December 8, 2008
With a bold colour palette, striking graphics and a dash of playfulness, this duo, both 26, aim to change the face of hip-hop promos. And they’re not stopping there.
James Knott and James Curran didn’t just have a name in common when they met in the unlikely setting of an entrepreneurship course in Nottingham four years ago. They discovered a shared passion for music video, and have since produced promos for the likes of DJ Yoda, Toronto’s Wio-K and even trend-setting super-producer Mark Ronson.
Heavily influenced by graphic design, the duo use bold colours, playful movement and a blend of live action and animation to bring a new angle to the crowded promo scene. Main animator Curran, whose video for Californian hip-hop group Ugly Duckling scooped an RTS Student Award, points out that these style choices are no accident.
“Particularly in UK hip-hop, a lot of music videos tend to look pretty similar, so we try and make ours stand out from the rest,” he reasons. “We try to push the boundaries and produce a recognisable visual style,” adds director Knott, whose affiliation with hip-hop producer Baby J has been another reason for the duo’s relatively rapid emergence from the promo-producing pack.
“I was asked to produce a video for Baby J, and the video ended up getting played on MTV,” Knott explains. “Myself and Baby J then set up a small company called Baby-Knotted Films, bringing James C in on the post-production side of things.”
“Having Baby J helping to push the music videos from the very beginning was a great advantage,” Knott concedes. “As you begin to get noticed and your name starts to grow as a director, the phone starts ringing. We are lucky that everything fell into place at the right time.”
One of these calls was from Brit Award and three-time Grammy Award-winning producer, Mark Ronson. “He was a fan of Baby J’s production and wanted him to produce a remix for the Valerie single featuring Amy Winehouse,” says Knott. “It was through this we got the opportunity to make the video.”
However, actually producing their breakthrough promo wasn’t quite so simple: “We started work on the concept before the remix was even finished,” explains Curran. “Then from the shoot we only had a week to complete it.” Knott is clearly still exhilarated: “Seeing the video I’d edited in my bedroom on MTV was a magic moment.”
Words: Ian Ravenscroft
Photography: Jade Sukiya