After a lockdown spent creating stop motion in their laundry, Sports Team is now nominated for an Aotearoa Music Artisan award. The duo talk to The Spinoff about making music videos.
The first music video Annabel Kean and Callum Devlin made was accidental. It happened on a date, wandering around Auckland city, Kean wearing a full-head pineapple mask and Devlin filming clips on a borrowed Handycam.
“I had bought that mask because I thought it was really funny,” Kean says. “We didn’t even film it for anything in particular. It was a cute date idea, ‘let’s go out and film me walking around, doing things in Auckland with this mask on and it will be funny’.”
A couple of months later the footage was still sitting on a hard drive when Devlin was asked to create a last-minute lyric video for The Beths’ song ‘Happy Unhappy’. With a 24-hour deadline he pulled together the pineapple footage and created the pair’s first music video.
Now, with around a dozen music videos under their production name Sports Team, Kean and Devlin have been nominated for their first Aotearoa Music Artisan award with their quarantine-fever-dream stop motion video for The Beths’ ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’.
The three minute production was a test of patience for the pair, who spent the entire month of New Zealand’s first lockdown in their laundry modelling clay rats and spiders and photographing them for hours on end, while managing to keep up their other part time jobs. It was soon clear who was better suited to the task.
“I don’t have the patience for it,” says Devlin. “You have to be in this mental focus for hours, and I just can’t keep that attention, but Annabel is really good at that.”
Every time the camera was bumped the shoot would have to restart, and it didn’t take long before the realisation set in that taking a bottle of whiskey to the studio (their laundry) wasn’t a great idea.
“I would get really grumpy,” Kean says. “I would spend 15 minutes making it look like the spider had wrapped up the bee just slightly more and then I’d bump something and the entire thing would unravel and I had to remove myself from it and just breathe, stop and reassess.”
Both Kean and Devlin grew up in Christchurch in the middle of a booming all-ages gig scene and have been surrounded by music their entire lives. Kean’s parents Kaye Woodward and Paul Kean make up half of 80s/90s Dunedin indie pop band The Bats, while Devlin and his twin brother Ollie have been creating music since their early teens, and play together in indie rock group Hans Pucket.
Their upbringings have helped them expand their music video production from a hobby to a part-time paid job, but they say it might be different if they had been raised in Auckland. Kean says it’s harder up in the supercity to get into industries like theirs without some sort of degree or a lifetime of industry experience.
“I think maybe in Christchurch or Wellington it’s more welcome for anyone to have a go at anything, whereas in Auckland I felt like the only way I could possibly do something like this, it had to be the thing I had studied and the thing I’d been doing for years and earned my place.”
Devlin thinks a lot of that comes about because newcomers tend to want outside approval before jumping in. “Waiting for permission is kind of difficult. I really see the value in figuring out ways of getting on with it and ways of creating your own process.”
The pair have made videos on cell phones and borrowed cameras, and think it’s not necessarily important to use state of the art equipment.
“There’s a creativity and energy and humour that we can put in the videos that we don’t need a fancy camera for. The ‘I’m Not Getting Excited’ video was half cellphones and a Canon DSLR that Annabel’s had for years,” Devlin explains. “Gear is another permission thing. It’s not really important.”
Today sees the release of the pair’s latest video, for The Beths’ ‘Mars, the God of War’ – Sports Team’s take on a heist movie. It’s a genre that’s been on their list for a while, and they say it was a privilege to experiment with it for The Beths.
While music videos are the current Sports Team pursuit, they have their sights set on creating feature films at some point in the future. Right now, Kean says they’re trying to expand their team into a collective, to give opportunities to people who want to enter the industry.
“Something that’s very important, and has been from the get-go, is that we have to make opportunities for people because it can be quite a tough industry to get into. [Traditionally] you already have to have all of this experience under your belt, but we’re totally interested in helping people learn how to do these things.”
Once they’ve built up that base, they’ll be able to more seriously consider making a feature-length project. With the future of international travel up in the air, Devlin thinks it’s as good a time as any to dream big right here in Aotearoa.
“With no real ability to travel overseas and the potential of further lockdowns, what’s the best version of next year? Figuring out how to make movies seems like a pretty good waste of time.”