How did the video develop and did you work in close collaboration with the band?
Well, I’d met Mikhael in Liverpool about 18 months ago. I’ve lived and worked here as a filmmaker for a few years now and Mikhael was here studying music at LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts). For some reason that I’m still not entirely sure of (although it’s most likely financial) there is an unusually high percentage of Norwegian’s studying at that college of which Mikhael is one.
Anyway, I met Mikhael in his final year last year and we shot a couple of live videos together and we always talked about eventually doing a music video together. Then Mikhael moved back to Norway once he’d graduated and I kind of forgot about the music video. But then after he released his first single I Spy earlier this year he got in contact with me to ask if I’d like to do the video for his follow up single Jive Babe to which I instantly said yes!
The idea for the video was actually developed between Mikhael and his producer Joe Wills, who’s a mutual friend of ours (and also a graduate of LIPA). Mikhael has always said the song is about or is at least inspired by the character of Audrey Horne from Twin Peaks and so I think from early on that dictated the style and aesthetic he wanted for the video.
He also always wanted to shoot a video in his grandparents’ hometown of Ustina in Bulgaria (Mikhael’s father is Bulgarian but he was born and brought up in Norway to a Norwegian mother) mainly because there is a high concentration of Bulgarian gypsies living there who had always fascinated Mikhael as a child.
Joe and him then came up with the basic idea of a femme fatale-type character (ala Audrey Horne) who, for unknown reasons, kidnaps Mikhael and drives around with him in the boot of her car. So by the time I came on to the project most of the main elements were already there. It was then just a case of me and Mikhael sitting down to flesh out the story and develop the characters and then me figuring out how I was going to practically realise it all.
Where did you draw your inspiration from?
In terms of inspiration for this video I think some of the films and style of Quentin Tarantino had a big influence on us. In fact we even parody the scene in From Dusk Till Dawn where Salma Hayek’s character pours tequila down her leg into Quentin Tarantino’s mouth, only we had Elena Argiros pour gasoline down her muddy leg into Mikhael Paskalev’s even muddier mouth which I like to think is much more bad ass as Mikhael would say.
Some of M.I.A.’s music videos were another source of inspiration, especially Bad Girls directed by Romain Gavras. I think the dusty desert aesthetic of that video and the way the video incorporates the local people is something we definitely took from. I think stylistically what we were trying to go for with Jive Babe is a vintage Americana feel with an Eastern European twist.
Did you storyboard each scene or was the shoot more spontaneous?
My approach to shooting this video was fairly loose and unplanned partly because we had very little pre-production time but also because there are just so many unknowns with shooting on the fly in a foreign country that you just have to be very adaptable and open-minded as to what you’re going to be faced with once you get there.
Plus I think my natural filming style is quite spontaneous and in the moment and in fact that’s one of the reasons why this project appealed to me in the first place. Obviously we went out to Bulgaria with a specific storyline in mind and we knew what action we wanted to happen at what points in the song but in terms of physical storyboarding then no, only mental.
But I would say the final result is actually very close to what we imagined it would be like and in some ways the end gypsy scene even surpassed our expectations. We were very worried about being able to pull that off as we felt that scene would really make or break the video but as it turned out the gypsy gods were on our side!
What did you shoot it on and were you behind the camera too?
It was all shot on my trusty Canon 7D by myself using L-series lenses very kindly lent to me by a good friend of mine (I do have a set of my own lenses but you just can’t beat the quality of L-series glass!).
Tell us about your post-production process?
Well I always like to edit my own work, whether it’s something I’ve directed or filmed or both. Editing is what I first took an interest in on my filmmaking course at university so it’s what I feel most comfortable doing. Then came the directing, then the camera work and then finally I started learning about grading. I’ve always used Final Cut Pro to edit on and so that’s what I used for Jive Babe. I then used Apple Color for the grade. Post-production on this video took about three weeks as it was quite a challenging edit, especially the end gypsy scene – that was a killer!
What were the major challenges of the production?
The main challenge of the shoot was the fact that our actress, the lovely Elena Argiros, couldn’t drive. This proved tricky seeing as her character spends the first half of the video driving around the Bulgarian countryside at high speed.
You may ask why we didn’t just cast an actress who could drive but as I mentioned previously we had very little pre-production time on this video and when Ellie was suggested to us we felt that she was so right for the part in every other aspect that we were prepared to compromise on the driving.
So it just meant that we were very limited to the kind of shots we could show of Ellie driving and when you do see her at the wheel she’s actually just rolling down a quiet stretch of road in first gear. Then for all the wide shots of her driving our on-set stills photographer, the very talented Lasse Floede, donned her tight fitting t-shirt, hat and shades to take to the wheel which was a very amusing sight! In the end I think we just about pulled it off however it did at times slow the production down a bit but it was ultimately worth it.
Apart from Jive Babe what work are you most proud of and why?
Probably my first and only other music video for local Liverpool band Stealing Sheep (see Related Content). I am proud of it because it was my first proper music video and it proved to me that I was capable of making good quality music videos of my own.
When did you realise you wanted to make films? Are you signed to a production company?
I’ve always loved films but it wasn’t until I studied media and film at college when I was 16 that I realised it was something I could take seriously and do for a living. Then after deciding not to pursue my interest in fine art (mainly because I wasn’t good enough!) I enrolled on a filmmaking degree in Manchester and I’ve not looked back since.
No I’m not signed to a production company, I’ve always worked freelance since graduating. However recently I’ve started to think that signing to an company would be a good next step in my career.
What’s your five year plan?
I really don’t think that far ahead. In fact I don’t think much further ahead than a few months at a time. I just think you can quickly end up worrying and stressing yourself out about what you’re doing with your life and where your career should be heading when all you need to do is just get on with the present and that will in turn determine your future for you.
I just take each project as it comes and try and be as pro-active and productive as possible. But if I was to answer a question along the lines of “Where do you see yourself in five years time?” then I guess I’d say that I hope to still be making the films I want to make but on a much bigger and better scale.
Would you like to direct commercials and short films?
Yes I can see that the natural development of my work will probably lead me on to doing some commercial work and hopefully some short films as they were the kind of videos I was making on my degree course so it would be nice to get back to that one day but with a bigger budget to play with.
Myself and Joe (Mikhael’s producer) run a live video session series called OBSCENIC (I do the visuals and Joe takes care of the sound) and we’ve just launched a new Vimeo channel for it.