20th September 2013
Crossing zebras
Title of film: Capital Cities, Kangaroo Court
Director: Carlos Lopez Estrada
Director Carlos Lopez Estrada wins his stripes with this genius video for Capital Cities track Kangaroo Court. See in Related Content for more production material

You have got one of the most original voices in music video narratives, how on earth did you come up with this plot – was it triggered by the lyrics about the Kangaroo Court? Did you work with Capital Cities closely on developing the story?

Well, thank you very much. I unfortunately can’t take story credit on this one because it was a script that the band wrote themselves- but it was strangely enough a perfect fit for me. I had never worked on a project that I hadn’t conceptualized so it was interesting to develop the video with the band and function as some sort of “director for hire.” Sounds lame but it was actually a really challenging assignment and some sort of practice for the feature world, which I hope to jump into eventually. I think it ultimately feels like a video of mine, which was what I was hoping I could accomplish.

Your attention to detail goes deeper and deeper – even the price of fur drops .5 on the stock market index on the news report. Are you constantly working on your script and treatment – at which point do you stop? Is everything thought through beforehand or is it an ever-refining process? Do you see any flaws or potential improvements after the edit?! and if so what?

Ah. I don’t even know. We were lucky with this video because the band had just released Safe and Sound which became a really big radio song over the summer and the guys were busy traveling the world on festivals. I think we booked the video maybe 7 weeks before we shot? So, as you can imagine, we had a crazy long pre-production. The shoot was obviously extremely ambitious for our budget so we tried to utilize all this time to plan everything in detail. We made storyboards, animatics, make up tests and endless meetings and scouts to the locations. It was really helpful but also drove us all insane by the end since we had been working on it for almost 4 months. I guess too much of anything is never a good thing. My grandma used to say that.

I’m glad you noticed the news section graphics because we put a lot of thought into it. Probably more than we should have. For example -and I don’t think anyone will care about this…but I’ll share anyway- the duck’s network is called ACN which is Will McAvoy’s station in “The Newsroom.” We also gave the duck a Jeff Daniels haircut in their honor. I know a lot of people don’t like the show but we thought it was funny.

How important is collaborating for you and is it a collaborative process from the beginning – say with the art director/production designer, VFX artist and cinematographer?

This project was especially fun because it allowed everyone involved to really become a collaborator and not just someone hired to execute. Maybe because of the theatrical nature of the project but I feel like everyone had a a good time putting the video together. Every single production meeting felt like Christmas. All of the department heads would show up with photos or sketches or designs of whatever they had been working on and we would have a “show and tell” session with the rest of the crew.

It is really important for me to maintain a sense of community with the people I work with. Most of my collaborators are friends I went to film school with and have been working together with ever since. It is very rewarding to see everyone excel in their own discipline and every time we work together feels like some sort of reunion.

What were the main challenges of the production and how did you resolve them?

The band is a part of this interesting space since they came from a very indie DIY background but then suddenly entered the major-label-top-10-radio world… so finding a balance between those 2 contradicting universes was a fun challenge. It is definitely a pop video but I think the most interesting kind of pop video we could have made. I think.


tarring Capital Cities, Shannon Woodward and Darren Criss.
Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada & Capital Cities
Produced by Kim Stuckwisch
Executive Producer: Danielle Hinde for Doomsday Entertainment
Commissioner: Danny Lockwood for Capitol Records
Director of Photography: Morgan Susser
Production Designer: Tyler Jensen
Creative Director: Zach Wechter
Editor: Carlos Lopez Estrada
VFX: Hunter Schmidt, Jason, Sebastian Brown.
Stylist: Natasha Kutrovacz
2nd Unit: James Lees (director) Todd Banhazl (DP)
Make up: Sota FX
Sound Design: Eric Hoehn
Music Arrangements: John Snyder
Renaissance man: Paul Santagada