Aged only 25, Billy Boyd Cape is already signed to content-production agency Academy+ and dreaming of his first feature film. He’s directed videos for the likes of Kwaye – with whom he has an ongoing collaboration – Jakwob and FKA twigs, and also a short film, More Hate Than Fear, about a graffiti artist banged up in prison. He also takes great photographs. Cape can do it all. His forthcoming releases include another Kwaye music video, his first grime video and a dance film in collaboration with Sadler’s Wells for Channel 4’s Random Acts. Watch this space.
This is our Family issue. What do your parents do?
“I grew up around freelance creatives who really found their niche. Mum’s a casting director, Dad’s a panoramic photographer and my stepdad’s an actor.”
What’s the most important thing you’ve learnt from them?
“They taught me the importance of culture from a very young age. I was taken to art galleries, theatres and music festivals. We visited family members in America, Namibia and Hong Kong. My family kept me inspired and encouraged me to chase my aspirations – I didn’t realise it then, but they opened my eyes to what is out there.”
Your grandfather shot films and took photographs, right? Has he influenced what you do at all?
“Film and photography was a hobby for him – he was a businessman. It was only after my grandparents died that we discovered hours of Super 8 film that he shot from the ’50s to the ’80s. I found that some of it was startlingly similar to footage I had shot on a recent trip to the US, which inspired me to create a collage art film called We Visit Often about our two journeys over the decades.”
When did you first decide you wanted to be a director?
“I thought I’d be a good cinematographer – directing seemed like too much pressure – but it didn’t satisfy me as much as taking an idea from initial conception and turning it into a film. The process is addictive. I started with friends in my neighbourhood on oddball scripts we’d write, then ambition and crews quickly grew as I met more people at film school.”
Where do you go when you’re in search of inspiration?
“Music is always a starting point. Whether for a promo, art film or narrative, it’s music that lets me find that emotional feeling.”
Which directors have had the largest influence on you?
“David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson both make films that, stylistically, I’m able to lose myself in. Fincher is a perfectionist and a technical mastermind – studying his work has taught me more than film school. Whereas PTA is making cinema that feels timeless, effortless and reminds me why I fell in love with film in the first place.”
What’s your dream project?
“Feature films are every young boy’s dream. That dream hasn’t faded, so you’ll have to find me in 10 years to see if I’ve got there.”
You’ve made a couple shorts about travelling. What’s your favourite place you’ve ever filmed and why?
“Hong Kong took my breath away. I was a total tourist, but having a camera gave me the purpose to explore areas I wouldn’t otherwise go. I went as high as I could to get the wildest views across the city and then into the depths of its mayhem. It’s a sweaty, dense and intense place that moves faster than any rush hour I know, but with a sense of calm – like clockwork. The camera would force me to walk along the streets for hours, looking for places to shoot. Not only that, it also meant I ate the best street food of my life.”
You’re also a prolific photographer. Do you see that as separate from filmmaking?
“For me it’s one and the same. Music videos might prep for a month and only shoot for one day, but photography keeps a camera with me all the time. When there’s no client or expectation, it takes the pressure off and lets me train my eye and create more freely. I shoot on film so I’m sparse in what I capture – and then sometimes I only remember what I took when I get the film back from the lab. It’s refreshing that something can be so instantaneous, rather than taking a year to create 15 minutes of film.”