Please tell us about the creative process making this video? Where did the initial idea come from – is it reflective of the track?
The brief mentioned the band’s album art would feature Eastern European Brutalist architecture and that they keen were to explore this as a motif in the video. They also wanted to avoid a regular narrative. So I took this and as I always do completely absorbed myself in the song. The idea of telling a story by manifesting the characters emotions through movement came pretty quickly and I loved the idea of contrasting this brutal, imposing, muted backdrop with youthful vibrance.
I did a lot of research into young photographers in post-Soviet states to get some idea of the mood – the clash of old and new ideas and traditions and explosion of creativity that is happening right now.
The tracks’ refrain alludes to the anger, frustration and bitterness that comes after becoming infatuated with someone yet constantly being knocked back. Worse yet when that person actively encourages the attention only to reject you time and time again. The idea of this unhealthy cat & mouse, push-pull relationship formed, between this and the way the lyrics are delivered in the first verse I started to imagine the girls circling each other, like a game at first.
Did you always intend to use dance and how did the collaboration with the choreographer work?
I’ve been keen to shoot dance for some time now and knowing that I had to take a different approach this time around it just felt right. I met a number of choreographers and even though Ruslan speaks little English I knew he got it. The emotion, the rawness and physicality. After our first conversation he went away and prepared a piece for the casting, which we then tweaked. I didn’t want it to be too perfect, better to be grapply and raw to match the emotion. Expressing my ideas for the movement via translation was certainly a challenge, as was casting non-dancers for the film, but Ruslan was incredibly patient and committed and worked brilliantly with Alina & Elizabeth. He also prepped a number of additional short movements that we could shoot in bursts to link together in the edit. This and some improvisation on the day were key to the piece coming together.
Was it shot in Ukraine? If so how does filming in Ukraine differ from, say, UK?
Yeah we shot in Kyiv where I spend a lot of my time and a place the band indicated they would be interested in. The crews are extremely professional and so the differences are pretty minimal, what you do get is access to incredible locations even on modest music video budgets. There is also a feeling of freedom that you certainly don’t get shooting in London, for example. It’s also not quite such a merry-go-round of shoots so you are afforded more time with key members of the crew, which feels like a real luxury and is of great benefit.
The talent pool although growing is much smaller than the UK so you really have to keep a keen eye and be open to different approaches to find the gems.
What were the main challenges of making the film and how did you resolve them?
Along with your usual low budget challenges the weather gave me several heart attacks. During scouting we had thick snow and temperatures of -15 to -20, it looked beautiful but would have been totally unworkable for our shoot. Rain melted a lot of it but that in turn created dangerous sheets of ice on the ground, impossible to walk on let alone dance! Thankfully this cleared a little for us, but we still had to be very selective where we could place the girls.
Alina & Elizabeth were dancing without winter coats or scarves in minus °C but never once complained and were complete badasses, blowing us all away. Nevertheless we had to keep takes short to preserve their energy with so many exteriors to cover. It was also important not to get too carried away with the dance and always make sure that their performances were believable and portraying the right emotion.
Naturally I fell in love with too many locations so we had to be ruthless in choosing them. Finding locations with several different looking spaces was as ever, crucial.
I had a very ambitious list of narrative beats and actions that I wanted to play out but I had to be flexible on set and stay focused on what we really needed the most, and pre-edit to a degree.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Never ever look at a quartz lamp with unprotected eyes.
Not a mistake I will make again.
I want to thank Dan Curwin, Atlantic & the band themselves for giving me the freedom to make this film and everyone who was involved in Kyiv and back home for their efforts in bringing it to life.
List five inspirations that have connected with you recently:
1. I finally got round to watching ‘Plemya’ aka ‘The Tribe’ just before this shoot and although an incredibly difficult and uncomfortable watch I was inspired by the way the gang of boys seemed to move in unison, like a flock. This and the films setting was one of the references for how I treated the scene with the boys in Get Out. 2. Miles Jay’s Leon Bridges video was beautiful.
3. The Lobster was fun. I love how Lanthimos’ characters relate to each other in such an unusual way.
4. Fellow Bold director Alma Har’el’s Bombay Beach is still giving me goosebumps after all this time and I’m forever recommending it to people.
5. Nadiya Savchenko. Nadiya is currently on dry hunger strike after being kidnapped, tortured and illegally transported and detained for 21 months. She is reaching the end of her show trial that will inevitably end in a guilty verdict despite her innocence. Her strength, will and bravery continues to astonish me and I only hope she makes it back home alive.
LINKS: Director’s Represenation: OB Management