You’ve had quite a theatrical musical year, what with your live performance pieces in LA and your on-going collaboration with Watsky. Did the two cross-over, did the various projects inform each other?
They did indirectly. I met Watsky through Daveed Diggs (from Clipping) who I have been working with for the past few years. Daveed and I both moved to New York City recently (he to star in Hamilton- me for no real reason) and continued our collaboration with a series of filmed verse workshops called Bars (https://vimeo.com/191667202).
Both Daveed and George (Watsky) are from the Bay area and grew up performing spoken word poetry, rapping and acting for the stage – so I guess Daveed thought we’d make a good match. Meeting George has been a great pleasure personally and a great privilege creatively. He is a true independent artist and an endless pit of creativity.
We have released four videos together and are in production on four new ones, which I am extremely excited about. The last four tracks in his album, which I love, belong to a suite called The Lovely Thing Suite. I reached out to George asking if he would be interested in making an animated video for one of them and he responded “Why not all four?” so we then decided to turn the entire thing into a four-part animated film. Part 1 of 4 is complete and we now have a few months ahead of us until we can share the whole thing. I’ll make sure to keep you updated.
Stick to Your Guns is, in your normal style, hilariously good entertainment and completely whacko. We can’t even see a link between the lyrics and sheep – please do tell how the narrative came about.
Can’t believe you just sat down and simply wrote the treatment in a methodical way! How does it work – do you think up a sequence of ideas then work out how you’re going to achieve it – or does your creative process differ from film to film?
This one was a particularly challenging one. I am a big fan of Watksy’s music and, more specifically, his lyrics. As I mentioned earlier, he comes from a poetry background and I think he found a truly unique way to incorporate his spoken word style into his music. All of his songs explore complex concepts in highly intelligent ways and this one is no different.
The lyrics of the song depict a school shooting from three different perspectives: Verse 1 is told through the point of view of the shooter, Verse 2 from the media and Verse 3 from a local politician. They lyrics are incredibly descriptive and of graphic nature so the first thing Watsky and I decided when we met about making this video was that we didn’t want to make a literal interpretation of the song. The sheep concept came to me from one specific line in the lyrics (“You’re the sorry flock of sheep who made me rot to the core” and also the very pleasant quality of the music.
I figured that by setting the video in a somewhat animated world, we could get away with touching on some of the serious themes in the song without being too bleak.
Do you team up with a favourite vfx artist or do you manipulate the footage yourself?
I usually do work with a small group of people who are very talented with computers. I only know how to zoom in and out of images and I’ve been called out for doing it too much.
How closely do you get involved with the editing and did the story unfold considerably in the edit?
It depends on each video and what the visual language of each is. This one, for example, was carefully planned and structured around the song. We knew that there was going to be a ton of effects on the video so we couldn’t really afford to wing it. A perfect counter-example of that is Summertime for Clipping (https://vimeo.com/120538042).
We knew the video needed to start in the beach and end at the inner city, but other than that, it was a “shoot as much as you can and figure it out later” kind of situation.
How difficult was it choreographing a flock of dancers in those woolly costumes?
The poor sheep performers were in those heavy suits for an ungodly amount of hours. They were also wearing full blue screen suits that prevented them from seeing or breathing properly. Those guys are the real heroes. The choreography was mostly improvised on the spot.
Any major challenges in the production?
I don’t think any of us understood how massive of an undertaking this would be until we showed up to set. All of the backgrounds were comped in post production, but the vast majority of what you see on the screen was accomplished practically. The stage we were shooting in was also not very large, which meant that the scenery for every single scene had to be re-assembled on the spot. I’ll use this opportunity to thank our producers Kimberly Stuckwisch and Corinna Martinez for the incredible work they did behind the scenes.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Producer: Kimberly Stuckwisch
Director of Photography: Albert Salas
Production Designer: Fernanda Guerrero
Editor: Taylor Brusky
VFX: Ryan Ross & Andres Jaramillo
Additional VFX: Tanner Merrill
Hand-drawn animation by Danny Madden
Sheep costumes designed by Cristina Bercovitz
Sheep costumes constructed by Cristina Bercovitz and Annie Chernecky
Sound Design: Michael O’Connor
Interlude music composed by John W. Snyder
Color correction: Tyler Roth at Company3
2nd Unit DP: Alonso Mejia
Sheep choreography: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Executive producers—Ian Blair & Kimberly Stuckwisch for DIKTATOR
Executive producers—Corinna Martínez & Alonso Mejía Silva for Contenido Neto Producciones