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Don't Think: The Chemical Brothers

The new visually-intense film from Adam Smith documents Tom & Ed's epic live show at Fuji Rock

Teaming up with British director Adam Smith and ML Studio, The Chemical Brothers have created a seizure-inducing rollercoaster ride of a live film, entitled 'Don't Think', from their performance at Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. Filmed with 20 cameras placed across the stage, crowd and festival, the film takes the viewer through the entire experience of a Chemical Brothers live performance. We caught up with Smith and ML Studio's Marcus Lyall before the worldwide release to discuss their creative process behind the new film...

There's a three-way communication between the band, the show and the audience. This film is the first chance to see what they really do up there on stage, and how the audience responds

Dazed Digital: Where did your relationship with The Chemical Brothers begin?
Adam Smith:
I knew Ed & Tom from out and about and because I was doing visuals at clubs like Andrew Weatherall's Sabre Sonic with Noah Clark under the name of Vegetable Vision. When they wanted to start playing live they decided they wanted visuals and asked us to do their first show.

DD: What appealed to you the most about working with The Chemical Brothers on 'Don’t Think'?
Adam Smith: 
Capturing a show that has developed over 18 years. Finally documenting the show. Also I think that this set is one of the best musically partly because The Chemical Brothers are not promoting an album so they were completely free to use their amazing back catalogue and some incredible new songs to produce the ultimate set list. And in some ways the same applies to the visual aspect of the show. The challenge of the film was how to capture the experience of a Chemical Brothers show in as original and innovative way as possible which would hold a cinema audience for 90 minutes and this challenge was also appealing.
Marcus Lyall: They really understand the power of visuals and lighting in a live show. Although they aren't into hogging the spotlight, they are really into working the audience. That means we can create a piece of theatre around them, without them feeling like it's taking away from what they do. It's a fairly unique situation. There's a three-way communication between the band, the show and the audience. This film is the first chance to see what they really do up there on stage, and how the audience respond to it.

DD: Did you storyboard the film or was it mostly spontaneous shooting?
Adam Smith: 
We planned and storyboarded as much as we could but so many things happen and change in a live situation and at a festival on top of a mountain in Japan that you have to react and adapt accordingly.
Marcus Lyall: We had a key word for each song that we felt summed up its emotion, and then planned camera angles that helped show it. During the show, most of the camera crew were in the thickest part of the crowd. I yelled instructions over headphones, some of which got through. Seeing the expressions of the battered camera guys as they came backstage afterwards was quite something.

DD: Where did your decision to include the ‘narrative’ section of the film come from?
Adam Smith:
 I really wanted the film to show what the experience of the gig and for the cinema audience to emotionally connect with the show. One way I thought we could achieve this was by have a featured or featured characters so we see through their eyes and that way feel what they feel. So adopting lessons that I suppose I have learnt from my experience in working on drama.

DD: The visuals are obviously a huge part of The Chemical Brothers show, how closely did you work with them when conceiving the ideas for each track?
Adam Smith: 
We are very lucky that they give us a very free creative rein. Because I have been working for them for so long there is a real trust there. There are sometimes specific ideas that they have but generally they leave it up to us and thankfully seem to like what we make (not always though…).

DD: Were the visuals created knowing that they would be used in a live performance film and did this alter your ideas if so?
Marcus Lyall: Making visuals for live shows is very different from normal film storytelling. You can't count on the audience to follow a complex narrative if they are in the middle of a heaving crowd. It's all about giving the audience a focus, without taking them out of their moment.

Don't Think screens on Friday 3rd February in over 100 cinemas across the UK for one night only

Text by Harry Benson