2 Minutes With ... Damien Shatford, Director at Sweetshop

The New Zealander has a thing for music videos and paintings of baguettes

Photo illustration by Ashley Epping

With his background in music videos, it's perhaps no surprise that Damien Shatford did such a bang-up job crafting DB Export's ridiculously entertaining "I'm Drinking It for You" R&B duet for New Zealand brewer DB Export last year. 

But he's hardly a one-hit wonder. The director's other notable spots since joining Sweetshop in 2013 have included the New Zealand Police's celebrated recruitment video from 2017 as well as this year's zombie-tastic L&P soda spot, set to Sheryl Crow's "All I Wanna Do." 

Muse spent two minutes with Shatford to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and ... his hands? 

Damien tell us…

The town where you were born. 

Christchurch, New Zealand. In the 1980s. Population around 290,000. Known for its roses and racism.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

When I was a kid, people told me I had butcher's hands. But I wasn't really into blood and guts, so now I'm just that director with butcher's hands.

How you discovered you were creative.

Somewhere along the way, I realized when I created things I got gifted dopamine. Reward systems work. I like making things. I can't remember a time that I didn't.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Pretty much anyone making music videos. MTV wasn't very accessible, and I think New Zealand's budget version was programmed by Creed. But I got that DVD box set Director's Label that introduced me to Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Chris Cunningham. I liked those directors a lot.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

I left high school at 15 and became a fry cook. I moved around different kitchens, trained under some scary small-town chefs, and slowly moved up the line in French fine dining. I didn't like it, so retired at 21 and went to film school.

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

I saw Moby when I was 12. I was too short to really see anything, but I still got my "Get my honey come back (sometimes)/I wanna rap like that (sometimes)/I get a hump in my back (sometimes)/I'm going over here (sometimes)" fix. I'm currently listening to a lot of Juice Wrld (RIP) and Smog.

Your favorite artist.

In 2013, an artist named Julie Dale painted me a picture of a flaccid baguette from a photograph I took at my local supermarket. It's my favorite painting, so maybe she's my favorite artist? She's also my mother. Here is "Baguette, 2013":

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction. 

Currently it's Charlie and Nicole from Marriage Story.

The best book you've read lately. 

Suburban Baroque by David Wadelton. It's more of a picture book, but it does have some words in it. It's a look at these garish euro mid-century suburban interiors from old working-class areas in Melbourne. Marble, columns, gold and stucco. Yum. 

Your favorite movie. 

My top five of 2019, in no particular order:

The Death of Dick Long
Marriage Story
Uncut Gems

Your favorite Instagram follow. 

@ifyouhigh, @BrownCardigan

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

DB Export: Extra Low Carbs! The process… I worked with a very talented group of humans on a super fun script, where we got to make a love ballad about beer.

I'm Drinking It For You
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

L&P: Best Day Ever. The script… Two best friends having the the best day ever—but they're zombies and it's the apocalypse. Also Sheryl Crow. It got a lot of complaints from a lot of terrified people. None were upheld by our Advertising Standards Authority, but it was a pretty funny read. 

L&P | Best Day Ever
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago. 

This piece of theater called Small Metal Objects from Back to Back Theatre. It happened in the middle of dense pedestrian traffic in downtown Wellington. About 100 of us watched from some very public bleachers—and through headphones we were wired into this incredible drama being played out somewhere in the crowd. The actors would sometimes interact with the public. The public would sometimes just watch the 100 people with headphones on staring into middle distance. Was pretty surreal. 

small metal objects
Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately. 

I'm not sure, but I think Boston Robotics needs to stop abusing robots. We'll all pay for what they've done.

Your main strength as a creative person.

My important and unique perspective as a straight white male.

Your weakness or blind spot.

My crippling insecurities about literally everything.

One thing that always makes you happy.

"I Miss You" by Blink 182. Specifically when Tom's second verse comes in.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The Hunger Games.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay (parts 1 and 2).
Very upsetting trilogy.

What you'd be doing if you weren't a director.

I guess I'd have to be a butcher. :(

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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