Life & Culture

On the Set of Harmony Korine’s New Film, The Beach Bum

Brothers and photographers Frank and Tyrone Lebon collaborated on new photo-book Inside the Bum, which saw them working with one of their “all-time heroes”, Harmony Korine

Even if brothers Tyrone and Frank Lebon rarely collaborate, it’s easy to draw a thread between their weird and wonderful aesthetic universes: whether its Tyrone’s lo-fi, candid campaigns for everyone from Calvin Klein to Celine that have led him to become one of fashion’s most unlikely darlings, or Frank’s ongoing collaboration with south London’s vibiest crooner King Krule that has seen him make waves in the world of music.

For their latest project, they’ve applied those documentarian instincts to another field, going behind the scenes of cult filmmaker Harmony Korine’s film, The Beach Bum, which premiered last month at SXSW. After all, Korine is something of a documentarian too: from his breakout script for Kids that offered a shocking window into the exploits of a group of hedonistic New York teenagers, to the colourful characters occupying America’s grimmest backwaters in Gummo, to more recent projects like Spring Breakers that explore the darkness that lurks beneath Gen Z youth, his instincts have always been to shine a light on the forgotten characters that haunt the shadows of the American cultural consciousness.

It makes sense, then, that Korine has served as a long-standing hero of the Lebon brothers – and when the opportunity came knocking to document the making of his latest film, they took six weeks out of their busy schedules to make it happen. “Harmony had been distantly in touch for years,” explains Tyrone, “although it was mostly me trying to persuade him to let me include him on a project I was working on.”

“Tyrone met with the producers about being the official on-set photographer,” adds Frank, “and although that initial job didn’t materialise, we were given full access to the set with Harmony and the producers’ blessing.” It helps, of course, that the sense of controlled chaos that characterises the Lebons’ work neatly dovetails with Korine’s own gonzo-style approach to filmmaking.

“The structure of this shoot felt pretty loose,” Tyrone says. “Harmony would improvise with his direction, sometimes recruiting pedestrians off the street to feature in the scenes, so our plan was to have no plan. We just wanted to shoot instinctively and enjoy the experience, then work out what we were going to make when we got home.”

It’s this knockabout, free-form approach to storytelling which lends the book they produced to accompany the film’s release – aptly titled Inside The Bum – the feel of a companion piece rather than just a series of standard behind-the-scenes images. Call sheets, diary entries and tourist paraphernalia from their stint in Florida are cut and pasted in, raw contact sheets sit next to sun-soaked images of the film’s stars Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron, and doodles by the brothers give it the feeling of a homemade zine or comic. “Our project is as much about our reaction to him, his process and the production than it is about the actual film itself,” says Tyrone.

Korine has been an influence on both of the brothers’ work as far back as they can remember. “I’m sure Tyrone as my older brother had something to do with it,” says Frank. “I saw Kids at a really young age and it had a great impression on me. Everyone used to say I look like Gummo when I was younger, which weirdly put me off watching it,” he adds, laughing. “Eventually I did of course, and it cemented Harmony as one of my all-time heroes.”

“I think Harmony’s work has influenced me on a really deep level,” says Tyrone, “that most definitely has played a part in shaping my approach to film- and image-making generally, even if this project was never an attempt to mimic anything. To me, the aesthetic choices most clearly tell a story of collaboration, and the similarities and differences between Frank’s work and mine.”

It’s true that Tyrone and Frank’s idiosyncratic vision lends the book a visual flavour that is entirely distinct from the film itself, while at the same time occupying the same world of swampy, seedy Floridian grifters. But what unites all of it is their interest in the outsider: while the Lebons are usually found shooting the young knockabouts of London, here they turn their lens to the badly behaved American youth of Korine’s films. It’s a neat riposte to the famous maxim that you should never meet your heroes. Go one step further: make a book about them.

DoBeDo presents Inside the Bum, a book and film by Frank & Tyrone Lebon. The 106-page limited-edition photo book and 18-minute short film documents Harmony Korine and his process of the making of his new film The Beach Bum starring Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, and Zac Efron. Available from April 23. Pre-order a copy here.