The Streets rapper talks inspiration at CPH:CONFERENCE.
Mike Skinner, the British rapper also known as The Streets, has plans to move into longer-form film projects, saying he plans “a longer film in the coming year.”
Skinner has already made what he calls a “short documentary or a long advert” for shoes brand Dr Martens, the two-minute 15-second Spirit of 69.
He told Friday’s CPH:CONFERENCE, part of CPH:DOX in Copenhagen, that he spent three months researching the project. “The more fascinated I became with that era of skinheads is when I realized really they were mods,” he said.
Skinner, who also wrote and narrates the film, said the client wasn’t always happy with his vision – “I had an argument with Dr Martens, but I was determined to tell the truth. I have a reputation that people trust and there’s a trust I want to have.”
“It’s as truthful as any documentary can be, and it was funded by a brand,” he added.
Such content is, he said, “the future, perhaps, of documentary… 90 minutes may be too long for a mainstream audience these days who are clicking through on Facebook.”
Skinner says the move to filmmaking is a natural progression from his storytelling as The Streets. “I’m used to telling stories in three and a half minutes. I spend a lot more time on the stories than the songs…I’d spend months on the turning point of the songs.”
He’s not likely to work in a mainstream way, a he recalled working on an eight-minute short film, Spoiler Alert, for Channel 4 – which had a crew of about 30 people. “I didn’t really like it, I prefer to improvise – even if I hate that word…The best short films are about ideas rather than the actual stories.”
He playfully drew comparisons between the film and technology worlds and the porn industry, noting that most advances in content technology had been started by porn, from VHS to digital streaming.
He said he was also inspired by podcasts, and pointed to one called Serial that is an episodic podcast trying to solve a 1999 murder of a Baltimore schoolgirl; listeners are doing their own research into the case and posting that.
MTV: ‘niche’ goes global
Other film-related speakers at the event included MTV World VP Nusrat Durrani, artist and director Matt Lambert and photographer and director Ewen Spencer – all speaking on a panel about how niche voices are breaking through to mainstream TV.
Durrani remarked that the media world had moved from a “one-way transfer of content” (satellites beaming TV into your living room) to “conversations.”
“That’s a profound development,” he said, “Now it’s actually very easy to take something very nice and blow it up.”
Durrani pointed to the success of MTV’s Rebel Music series, which he described as “showcasing young people in turbulent countries trying to exist and fighting against oppression…we started with very humble goals in the first season, we didn’t know if people would watch. If people are so obsessed with Kim Kardashian, do they really want to see kids in Egypt?” The answer was yes.
The follow-up Rebel Music: Native America was launched on Facebook before its TV broadcast.
CPH:CONFERENCE, which had the theme Art, Technology & Change, also welcomed multidisciplinary speakers include body architect Lucy McRae, new media documentarian Jonathan Minard, activist Per Cromwell, campaigner John Jackson, director Karim Amer, and experiences designer Nelly Ben Hayoun.