Interview with Nabil Elderkin “Gully”: from music videos to feature films
Over 10 years in the making, the film by director Nabil Elderkin and writer Marcus J. Guillory Gully finally made its big screen debut earlier this month. Featuring performances from Jonathan Majors, Terrence Howard, Travis Scott and more, the film is unlike anything else and marks a major debut for Elderkin as a bona fide filmmaker.
Gully takes you on a thrilling 48-hour journey with three Los Angeles teenagers who are the products of childhood trauma. “What you see in the movie is each of these characters carrying this angst and this anger and this PTSD and a variety of things that they’re going through simultaneously, while other things are happening,” Guillory said. . rolling stone. “It’s talking to kids that nobody’s listening to and nobody even cares about their perspective and tying in their trauma and saying, ‘Hey, you know what? I went through some stuff too. I count. I count. I have value.
It all started in 2006 when Guillory wrote the initial screenplay for the film. Elderkin, who is best known for his stunning music videos and photography of musicians like Kanye West and Frank Ocean, knew from the moment he read the script that this was the movie he wanted to make. “It was written in a whole new way,” he said. “It’s not just a movie. It says a lot about people who don’t always see things the way they want.
Elderkin was born in Chicago but spent his early years in Australia. He started out as a photographer photographing his surfing friends before eventually photographing bands and DJs. In 2003, he met Kanye West in the most fortuitous way possible. “When he was signed, they wanted to have kaynewest.com and I got it,” he explained. While those early encounters led to a storied career in the music industry, Elderkin’s work on Antony and the Johnsons’ 2012 “Cut the World” project video gave him the confidence he needed. to dive into the cinema. “I remember working with a real actor in Willem Dafoe. It was just like, goddamn it, that guy,” Elderkin says. attention from a manager and an agent which led to Gully.”
Elderkin spoke to rolling stone to work on his first feature film and how working with musicians influences his approach to cinema.
Can you tell me more about how this film came to be?
I met this producer Alex in New York by chance at the Bowery Hotel. He was like, yo, I got the script that I was trying to get to you. The next day I read it and couldn’t put it down. I hadn’t met Marcus yet, so we called each other and the next conversation was that I was trying to woo him. We got along well and I understood what his intention was with the film. I didn’t even know what I wanted it to look like. It was just in my head as I read the script. So the movie has gone through different iterations since that first script, lots of iterations. Like every day on set, every day things change. It evolved as I shot. I also had to bring my experiences to it, things that I could really relate to, which was the beach aspect and maybe other aspects as well.
You mentioned that once you saw the script, you knew you had to make the movie. What made you feel that way in the script?
It was written in a whole new way. If you read it on paper, the original version, it was like something escapist. It’s not just a movie. It says a lot about people not always seeing things the way they want or people not listening to what they want to say. And I’m not saying that’s me saying that, but I felt that with this film I could at least create a conversation. The script is a bit wild, I’m a bit wild. I had the chance to discover many different cultures and to meet many different people in my life. I think I felt a connection with these characters.
You said the beach was something you could relate to, and it was an important setting in the film, why was the beach something you could relate to?
I was born in Chicago, but my parents sent me to Australia when I was three. And I grew up near the beach surfing. Surf Life Saving, where you run on the beach, you do these ridiculous little beach sports, but a lot of swimming and stuff now. Just being by the ocean has a healing property. I remember there was a time when I went to Compton probably 15 years ago. When The Game first came out. I went to take pictures of him and his friends. And there’s just one moment that I really remember where I was talking about how I surf. I was like, you should try surfing and he was like, “man I’ve never been to the beach bro.” I don’t remember the number of blocks, maybe it was 16, but he said he never left more than 16 blocks. It stuck with me like, man, how can this person live so close to the beach and never have. But working with the Surf Bus Foundation, I’m learning a bit more about it. Systematically, people have almost created barriers to reach the beach.
What was your thought process when creating these visuals?
I tried not to show anything completely, to be honest. I think I wanted to show as much off-camera as possible. As if you didn’t see the violence in any way. Maybe it registers because there’s a lot of power in the sound and there’s some cutting. You know, there are a lot of movies in all genres where you get brain spatter and severed heads. There’s a lot of power in what’s unseen and that’s a lot of the film’s subject.
How did you integrate the video game aspect?
This is something I found later in the process. I remember there was a scene that is no longer in the movie, but it was something that happened with a policeman. It was pretty crazy and I didn’t want anything to be so egregious. I just wanted to show it in a different way. By the way kids see it every day, if you watch GTA they are very specific with the places they choose to create these scenes. So, I thought it would be a nice way to show the violence in the film and to show the parallels in the surreality – I just made it up.
Can you tell me more about how you chose the cast?
I’ll be honest, it’s something that grew organically. Charly [Plummer], whom I met almost as a child. I met him a few years ago. A few years before I even got to the shooting point, Charlie was someone that a friend put on the map for me and I met him and we had been in touch. He was super excited and super young. So he had been involved for a long time. Kelvin [Harrison Jr.] came later in the game. It was a recommendation. The financier and producer had worked with him on a film with a friend of ours. John Legend also recommended it. For Jacob [Latimore], he had been on an audition tape. I remember seeing at one point that he had something special, and then I remember meeting him at the premiere of one of his movies later on and saying, you know, I wish you are part of my film. When the push came, we got to the end and he was there and he was available. jonathan [Majors] is my good friend. This guy is special. And that’s before a lot of his big roles came out. He showed up on set as Greg and he left the set as Greg. Every moment he was there in spirit. He was there for me too. Like I thought back on it and it was really special to have him in that part and obviously people know who he is now. Terrence [Howard] arrived late and it was like the icing on the cake.
I know you are trained as a music photographer/music video director. Can you talk about the incorporation of the music into the film and the composition of the soundtrack?
I wanted the music to feel like it was part of the movie. I had to separate the score and the music. There’s the score, done by Daniel Heath, an amazing friend who did a wonderful job, and then there’s the music. I also use pieces of the score in some of the productions of the pieces to help with this cohesion. Dua Lipa’s song has Mr. Christmas’ bell (Terrance Howard’s character) and even Snoh Aalegra’s track too. I also really wanted to make sure the moments hit like having Ty Dolla $ign, Schoolboy Q, and B-Real playing during the barbecue scene, and 21 Savage bumping into the scene on the way to the club.
How did you get everyone from Travis Scott, Miguel, Metro Boomin and more to be part of the soundtrack?
You know, I’ve worked for 15 years with artists who have gone out of their way to create things as part of their journey. Take something they created so beautifully and try to add a visual component to it. So to be able to be in the position where I could ask them was scary and exciting. I was so thankful to all these artists who came and did it because it was a small independent film. They didn’t do it for money.
You have an extensive catalog of music videos from Kanye West, Dua Lipa and even Don Toliver’s latest video for “What You Need”. The motif of your latest music videos seems to incorporate cinematic aspects, why?
Well, “Welcome to Heartbreak” wasn’t a story. It was just a wild trip of psychedelic vibes. “Mercy” was like a freestyle. I just got here and they’re like, yo, can you shoot a video tonight. So I found a place and I figured it out. The more I entered the cinema, the more I wanted to develop myself. I had gotten to a point where I could either do a cool little short or a very simple statement. As long as he has a feeling. All I want to do is create a feeling. As long as you can walk away and it adds or at least complements the song and doesn’t take anything away from it. I feel blessed because people give me money to go do something. The song is almost like a script. And by the way, there will be a second part of Don Toliver’s “What You Need” video. I can’t say who or what, but it’s coming. I’m thrilled to have artists willing to think outside the box and shoot in Colombia like Don’s video. To really go in and just embrace it and immerse yourself in new communities. It’s awesome.