How director duo Bradley & Pablo create worlds for music’s biggest stars
When Bradley Bell and Pablo Jones-Soler were studying graphics at university, I doubt the two anticipated that in just a few years, they would be directing rap superstars Migos, Niki Minaj, and Cardi B rapping in front of neon colored Lamborghinis on the set of an alternative futuristic world space.
Nor, do I think the two would have foreseen that they would be directing the ceremony for the Porn Hub Awards, helmed by none other than, Kanye West.
Nonetheless, it was through their studies in graphics — designing digitized environments, experimenting with CGI, animation and image-based software — that enabled the pair to gain crucial experience in world-building. These skills, however, were highly translatable to the world of filmmaking.
In speaking to Kulture Hub, Bradley relayed how the duos’ transition into live-action filmmaking was catalyzed after the two pitched and completed a 3D animation film for a fashion company Bradley was interning at during his studies.
Today, the two are better known as the directing duo, Bradley & Pablo. The pair has worked with the likes of Frank Ocean, Dua Lipa, Carly Rae Jepsen, MNEK and Charli XCX, in addition to doing commercials for Nike and Pepsi. Reflecting on the early image-based and graphics work the two were doing, Bradley noted in our interview,
B: “IT’S FUN TO REVISIT WHAT WE WERE DOING AT THE VERY BEGINNING AND DRAW THE LINKS. WE WERE VERY INTO THESE HUGE TECHNICAL ILLUSTRATIONS – REALLY COMPLEX, CROSS-SECTION DRAWINGS… THEY’D HAVE MULTIPLE LEVELS AND LOADS OF LITTLE NARRATIVES WITHIN THIS BIGGER PICTURE. WE BOTH FOUND THAT REALLY INTERESTING TO THINK ABOUT — SPECULATING WHAT’S GOING ON IN THIS CORNER — AND NERDING OUT OVER ALL THE LITTLE DETAILS AND STORIES INSIDE THE WORLD AN ARTIST HAS DREAMED UP.”
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Yet, film afforded the pair something different as an art form. Pablo described how film allows more space for emotion and tonality, adding,
P: “I THINK COMPARED TO [STILL] IMAGE-MAKING, FILM ALLOWS YOU TO IMMERSE SOMEONE IN THE WORLD YOU HAVE CREATED BY USING MORE THINGS THAT ARE AVAILABLE TO YOU AND HAVING THEIR ATTENTION FOR A SET AMOUNT OF TIME.”
While many equate science-fiction with flying cars, spaceships, or some form of extraterrestrial invasion, these sci-fi tropes do not directly inform the directing duos’ aesthetic. Rather, they draw from the genre of science fiction, in all its forms and iterations, and specifically look to the types of speculative fiction that take place in the not too distant future.
As the internet and communicative technologies have reworked ideas of time and space, the duo is interested in exploring the ways in which new subjectivities, social identities, and communities are formulated within the context of the changing technological landscape.
Though the duo receives a lot of joy in having narratives take place in a futuristic world, they are not interested in situating viewers in a space vastly different or estranged from what they know.
Instead, the pair likes to play with the notion of parallel realities, having their world spaces feature ideas and themes that we are somewhat familiar with and can relate to, but in a different context, where things turn out slightly different. Bradley noted,
B: “WE ARE VERY INTERESTED IN HOW TECHNOLOGY MIGHT SHAPE TOMORROW AND THAT’S A REALLY FUN STARTING POINT TO THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU ARE IMAGINING WHAT THE WORLD MIGHT LOOK LIKE.”
When I asked the duo about their creative process in crafting music videos, Bradley explained how their approach varies from project to project,
B: “SOMETIMES YOU GET A BRIEF IN AND IT IS VERY SPECIFIC. THEY WILL OUTLINE ROUGHLY WHAT THEY MIGHT LIKE AND WE WILL BOUNCE BACK AND FORTH. THAT WAS THE PROCESS ON THE MIGOS ‘MOTORSPORT’ VIDEO, ACTUALLY. THEY KNEW THEY WANTED TO DO SOMETHING VERY FUTURISTIC AND HAD A FEW REFERENCES WHICH WAS QUITE THE DREAM FOR US BECAUSE WE ARE VERY MUCH INTO THE FUTURE.”
In cases like Migos, they described how building off an idea or theme that the artist has expressed interest in makes for a more collaborative process. When the track is the sole creative impetus for the directors, it is a different challenge, as Pablo explains,
P: “Sometimes pitching in the dark is harder. But when you have a song like ‘Electricity’ that has such a strong identity and you can hear the reference points in the lyrics that are built into that song, then you don’t necessarily need to do too much.”
When I asked the directing duo if they had a favorite artist they have worked with thus far, the two insisted that each project offered something special and different.
Pablo described that each project is a learning process, as Bradley added,
B: “WE’VE NEVER REALLY HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE WITH AN ARTIST. YOU MIGHT LIKE A PROJECT FOR DIFFERENT REASONS. FOR EXAMPLE WITH ‘ELECTRICITY,’ WE FELT LIKE WE GREW A LOT IN A FILMMAKING SENSE – IT’S JUST QUITE DIFFERENT TO WHAT WE HAVE DONE BEFORE — MORE STORY-DRIVEN AND SET WITHIN A SINGLE TIME AND SPACE. SO THAT WAS REALLY NICE AND COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TO THE MIGOS PROJECT THAT WAS SHOT IN A STUDIO, HAD LOTS OF SET-UPS AND VFX. YOU LOVE PROJECTS FOR DIFFERENT REASONS.”
In terms of a dream project and collaboration, working with Nicki Minaj for Migos’ “Motorsport” was definitely a highlight for the duo.
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🌎NOW LIVE🌎 Super psyched to share new vid #motorsport @migos @nickiminaj @iamcardib link in bio 🚀🏍🏎 Massive thnxxx to everyone who worked on it ! Y’all are amazing <3 DOPs: @joelabisi @mathieuplainfosse Production Design: @damianfyffe Edit: @chrismroebuck VFX: @metaproductions VFX supervisor: @johncameron11 1st AD: @haitianev Styling: @zoecostello @kollincarter @brettalannelson Sound Design: @pitchandsynch Typography: @racheltrelivingxo Commissioner: @kevinkloeck @frassysassy Production: Fuliane Petikyan and @chrisclav @autumn_hymes @blackdogfilms #migos #nickiminaj #cardib #motorsport #culture2
Admittedly, they will keep adding big-names to their portfolio. At the same time, Bradley explained how the pair sees the value in long-term collaborations with artists, in order to develop their respective artistries and continue to build chemistry together.
With their art school background, the British directing duo has increasingly carved out a space for themselves in the market, eager to create elaborate worlds for the biggest pop stars of today. The added,
“People sometimes turn their nose up at pop music and pop videos. But we think it is incredibly exciting and privileged to have the platform that comes with collaborating with these talented artists and working within mainstream frameworks to create something new and exciting.”
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On what’s next for the duo, they were currently shooting a video in London for the British Girl Group, Little Mix. Plus, the duo is in the works to direct a short film.
While feature filmmaking isn’t on their immediate radar, the directing duo admitted it is definitely a domain of film they are interested in exploring one day.
In the meantime, Bradley & Pablo will continue to create visually dazzling worlds for viewers to inhabit, as we watch our favorite artists navigate the spaces this young directing duo continues to create.