Where did you find the dogs and did you simply film them randomly?
All the dogs were just found while we shot around the city. Ivan would just go up to them with the camera as a dog would. We cast the grey dog though with the lady, as we wanted one set up where he would follow him into the dog park, but get shut out.
Please tell us about the process of making the film.
It was my first job shooting in the USA, so I was quite nervous. But my reps there, Residency, were wonderful. We only had four full days of pre production, so a lot of it was scouting and working out our route. We wanted to be sure that we had our planned set ups, but also time to allow things to happen, discover moments on the street to some extent.
The location and changes in scenery were extremely important, to go from a very clinical sleek photo studio, to a sense of being overwhelmed by the city high rises, to run down edges of the city. I had originally envisaged it to be shot in LA, in order to end up in Skid Row, but LA is so spaced out it would have been difficult to get the sense of a journey, where as New York is far more compressed.
We were unsure exactly how to shoot it. There is always the temptation to ensure it looks slick and moves smoothly, it’s something we fought with. Surely we can’t shoot this rather big video just hand held running around the city? We thought. But we did!
Ivan Abel was our amazing DOP, and we did originally think of using a movi rig, then we thought perhaps just a wheelchair, but in the end just him and the camera was the most believable set up. His arm and back were hurting a fair bit after the shoot, he was a real trooper! He just had a really great sensibility for it, managing to feel this “character” that is the dog, and become it. It’s Ivan’s movement of the camera which engages us into really feeling an empathy toward the dog. The steadier option of Movicam or Steadycam would have killed this completely.
It was originally meant to be a much weirder video.(See version with VFX in Related Content). The original version which will be released as an alternative down the line, had the eyes of all the humans covered, as if the skin from the cheek went up over them. Benjamin Di Giacomo did an incredible job, taking on all this VFX work and the colour grade. So you would see all these strange eye-less people from the dog’s perspective. But at the end, the owner is the one person without this effect. The idea was that the dog would only recognise his owner’s eyes. It was decided to cut this in the end, making the video what it is now, which is pretty chirpy, which if I’m honest I would never expected to have made! It’s certainly the chirpiest video I’ve ever made, and was very surprised how well it went down after this weird effect was taken off.
People connected much better with the dog character when they can see the eyes of the people who push him away, but also the girls who accept him in the karaoke bar as one of their group. I was really happy releasing it without this VFX element once I started to see how well the video went down. Most of the comments in youtube seem to be of people crying!
Did you shoot lots of footage and edit furiously?
I had my long time collaborator Gaia Borretti on edit! She did indeed have to get through a fair bit of footage and did an amazing job. The hardest part about the edit was ensuring that we got a good sense of journey, but have lots of different moments, but, not cutting them so quickly that we lost the feeling of being the dog’s point of view. But we held it longer at the start, and this sets it up enough for us to then cut quicker. We added the blinks to add to this, but, they were very important in order for our edits to have a nice transition. When cutting constantly to a wide shot, as we only used one lens, it jars you a bit. So we watched the video over many times and put the blinks in where we naturally felt they should go.
You’ve worked with Naughty Boy before – how much were they involved in the making of the film.
This time a lot and it was such an enjoyable process. The first time for La La La I wrote the whole thing in a daze listening to the track out in Bolivia and just handed it in. It got the green light and there just some character changes before it all kicked off.
This time, I wrote the script for Naughty Boy’s brief. He wanted to have a script that told the story of a dog’s journey to its owners grave. It spurred a lot of ideas for me, the first being to actually shoot it from the point of view of the dog. I looked around, and was really surprised to find just one music video shot like this. I thought there would be tons. I am sure there are a lot of non awarded treatments out there that haven’t been green lit like this though!
So then with the script, I wanted to shoot it in the USA, having joined Residency, so it was a great first job with them. As mentioned, I thought of LA first, and thought it could be great to start in a very upmarket place, but end in a more down and out area. The whole meaning of the video is based around the saying “home is where the heart is”, this was my starting point. To end it somewhere downtrodden, not an actual “home”, summed this up for me by the dog finding his owner again in this place in order to be happy again.
I think only dogs have this sort of loyalty also and I then read about Hachiko, the dog who after his owner died, would still go and wait for the same train that his owner used to arrive on. Unaware of his owner’s death, he would sit there at the same time each day waiting for him. It’s a heartbreaking story. I also never forgot a black and white film from my childhood, though I can’t remember the name of it or find it, which was about a homeless man and his dog. The homeless man dies in it, and it has this incredible sad scene of the man crying, having lost his companion. So the video in a way could be a happy adaption of both of these stories, in which they find each other.