Nathan Miller talks us through the creation of LDN – the documentary showcasing London’s diverse music scene
UK music, and the London scene in particular, is in its strongest position in years.
Artists no longer need to water down their sound to be heard, and doors opened by the previous generation have resulted in an array of young Londoners pushing sounds new and old to an invested audience.
Nathan Miller’s documentary LDN, released independently, features a lot of these artists. We caught up with the film-maker to talk through how his first full-length documentary came together.
How did your start in film-making come about?
It came through an idea I had to do a piece about DJ Cipha Sounds. I wound up shooting a piece called Prologue to prove to myself that I could even pull off a documentary in the first place – I studied media but I was still a noob. That then led to a bunch of work with Ace Hotel, then I did the Cipha Sounds piece and here I am with LDN, in a nutshell.
What did you go into LDN hoping to achieve, and what do you want people to take from it? Who do you hope the doc reaches?
I wanted to shed a light on the other side of the music scene here in London. In recent times grime has really been pushed to the forefront of the urban sounds coming from our city. But right now there has been an emergence of this new afro-beat rap sound and drill. I wanted to create a piece which would include that.
I hoped that it would reach the fans that grew up listening to rap and grime, I wanted people to watch it and automatically know that I’m from London and have grown up listening to this music, just due to the angle I’ve taken with it.
Do you have a favourite shot in the documentary? Who are your influences, and what did you take into consideration when filming to give this a proper London feel?
I do indeed, I really love the shot where Jevon and Fwdsxlsh are working on Nines’ album and Nines looks at them with approval of the beat. It was something that couldn’t have happened any better.
I was watching City Of God (COG) a lot whilst filming this. One thing to note about COG is that it’s an open world film. You meet minor characters who wind up becoming main characters and their stories overlap. In a very slight sense, I’d like to think LDN also has that – i.e. you hear Jevon’s story then later see him work on Nines’ album. You hear about 67 and then see them with Youngs Tef.
I wanted to create an atmosphere where by the end of the doc you can recognise these faces without having to mention they’re in the shot again.
How did you decide which artists, DJs and photographers to feature?
I decided by who I was listening to. It started off with friends, like Kojey and Vicky. J Hus’s team were the first ‘strangers’ that agreed to take part and then it just kind of grew. Again, I’m a fan of the scene so I didn’t need to do no real research on who to get.
Is there anything that you learned from the experience? Either on making a full-length documentary or about the scene?
Absolutely, before it came out I was actually talking to a very big distribution company about acquiring it. It didn’t quite work out but I was given such amazing feedback.
It also reaffirmed to me that we have the best music scene at this current moment in time, in my opinion.
Is there anything you picked up while working on this that you’d particularly like mainstream/new audiences to know about the London music scene?
That there is much more to the scene other than grime. I think most of LDN’s viewership already knows this though.
Are there any plans to go back and talk to those who came before the artists featured in your doc, and if not, how come?
Not really, I think Noisey have done a great job at documenting grime, and GQ done a cool piece with Lethal – not to mention the SBTV collab with Channel 4 about the pirate radio stations. I would love to work with Giggs though, I respect where he has come from.
How do we empower more young people to tell their own stories and those of people around them, like you’re doing? And do you even consider that to be important?
Self-empowerment is so important, it filters people that kind of want to do things and those that actually do go out and do stuff. I do hope I’ve inspired those that want to get into film-making to just get up and do, because if I listened to advice this piece probably would have never been created.
Learn from those that are in the position you wish to be in – and to anyone that does want some advice my inbox is always open.
Could you also let me know about the choice to quit your job for the doc, the risk involved, and how you made the decision? What’s the next step?
I was working part-time and I had a great relationship with my colleagues, to the point that I could just leave work if I needed to film… artists can be quite spontaneous. I didn’t want to become too disrespectful by continuously leaving all of a sudden so I decided to leave entirely. Was not a hard decision at all, my creative life trumps everything – it was just something I had to do. Didn’t care if I went broke either.