Joel Kefali cuts a relatively inconspicuous figure sitting amiably outside a Kingsland bar. He has three NZ Music Awards to his name, a NZ Film Award, plus a shout-out from Kanye West, and his work has been viewed hundreds of millions of times of Youtube, but he's not a familiar face to most -- he can sit happily in anonymity in his local neighbourhood.
That's because he's the man behind the camera - and the brain behind the concepts. Kefali is best known as a music video creator and director (Lorde, The Naked and Famous, Crowded House, David Dallas, The Mint Chicks, Tune-yards, Tame Impala, and Flying Lotus are among the many artists he's worked for), as well as turning his talents to commercial campaigns for Lexus, Hewlett Packard, and various other international brands, as one half of Special Problems, a small company he founded with fellow art school graduate Campbell Hooper in 2007.
Lorde's Royals was directed by Kefali
So on paper, he's a big shot, but in person he's a humble dude, and he's still just as keen on small personal projects as he is on making music videos for stars.
Which brings us to Dans, a three-minute short film he's made as part of a new short film initiative called Loading Docs, which is encouraging local directors to make small nuggets of entertainment that can capture imaginations, even in the age of fast distractions, and watching everything on your phone.
Kefali is one of 10 film-makers whose projects were given $2500 (via NZ On Air and the New Zealand Film Commission), plus the support, and a platform to crowdfund a further $2000, to help bring their short film idea to life.
"Three minutes is a great duration for testing an idea out, and it means there can be an experimental aspect to these films. They can be quite poetic and impressionistic. And three minutes is kind of a sweet spot for people watching things online, it's not too big a commitment while you're sitting at your desk having a coffee break," he explains.
The Naked and Famous' Young Blood was directed by Kefali
The only brief the film-makers were given was the word "home", and as you can read below, the interpretations of that have been wide-ranging. Kefali decided to build his film around the memories of his Turkish immigrant grandfather Sol, and his early experiences in New Zealand.
"Home is a great word to respond to, whether it's comfortable or uncomfortable. Being a refugee, just by its very nature, means you're lacking a home, and are now trying to find one or create one somewhere else, and I think that fascinated me, and that's what the story is about."
Dans means dance in Turkish, and refers to one of his grandfather's favourite recollections, about dances at the Orange Hall on Newton Rd, a gathering place for many refugees when he arrived in the early 1950s.
"There was a boat called the Goya which brought quite a lot of early generations of Middle Eastern and Eastern European communities to New Zealand. Along with his friends, Sol helped to build the first mosque in Ponsonby, and was part of that early Muslim community.
"The Orange dance hall was another place where people gathered and socialised - it was just what people did. And it was where he met my grandmother, who is a Kiwi."
Kefali has taken his grandfather's stories and animated them, to create a colourful, poignant three minutes that mixes the past with the present.
"I guess the way I do stuff - it's a mixture of hand drawn and computer manipulated, or computer drawn animation, so I guess it's a bit of a weird bastardised style of taking different methods and techniques in a kind of collage.
"I wanted to use the animation and music to help explain the shift in his life, that kind of juxtaposition of those two worlds and two homes - Turkey and New Zealand."
You can tell Kefali has relished the opportunity to work on such a personal, self-driven project, and to showcase his own storytelling abilities.
"I'm so used to working creatively but often at the mercy of someone else, whether that's a band or a record label or a brand, or an agency, it's freeing to be able to make something where the creative decisions end with me. It's quite scary and exciting at the same time."
Whether this is a step towards more feature length film-making, or more shorts (Special Problems also made a stunning short film called Echoes last year), Kefali sees them all as an opportunity to hone skills, and hopefully to make an impact on an audience.
"You're still telling stories in some way, you're trying to keep an audience captived and connected over a period of time, and those are skills required no matter what medium you're working in."
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Producer: Alexander Gander
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Who: Joel Kefali
What: Loading Docs project of 10 short films, including Joel Kefali's film Dans.
When and where: Premiere screening of all films at Academy Cinemas on Tuesday May 27, plus they'll be available to view and share at www.loadingdocs.net, or you can head to nzherald.co.nz/loadingdocs from Wednesday morning.