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10th January 2014
Truth about White Lies
Title of film: Max Frost, White Lies
Director: David Vincent Wolf
Production Company: Anthem Films
Watching David Vincent Wolf’s music video work evolve has taken us from the trippy effectsy lights fest of Emeralds’ "It Never Arrives" a couple of years ago to almost the polar opposite - the performance video shot in b&w for Max Frost’s upbeat "White Lies". And in between is Portugal the Man’s "Atomic Man" which seems to draw on his stills portraiture work, with a twist. We grill Wolf on his work...

Was it an easy transition for you from shooting stills to making films?

I don’t know that I would call it easy, as much as I would call it… unplanned. I didn’t come to Hollywood with the intention of directing, yet it’s something I now find myself doing, and I love it. The largest hurdle for me has been that photography can be very much an individual endeavor, whereas filmmaking requires a team approach. Much of the process is out of your immediate control, and yet as the director, you are ultimately responsible. That’s why it’s imperative to work with a crew that you get along with, and can trust implicitly.

The pacing is perfect for White Lies, with beautifully and simply framed shots of Max Frost singing the narrative. How did the collaborative process work with the singer? Was he quite pliable to direct (love the sofa scene)?

Max Frost is a relatively “young” artist who just signed with Atlantic, and “White Lies” was his first single released on the label. As such, there was a lot of back and forth regarding his image in the video, because in the end, first impressions are everything. Ultimately, music videos are branding pieces, so it’s important to make sure that you get it right.

Most of the collaboration with Max took place early in the process. We had some conference calls with management and the label, but he managed to call me directly (secretly!) one day for a one-on-one conversation. Of course, things will always come up during a shoot, and end up evolving on the fly.

And how did the initial idea for White Lies video evolve?

I loved the track from the moment I heard it, and jumped at the chance to write a treatment for it when I was asked by Atlantic. For me, the explosion of the second verse was the largest moment in the entire song, and the initial treatment was built around highlighting that moment.

I had proposed Max singing completely alone on a stage, with nothing but a guitar and a microphone. The idea of the video was to introduce Max to new audiences, while leveraging the intensity and honesty of his performance. I really wanted to focus on the intensity of his delivery of the second verse, and was going to build a custom camera rig built to do it in a unique way. Ultimately, a woman was to appear, and start whispering in his ear as he performed. He was going to ignore her as she tried to distract him…. and things were set to get pretty crazy by the end of the song. Hah.

The label loved the treatment, but wanted me to explore the idea of moving it outside of the confines of the studio, and into the real world.

Did you know from the outset what tone you were after? Were there any other options for the style of the film – considering the lyrics it might have been an obvious route to go fast-cut linear narrative.

I knew from the beginning that I wanted to shoot in black and white. There was a sincerity in the song that I wanted to capture, and felt would be best accomplished by shooting black and white. Which is interesting, I suppose, as I almost never shoot black and white in my stills photography. The initial treatment had almost no narrative elements, but eventually some narrative ideas made their way into the discussion… and then largely removed in the final edit.

I recognize the irony in shooting B+W when the lyrics directly reference “red” dress. In black and white, a red dress would have shown up as a muddy grey, and I wanted her to be practically glowing. I felt that if we had gone with a red dress, we’d end up heading down a slippery slope of literal interpretation.

We joked on set about having Max re-record the track to change the lyrics to preempt the inevitable Youtube comments saying “LOL HER DRESS IS WHITE?” Thankfully, I haven’t seen a single one to date, although I’m sure after this interview, someone enterprising individual will do it.

We could scroll through your photography work forever. Do you ever separate from your camera? Are you always framing and observing life?

I literally have a camera by side 24/7. Almost all of the work on my Instagram (@allofthisforyou) is entirely shot on my camera phone. It’s almost too convenient.

The other morning, I was feeding my son as my 6 year old daughter watched. The light on her face was amazing, and I was upset when I went to take a picture of her, and realized that my phone was dead… It took me a moment to realize that I had my complete 35mm rig sitting in the other room. “Don’t move for a second…. I’ll be right back.”

If you look at my work on my Instagram, you’ll see that most of that work is fairly idiosyncratic pictures of my daily life. I take pictures that I want to see, and I wonder sometimes if they even make sense to other people. Often times, it’s about the nuance of a color palette, or a composition that breaks the rules but still manages to work. Sometimes it’s just me working some things out in my head.

The style of my day-to-day shooting is completely separate from my professional work… but it definitely informs it. (See in Related Content for our selection of Wolf’s personal work and here for his professional photography).

Are you signed to a production company?

I recently joined the roster at Bacon & Sons Film Co.

I started as a creative consultant on a few projects, and I now direct for them as well. Most recently, I directed a promo for Portlandia, which I was really quite excited about, especially as a photographer who through some twist of fate, now directs!

LINKS:

All of this for You

David Vincent Wolf

Credits

Director: David Vincent Wolf

Director of Photography:  Dannel Escallon

Production Company: Anthem Films

Executive Producer:  DJay Brawner

Line Producer: Mike Shafia
1st Assistant Director: Allen Scudder