisation is the key to nailing what you want to do. It's hard to say, but you really just have to think about logistics...You want to do 'this'. How would that actually work and how would I make it look good? And whether it be researching about it or even demo-testing it, or kind of just trying to gel things together; you literally just have to keep practising, practising, practising! I've made some shockingly awful videos in my time, believe me! I've made more worse ones than I have alright ones! It's taken what, 8 years now, to figure out how it actually looks good on a low budget. Before I just used to think it looked good! I once did a car crash and now I look back at it, I can't help but cringe every time - it was horrendous! But it is just trial and error; mastering and practising that.


Your Sunday Girl video was a work of art - moreso to me than many of your others, because I have a personal bias towards Dance and Travel! How different is it to coordinate that type of shoot where you need to accommodate so much movement - especially mainly reliant upon natural lighting? 

With that, I shouldn't actually take full credit really, because this was the situation...I got given the song and I wrote a full concept to it. They said: you have to write concept that has clips to promote the movie. I said ok, cool...Then I got an email from the label saying either way, the artist isn't around to feature in the video. I went, so hold on a minute; 'you want me to shoot a video without an artistAnd have clips of the movie?!' I sat there and I thought, 'Ok, well I have a story to tell.' The lyrics of the song are very to and fro. Y'know, you're arguing with your boyfriend, one minute you win the argument, the next minute they win it and so you're back and forth, but you still end up in love at the end... I said the concept of the video I want to keep, but I'm going to have to do it through Dance, because I can't do it through anything else. So I rang up Vertigo Films and said I can tell a very simple story of a boy and a girl; she's waiting for him, he turns up late, they have an argument over it, she walks off. Then he thinks 'I need to go and make it up to her', they have another argument, he thinks "F**k it, I'll walk off"...It was a little bit more in-depth than that, I'm just bridging over it but you get the idea!

I thought; I don't really want to act the story out and then put clips of Dance in it because it's not going to gel or make much sense. So I sat down with a Choreographer for 2 days and then the day before, I felt terrible because they put together this amazing routine, I walked into the studios, they're all performing and I was like "WOAH...hold up - this is WRONG...!" And I pulled apart the entire dance routine, put it in a completely different order and  mixed-matched it back together!

I felt terrible for the Choreographer; she must have been pulling her hair out because I was just totally destroying things, left, right and centre. But first, it was all these dance movements that were very hip-hop-based when I needed her a bit more contemporary for this...I needed to see their pain in their movements. I needed to see that to and fro, the back and forth, that fight. If you watch the movements quite closely, you'll see a lot of that in them. Next I said, I have to have 'Magic Hour' at the end of this! I need to see them on the rooftop and I need to see big spinning legs going everywhere; I don't know anything about Dance, but I need to see that; please put that together for me! And then we went off and shot it! Bit by bit, we broke it down and that's how we got all the shots!




So there's no way that cannot be one of the standout projects of your entire CV, because it's so outside your comfort zone. Nothing else incorporates movement in quite the way that video did.


Absolutely! Although I don't want to keep coming back to it because I'm trying to push the Pop side now, but unfortunately with Grime is a 160bpm tempo genre. Unless you're doing 'krumping' or something like that, it doesn't really work and 'krumping' only came out on YouTube videos a few years ago. I never had the chance and opportunity to do Dance; which is sad and a shame because I can't dance but I am such a HUGE fan! And dancing is the reason why Music Videos came out in the first place! So in the future, I definitely want to do some good Dance videos that go back to the proper root of everything.


Well for a first go, that was a pretty epic challenge that you set for yourself! You managed to tie the film's theme in really well - it was a few scenes in before I realised it was more than just a concept, that the film was linked at all!


Max Giwa and Dania Pasquini
Thank you! Y'know I did the rehearsals and then I went to Vertigo Films Headquarters, watched the film and thought "This is SO good!" Then here's some irony for you; the Directors of the film were Max and Dania - the first people that I ever made tea for when I was 16! So I was a runner for them, they're now these huge Directors, they've made this big film and I'm sitting in Vertigo Films, ready to make the official video to their actual film! I sat there thinking, "I'm 24 years old, watching this film, I have NO CLUE about Dance, I have NO CLUE about how I'm gonna match up to this film and I'm about to jump into something that I've NEVER done before..." I walked out, pretty petrified, with the song in my iPod as I was walking down the street. As I was about to get on the train I thought "hold up; THIS is the whole point of why I'm doing this. THIS is 'The Challenge'. It's where I actually try to do something different". Once we'd shot the video and Vertigo came back and said they loved it, my agent sent an email to the Directors to say that the girl that actually shot and directed this video - I produced it as well, I did most of the stuff on it - this was the girl who made you tea on her first job when she was 16!


So they didn't know it was you beforehand?


No, not at all! Directors come in and they pick who they want to shoot for them. Nobody has a clue about that Director's history. Then they found out that actually, she was your teagirl six years ago and now she's directing your video!


What did they say when they were told?


They just said "Wow! That's really cool!" I guess it's one of those things that makes them proud. I remember being on-set at Pinewood Studios one day when I'd just turned 16; during a 23-hour shoot. I was on my feet all day, had blisters and everything - it was really bad! By about 3 o'clock in the morning, Max called me over and said "What's your name?" I told him and he said "I've watched you run around, making tea, doing all-sorts, all-day - you're making ME tired! Go and sit on my chair and chill out for 5 minutes!" He actually made me sit on his Director's chair! I was like "WOW!" I will never, ever forget that. I know it sounds stupid but at 16 on my first job in the Pop world, it was huge to me. I can't wait til I'm that big, that I can turn around and say to an Intern, "Go and sit in my chair!" Just give the opportunities that I've had back. I remember about two months ago, I was pulling my hair out over an edit one day and my Mum had come in said "I've just been down the bank; I got into a conversation with the Manager and his daughter wants to get into Film and TV. She's asking if you can help and give her work experience" Now I give work experience on every shoot that I do; there's always at least one runner on every one of my sets, on that basis only - I've always done it. But this particular time, I was pulling my hair out, I was under a lot of pressure and I said to my Mum, "Mum, I can't really deal with this right now, ok? Cool, I'll sort it out later." She said


"Carly, stop a minute. Do you remember when you were 16 years old and someone gave you an opportunity to work on-set?"


And I literally just stopped and thought "you're right". She said "Could you please take the time to call this person now and invite her down on-set". I rang her and invited her down and she had a great time. Even if my sets are tiny and can't give out all that great knowledge that these big movie sets can; at the end of the day, someone did give me that opportunity and that's one thing I'll hold, that I definitely do for every video - I make sure that someone learns something.


Another quote that stuck with me after last year's seminar was: 

"If you've got the balls, Play! The Music Industry encourages gambling across the board".

What's the biggest career gamble you've taken?

I'm the worst for it; I take risks everyday! Believe me, it's never always paid off, but sometimes it does. I would go as far as saying I've even fluked things, based on a risk - that does really happen. But then again, I've watched people play it safe and it ended their career, 50 years too early. Really, I think everything's got risk in it, but if you push your boundaries, you're going to get more results than if you don't. Even if you don't get good results, at least you've learned from them. Every result is valuable.


Your works earn you views in the 6 figures; but if there's one ultimate belief or message that has stayed with you to this point, 8 years deep - what would it be?


I've got so many! I'll try to balance it so that it doesn't sound so cheesy...I don't want to sound like a sob story, but I genuinely grew up coming from nothing. I went to Coopers Technology College and I can even name the Teacher who said:


"Carly Louise Cussen, don't you DARE leave school. You are never going to be a Movie Director, this is ridiculous - it's almost like saying you want to be a Rocket Scientist. Those kinds of dreams never, ever happen.

And they do not happen to people like You.

You cannot walk into the big wide world and think that you are going to be a Movie Director; you've got to be realistic, you need qualifications."



I left at 15, on the 18th of May - I know that because my birthday's on the 27th; I walked out of school and I got nothing in my GCSEs; I got one A* in Drama and then I got U's and F's in everything else. And I said to my Mum: "Mum, I want to be a Movie Director" and she said "You've lost the plot!" I had to say to her "But it's my dream. I've got a Dream. I don't care what anyone says - I will do this." Back when I was doing my GCSEs, it was about getting your qualifications to go to University and then deciding what you want to do. I don't know if you remember, but when you were about 4 years old and the teacher said "What do you want to be?" Most people would say, "I want to be a firefighter, I want to be a football player, I want to be a Princess, I want to be a Pop Star!"   It was kind of the same thing. When I said that at 15, I was told "Get a grip, No. Everybody in this school goes into Law or Childcare"...All of those jobs that the Government and Education schemes build you up to be in. At no point did the Government have a syllabus for Music Video Directors, or Movie Directors, so I made my own version up and off I went. It was quite daunting because I had never been to London on my own in my life; but there I was, going to the deepest, darkest parts with my travelcard and my packed lunch! But I had a dream and I don't believe that anybody with a dream should ever be knocked back, in any job.


It's now May 2012 and I still haven't stopped. It's however many years later now and I'm still here, still trying to succeed in that dream. And I promise that teacher will eat her words one day!


This was most probably my most in-depth, difficult interview to-date. I say that because as you've hopefully picked up, there was so much amazing knowledge and insight, that I honestly could not bring myself to chop the content down to the standard 10 #FindOutFriday questions.

I was completely enthralled throughout the entire interview - I didn't actually want it to end, there was so much more that I wanted to ask! I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback, Dear Readers. A lot of questions were raised in my mind; for instance, if the 'Men of Grime' are perceived to be gang members, not doing anything worthwhile, only into drugs and violence, what is the connotation of the gorgeously talented 'Women of Grime'? Talk to me, I REALLY want to hear from you!


Fancy reaching out to Carly? Connect via her Social Media Catalogue:




And if you want to find out more about one of those highly coveted Intern slots...



The BIGGEST of Thank You's again to Carly for her time and patience; I'm still in complete awe of your talent, but more importantly YOU - there needs to be more humble, talented leaders like you out there!


Until next time folx!
ES ;)