If you’re familiar with the music of British electronic outfit Simian Mobile Disco then there’s a good chance you’re also acquainted with the work of filmmaker and videographer Hans Lo. And if you’re already acquainted with Hans Lo, you’ll most likely know him for his thumping music videos that employ intricate, abstract imagery created with complex analog processes to provide visual accompaniment to a range of mind-expanding sounds. Lo has staked out a particular corner of the industry just for himself, horsing around with VHS and Betamax recorders, oscilloscopes, and oil projections to make work that is unmistakably his own.
Over the years he’s been a close collaborator of Kate Moross and Jack Featherstone, and a gun for hire for any number of film production companies and a diverse range of clients both corporate and creative, working on music videos, fashion films, and anything else he can lend his skills to.
But the last year has rung in some serious changes in Lo’s professional life. He’s grown up, settled down, got himself a full-time job after almost a decade of freelancing, and even moved away from making quite so many music videos. “The music stuff is so self-indulgent,” he says. “It doesn’t really matter what you put on screen because the music is the main actor.”
Like many of his contemporaries in their early 30s, he’s grown tired of eking out a living from one-off, low-budget projects and begun to question if the benefits of being freelance still outweigh the drawbacks.
“I’ve been freelancing for years, and I wasn’t really looking for a full-time job, but I came back from holiday and was like, ‘What am I doing now? I’m still just scraping by.’ My friend Jack and I call it leeching where we leech off really small budget music projects and then now and again get a stint of freelance work at a studio. This time I was just like ‘You know what, maybe I’ll just try out some full-time work and see what happens.’ The places I applied for got back to me straight away and I got interviews. I really didn’t expect that.
I was lucky enough to have the choice to pick—they all wanted me. There was one for CBS, and another one for a private education company which was like, really corporate shit. The job I took was much more interesting.
Taking your pick from three job offers might seem like a luxury, but luck certainly has nothing to do with it for Lo. His public portfolio is full of the kind of expressively unrestrained projects that prospective clients and employers salivate over, and the stuff he keeps under wraps demonstrates a plethora of skills that are slightly less sexy, but essential to realizing film and motion graphics. “I’ve worked for a month on projects where I’m literally just rotoscoping out a hand, which is laborious but also really challenging technically, which I really like putting myself through. I can find fun in stuff like that.”
That said, Lo is realistic about keeping his own work going, maintaining projects in which he’s emotionally as well as technically invested—which can be a tricky balance to strike when you’re moving between studios. “I’ve never been interested in making shit-loads of money,” he says. “And when I do go into big studios to work on stuff, I kind of always know that I’m not emotionally invested in projects—I’m getting better every time I do it, but they’re just employing me for a set of hands and my skills rather than anything else.
It sounds really cold but I think if you’re very artistic or really creative about what you’re doing and want to have control over it, you’re always going to find other stuff that’s more appealing to that creative side. But the corporate stuff will fund you and allow you to indulge in those projects.
Lo is unable to discuss the details of his full-time role on pain of death should he break the covenant of his NDA, suffice to say he’s excited to be employing the full spectrum of his skills on the project, as well as picking up some new ones along the way.
“Oh yeah, I’ve really been thrown in the deep end. I was like, ‘Am I qualified for this job?’ Then my boss was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Yeah. You are, right?’ I was like, ‘Yeah I guess so.’ ‘Okay well let’s just see how it goes then.’”
So far it seems full-time is working pretty well.