Let’s start with the narrative, nothing like a brilliant feel-good love story. Was the idea of the runners something you’ve had for sometime and you embellished it to suit the track?
It all began while staring out the window of a train heading from Los Angeles to San Diego. I came up with this idea of shooting a bunch of moving landscape footage and then animating a little cartoon man running while interacting with all the real obstacles along the way.
A few weeks later, I got a call from the band saying they wanted to make a video for a song called “It’s not Over” which inspired this notion of turning the concept into a love story and shooting it all in live action, with real people.
What was the initial brief like – did you work closely with the band?
This was one of those wonderful opportunities where they contacted me directly and told me they wanted me to make their video – so there wasn’t an actual brief or any sort of pitching process – which was lovely because pitching is no fun. I just sent them a few lines explaining the idea and a test I had shot on my iphone; and they responded immediately saying “let’s do this.”
How did you get the tracking shots? Did you mathematically work everything out in pre-production and was it shot green screen? Was it a mammoth post / editing job?
Nothing about it was planned, which is a terrifying way to approach any project. Alissa (producer) and I went on a three-day train trip up the coast and shot dozens of hours worth of footage on our iphones.
We mounted the phones on the train windows using GPS car mounts and plugged the phones to our computers, so the footage would be immediately downloaded and stored as we shot. I then sat down at my desk for an unhealthy amount of days trying to make some sense of all the footage.
I cut the entire video with only background plates and then we filmed the actors on green, giving them specific cues for jumps and other reactions. We then had a little over a month to put all these things together into a hopefully coherent sequence.
What was the most challenging aspect of creating the film?
The logistics of shooting on trains, probably. We obviously didn’t have any sort of control over any train matters, so we had to plan our entire day around the existing schedules. In order to get a quick shot of someone entering a train, we had to rehearse the shot at the station and then wait for the train to arrive; I’d film the actor getting into the train and we would then lose him/her for almost 30 minutes while he/she traveled to the next station and got on the next train back.
Getting a quick shot of an actor from the train involved sending someone with a camera and losing them for a while too. There was lots of waiting and lots of “Oh well… Let’s hope we can get that shot again in 45 minutes.” The train schedule is a gigantic puzzle since not all the trains travel the same routes and the stops change constantly. I watched the behind-the-scenes of the Darjeeling Limited for inspiration.