Rubber Johnny: Chris Cunningham

>this just came in from Warp. shall we use it?
looks interesting. why not?
>it's a DVD and a book isn't it?
think so
>better check if it's all over the place
not very likely
>can we do something about all the shouting in the credits?
lowercase coming up! ... here it is ...

film credits


Johnny is a hyperactive, shape-shifting mutant child, kept locked away in a basement. With only his feverish imagination and his terrified dog for company, he finds ways to amuse himself in the dark. Rubber Johnny is the latest creation from the UK's most imaginative filmmaker, Chris Cunningham. Featuring music by legendary electronic composer, Aphex Twin, this nightmarish and hallucinatory experimental short film is accompanied by 40 pages of drawings and photographs - Cunningham's first published book of original artwork.

Chris Cunningham


Chris Cunningham, one of the most influential filmmakers of the last decade, has been at the forefront of innovation and an inspiration for technological boundary-breaking world wide.

Cunningham first forged his relationship with Warp Records in 1995 with his debut promo "Second Bad Vibel" for Autechre, and since has directed a score of mind-bending videos for the likes of Squarepusher, Bjork, Madonna, Portishead and most memorably, Aphex Twin.

The creepily hilarious "Come to Daddy" (1997) and bootilicious "Windowlicker" (1999) Aphex videos have both been showered with accolades, but deemed too darkside for daytime MTV. However, his delicate hand on Bjork's "All is Full of Love" (1999) sensual, milky robot promo won him the best breakthrough video MTV award and a Grammy nomination, as well as 4 silvers and the first ever Gold Award for a music video at the D&AD Awards.

Cunningham's film making successes followed on from an accomplished career in feature films. He learnt his craft as an FX sculptor, designer and engineer on numerous feature films, which included working for David Fincher, Clive Barker and Stanley Kubrick.

In 2000, Cunningham created a video art installation "flex" for the Royal Academy of Art's Apocalypse exhibition. His next two short films with Warp Films, "Rubber Johnny" and "Spectral Musicians" are scheduled for release on DVD in 2005. With much anticipation from his legion of fans, Cunningham is finally turning his attention to feature films and is currently developing a feature length script with Warp Films. Interview with Chris Cunningham


This film originally started as a promo for the Afx. 247 v7 track on Aphex Twin's album druqks. How did the idea for the promo change from its original incarnation to the form we see it in now?

It started out as a 30 second TV commercial for Druqks. I listened to the track a lot and got carried away. I suggested to Steve Beckett that I should expand it into a full video and that I could knock it out in a few weeks, as it was just shot on a DV camera and it featured me and not much else. I ended up getting heavily into animation experimentation and started to learn After FX and other bits of software and before I knew it a year had passed and it seemed less and less relevant as a music video. Then I went off for a year to develop a feature project and worked on this whenever I had free time, like a weekend hobby. I would get my friends to help me shoot a shot here and there, whenever they were up for it. The first day of shooting was actually September 11, 2001. I remember being strapped into that fucking wheelchair when I heard about the World Trade centre.

Rubber Johnny is your fifth collaboration with Richard D James. What is it about his music that inspires you?

Well, most of my ideas just wouldn't work with the majority of music I get sent. I listen to a lot of very varied music, but if I am going to make a video or short and possibly spend months on it, I would rather do it to music which allows me to experiment. My style is about seamlessly fusing the sound and picture together so I have to look for music that can support dynamics and tangents.

Rubber Johnny is synched masterfully. Can you talk about your editing and labour process on this project?

The primary objective with this video and the collaboration with Squarepusher, was to try and push the synchronisation aspects of my work to the limit, before I did a feature. When I look at older videos, like Come on my Selector or Come to Daddy they look slow to me, even though they seemed fast at the time. I wanted to see how fast you can go before it becomes nonsensical, a mess. The editing style in Rubber Johnny is actually very old fashioned and simple. If you were to watch it at half speed you would see that. It was incredibly difficult to edit this video and find that line, where it seems breakneck, but still flows and makes sense as a sequence. I would have to redo each shot about twenty times in order to find something that worked. It involved a lot of experimentation. It was closer to animation than editing and I had to create the video 2 frames at a time. Sometimes spending a day on just getting two frames to work to the music.

The sketchbook/art book is your first to date... Can you talk about the images and the ideas contained within them?

The images in the book are all based around the character in the video, who I imagined as a hyperactive, shape shifting child who has to find ways of amusing himself in the dark. They range from character sketches and re-modified video stills to portraits and drawings made specifically for the book. It is pretty much a book of self portraits, just not the kind that my mum would put in a family album. I am too restless to just make videos and I want my work to be a bit more multi-media from now on. Rubber Johnny is the first release where I have tried to cover an idea in multiple mediums. I was actually going to make a series of sculptures too, but ran out of energy.

What projects are you currently working on? Are you making a feature?

This book and video is the first in a series of experimental works that I will be releasing through Warp. There is a collaboration with Squarepusher coming up and then I will be concentrating on non collaborative projects and a feature.

The character is called Rubber Johnny, which is the colloquial term for a condom in the UK. How is this character like a condom?

The bass line in the track sounded like an elastic band to me and so I got the idea of someone shapeshifting like a piece of chewing gum, whilst raving. The title Rubber Johnny just seemed to fit the character and shapeshifting idea really well. It has nothing whatsoever to do with condoms, although it is a bonus that Rubber Johnny is a term that we used in the playground. It is very English, I suppose.

Some of your work challenges conventional views of the body (flex, windowlicker, leftfield). Do you think that Rubber Johnny can be viewed in that context?

Rubber Johnny is definitely a continuation of my fascination with anatomy and the body. I think virtually everything I have done is figurative in some way.


Rubber Johnny marks the first release from Warp Films Distribution, a new, fast-growing independent distribution company committed to providing audiences in Europe with a wider range of exceptional feature, documentary and short films.

Alongside its own ground-breaking in-house productions, Warp is dedicated to seeking out and releasing the most extraordinary films from around the world.

Like its partner company Warp Records, one of the most cutting edge and admired labels in the European music industry, Warp Films has the benefit of a strong identity, reputation for quality and loyal audience base.

Primarily a DVD-driven operation, Warp Films is developing a reputation for producing desirable and collectable cutting edge titles. All releases are subtitled in the major European languages with collector's edition packaging that's adapted to local markets. By working with the leading authoring houses and design teams in Europe we want to fulfil our commitment to producing quality, award-winning DVDs.

Through - Warp's digital download site -- Rubber Johnny will become the first film ever available for download, making Warp Films the only digital film distribution company in Europe. Rubber Johnny will launch on 16 May on

Film Credits

direction, editing & animation by chris cunningham

music by aphex twin

4afx 237v.7, written and produced by richard d james performed by aphex
twin w19rhbasement remix. chris cunningham with kind permission of warp
records and chrysalis music publishing taken from the album drukqs

black dog/ rsa films producers:  sally oldfield, john payne and grant

executive producers: rob mitchell, steve beckett, mark herbert.

camerawork: rob bliss, alex rutterford

prosthetics by neil gorton. prosthetics technicians: ian morse, conal
palmer and steve scotton.

animation assistant: angie taylor elvis: dog post production: golden
square post production inferno artists: rachel mills, fasa oyibo, johan
boije, peter marin,linus eriksson berggren, jonas jaderholm, esther
berglund, judy roberts and phil crowe, yourick vanimpe assistant editor:
alison carter warp films post production mary burke. black dog/rsa films
production assistant: liz graham. production manager: jacob madsen. post
production producers: lee pavey, sean feeney lighting desk operator:
onka narang. props: prop hire and deliver sound playback and equipment:
sam mendelsson. camera equipment: zero one digital hire, arri media.
grip equipment: panavision. lighting equipment: afm lighting, direct
lighting. video tape stock: sony. insurance: aon/albert g ruben.
runners: jack till, joe marcantonio, tom perri-hughes, nathan campbell.
special wheelchair pushers: ben porter, kevin kennedy.

special thanks byron wijayawardena & jonathan ive at apple, dan bronks,
nick ball, linsey dawn mckenzie, james mann, paul mcgoch, barry ryan,
rob mitchell

dedicated to percy rutterford

book credits

artwork and photography: chris cunningham
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