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director profile 1 8 randy krallman

Disappointed that he was going to be pictured with his clothes on, the funny-peculiar director for Smuggler still opened his heart (and Instant Messenger) to Stephen Whelan

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randy krallman 1 9 director profile

Photograph: wyatt troll

“I didn’t think of it so much as directing. More as making commercials without ancient douchebags above me killing all the ideas.”

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10/3/08 16:00:53


director profile 2 0 randy krallman

Krallman’s portfolio includes (from left): Nextel, Old Spice, eTrade, Steinlager and Starburst

“There is nothing more boring than someone who is doing great, right?”

narcotics that were introduced and abandoned along the way. With an

types Randy Krallman at 20:32:53. In the middle of pre-production on a

achingly-hip nonchalance devoid of any posturing, he describes the period

job for Starbucks. With the odd award sitting at home under a pile of

from his 12th to his 16th birthday as his “little burnout”. He offers the

pizza boxes. Having racked up a gazillion hits on YouTube with a clip of a

description as brute fact, part of the fabric. But before there’s time to dwell,

bizarre dancing man-boy.

the discussion shifts to his creative roots.

Fortunately, Krallman’s a guy who clearly gets irony. After all, his comment

Krallman admits he had no inkling to be creative as a kid. “I was always

comes in the middle of an Instant Messenger conversation where comedy

drawn to funny people. Or people who made the best out of shit situations. I

and cancer are discussed in the same sentence. I suggest that

think that probably informed me a lot,” flashes the cursor at 19:55:30. “It

unprecedented, colossal failure is the reason for the worldwide fascination

was only once I got into skating that I started becoming aware of creativity a

with Britney Spears. At 20:33:15 Krallman’s response flashes up onscreen:

little more. Spike Jonze’s Blind Video Days was the first skate video I ever

“Success is the absolute worst thing that can happen, because it’s suddenly

saw, and the whole aesthetic and smart-ass attitude of skating in the early

like ‘what now?’, and then you go from unexpected success to wash-up –

‘90s probably influenced me a lot.”

which is WAY worse than never succeeding. Because at least before success

After the skating came the snowboarding, then journalism school, then the

you still had potential.”

realisation that he was “a crap writer”. A stint as a graphic designer

A mixture of factors, namely a busted cell phone and a busy schedule, have

precipitated another speedy realisation of imminent failure and Krallman

forced us to meet online, and we’ve been chatting on IM since 19:25:57. So

found himself crumbling into art direction at Lowe. Giggling with impish glee,

far we’ve covered gay days at Disneyland and briefly debated the gender

he admits to getting fired. Details are not forthcoming.

orientation of Hugh Grant’s curbside rendezvous, Divine Brown (the

“Off the back of that shitty run I bought a camera and tried to make some

confusion is cleared up at 19:42:39 when Krallman fingers the following keys

videos,” Krallman says. “They were all fairly embarrassing so we don’t talk

from somewhere in New York: “...that’s right; it was Eddie Murphy who was

about them.” But after the false starts, Krallman found a bunch of actors he

blown by a tranny.”) Fortunately, the basic facts of Krallman’s upbringing can

clicked with and together they shot a spec film which was sent to MTV.

be rescued from a chat we had the week before. So our IM experiment is, I

“Looking back that was so freakin’ naive. Somehow, though, it got to the

tell him, “mainly about the nuances”. Of which there are many.

right guy, Kevin McCall, and he liked it.” Recognising Krallman’s MTV-friendly

Born into a military family in the US, Krallman’s

style and precocious talent McCall commissioned several more idents and

childhood involved “travelling from shitty state to shitty state.” He describes the military upbringing as “a bit fucked up”. But, he explains, this was “mainly because of the shite settings of military bases. My parents were both great and sane. No canings or bootcamp shit. They got divorced and my mom remarried – to a rocket scientist.” Elaborating on certain details of his childhood, “doing block-long wheelies on my BMX bike” and “getting into Iron Maiden”, Krallman marks the timeline of his youth according to various

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“I freestyled some versions in the middle of the night. Somehow the stuff I recorded ended up as the actual voice-over.”

thus Krallman’s ball was set rolling. “I didn’t think of it so much as directing,” Krallman reminisces, “more as making commercials without ancient douchebags above me killing all the ideas.” The result of the liaison with MTV was a pair of spots, Foosball and Salesman, that can only be described as anthropomorphic counterfactuals. Which is a clumsy, yet pleasing, way of describing Krallman’s work; genetically mutated ads born from the decaying womb of reality and suckled on the teat of surrealism. His work has a creepy, almost-too-true hue that malfunctions somewhere along the path from retina to synapse and leaves you feeling... slightly confused. And a little dirty. There isn’t a word for what Krallman does. But if there was you wouldn’t want your mother to catch you doing it.

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randy krallman 2 1 director profile

“the word comedy has such a cheap, broad connotation because of the amount of stupid comedy there is out there. for me it’s always important to not just do something quirky for the sake of being quirky. i like things to make sense on a lot of levels.”

comes through, without being overt.” at 19:58:36 the discussion shifts onto the subject of comedy, a genre which Krallman defends with revivalist fervour. “the word comedy has such a cheap, broad connotation because of the amount of stupid comedy there is out there,” he types, engaged and riled. “But for me, it’s always important to not just do something quirky for the sake of being quirky. I like

Several side projects later, tapes were seen by hSI,

things to make sense on a

a deal was struck and Krallman found himself signed

lot of levels.” we talk about

to their roster. the relationship lasted for a year before the seductive

humour as a defence

flirtation of Smuggler lured Krallman away from hSI‘s bed. Since moving

mechanism – hiding uncomfortable truths within a blanket of amusement –

there, his creativity has sky-rocketed. the work on his reel ranges from a

and how really good humour usually revolves around something painful. like

criminally overlooked spot for fashion brand Ecko, to a web-based campaign

Krallman’s refusal to spell ‘humor’ properly.

for Steinlager, where the top prize was the chance to win the life of a hapless

“when you’re not sure who you’re really laughing at, or even if you should

New Zealand brewery worker. his most recent spot, for etrade, was this year’s

be laughing, that’s the best sort of comedy,” he riffs. “British comedy is all

‘most recalled’ Super Bowl commercial. It features a stock-savvy baby and the

about poking and prodding around those soft sensitive bits that are a little

voice of Krallman himself (“I started editing and freestyled some versions in

too close to home, and I really dig that. I think it’s important to see the

the middle of the night, and somehow the stuff I recorded ended up being the

inherent optimism in that way of dealing with stuff. It‘s like, ‘oh well, we’re

actual voice over”.). oh, and, lest we forget, Krallman was also behind that

fucked and we’ll always be fucked, but on the bright side, we’ve always been

little lad ‘thing’ for Starburst. Krallman’s Edwardian man-boy, who accosts

fucked... but we’ve made it this far.’”

two teens in a bus station and performs a borderline schizoid dance at the

as loose ends are tied up and photo’s discussed (20:38:43: randy says “so

mere mention of the berries and cream-flavoured soft sweet, sparked an

no cock, then?”), the final, and inevitable question of future projects crops

online cult craze that saw the spot get remixed, mashed-up and reformed in

up. Usually features are mentioned at this stage. Bigger budgets. Specific

innumerable lo-fi fan tributes.

clients. But Krallman’s on a different wavelength. “Doing a tV series appeals

given the spot’s reach, Krallman is disarmingly modest about his input. “the

to me more than a feature. you’d have more chance to flesh out characters

only thing of significance I contributed to the treatment was to say that the

and less pressure to make something perfect and precious.”

lad should seem as if he either a) just got raped, or b) just raped someone.”

ttyl’s are exchanged and Krallman’s gone. It’s only later, reading back

this somewhat unnerving reflection is followed by IM telling me that ’randy

through the IM chat and replaying the phone conversation, that the missing

is typing a message...’ then: “while my mom probably didn’t pick up on that

piece of the Krallman puzzle falls into place. the only time he’s serious is

detail when she watched the spot, I think it permeates it in some way and

when he’s talking about humour. with a ‘u’.

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10/3/08 16:00:55

Randy Krallman, director extraordinaire  

Funny-peculiar director Randy Krallman talks sex, drugs and dancing Edwardian manboys

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