Industry Insights #3 - Shooting Director: Dan Coffey

Dan Coffey - Shooting Director at Loop Films.


1.     Do you have any creative rituals or routines?

It might be a bit of a stretch but in June 2009 I went completely cold turkey on my news addiction to be more efficient on incoming information. I got the idea from Nicholas Taleb - author of The Black Swan

It straight away had a big positive impact on my creativity as my head was so much more focused. Following that move in 2009 I tried stripping away other unnecessary information and it helped my creativity and later went on to help with clearer business decisions too.

2.     What is a project you’re particularly proud of and why?

Of course, it's been lovely working with Chromium, and a huge honour to be able to stand in the live room of some of the world’s greatest recording studios and hear some of the world’s best musicians performing such beautiful music. As well as Chromium, I would have to say some of the work that we have done with universities and government where we have documented and/or promoted their research in art, music and farming. It feels gratifying to have worked on something that (I believe) is putting good out into the world.

3.     Who or what is currently inspiring you?

I subscribe to loads of YouTube channels and Adam Savage of Tested (formerly Mythbusters)  which has always been a big inspiration to me. He is a very eclectic and talented maker with a child-like enthusiasm that is very contagious. To me he kind of sums up the positive idea of replacing the phrase "no, but" with "yes, and".

4.     Which part of the creative process do you enjoy most?

I think I would say the first and last portion of a project. It's always fun figuring out the best way to make a project a reality, with the message presented as clearly as possible. Then a day or a year later, after lots of hard work, putting all of the elements together and tying up loose ends in the finished deliverable. 

5.     What is on your bucket list? What do you hope to achieve/do in future?

It would be nice to work with some of the amazing people that I already work with but in a more collaborative and long-term fashion. As well as people that I've never met and admire, like Adam Savage for example.

6.     Last film you watched?

I'm honestly not making this up, it was Dunkirk and yes, I thought of Air Studios while Zimmer's amazing score was playing.

7.     Last song you listened to?

Not including The Wheels on The Bus with my son, it was Fox in the City by Mount Moriah. Some beautiful songwriting.

8.     Favourite film score/soundtrack?

That's a tough one. So as to avoid a long list, I'll go with Trent Reznor's work on David Fincher's Gone Girl. I love his mixture of sound sources and moods. The strangely uneasy "nice" music totally fits with the strange and uneasy events that unfold in the film.

9.     Advice for your younger self?

Work on the projects that inspire you, trust that initial hesitation about a project and while researching things to a degree, jump in headfirst.

10.  What do you do when you’re not working? Any guilty pleasures?

I paint medium scale abstracts on canvas, always exploring the same idea. I also occasionally noodle about in Max/MSP tinkering with generative music and a Xenakis inspired battle between human input and computer interpretation.

11.  You’ve filmed for lots of musicians and music events in the past. What attracts you to these types of projects?

Filming at Wembley Stadium or a huge festival can be quite exhilarating, especially when you get to work with a larger team. But more broadly, I think it's that music and video are such perfect partners, generously complimenting each other in all sorts of ways.

12.  What aspect of filming string orchestras and choirs for Chromium at AIR Studios and Abbey Road did you enjoy the most?

It's really nice seeing the communication between the team in the control room and then also seeing that information translated to the conductor and musicians in the live room. There have been a few occasions where I've taken my headphones off at various positions in the live room and the sounds have been amazing. How many people can say that they have done that?! 

13.  What inspired you to go into filming and lighting?

I've always been interested in documenting and preserving things and ideas. When you develop a project and get to light it in a way that compliments the original idea, you're more than documenting it, you're putting your stamp on it in that moment. In our work it feels like we get to wrap up an idea in the magic of video (beautiful lighting, an ellipsis of time, etc) and make it more concise in the process.

14.  What challenges do you often face in projects and what is your trouble-shooting process?

I think clear communication in the early stages of a project is essential in guarantying that the remainder of the project goes well. Occasionally we will have a client that has a clear idea in their head, is excited to get going and so we just have to press a bit further to pause for a moment and go over all of the details.

15.  What is something you learned from a project that you’ve taken with you?

A few years ago, we did lots of work with the presenter Ivan Berry and seeing his interview technique was very informative. It helped me understand how to get information out of a subject (or concept) and massage it so that you get all of the useful stuff and not so much of the redundant or repeated stuff. This translates to all of the visuals that you would want to gather from an event or scene so as to present it in a video clearly and concisely too.