Hometown: London, UK
Why He’s On Our Radar: While Ayoade has made quite an impression on British television (and any American that began watching his recent hit series “The IT Crowd” after Netflix recommended it based on an interest in “The Office”) and the music video world (directing videos for The Arctic Monkeys, Vampire Weekend, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and more), he has thus far only made it onto American screens as a director of NBC’s “Community.” “Submarine,” which is executively produced by Ben Stiller and is being distributed by The Weinstein Company, marks his feature-length directorial debut (click here to read our interview with the film’s lead actor, Craig Roberts). The film quickly garnered Ayoade comparisons with Wes Anderson, which he very respectfully acknowledges.
More About Him: If it were up to him, this article would probably be titled “SOME BLOKE WHO WILL NEVER BE REMEMBERED IN THE FUTURE: Richard Ayoade.” But that humility is all an act. We think. When one journalist told him at the NY press conference for the film, “People in London must just fall over when they see you,” Ayoade quipped back, “No no, they remain erect.” Whatever he may say about himself, his film (he’s notorious for preparing festival audiences to be disappointed), and his talents, Ayoade has certainly created a film whose honesty and coming-of-age awkwardness has resonated with audiences from Toronto to Sundance to Berlin.
What’s Next: Certainly not going off the map anytime soon, Ayoade has recently directed for NBC’s “Community” and is considering other directing projects in addition to his acting load.
indieWIRE Asks: When you were handed the novel “Submarine,” which the film was based on, you were being asked to work on the film. Did you have an idea of how you wanted to approach this story as soon as you read it?
I suppose in the first read, it was trying not to think about it and just absorb it. I wrote the script and showed it to Joe [Dunthorne, the book’s author], and he felt happy with it. He was always around to speak to. I think initially they asked him if he would write it, but he was writing his new book and so I think for me, certainly, with this, it would have been hard to come up just as a director. For me, writing is a way to work out how you’re going to approach directing.
This film has a tone quite different from a lot of your own acting roles. How was it directing these performances?
Essentially, what ends up being the film are the actors. They’re the people that are responsible for giving it its life. If it’s interesting, it’s down to the actors. If it isn’t interesting it’s often not their fault.
How did your work in music videos inform your approach to this film?
There’s various things you can try in music videos. The main reason to do them is to produce something that will please the band and that it will be appropriate for them rather than it being a series of camera tests for you. One of the great things was meeting the cinematographer for “Submarine,” Erik Wilson, doing music videos.
You confess to being a huge cinephile. Are certain films playing in your mind as you’re behind the camera or as you’re writing? You mentioned Truffaut and Ray’s Apu Trilogy in your director’s statement.
I don’t think you can avoid thinking of other films. The idea of the character of Oliver [Tate, the film’s lead teenage role] is that he loves films and he would be aware of films about coming-of-age, and his view of himself would be filtered through that knowledge. You bring those things to bear. The main thing was “Taxi Driver,” because it’s subjective and flattened and ridiculously shortsighted narrator juxtaposed with their behavior, colored by legacy and their own importance. Even though that’s a portrayal of a complete psychopath, there’s an element of the psychopath in Oliver.
What is the difference in the creative control in directing a film compared to other things you do?
Well, for one, this film was structurally more complicated than other things I do, in terms of writing and the length. It’s just a much longer process. You can have an idea for a music video and you have finished it two weeks later. Working on films like this can last for two to three years.
Do you want to be doing more behind the camera work?
Yes, I really enjoy directing, but you have no guarantee that you’ll be able to continue to do it. It’s a combination of what you’re able to do, what you’d like to do and what other people will allow you to do.