San Francisco music video auteur Justin Kelly makes the move into movies
Lensed by frequent director of photography David Kavanaugh, Kelly's recent video for Harlem's "Gay Human Bones" is another step forward, with a superb central performance by Baugh, who stares down the camera with silent movie star hypnotism, and a memorable bespectacled cameo by Scout Festa, one of the stars of Cary Cronenwett's sailor epic Maggots and Men (2009). ("We call her 'One Take Festa,'" Baugh says.) Here, the attention to detail that Kelly brings to movement and editing (an area where Baugh often chimes in) takes on a ritualistic aura. Both "Gay Human Bones" and "Cruising" possess choreographic grace.
This doesn't mean Kelly is veering away from direct imagery. His clip for Nick Weiss's RIP NRG remix of Hunx and His Punx' "Dontcha Want Me Back" discovers new vivid hues while reveling in the tastiness and grodiness of food. An upcoming clip for Alexis' home run of a debut single "Lonely Sea" (produced by Weiss) captures the formidable Penney in full-on Janet Jackson or Madonna-level diva mode, storming into the ocean. Except in this case the setting was a freezing Ocean Beach, where Penney had to yell to himself that he was "Alexis, Queen of Sex!" in between freezing-cold and even hail-ridden shots. "He was shaking so hard," Kelly says. "I freaked out and thought, 'Oh my god, he's going to die and I'm going to jail!'"
While music video is where Kelly has been thriving, the feature film world is where he's been learning, from his early Hollywood and Indiewood experiences on through to a gig as editorial assistant on Gus Van Sant's Milk (2008). This summer, he's traveling to Oregon to work on a feature by director M. Blash that stars Chloë Sevigny and Jena Malone. He's also continuing to work on his feature film debut as director, after shorts such as Front (2007), a cryptic slice of queer youth which starred Daeg Faerch before Rob Zombie cast him as the young Michael Meyers in his 2007 remake of Halloween. As for that project, mum's the word right now, but know one thing: a lot of people in this town will be talking about it.