20th December 2012
Sisters in arms
Title of film: Avan Lava, Sisters
Director: Dan Gutt
Director Dan Gutt creates a poignant, moving film of unrequited love for band Avan Lava

Did you work closely with the band AVAN LAVA on developing the narrative or were you given complete creative freedom. How did you evolve the story – was it in response to the lyrics?

My producer (Weston Auburn) and I approached the band with the concept and they were really supportive. The song deals with the universal experience of unrequited love in a poetic way that seemed ripe for visual accompaniment. We met with the band several times and developed a narrative that focused on the ambiguities of a relationship between two friends. With music videos I’m more interested in achieving a visceral response than narrative clarity and the band was on the same wavelength.

Did you storyboard the story or have a shots list?

I don’t get too specific with shot design, but there was an extensive shot list that was always evolving. I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some amazing directors (Godfrey Reggio, Koyaanisqatsi; Jake Nava, Beyonce’s Single Ladies) and have learned how crucial it is to adapt. Some see compromise as a weakness, but I think it’s a mark of creative strength to be open to what’s right in front of you, not just what’s in your head. You have to be willing to reconcile with reality.

The narrative spins out wonderfully through the framing, the lighting, pace and editing – what were the key challenges of the shoot and how did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge for me was ensuring that we shot a balance of content. We shot an unbelievable amount of footage to be crammed into a five-minute video. With all sorts of different emotions and scenarios, it was a bit of an ordeal trying to quantify what we had and what we still needed to shoot so we would have what we would need for the edit. Our editor was the amazing Alexander Hammer, he’s got an incredible sense for telling stories for the screen and letting the music guide the visuals. He did a wonderful job fusing it all together.

Did you always have the location in mind or did you have to scout? (we want to go there, now!)

We filmed in and around San Juan, Puerto Rico. We have some good friends and support there and the song’s nostalgic tone lent itself to being staged in paradise. By setting our story in a world that is superficially perfect we could emphasize a contrast to the underlying emotional struggle. I also think it’s immensely valuable as an artist to step away from your everyday environment and react from an outsider’s perspective.

Did you use natural light most of the time and what was it shot on?

To achieve the scope we wanted we had to put priority on moving quickly. Clint (Litton, cinematographer) got together a stealth grip and electric package, and relied on harnessing natural light for much of the shoot. It was shot on a Red Epic with Leica glass.

You have directed and also been the cinematographer on quite a few projects, what was behind your decision to use another cinematographer on Sisters?

I think the benefits of collaboration outweigh those of pure control. Clint is incredibly talented and I knew he would elevate the project beyond what I could do myself. I’ve known him for years and I trust his ability more than I trust my own.

Are you signed to a production company? If not are you looking or happily independent?

Currently independent, but always open minded 🙂


Director: Dan Gutt
Producer: Weston Auburn
Cinematographer: A. Clint Litton
Production Designer: Ethan Gutt
Editor: Alexander Hammer
Sound Design: Colin Alexander
Co-producers: Neena Litton
Xavi Medina
Juan Botta
Stylist: Lexx Alejandro
Asst. Stylist: Audri Nix
Makeup Artists: Ingrid Rivera
Lexx Alejandro