Daniel Askill In Conversation

Daniel Askill defies definition. Living between Sydney and New York, he belongs very much to both places and simultaneously to neither. Askill’s work can only be described as a collision of disciplines, in which the filmmaker and artist employs as many mediums as possible. This innate knack for a multifaceted approach has lent him more than a few awards for his work over the years, not least of which include ‘Best Experimental Film’ at the Brooklyn International Film Festival and the ‘BAFTA Award’ at South by Southwest. The critically acclaimed short film in question, 2003’s We Have Decided Not To Die is a surreal look at human ritual and, for Askill, a significant turning point in his creative career.

Composing and producing an album by the age of 19, Daniel Askill wasted no time sinking his teeth into as many artistic endeavors as possible. Juggling between stints in London, Los Angeles New York and Sydney, he has landed clients such as Alexander McQueen, Dior Homme and Acne, while also directing videos for heavyweight musicians the likes of Phoenix and These New Puritans. With a feature film now on the horizon, Askill proves he is ever on the hunt for new territory, ripe for the exploring.

Rosie Dalton: How did you make your start as a filmmaker and artist? Was it an area you were always interested in?
Daniel Askill: My father is a musician and my mother paints, so art and music always felt like a natural path for me. I started experimenting by making little films in my teens and it was amazing to be doing something that I felt combined both.

Rosie: Describe the first moment that you realized you wanted to make films?
Daniel: There were a lot of moments, but I do remember feeling inspired the first time I saw a David Lynch film. I remember watching this film and realizing that there was the possibility to make films with a kind of abstract logic. It made a lot of sense to me and opened my mind to what film could be.

Daniel Askill, Figure Study for the 4th Ritual (Rainforest), 2011

Rosie: How did your design and film collective, Collider come about?
Daniel: I finished studying in London, came back to Australia and reconnected with a couple of old friends (Andrew van der Westhuzen and Sam Zalaiskalns). We decided to start something together and set it up in my bedroom. We worked out of that room until we took over my brother’s bedroom, and slowly most of the top floor of the family house… it was time to move out.

Rosie: What are some of the projects you are now involved with through this initiative?
Daniel: I direct a variety of different projects with Collider (music videos, commercials, fashions films, video installations). As a company, Collider works across design as well as film and is currently working on the design elements for the Australian pavilion at the Venice Biennale, amongst a wide variety of ongoing projects.

Daniel Askill, Modern Worship, 2011

Rosie: Why do you think collectives like this are important to have within the Australian film culture?
Daniel: I must admit I’ve never really thought too strategically about that kind of thing. We launched Collider so we could start producing work with the help and support of each other. Since then, we have had the luck of being joined by a great group of talented filmmakers, designers, artists and producers. If, as a result, we can contribute to the local culture, then that is great.

Rosie: Why did you decide to make the move to New York City?
Daniel: I’d been living and working in Los Angeles for a couple of years and had begun thinking about spending more time in New York. At around the same time, my friend Sia found a great loft space downtown and asked if I would be interested in sharing the space. So it all felt like good timing.

Rosie: Your artworks also tend to incorporate video installations and photography. Why are you particularly drawn to these multifaceted approaches?
Daniel: I guess I’ve always been interested in a range of disciplines including film, photography and music, so I enjoy exploring a subject through a variety of mediums.

Daniel Askill, Three Rituals, Prism LA 2011

Rosie: What are you working on at the moment?
Daniel: I am working on a video installation for the Projection Biennale in Germany and am also in the early stages of development on a feature film with Lionsgate. Aside from that, I have a project for Adidas in the works, as well as the ongoing work that Collider is involved with.

Rosie: Where do you source inspiration for your themes, such as the concept of modern worship?
Daniel: My personal work has always looked at the idea of ritualized action and narrative in a modern context. In the case of modern worship, it was about combining these ideas and a kind of personal mythology with pop culture and modern tragedy. In this case, Michael Jackson and 9/11.

Daniel Askill with Bambi, Cisco and Heidi shooting Ksubi Kolors, photo by Stefan Duscio 2011

Rosie: You work quite closely with your brother Lorin, who is also a filmmaker. What is this like?
Daniel: It’s great. I feel very lucky to be able to collaborate with both of my brothers. We share similar sensibilities when it comes to our work, so it comes quite naturally.

Rosie: Do you have a favorite project that you have worked on to date?
Daniel: Obviously each project has its own pleasures, whether it be collaborating with dancers, musicians, or exploring something entirely different. But one of my early films, We Have Decided Not To Die really felt like the beginning of making something in a language of my own.

Daniel Askill, We Have Decided Not To Die (The Second Ritual), 2004

Photos by Daniel Askil with additional photos by Cara Stricker and Stefan Duscio

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