• Making of Passion Pit, Carried Away

  • Bowerbirds, Tuck the Darkness in

  • Bear, short film

  • Reptar, Houseboat Babies

  • MYPET, Pays to Know

2013
Wednesday 30th Jan

Split personalities

Hot on the heels of Carlos Lopez Estrada's dark El Sportivo video we talk to the director about his latest cracker of a film, for Passion Pit

How did the idea for your video for the band Passion Pit’s Carried away track come about and how did you create it?

Last year, I had this idea to make a “human fireworks” short film and release it on New Year but for some reason I wasn’t able to make it happen in time. I started thinking about it again for 4th of July; but I ended up having to make another video on those dates.

I have been trying to pitch the idea around to bands since then but no one seemed particularly interested in the concept. Last year, the idea finally landed in the hands of Saul Levitz who is the commissioner at Columbia Records and he mentioned that Passion Pit was about to release a remix for one of their songs.

We had already been shooting some footage so he showed it to the band and they all approved. I’m a pretty big Passion Pit fan so it was very exciting for the project to suddenly become an official video. In terms of creating it, it is actually a lot more simple than it looks. People had to stand on a specific mark on the ground and then throw themselves around in different directions. Then our VFX team had to rotoscope every single take frame-by-frame and put them all together. We cut a behind the scenes (see in Related Content) that may explain this process better. It may also just confuse you more.

VFX play an integral part – whether its poetic or humorous – in many of your videos. What is your background and connection to effects?

I am actually not an effects person myself. I have a pretty good understanding of the process, requirements and techniques but it is not something that I could do on my own. It requires a great deal of patience, technical thinking and precision- and I unfortunately don’t posses any of those qualities. I’ve been lucky enough to find collaborators along the way who have helped execute my ideas and have now become a key component of my creative process. I think directors nowadays are expected to be a one-man-band and do all their own post but at least for me, it has been really important to collaborate with different effects artists on different projects.

When you’re writing a narrative do you often base the idea around a technique that you’d like to try out?

Yes definitely. Every project is born in a different way but it usually comes from a long list of ideas that I’ve been compiling for the last four years or so. When I get a song to write a treatment on, I usually play it on repeat as I go down the list (it’s quite long by now) and then single out the ones I think would be a good match.

Sometimes I combine them and sometimes this process helps me come up with a new and better idea. It’s hard to come up with a good idea on the spot. Sometimes it happens though.

Each work is very different in tone, texture, and technique. Is this due to collaborating with the various bands or generally are you given creative freedom?

I’m glad you noticed that. I think it can be attributed to both. I try to collaborate with artists who are open to ideas and interested in hearing what I have to say. Also- Bjork is an artist that I’ve grown up really admiring. I have specially appreciated how versatile she is and her willingness to collaborate with all kinds of musicians while preserving her essence intact.

If you quickly scroll through her music, you will find pop songs, ballads, jazz, heavy electro, folk and tribal influences, etc… You can really tell that she pushes herself to experiment with new sounds and techniques. And that is more or less how I am trying to approach my work. Not that I am comparing myself to Bjork in any way…but I do use her as a creative role model.

Amanda Palmer is another artist who has really shaped my work as well. There’s a perfect balance in her music between light and dark, comedy and emotion, careless and meticulousness…those are the contrasts that I am most interested in.

Do you meticulously storyboard or does chance play a role in your videos?

I think each project dictates the shooting style and the overall production experience. I have done a couple of things in the past (the stop motion projects, for example) that required a frame-by-frame plan – but others that have been complete free form experiments.

For example, the Passion Pit remix video was a true exercise in improvisation. I picked a crew of 10 people that I had gone to film school with and we basically drove around in vans for three days trying to find locations we wanted to shoot in. We had a list of possible scenarios so, for example, we’d be in the car and someone would see an empty parking lot. They’d go: “Hey, look! We can probably shoot the skateboarding explosion here?” So we’d all jump out, set a blue screen up and shoot until we got kicked out of the location. I’m not sure if it was the most efficient shooting method but it certainly was the most fun…and I think the energy permeates on to the screen. The video feels raw and very spur-of-the-moment. It was scary at the time but looking back, I don’t think we could have done it any other way.

Your stunning film for El Sportivo headed up our Six of the Best Music Videos last week. Is the timing due to release dates or are you really working back to back?

First of all, thank you. A couple of my friends have been featured on your site and I always hoped to see one of my videos on here. In terms of release dates, it is really up to the label to decide when videos go up. This one, for example, was shot last summer and waited on a dark shelf until last week. It’s interesting that it was released so close to the Sportivo video because those two are complete opposites in terms of style and subject matter. I think the Sportivo video is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever filmed and the Passion Pit one the silliest. I think it would probably make Amanda Palmer proud. By the way, if you know Amanada Palmer, please let her know I’d love to make a video for her.

See a selection of Carlos’diverse work in Related Content

LINKS:

Carlos

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