Daniel Askill's Modern Worship

The Australian filmmaker explores ritual in a modern context in his latest short film

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For Daniel Askill, film is an aid for the handicapped. Using slow motion and visual effects, the Australian filmmaker captures movement in a way the average human eye can't experience on its own. Askill’s mesmerising style has become popular amongst pop culture's big guns, his portfolio boasting the likes of Dior, Acne, Placebo and Digitalism. Personal projects are, however, where Askill lets his more abstract ideas loose. His latest short, 'Modern Worship', faces off a moonwalking Michael Jackson with a Boeing 747 as it smashes through a glass sheet. While the title hints at the symbolism behind this odd fusion of concepts, we thought an explanation would best come from the image-maker himself. In the midst of developing a feature film and a major music video, Askill took the time to chat to Dazed Digital about what makes him tick.

The guys behind 9/11 worshipped gods; those who built the World Trade Centre valued economic power and the people who follow the likes of Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga and Marc Jacobs idolise pop culture and celebrity

Dazed Digital: What is 'Modern Worship' about?
Daniel Askill:
It's a reflection on worship and religion in today’s society. On one side of the equation there's horrible human catastrophe – in this case 9/11 – and on the other there's the cultural-spectacle-turned-tragedy of Michael Jackson's death. Ramming two things together that in theory shouldn't be side by side forces you to stop and reassess the society we live in. The guys behind 9/11 worshipped gods; those who built the World Trade Centre valued economic power and the people who follow the likes of Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga and Marc Jacobs idolise pop culture and celebrity.

DD: So your work is about pushing ideological boundaries as well as visual?
Daniel Askill:
For me, making films is always about creating a surface texture that's inviting and polished but that leads to something deeper underneath. When you see certain ideas delivered outside the context of a repeated news report it forces you to review your perspective. It doesn’t necessarily matter if you don’t come to a conclusion, it's just important to keep questioning.

DD: What do you like so much about capturing movement?
Daniel Askill:
There's just something about using slow motion to open up a space and see movement differently. We can't see the world in as much detail as slow motion will allow us to. It’s enabling us to see more with our own eyes, it opens the door to another dimension. The way slow motion recreates movement is like filmic choreography.

DD: What kind of process was involved in making the film?
Daniel Askill:
First, we auditioned a bunch of Michael Jackson impersonators and luckily found Jason Jackson. He lives and breathes MJ. His normal get-up was almost as amazing as the full costume he wore in the film. For the plane, we basically dropped a model 747 through a pane of glass.

DD: Your whole family is creative in different ways, why did you choose film as your art-form?
Daniel Askill:
I grew up caught somewhere between music and art. I stumbled across filmmaking when I got this Mac that had digital editing software. I was like, 'holy shit this is fun – art and the music in the one place!' I still love making music and pictures, but film is a way of communicating my ideas.

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