Karpel is proud of his work which gives a springboard to artists with lauded and recognized music videos, the commercials which result in greatly increased visibility and brand awareness for advertisers, but one of the things he is proudest of is his work on the “Kiss Goodbye To MS” campaign. MS Australia approach Don’t Look Back Pictures to create a national campaign for Multiple Sclerosis awareness day. This day saw people wearing lipstick to raise money to find a cure for the disease. Ken fashioned a new, youthful concept for the initiative in its first and second year. Karpel recognized the intense emotional impact and sincerity required for viewers to connect to the message. He explains, “This campaign was also about emotional resonance. Rather than casting actors, I wanted to use real people that had been effected by MS in some way. This would allow the audience to have a visceral emotional reaction to the characters in the commercial. In terms of shooting these non-actors, I took on a documentary approach following them around in environments they were comfortable with. Each character would also have a portrait moment where they turn and look into camera. To get a natural performance here I used the rapport we had already built throughout the day and operated the camera myself for those shots, making it feel like I was just taking a photo of them.” The spot aired on national TV and was also screened at several live sporting events at the SCG (one of Sydney’s largest sporting arenas holding 46,000 people). The campaign was a huge success resulting in MS Australia raising almost 1 million dollars for research towards a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. In fact, MS Australia returned to Don’t Look Back Pictures the following year to create both a new commercial and an online campaign, with Ken directing. The initiative continues to be a success and is run annually to this day. Norelle Feehan, founder and principal consultant of Feehan PR, lauds Karpel and his work stating, “Ken’s personality and drive captured the imagination of all those who were involved, many of whom volunteered their time. He produced two creative gems. At a critical time in its development, Ken’s work gave the MS Research Australia team a lift into new levels of sophistication and branding.”
Music videos have been a staple of countless directors since the early 1980’s. While many are “glamour shot” pieces designed to make the artist look extremely attractive, others are designed as pieces of art unto themselves. Ken is known for the latter of these. Universal (EMI) approached Don’t Look Back Pictures to create a music video for their artist Pluto Jonze. Ken employed a variety of special effects to create a journey through the lead singers mind. Literally depicting the elements of the music and song, Karpel utilized wind and rain machines and a giant fake floor for the different verses of the song. Describing one of the more unusual effects he used for “Plastic Bag in a Hurricane” Ken notes, “To reflect the emotional state of the character in the song, I wanted it to rain in reverse. To achieve this, I asked Pluto to learn to sing the song backwards, and his backing band to learn how to also play their instrument in reverse. Then in post-production, I reversed the footage. Pluto and the band play/sing in sync, but it’s raining backwards creating a surreal feeling and unique visual for the piece. The only digital effect was transitioning through the TVs and the band playing upside down on a roof above Pluto.”
The Pluto Jonze video “Plastic Bag in a Hurricane” won Channel [V]’s ‘Ripe Clip of The Week’ award and was instrumental to it charting in the Top 20 charts for several weeks. Additionally, it plays on the ABC TV network and featured in various online music publications such as NME, Shazam, iTunes, Stop Start, The AU Review, Music Feeds and others.
The video which Ken directed for Record Kicks artist The Liberators (Australian Afro Funk band) is such an impressive production that it crossed over to an eclectic audience across the planet. “Rags To Riches” was screened at the: LA Comedy Short Film Festival, Over The Fence Festival, Actors Anonymous Short Film Festival, The Dungog Film festival, and nominated for an Inside Film award for Best Music Video. It was featured in countless online blogs, one of which was Noise Vox, who awarded it ‘Music Video of the Week’. The seven-minute short film/ music video pays homage to 70’s Blaxploitation films. Shot over 9 days, it feels like more of a feature than a music video. Adding to the “inside humor” of the video is the fact that Roy Ayers jr. (son of Roy Ayres, the funk/ soul artist dubbed ‘The Godfather of Soul’, whose music has been featured in films such as ‘Coffy’ and Tarantino’s ‘Jackie Brown’) featured in “Rags To Riches” …and delivers and impressive performance.
The cinematic video took massive planning and effort on the part of Karpel. He confirms, “This music video had boat chases, car chases, Kung Fu fights, shoot outs, and explosions. Having never shot this kind of action, I had to teach myself the cinematic language of each one of these giant visual set-pieces by watching every movie I could find with one of these tropes. To pull off the video within the budget, we had to forgo a VFX supervisor so I simultaneously had to teach myself how to perform this role. I storyboarded every single shot, edit and transition before shooting to make sure we weren’t wasting our budget on superfluous material. The bigger set-pieces were rehearsed and shot on my iPhone with the producer and production assistant filling in for the leads. Due to all this planning I did not shoot any masters, every single thing we shot was used in the edit and this is how we made between 70-90 set-ups per day for nine days.”. The pre-planning paid off and Don’t Look Back got an explosive debut music video.
Don’t Look Back Pictures executive producer Andrew King states it succinctly, “Ken’s talent and ability as a director is clear to everyone who works with him. His strengths lie in his ability to elicit realistic performances from both actors and non-actors, coupled with his unique authentic visual style. His energy and passion are infectious.”