Joel Kefali has made music videos for everyone from Lorde to Katy Perry, and scored a run of awards in the process. Kefali began directing music videos during a seven year partnership with Campbell Hooper, under the moniker Special Problems. Beginning in 2007 the duo created distinctive videos for The Mint Chicks, Kimbra, Gin Wigmore and The Naked and Famous, before expanding into shorts and commercials — including an eye-opening HP advert featuring American singer Alicia Keys. Kefali's video for Lorde's first single 'Royals' has been watched online more than 680 million times.
It was a video that they created for Australian artist, Jonathan Boulet, that resulted in Kanye West tweeting: ‘Please watch this it’s f##king amazing.’ Writer Gareth Shute on the Special Problems team - NZ Musician, 2013, Volume 17, No 4
Auckland band LEISURE’s statement on the YouTube page for this song says: "with the world in its current state of flux, sometimes we just need to switch off and float away from it all." The video for the group's first single takes note, as a camera roams through a series of tableaux – from street to bedroom, passing various people chilled to a state of inertia – before following their gaze to the next still life. Directed by Joel Kefali (Royals), the clip won Best Music Video at the 2017 NZ Music Awards. The song featured on supernatural teen TV show Shadowhunters and HBO comedy Insecure.
Subtitled ‘a conversation with my grandfather’, this animated short sees Joel Kefali (director of the music video for Lorde’s ‘Royal’) documenting memories of his Turkish 'Baba' arriving in 1951 Auckland. Sausage rolls, dances and the death penalty are animated via cut-out shapes, and scored to Baba’s colourful pidgin phrasing — “go to the hell!”. Noel Murray of US website The Dissolve praised the “ample artistry” of Kefali’s familial tribute. Baba was a part of Loading Docs: a series of low budget three-minute long films made for online release.
'Royals' took Lorde far indeed. The Auckland teen found herself topping the charts in ten countries, with her debut single (which she co-wrote with producer Joel Little). The award-winning music video has been seen a mind-boggling 680 million+ times online. The clip was born from conversations between Lorde and director Joel Kefali about what it was like to be a teen in Auckland. Kefali has said the intent was to "capture a mood, capture a particular (sometimes ignored) slice of teenage life". The American version of the video features slightly more of Lorde than the original.
The Sun was perhaps the most daring and experimental video yet for directors Joel Kefali and Campbell Hooper. Collaborating once more with electropop band The Naked and Famous, they scored their second award for Best Music Video with another track taken from breakthrough album Passive Me, Aggressive You (2010). The widescreen video is built around a series of split second shots of a man and a woman getting intimate. As the video continues, the images fracture, multiply, and become increasingly kaleidoscopic. Warning — this video is not suitable for younger viewers.
'Something in the Water', from singer-songwriter Brooke Fraser's third album Flags, is a giddy, infectious love song with a rollicking country/folk setting. It was voted Most Performed Song of the Year at the 2010 APRA Silver Scrolls. The partly animated video, made by the Special Problems production team of Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali, loosely recasts the song as Homer's Odyssey with a multi-costumed Fraser as Penelope waiting for her Odysseus to return from across the water (but not above a playful poke of the tongue to finish off proceedings).
This Silver Scroll winner from the debut album by The Naked and Famous became a breakout hit, winning global notice and playing on a number of teen TV shows (Gossip Girls, Skins). Directed by Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali, the promo won 10 million+ YouTube hits, playing no small part in announcing the band. Via a catalogue of Dazed and Confused-esque imagery, the clip puts its thumb on the pulse of the soaring synth-pop celebration of ‘Young Blood’: bonnet jumping, sparklers, skating and Badlands-style skylarking. The song won a Silver Scroll and an NZ Music Award.
A man lies under a tree, a guitar chimes, the music grows in intensity, the song becomes an impassioned declaration of love ... and people start falling from trees. Was he a daydreamer or did he fall too? Frantic animation follows, more bodies fall - with respite only from a dancer in a Warholesque sequence. HowYe was made by the Special Problems team of Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali (makers of notable videos for Naked and Famous, Mint Chicks and Dimmer) and shot in Cornwall Park and Pt Erin Park in Auckland. The dancer is Benny Ord (formerly of the Royal NZ Ballet).
This bright, electro-poppy blurring of the lines between human and robot was the debut single for Zowie — a persona created by Auckland musician Zoe Fleury (the artist formerly known as Bionic Pixie). For the video, production team Special Problems eschewed CGI and had Zowie spend a day lying on a floor while their pinball machine inspired arrangements of dominos and machinery fell all around her. A Best Video finalist at the 2011 NZ Music Award, it lost out to another Special Problems clip (for 'Punching in a Dream' by The Naked and Famous).
This music video continued the fruitful collaboration between The Naked and Famous and directing duo Special Problems. Joel Kefali and Campbell Hooper brought their trademark mix of graphic design, film and painting to the synth-driven pop song. As vocalist Alisa Xayalith moves through a dreamscape, she sleepwalks, runs, skates and flies through pine forest, snow, sand, and a manor. Ice hockey masks and hoodies add menace. It won Best Music Video at the 2011 NZ Music Awards, part of a major awards haul for the group. The song has featured on a number of TV shows.
The lyrics detail the intensity of thwarted love, and the accompanying video is a DIY delight — mixing an origami fortune teller concept with back-projected Animalia-style shadow puppets. From the 2008 EP This Machine, this video marked the first collaboration between design studio Special Problems (Campbell Hooper and Joel Kefali) and the band. The fertile partnership would go on to yield multiple music videos (including the breakout promo for ‘Young Blood’), plus the artwork on a number of their releases.
Kimbra's second single, the jazz inflected 'Simply on my Lips', was recorded when the future pop star was 16 and still at school. The starkly simple black and white video was directed and animated by Joel Kefali (later one half of award-winning video team Special Problems). It placed Kimbra with her guitar in the corner of a room, whose walls became a canvas for Kefali's line drawings. The result won the Best Breakthrough category at the 2007 Juice TV awards. Within months, Kimbra had signed an international management contract and relocated to Melbourne.