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29th April 2013
Sea of heartbreak
Title of film: Bonobo, First Fires
Director: Young Replicant
Production Company: Pulse Films
Alex Takacs began making videos under the Young Replicant moniker while still at college. We talk with the Los Angeles-based director about his latest wonderful film for Bonobo's track First Fires. See more earlier work in Related Content

The sensuality of landscapes – particularly the sea – is always an emotive backdrop in your work. What is your relationship with these locations?

The sea is always peripheral in LA, whether you’re a beach bum or not. It’s this literal abyss that laps at the edge of the city and it’s hard not to be drawn to it. As a kid I used to be obsessed with the 1954 Godzilla movie. The scene where Gozilla’s head displaces millions of tons of water as he surfaces from the ocean might be one of the most primally horrifying images. You can tell it’s a swimming pool, but the thought has always stuck with me.

Both the ocean and the forest posses a deep, libidinal darkness home to all kinds of unconscious behavior and emotion, monstrous or otherwise. I also find that specificity and a sense of place is important for any story – I used to work hard to disguise the fact that I’m shooting in Los Angeles. It was LA for Europe, or LA for another planet, but now I’m inspired to shoot it for what it is. I’ve been rereading some Joan Didion, so that has something to do with it.

The lighting also adds another layer of visual language  – do you work together with a regular cinematographer and is the lighting and camerawork detailed in storyboards before the shoot – or is it more spontaneous with simply a shot list?

This was my first time working with Chayse Irvin. Before the shoot, we built the look for each scene by compiling references of atmospheric elements and camera moves that felt organic for the narrative. I’m a neurotic storyboarder; if there’s enough time in pre-production I end up boarding every shot. This was like that, but I enjoy spontaneity, especially when the DP and I speak the same language. Chayse has great taste, and his brilliant technique made the lighting concepts work.

Did you work closely with Bonobo developing a storyline or did the narrative evolve from your reaction to the lyrics and music?

The image of the car caught in the tide had been in my head for a while. It has a lot of post-apocalyptic connotations for me, especially coming from a city defined by car culture. There’s a strong, if somewhat hyperbolic, parallel between the end of a great love and the end of the world – or at least a large piece of it. From that starting point, the tone in the vocals and the sweeping melancholy in the music helped shape the story. The string section felt like it was meant for something heavier than a couple teenagers fumbling in the backseat and feeling confused about it for a week or month afterward. There’s some serious, high stakes soul destroying going on. But the song is full of ambiguity – traces of the beginning remain at the end, cycles of synchronicity make it hard to tell if it’s purely tragic or a bittersweet mix.

The casting is spot on. Where did you find them, who are they?

Thanks. I was really lucky with this one. Both of the leads are friends of friends, which is sometimes the best way to cast. People with beautiful, interesting faces tend to know other people with beautiful, interesting faces. Caitriona Balfe is an actress and model and Salomon Anaya is a kombucha maker and commercial actor. I owe the video to them both, truly.
Young Replicant


Bonobo, First Fires

Director:  Young Replicant
DoP: Chayse Irvin
Executive Producer: Laura Tunstall @ Pulse Films
Commissioner: Maddy Salvage
Producer : Taylor Vandergrift
1st AD: Alex Sanchez
Production Designer: Jordan Harkins
Art Assistant: Patrick Chase
Grade: Derek Hansen @ MPC
Wardrobe and Styling: Kendall Capito
Operator: Ross Coscia
1st AC: Dyaln Conrad
Gaffer: Kevin Miller
Electric: Dave McCabe, Josh Atkin
Key Grip: Shane Moore
Second Unit DP: Sing Howe Yam
Asst. Prod: Christina Kitcat
PA: Edward Drake


The xx, Chained

Director: Young Replicant
Creative Producer Joe Nankin
Exec Producer Laura Tunstall
Commissioner Phil Lee
Producer Rachel Rumbold
1st AD Stehpanie Zari
DP Steve Annis
Colorist Ben Rodgers at Glassworks
SFX Gary Brown at Munky
SFX Producer Samantha Banack at Munky


Purity Ring – Fineshrine

Directed by Young Replicant
Produced by Ari Lubet and Jordan Harkins
Production Company Stray Angel Films
DP Tom Banks
Art Direction Jordan Harkins
2nd Unit DP Niko Weisnet
Grip Yudai Sato
1st AC Jason Fassler
VFX Producer Chris Harding
VFX Marcus Stokes and Alex Lu
Matte Painting Compositing Additional VFX Chris Staehler


Loud Mouths – Wise Blood

Directed by Alex Takacs and Joe Nankin
Produced by Christian Heuer / Stray Angel Films
DP Tom Banks
Gaffer Eric Ulbrich
Grip Yudai Sato
1st AC Blair Neighbors
2nd AC Kyle Jennings
SFX Young Replicant
Sound Design Andrew “Kobe Brian” Levy
Stunt Coordinator Justin De Rosa


Hooray For Earth – True Loves

Directed by Alex Takacs and Joe Nankin

Produced by Stray Angel Films x Young Replicant
Commissioner Jill Kaplan
DP Tom Banks
AC Federico Kurschinski
SFX – J2k Entertainment
Additional SFX by Mickey Goese, Alex Takacs