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2nd March 2012
Living doll
Title of film: Saint Vincent - Cheerleader
Director: Hiro Murai
Director Hiro Murai is on a roll

From the porcelain minimalism of Murai’s St Vincent Cheerleader video to the garish, awkward and frankly rollicking new Scissor Sisters promo, he’s clearly not short of ideas and not afraid to change up the pace. OnePointFour catches up with him to find out how Ron Mueck and childhood memories have inspired his latest work.

What was it about the St Vincent track Cheerleader that so appealed to you? What was the brief like from the band?

The track is one of my favourite songs from the album, which is also one of my favourite albums from last year. So I’d already had a lot of time to soak in the song before the brief came along. The brief was pretty open from what I remember, but I really wanted to do something that incorporated the big shifts in tone and momentum in the song.

How did you develop the idea of turning St Vincent’s Annie Clark into a giant Ron Mueck-esque sculpture?

I saw photos of Ron Mueck’s work a while back, and I’d been wanting to do a video that took place in that world ever since. I especially liked the weirdly ambiguous dynamic between the oversized statues and its audience in those photos. So I wanted to focus the video on that interplay. And Annie is sort of the perfect artist to make into a porcelain statue. She’s got very delicate features, but also this enigmatic presence about her.

I’m really interested in the technical side of the video. How much was achieved in post and was there any model-making or in-camera trickery used to achieve the effect?

The FX were achieved by cobbling a bunch of different techniques together. We used a lot of camera techniques from old monster movies (like slow-motion, lensing, camera placement) and combined it with green screen and computer generated effects.

The one model we made was of her arm when it crashes onto the ground. Our VFX guy (who had never made plaster models before) took a cast of his girlfriend’s arm and made it in one night. A lot of it was just trying to figure how to do things with limited resources.

What was the biggest challenge you faced with this project and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge for this shoot was time. For each shot in the final video, there’s 2-3 shots being combined together – so shooting the entire video in a single day was definitely a challenge. We just had to keep our head down and plough ahead.

Where Cheerleader is melancholic and meditative, Shady Love is full-on entertaining! Did you draw from any of your own experiences of school plays for the concept? Or perhaps it’s a vision of how kids wish their school plays were?

I grew up in Tokyo so most of my memories of being in school plays was in Japan. But I do remember them being extremely awkward. Or at least I remember me being awkward.

I think the funniest thing about school plays is that the kids are almost never really into it. It’s mainly the teachers and parents who are really invested in it. So I wanted the play in the video to feel like it was being made by an overly-ambitious/eager drama teacher, while the kids just played along awkwardly.

How did you find working with your young cast of dancers? The choreography is amazing.

I really love being on set with kids because it makes the set much more light hearted. It also makes it more chaotic, but I even like that. You can’t really go onto a set with kids and expect to execute a plan perfectly. You have to just roll with it and see what happens. And there’s something refreshing about that.

The choreography was done by Becca Sweitzer, who is a really talented dancer and choreographer. But teaching choreography to kids was definitely interesting. We just decided early on that we should just embrace the natural awkwardness of untrained kids dancing. We all had a blast doing it though.

And if you like this, might we suggest that sir or madam checks out Murai’s fantastic blog?

Saint Vincent Cheerleader Director:  Hiro Murai Producer: Jason Baum DP: Larkin Seiple Gaffe:  Matt Ardine PD: Ethan Feldbau AD: Chad Nicholson Makeup: Tina Cohen Wardrobe:  Laura Francis Editor:  Isaac Hagy VFX:  Bonnie Brae (Pete Sauvey, Marc Steinberg, Steve Drypolcher) Colorist: Marc Steinberg 2nd Unit: DP: Matt Chavez PD: Morgan Gillio   Scissor Sisters "Shady Love" ft Azealia Banks Director:  Hiro Murai Producer: Jason Baum DP: Larkin Seiple Editor:  Isaac Hagy Gaffe:  Matt Ardine AD:  Jesse Fleece 2nd AD:  Chad Nicholson Choreographer:  Becca Sweitzer PD: Jason Kisvarday Wardrobe:  Laura Francis