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Black Shuck director David Gregory on hell hounds, music videos and the human condition

Director David Gregory has made more than 30 music videos with production company Cineoteric Films. As Indy Film Library prepares to screen his short horror Black Shuck this Halloween, he spoke to us about the importance of taking risks and being relentless to get opportunities in the industry.

This is the second film about Black Shuck which Indy Film Library has featured. What is it you think keeps drawing people to this legend?

I think the story of a big black otherworldly dog is something that has been passed down through generations and seeped into popular culture without us really realising it. I think it endures the way it does because people are drawn to this legend is an ancient British thing. It’s a supernatural legend, but it has themes that are rooted in our experiences of reality.

I hadn’t actually specifically heard of the legend of the Black Shuck before production, but subliminally I kind of already knew about it. Shuck inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, while severe depression is often referred to as a ‘black dog’. In the UK there have also been countless newspaper stories over the decades of big black animal sightings. Maybe that’s an evolution of the story too.

What’s your background as an artist, and how did you originally get into filmmaking?

I studied filmmaking in Leeds from 2005 to 2008, and then stuck around Leeds working bars while making silly videos with my friends. We made a fun short horror comedy called Cakeboy, which gave me the bug to pursue this full-time. Then spent a hard six years in London making contacts, building a portfolio and learning on the job how to tell stories with little to no budget.

How did you first get involved with Long Distance Calling for the project?

In 2020, I started reaching out to bands I personally loved, and pushed to make music videos for them. I am quite relentless. We initially signed up to do a video for Long Distance Calling out of that, for their track called Immunity. It was quite fitting, as we then started to go into the 2020 Covid-19 lockdowns. We still wanted to deliver a music video so managed to pull together a group of filmmakers across the world and made a video detailing how every country was dealing with their lockdowns.

A year later the band reached out again to create a video for a new track for their EP, Ghost. The imagery of the EP being of a dog stood on top of a building. It was our idea, myself and my long-time collaborator James Morgan, to explore the legend of Black Shuck. Ghost + Dog = Black Shuck.

What was the process like for working with the band on this story?

The band themselves gave us total creative freedom in telling this story as they trusted us with our previous collaboration, as well as loving our cinematic style. We wrote a treatment, a script and a whole mood-board for it which they gave us the thumbs up, and we went ahead and made the video you see today. The song actually had a different title when recorded, and the band named it Black Shuck after we presented them the idea which is very cool. A true shared collaboration of artforms.

Was there any particular message you were hoping to get across with the video?

Seeing that the band gave us creative freedom (and being a piece with no lyrics helps) we thought we’d tell our own folk-horror story. There isn’t a prevalent message but a brief exploration into the father character’s madness. Are these legends literal, and based on supernatural events that occurred, or are they just fantastical explanations of much realer aspects of the human condition?

Stylistically and visually, it is completely different from a lot of my other works. We were very much inspired by The Lighthouse (2019). It’s essentially a period piece with no sound effects, shot in black-and-white. That was all completely new to me. However, the themes running through Black Shuck I explore a lot in my work. Mental health, existentialism, complex familial relationships, and the more supernatural elements seem to emanate from a lot of my work.

What has the reaction been toward Black Shuck since its release?

The band loved it, I loved it, and the fans loved it. Job done.

Indy Film Library recently added music videos to our review service. As it is a medium many filmmakers get their first break in, do you have any tips for artists approaching a music video project?

Be bold and take risks. Especially if the band gives you creative freedom. Music videos are an artform that lets you get away with a lot of unconventional visuals. Listen to the song, read the lyrics, and get to the core of the song to get an idea. Then explore that idea within the realms of your budget. Ultimately be original.

Finally, are you working on anything at the moment you’d like to talk about? And how can our readers support you?

I’m currently working on three music videos ranging from blues rock to death metal. I’m also about to have my horror / comedy feature film The Deadly Swarm released towards the end of the year. I also direct video trailers for a lot of theatres dotted around London, so they will pop up from time to time. And I have a short film 11:48 in pre-production, that should hit festivals in 2025.

I’m easy to get in contact with through my Instagram handle @david_gregory_film. If anyone wants to reach out for advice or a general chat about filmmaking then please do.

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