Photographer and director Ryan Hopkinson’s style of work is often minimal, detail driven and breathtakingly beautiful. In his new film Only Human he zooms in on the detail once more, focusing on what makes us human in a purely physical sense. Ryan’s short is the last film that’s been created as part of our partnership with Channel 4 Random Acts, where we’ve commissioned a series of films with five of the most exciting filmmakers working in the industry today. As part of the platform’s expansion, Random Acts now has a TV show, in which our films will appear. Ryan’s film appeared in last night’s episode, which you can now catch up with on All 4 here.
Paying homage to the human body is Ryan Hopkinson with his film Only Human. The short depicts movement and gesticulations of marathon runners in a series of close crops for a beautiful, atmospheric study. “It started early on as an idea that me and Jamie McIntyre [It’s Nice That’s lead art director] had been developing. We had been fascinated by the shapes, tones and textures of the body when in motion and we wanted to explore and document those unseen moments through the film in a way that we felt hadn’t been captured before,” explains Ryan.
The wrinkled skin, taut muscles and trickling sweat are shown in crisp detail and the ambiguity of which body part is being shown is beguiling. “We felt the anonymity and more importantly the detail of the marathon runners worked better within the context of the project,” says the photographer and director. “When we began shooting the film we focused on wanting the audience to step into a trance when watching the film so they begin to see past the familiar body parts and start to see the unfamiliar and unrecognisable until they are no long sure what they are looking at.”
This is heightened by the film’s score which saw Ryan collaborate with British musician and producer The Haxan Cloak. “We felt Haxan’s work really matched the tone of the visuals and kept an interesting pace to the runners that helped us convey this idea of the body and its details.” The indistinct machine-like sounds that play over the film, act as a subtle allusion to the human form and all its components.
Lead camera man was Ryan’s longterm collaborator David Procter and the biggest obstacle for the shoot was capturing the runners at all angles. “The set up involved a remote triggered custom-made steady-cam that housed a Phantom 4k Flex giving us the ability to rotate around the body in ways many other setups wouldn’t be able to capture,” explains Ryan. “One of the more difficult challenges was to time the pace of the marathon runners to match the beat of their movements across all the different body builds and heights we cast.”
For the film’s subjects Ryan cast genuine running enthusiasts. “It was important to have a wide selection of runners from all different backgrounds, ages and ethnicities to give us a wide range of textures and movements,” Ryan says. “We wanted to focus on real people so it was refreshing to step away from the sculpted sportswear models that are familiar and focus on a broad and diverse set of marathon runners that are out there running and training everyday.”
Channel 4 Random Acts showcases three-minute films created by established artists and up-and-coming amateurs, chosen for their bold and original expressions of creativity. The next episode of Random Acts will air next week on Channel 4, catch up with previous episodes here. To watch weekly Random Acts selections or explore the entire archive, head to the Random Acts website.