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‘I have an all-female crew and create this weird female energy on set,’ says Claire Edmonson, who grew up in Prince Rupert, B.C., and now lives in Toronto. ‘Women need their time in film.’ (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
‘I have an all-female crew and create this weird female energy on set,’ says Claire Edmonson, who grew up in Prince Rupert, B.C., and now lives in Toronto. ‘Women need their time in film.’ (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

culture

Meet Canada’s next great auteur (by the way, she's never made a movie) Add to ...

Having spent her youth regularly returning to England to see her father while her mother stayed in Canada working for B.C. Ferries, Edmonson eventually decided to take her career back to her homeland for a few years, working as a stylist in the British music industry. Her last contract was with the famed Irish rock band U2.

“Everyone said, ‘That’s amazing. You are working with U2!’ and I was, ‘Oh, yeah, I guess …’ It was a huge sign, you know, when you are that disconnected from what you are doing.”

In 2009, she broke up with the Canadian boyfriend with whom she was sharing her transatlantic life, came back to Toronto for a bit, and got stuck there when she banged up that knee. Sitting around recovering, she decided she wanted to be a film director. Knowing the music industry well, she figured making music videos was the fastest way to get a reel together and get some music-industry grants, and she made her first for flamboyant indie rocker Diamond Rings. “It was one of the best days of my life,” she says of the shoot. “You get to run around and make things … I was finally in my natural environment.”

From there, Edmondson has very rapidly built herself a reputation as a music-video director who gets attention with her consciously pretty, slightly spooky and often controversial imagery. Her latest rather dreamy video for Kandle features the young singer/songwriter swanning about a dimly lit, retro kitchen breaking glass on the floor.

“Claire has a very interesting aesthetic,” says Aaron Miller of the Arts & Crafts record label. “Her videos are exciting enough to spark a response in a day and age where a thousand new videos are coming out every day. Most are forgettable. Hers are not.”

Most memorably, in 2011, Edmondson created a video for Arts & Crafts’s biggest act, Broken Social Scene, and their song Sweetest Kill. It featured lots of B-movie gore as a woman, played by Bijou Phillips, poisons her boyfriend, hacks his body to bits and buries them wistfully in a rose garden.

BSS member Andrew Whiteman, who wasn’t involved in its production, created controversy that summer when he broke ranks with his band mates in the sprawling music collective and criticized the video as too literal an interpretation of the song. He has since apologized, but Edmondson felt he just didn’t get it. “It’s a breakup song; it speaks to that. What I wanted to address was: We don’t ever see women killing; we see men killing. Killing is a giant metaphor for the breakup.”

She wonders if the reaction to the obviously fake gore on Sweetest Kill did not mainly reveal that people are more comfortable watching men kill women. Anyway, the video did its job: It has gotten 500,000 views on YouTube, was screened at Toronto’s Bell Lightbox, and has been shown at several festivals.

Her status as a cheeky observer of the worlds she inhabits is probably the result of that dislocated childhood, spent shuttling between Canada and Britain. Her taste for the macabre, however, is all thanks to northern life. “Prince Rupert was a very dark place to grow up. There was a lot of death,” she says, recalling a small community where everybody knew everybody and there was a lot of dangerous behaviour among bored youths.

“Suicides, a lot of boating accidents, car accidents. One year, my brother had eight friends die … I went to a lot of funerals. When I make videos, it just sort of comes out. I don’t do it to be controversial. Life is beautiful, but it is also really dark.”

Claire cuts

Sweetest Kill, Broken Social Scene

In Edmondson’s gorey 2011 video for Sweetest Kill, a breakup song by indie darlings Broken Social Scene, Bijou Phillips plays a murderous girlfriend who chops a man to pieces and then buries the body parts in a garden.

City of Quartz, Gold & Youth

Edmondson’s video for City of Quartz, a new song from Toronto/Vancouver band Gold & Youth, is typical of her atmospheric aesthetic, featuring both menace and joy as a young skateboarder crashes in view of a barking dog and unengaged bystander.

Me, March & Hugh

Sharing a birth date with Hugh Hefner and Marc Jacobs, Edmondson creates a card for the occasion. One of her occasional fashion videos, the satirical romp features a bunch of bunnies showing off their breasts and their bags – Louis Vuitton, of course.

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