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14th February 2014
Homage to love
Title of film: Happiness - 'All Apologies'
Director: Adam Berg
Famous for his clever tricks commercial work, stink director Adam Berg has created a simple, heart-melting film for the band Happiness

We wept buckets when we viewed your video, All Apologies, for the band Happiness. Was this an idea you’ve had sitting in your back pocket for a while or did you create it specifically in reaction to the track?

Im glad it made you feel something. The basic idea from this came from the band. We did speak about making something different, something about love and longing but from a different perspective than the young. Targeting in on this sense of acceptance of something lost.

You’re reknown for working with special effects in wondrous ways and yet this new video feels as if it’s shot on a hand-held camera with the story unfolding in a simple, fluid way. What was behind your decision to do this?

We wanted to tell the story in as few shots as possible. Just let the camera follow the narrative, keeping the emotion in the centre. Obviously there was no budget for effects, but no need for them either.

Nevertheless your eye for details is still as exacting in this film, All Apologies, as your big commercial work. The narrative is richly revealed with the background stories, the petty conflicts, anxieties and nuances of the other relationships. How did you direct the performances? Do you express the feeling you want to convey and allow the actors to do what they wish? Did you storyboard everything in detail, were there lots of rehearsals?

We cast only the dancers while the others were extras that we picked from books. We wanted people you don’t normally see in videos. Real people. A lot of them actually also came from the location, an Elks Lodge in Van Nuys, they had a meeting there when we scouted it and just looked beautiful.

There were no storyboards and no rehearsals. I had a clear idea of what I wanted to tell and as we started shooting I picked people for the main roles. The woman who ended up playing the daughter was so into the emotion so she felt natural in the role. Ray who played her brother got called in last minute as we needed a stuntman to do the fall. But he showed up and was amazing so I gave him a much bigger role. I gave them their relation, their emotion and what they were to do and then let them kind of react from that.

There was a great feeling on set, we kept playing the song and the couple kept dancing and it was quite beautiful, quiet, so the emotions came quite naturally. The people who were not great we just avoided more with the camera.

What were the major challenges of the production?

Money was tight of course but we came off a commercial and used some money off that and crew stayed on an extra day and worked for very little so everyone helped hugely. The biggest challenge was to keep the emotion of the song and do it justice.

The Scandinavians and Europeans seem to have a far healthier approach to featuring older people in their work than the music video industry in say London or LA. Anyone over 35 is a no-no in the music video world here which is very dull. Was there any discussion with the band about the pros and cons of telling this particular story?

I dont think anyone involved in this wanted to scream loudest or compete with the everyday music video fare. From the very start we wanted a different route.

People so often underestimate the viewers, I think it’s brave of the band to take this chance. Just go for the emotion. I hope it will pay off for them and people will pay attention to this and really listen.

Do you shoot lots of takes and then allow the film to evolve in the edit?

It varies on how much time you have. We did this in a day and tried to keep it as few shots as possible within the edit. The editig was more about just finding the right pace for the piece and making it for the song.

When you’re shooting personal work do you have a regular team you collaborate with?

Yes I usually work with the same few people no matter what the work. It makes the creative process an evolving thing. You get bored with what you’ve done before and always try for something new. Not exactly knowing what I’m doing is kind of important for me.

Big thanks to everyone involved in this. DoP Joost van Gelder and his crew, MPC LA, Karen and Rhonda and the rest of the crew, Smuggler, all of the cast… And of course Happiness.

Happiness - All Apologies Directed by Adam Berg