Ten years ago, indie Film Director Lester Francois first noticed street artist Rone’s work. The contrast of beautiful portraits of women’s faces and graffiti sparked an interest that eventuated into a film project. Francois spent 18 months filming internationally acclaimed artist Rone, and now the self-titled virtual reality film will feature at Gold Coast Film Festival on 28 April. Director Lester Francois took time out with Blank Magazine to discuss the creative process behind the virtual reality (VR) film ‘Rone’.
“I was always infatuated by these amazing portraits of women’s faces around the city (Melbourne)” explains Francois about his attraction to Rone’s work.
“I saw his work developing over the years and he was such an enigma to me. Then, I thought I’d love to explore who this artist is and examine why he is painting these murals.”
Francois’ curiosity became the better of him and just a short email later, the director found himself on project with Rone for the next 18 months.
“Unbeknownst to me when I started making this film (and I don’t think even Rone knew it at the time), Rone was going through a subtle transition within his work.”
During the eighteen months through Francois’ and Rone’s shared experience, the story emerged with new and unexpected dimensions.
“Rone’s gone through three phases,” explains Francois.
“Initially he was doing illegal street art around the streets of Melbourne, around Australia and around the world. Originally doing paste-ups. From there he became very popular, he started getting lots of commissions from big companies to paint on their walls, new buildings or apartments, and doing commissioned works where he would paint on canvas.
“But the transitional stage that we caught him going through, was where he would go into these abandoned buildings, that no one has access, to paint these stunning portraits and then photograph them. Then it would be these photographs that would become the final work, and so in essence Rone became a fine artist.
“So, the film is about us catching this moment when Rone is transitioning into becoming a fine artist.”
Francois tells us how the original medium for ‘Rone’ shifted as the project progressed.
“Working with Rone and telling his story, I figured out pretty quickly that Rone’s work would lend itself perfectly to virtual reality.” Francois continues, “As you make the film the story tells you what it wants to be, so we had to pivot slightly.”
Francois described the thrill behind filming the project.
“We were literally breaking into these buildings and jumping over fences and climbing through windows. These buildings were falling apart and we had to tip toe through derelict spaces and Rone is telling me not to step here, or not to lean on that wall, because the building will fall over! In some of the spaces it was quite scary to film in.”
The temporary nature of street art became further apparent with the continuation of the project, the potential for VR to continue a legacy of Rone’s work and create greater accessibility for Rone’s audience was recognised.
“Early on in the process I realised this is an amazing way to document the ephemeral work. Rone has fans all around the world, through VR people on the other side of the world can experience his work.” Francois’ VR work has had flow on effects, not only by making street art accessible to those overseas and interstate, but also for those experiencing disability.
When watching the interactive version of ‘Rone’, the audience has an opportunity to discover Rone’s work through a virtual gallery, learning about the artist through an immersive documentary and explore rooms filled with extra content. The success of ‘Rone’ at SXSW and Melbourne Film Festival is a testament to Francois’ storytelling capabilities and the ingenuity of Rone as an artist.
Francois hopes that the audience discovers a new-found appreciation for street art and the work they see every day on our streets.
“Hopefully they will be able to look twice and make a distinction between graffiti and a beautiful mural”.
Gold Coast art enthusiasts will be able to check out ‘Rone’ at HOTA on 27-28 April as part of the Gold Coast Film Festival.