On an emotional and metaphorical level I completely get it, but on a rational level my brain is exploding trying to figure out the narrative. Surely it’s about separate characters and entities which make up a whole? Please do tell us your interpretation and how you went about writing the story.
Well, it started as a very simple premise for me. I remembered this idea that a corporation is technically speaking a moral entity that regroups other people, but I also remembered a psychiatrist in an article mentioning that if you would clinically analyse a corporation, by human standards, a corporation is a sociopath.
From there, I was excited about the idea of presenting and playing with stereotypical characters and just riffing with it. I still see this piece as a music video and didn’t want to make it too narrative either, being fun and well-crafted were my priorities.
Jack’s song after all is also not quite a radio pop song, so I was VERY excited by the fact that he wanted to make a video out of this ballsy song. His lyrics and energy coming out of it made me feel like he probably has a critical, cynical and ironical stance about the idea of corporation, as if in the end we probably are all sociopath. I can’t speak for him of course, but those are the links I made in my head.
Then obviously I let the viewer think and feel the way they want to about it. But yeah, those people are crazy, and nobody killed Jack, but maybe Jack had to do some healing with one piece of his personality in the story. It’s all playful and quite deep all at the same time, it depends on your vibe I guess! 🙂
Each character is a brilliantly crafted vignette including the Canadian pop singer Kandle as a serial assassin. How did you go about casting and how did you evolve the story with them?
Well, as a matter of fact, casting wasn’t easy for this. The main problems we encountered were extreme time constraints and a difficulty to find the right people in Nashville for this (We shot there).
We did lots of casting rounds and only the kid and cowboy were interesting enough to me, but then in a crazy last minute attempt we reached out to some friends in Montreal. Basically, our investigator, dancer and assassin are all from Montreal. They were very very nice to accept to fly out there and do it for us.
Obviously I made sure we picked people I felt were right for the ideas. But yeah, from there I used my hyper-sensibility and extreme emotional self to get to understand and see how these people, who are a mix of professional actors and non-actors to give me what I needed to create compelling characters.
In short, it’s a blend of really precise ideas I wanted to accomplish, and other stuff we reacted to on the spot. As long as I love my characters as soon as I consider them in casting, that’s all that really matters to me at this stage. Obviously when I’ll shoot feature films I will probably have to pick much more carefully, but for now I enjoy casting with my heart and see how far we can push our luck.
How did you navigate the collaboration with Jack White?
It’s been strange, and super simple, honest and authentic all at the same time. Saul (Levitz, commissioner at Columbia records) and I have known each other for quite a while but I believe he waited for the right opportunity to show up before sending me a project.
Saul, Candice (Dragonas, Prettybird EP) and I had an interesting call around New Year’s eve and I felt that, basically, Jack and his team were looking to find a director with a voice and to let him/her do whatever they felt like doing with it. I found the offer flattering, respectful and exciting.
A week later I wrote an idea in an hour, didn’t overthink it, and they fell in love with it. All I heard is that Jack and his manager Andrew really wanted to do it. They really saw something in it that even I wasn’t sure anymore what was so special about it. Though, I felt that the treatment was exactly where I wanted to be as a content creator, so I knew it would be a special project no matter what, but they REALLY loved it.
It took months before it happened, and all along I thought they weren’t serious (hey because after all, we needed quite a solid budget for this and it was a fucking crazy idea to make a video for this song with this concept, so I had good reasons to believe the project would never end up being produced). But Candice at PB and Saul never stopped believing in it, and here we are!
I finally met Jack at his BEAUTIFUL house for the fitting and he served us all coffees, he told me about his family coming from eastern Canada, showed me some footage of the White Stripes in the Northwest territories, put some great music in his custom sound system, we talked about whiskeys and I suggested to him the best Canadian whiskey I know, and that’s it. He showed up on set like a pro and it went great!
Last time we spoke to you it was soon after your film Still in the Cage for Wiwek & Skrillex was released – https://www.onepointfour.co/2016/11/22/true-original/ – and you mentioned you’d never shot in Canada, your home. This feels as if it’s Canada or have you got up to your amazing VFX trickery and transported a mansion to an alpine context?
Ah yeah, VFX, sorry!! It was shot in Nashville and Tennessee, and it only occurred to me to add the more exotic touch to it once the edit was done. I wasn’t planning on doing matte paintings when we were shooting, but then back then I just gifted myself with a new incredible editing and VFX computer, so I was like… alright, maybe I have enough time to add landscapes to a lot of the scenes and still deliver on time.
Anyhow, yeah, the first edit without VFX felt very grounded. Adding the landscapes helped the surrealistic nature of the storytelling. I think in the end it was a good idea. The landscapes this time though, especially with the manor, were not meant to feel real, but to exaggerate the luxurious nature of Jack’s character (in a nod to Citizen Kane).
The landscapes are a mix of Nashville, Tennessee, Icelandic waterfalls and New Zealand mountains from my personal trips! When you think about it this way, I find it fascinating that computers allow us to make collages of personal experiences like that and allow me to tailor them into storytelling for completely unrelated projects.
What was the most challenging aspect about the production and how did you resolve it?
Casting, definitely. It’s not easy to bring forward the importance of casting in a music video process. The culture of it is focussed to make good looking and “cool” images, but developing characters in music videos demand that you do pull a lot of tricks as a director.
I’m really enjoying that challenge more and more, although on this very specific job, as said above, it was a close call… I was lucky to find my cast. I can’t thank them enough. My DP Kristof (Brandl) pulled some tricks to help with that. Jason our producer had also so much more other stuff to figure out, it was an amazing team effort to pull all this off. The shoot was extremely efficient, I’m really proud of the skills everybody showed on set.
What are you up to now?
I’m on a shooting trip that goes from Atlanta, to NYC and LA for an Under Armor commercial with Droga 5 and Prettybird. Been amazing so far, but I still have four days of shoot to go! Got to finally shoot with Evan Prosofsky too! Once I’m done, I haul my ass back home to spend some time with my lady and to continue my feature script.
Read a more in depth interview with Jodeb here https://www.onepointfour.co/2016/11/22/true-original/