The 2006 RES 10: Dougal Wilson
Words: Marisol Grandon
Photo: Donald Christie
Astronomy graduate and video director Dougal Wilson grew up in the Wirral near Liverpool as part of a "quite practical and technical family." Physics were always his passion at school, he says, although he was very confused by the lamentable British imperative to choose between science and art. "I like science because there's always a right or wrong answer," he says. "But I spent most of my time at university drawing posters for student plays and painting theater sets."
Stargazing could not, in the end, offer Wilson the creative outlet he craved (plus, he says, "I realized I probably wouldn't be a very good astronomer"). So after a stunningly successful stint in copywriting for the prestigious Leith agency in Edinburgh, he swapped his telescope for a viewfinder. Years later, with a videography full of work for notable independent acts (including Four Tet, The Streets, Benny Benassi and British Sea Power) and memorable clips like the multi-screen "Tribulations" for LCD Soundsystem and the marionette-driven "Dream" for Dizzee Rascal, Wilson is now deemed one of the most talented directors working in Britain.
In his promos and commercial work, Wilson's style is marked by sympathetic characters and humor, as well as an ability to assess the cultural climate -- particularly that of youthful viewers -- and tease out vibrant motifs for mainstream consumption. His latest video, "Cash Machine" for Hard-Fi, depicts the band as miniature coal miners slaving away inside an ATM to churn out pound notes. It resonates deeply with anyone who has ever been broke. "It was quite fun to shoot but I wanted to do it all with real sets and miniatures, and minimal CG, so it was quite a fiddle," he explains. "I try to do something different with every video, so 'Cash Machine' was an attempt to make something big and epic with traditional techniques.
"A good video is often like another instrument in the song -- the pictures have to be in tune with the other instruments," he continues. "Promos are still all about making something entertaining that gets played a lot on TV, and makes you think the band is cool."
Now that he has everyone's attention -- comparisons to Michel Gondry abound -- he is pitching for bigger bands, even the Rolling Stones. Wilson confesses, "Like most video directors, I'd love to direct a film. I just need to think of a good idea for one." When it comes, it's bound to be heavenly.