Grant Singer: In Real Life

August 20, 2013 5:00 PM

Before meeting, a text message from filmmaker Grant Singer pops up: “What would you like to drink? Coffee? This place does the slowest drip coffee, it's like watching grass grow, so I can order before you get here.” 

Time must move at lightning pace in the L.A. native’s world; a field of grass sprouting at the click of his camera shutter. His debut short film, 'Youth Museum' (which premiered at Moma PS1 this past February) is an experimental VHS work that follows the daily life of Bradford Cox, lead singer/guitarist of Deerhunter. But Singer’s own days tend to be equally surreal and unexpected.

"I’m trying to do more rap videos now," he adds. "I have two coming up." Whether rap or indie, Singer's dense outpouring of music videos is hard to keep up with. His gripping, storytelling style has lit up vids for bands such as Starred, Gambles, The Soft Moon, Black Bananas, Brooklyn’s DIIV, and his close friend Sky Ferreira. 

Most recently, Singer unleashed the haunting short film ‘IRL,’ a co-creation with New York writer Patrik Sandberg. 

“Last summer was insane, I wasn’t sleeping much," he tells, over the drip coffee. "We shot ‘IRL’ for 9 or 10 days last June. And I shot about 6 or 7 music videos that summer, while we were in post. I edit everything I do. Now I co-edit sometimes - I definitely did with ‘IRL’ - but I usually edit myself. I can’t imagine giving all my work to someone else and saying, ‘Do what you will.’”

But it’s no wonder when the work looks the way it does. As a filmmaker and director, he has such a sense of control with every detail, from lighting to pace to color. The cinematography of ‘IRL’ is visceral and stunning, and serves a glimpse into the self-enclosed bubble of New York party people. 

“Patrik and I just wanted to make a film that was very us: a film about what we feel New York, as a young person, is really like," he explains, having studied art/film in college in Vermont. "We wanted to make something tonally complex, and just see where it would go. You know, whatever happens, happens.”

Despite the film’s dark undertones, its witty script and cast brings a bright poppy feel. The film glitters with a young gang of icons-to-be: Sky Ferriera, Liza Thorn (who doubles up as YSL's muse) and Matt Koshak of Starred, performance artist Whitney Vangrin, model Chris Wetmore, Colby Hewitt of DIIV and photographer Sandy Kim. There’s even a cameo from the self-proclaimed “avant-garde anti-hero,” Throbbing Gristle’s Genesis P-Orridge.

“We had the idea,” Singer explains, “To cast the film before we made it. We wanted to make a film with our friends, people that we work with, and people that we respect. We also wanted to do something with all of our favorite musicians: John Holland [Salem], Aaron David Ross [Gatekeeper], Matt Koshak [Starred]...” he says, listing off the musicians who scored the film. “The score was super important. If you hear it on a good soundsystem, it’s pretty insane. There’s so much low end and weird sound effects.” 

The soundtrack drives the 17-minute film with an eerie feeling of loneliness and the unknown. It's a perfect fit with Singer’s alluring portrayal of character, especially the film’s lead, Angel, played by Ferreira.

“Sky really became her character,” Singer says. “That’s not her personality at all! She’s a really sweet person but she’s very shy; it takes a while to get to know people. But she definitely became Angel, it was really cool. It took her a while for her to come out of it actually.”

Sky as Angel, IRL. Internet-speak for “in real life," the title makes people instantly age themselves. 

Singer laughs, “You have no idea how many times I’ve been asked by anyone over 30: ‘What does IRL mean?’” 

More info can be found on www.irlfilm.com. ‘IRL’ will be available on iTunes soon.

By Danna Takako

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