We Must Be Crazy is a very sad, very strange narrative. Super fantasy is such a different route for you especially after your hyper real gritty video for Roscoe. Please tell us how the idea came about and how you evolved it into the story.
Compared to our other videos, this one is certainly the most fantasy driven, because of the presence of this homemade artificial baby. We like to see this film as our take on the classical Pinocchio story… but perhaps a bit more twisted. Our main inspiration while writing this script was the fact that people use technology to overcome loneliness and how this also has certain limitations.
The big challenge was to make this story feel real and believable, without becoming all too gimmicky. On one side our characters would be building a robotic baby, something that is artificial. On the other side, we felt that the viewers shouldn’t be distracted by the robot. They should be able to see the robot as a real child, because that would be the way our characters see the baby. To them, this robot is a real being that needs to be taken care of. It is their child. That is why we wanted to give the baby some realistic elements such as eye movements and an unstable way of moving its head, arms and legs. We are very happy with the result and believe we went beyond that point of being a gimmick. Somehow the baby becomes real and that is where the story becomes magical.
Having said this, we were very surprised to see how it really affects people. Since its release, a couple of days ago, people are sharing their comments and tell their own stories related to the film on social media. We read some personal stories about people that have lost their own child. The video seems to move people, and the story seems to be recognisable despite its fantasy elements. To us, this is the biggest compliment. The fact that this film grows beyond the expectations of just being a music video, made to accompany a song. It becomes something more and that is something we really like.
The acting is superb. Where did you find the cast? And did you rehearse lots before the shoot?
We knew we needed good actors to make our story believable and give it the emotional depth we were looking for. All actors delivered, but Laura and Joren really nailed it. You really believe them as a young couple and through their performance you understand that they carry some weight on their shoulders.
We didn’t do rehearsals because we knew their work as actors and were convinced that they were the right choice for the part. Rehearsals could have killed the spontaneity of their performance, but we did prepare them for their role by talking to them in advance and creating a backstory, more or less the same approach you would do, when making a feature film. It makes their performances richer because they understand your motivations as a director.
The robotic baby does become very plausible looking – please tell us about the process of giving birth to this?!!
Pretty early on in the process we knew that the quality of the animatronic baby would be that thing that would make or break the film, so prior to finishing the final draft of the script we contacted animatronic artists to see how we would do it.
We realised that the people from Millennium Fx in London were the specialists in the field, but they only had a robotic baby with skin. So we asked animatronic artist Chris Clarke to build the skinless robot baby from scratch. He is a genius, we have to say. Chris is quite famous in the industry and he worked with Steven Spielberg on Warhorse, so we knew that we were in good hands.
Unfortunately we didn’t have the same budget as Mr Spielberg but we tried to charm Chris with our script and it worked. He really helped us to bring the baby creature to a higher level. He made the robot move realistically by giving it some features that we know from newborn babies: an unstable head, arm movements, etc.
The moment the animatronic baby appeared on set, everybody was so quiet as you would be when a real baby is on set. The detail in the expressions of this metal creature, was just amazing. It was pure magic to see it move. The baby was puppeteered by a remote control from a distance, but all of us forgot about that. It became real!
What were the main challenges of the production?
This production was a pretty ambitious one to pull off. Building the animatronic was the first big challenge, but next to this we had other difficulties during pre-production.
We needed to find good older actors that would match their younger version. Until two days prior to the shoot, we were still searching, and then we found Francois and Lut, who really nailed their performance.
Another obstacle was the ageing of Milow, who would become older through the course of the video. Such things are easy to put on paper but doing it for real is something else. We were lucky to find Saskia Verreycken, who is a specialist in making prosthetics for film. She also worked day and night during the two weeks of preparation. Just to give you an idea about the labor that went into this: the prosthetic face of Milow contains more than 10.000 pores, and they were made manually. It’s really a labor of love that went into this.
Regarding the schedule to shoot this, we actually shot a lot! we shot for three days (long days) and had the luxury to play around in edit and only keep the best stuff. We had a dedicated production team (Lovo films) that manoeuvred well through the obstacles. But the shoot itself was an easy ride, or maybe that’s what we like to believe….
See in Related Content for production material
Director: Norman Bates
Production company: Lovo Films
Director of photography: Bjorn Charpentier
Editor: Gert Van Berckelaer
Young woman: Laura Verlinden
Young man: Joren Seldeslachts
Old woman: Lut Tomsin
Old man: Francois Beukelaers