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6th June 2022
Hidden Talents
Title of film: Pearl Derringer (feat. Margo Price), Little Baby (Premiere)
Director: Kimberly Stuckwisch
Production Company: An Invisibile Inc Production / Repped by Rogue Films UK
Kimberly Stuckwisch’s films always surprise - whether they are music videos with underlying social messages or zippy musical commercials that are simply good fun. Today it’s our great joy to premiere her thought-provoking visual feast for Pearl Derringer’s track Little Baby. We talk with the musician and director about creating a film that’s laden with stunning metaphors exploring the reality and manipulation of social media. We also catch up with Kimberly’s frequent collaborator musician Angel Olsen and find out what makes them click when creating work together.

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

Your film for Pearl Derringer’s track, Little Baby, draws on the blurring of reality and manipulation of her identity on social media.  What were the initial conversations between you and Pearl like? And how did you go about writing the visual narrative together? 

Kimberly: We’d  love to give you an idea of who the band Pearl Derringer is and what they stand for, as this will help give insight into how the visual narrative for  “Little Baby” came to be. 

Songwriter for Pearl Derringer: I’ve been an artist for many years under many different names. Writing songs feels innate to me. It has been a mental health outlet for me since I was young. But also, largely due to struggling with mental health starting at a young age, I had to work against all odds to feel comfortable performing in front of an audience. With the emergence of social media as a platform for hearing music, there are additional expectations put on artists that don’t feel natural or genuine to who I am. 

I don’t understand why an artist must sell themselves along with their work and I will never understand influencer culture in music. Why does it matter what I look like? How does that affect how you hear the song? Don’t get me wrong, I think celebrating art is beautiful. It’s the celebration of celebrity that is gross. 

“Little Baby” was written at a turning point in my life that should have been a time of reflection, joy, and inner peace but I found myself scrolling instagram, facebook, and feeling like the world was going on without me. I could see other musicians out touring and that I was losing that time. It brought on an existential crisis in my brain, which you can hear in the opening lines of the song. “Seems like everybody is on the road, but here I am, gonna wash another load.”

 

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

Kimberly: The songwriter behind Pearl Derringer (who is keeping her identity anonymous) and I have been close for many years. By having an inside glimpse into her battles with social anxiety, the pressures she was feeling with social media, and her views on how art should be perceived made the process of developing the idea for the video together feel natural, organic. You don’t often get that with an artist as there is usually a buffer of about 4-5 people between you. 

We honestly just sat in my backyard, cracked open some beers together, ate ramen, and talked about life… like close friends do. We come from similar backgrounds and share a lot of the same ideologies about what makes great art, what it means to be an artist, and how we have both felt in the process of creating. So for this video in particular, it was important to us to explore what happens when a person loses all sense of self and tries to become what the world wants them to be. Whether it is societies view of the “perfect woman” (whatever that might mean), the outdated idea of a Stepford wife, being placed on a pedestal by those around you, or changing your appearance to be what social media tells you is “pretty,” we wanted to show what these influences do to you… literally rendering you faceless and devoid of what makes you unique and whole, your identity.

 

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

Did you have a clear vision from the start to use symbolism and mystical characters (we may be reading too much into it but the opening shot has a feeling of The Styx.) ? 

Lead Singer of Pearl Derringer: The impetus to add the characters came from us asking ourselves: Why do so many of us feel the need to misrepresent ourselves and our lives on the internet? Is there something darker at play? In a very real sense, the internet is another world, different from the world we live in when we engage in in-person interactions in our day to day lives and so it made sense to us for this universe we were creating to be the other world or otherworldly. 

Kimberly: The video is chalked full of symbolism; from our cat character being tied to Greek mythology (a combination of Cerberus and Charon) who leads Pearl Derringer to the crossroads (a direct reference to Robert Johnson’s devil at the crossroads legend) to the three faces being the three wishes that originated in French fairytales, to being trapped in purgatory, moving between reality and perceived reality, to eventually losing so much of yourself that the world glitches like the matrix. We wanted to take these well known symbols and mystical characters and create a complex story exploring themes of the death of self, societal pressures to be perfect, and the effects of social media on the way we view not only the world but ourselves. 

 

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

The styling is stunning in its art direction and theatrical simplicity. Was that an important element from the get-go?

Kimberly and Pearl Derringer: Absolutely. With everything I do it’s important to marry the art direction and styling in order to encompass the viewer in the world. For “Little Baby” in particular, we wanted to find places that felt otherworldly as if they could be a purgatory of sorts. We traveled to Mono Lake as well as the Salton Sea, two forgotten but absolutely stunning locations (if you can get past the smell). We didn’t want to distract from the music but instead enhance the lyrics so we tried to keep it simple but effective by letting the locations increase the production design. Art direction and styling inspirations behind the project came from Alejandro Jodorowsky’s  “The Holy Mountain” and the stunning photographs that Tim Walker took of Malgosia Bela for Vogue Italy. Our costume designer Phoenix Mellow really took these references and created such incredible outfits… the lead singer of Pearl Derringer (our pink wanderer) literally had to be sewn in as the piece was fabricated as one singular costume from the boot to the head. 

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

One of your directing strengths is working and evolving the storyline with a choreographer. Were there any challenges in creating this performance? 

Kimberly: The biggest challenge for the choreography were the locations. We filmed in some pretty rough spots and the choreographer/dancer Kylie Price who I’ve worked with a lot in the past got pretty scrapped up during the process. From woman-ning a rogue canoe in the Salton Sea (that’s right) to doing incredible jumps in salt deposits, she truly is a warrior goddess and was instrumental in helping advance the narrative with her ideas for movement. 

 

Pearl Derringer, Little Baby

Musicians seem to come back to you for repeat directing collaborations, among them Angel Olsen for whom you’ve created three recent videos and, we understand, a longer-format film with the artist is to be released imminently. Please tell us briefly how the creative process between Angel and you works…

It’s so natural working with Angel! She’s truly a dream artist. We have so many things in common including sharing a birthday! For our album short film, Angel came with ideas for the videos from dreams she had that I found a way to interweave into a narrative. We had a lot of talks about inspirations, life, our dreams, our families, and it all just came together effortlessly. We went back and forth for several months really delving into the recent loss of her parents as well as coming out as queer and from that it became apparent and important to us that our piece be a place of healing for her and for those going through similar challenges and loss.

 

Angel Olsen in Big Time

Angel Olsen: ​​At the time of my mothers passing I kept having these super visual dreams about time travel. Later on I decided I’d name the record Big Time, not only because of the song but also as a kind of wink to time expansion and change. When I approached Kimberly Stuckwisch about making these videos, I thought it would be cool to include the storyline of one of the dreams I’d had, and really use it as a way to tell the story of the songs. She added dialogue and events, some that are based in reality and others that haven’t happened, to create a story arc around my dream, to give it a thicker plot, using the music videos within and creating a larger film.

“I’ve always had a vivid imagination and it was really special to make these subconscious moments real, but it was also a really emotional and raw process and felt almost at times like a spiritual clearing, that by putting myself in the story and moving pieces of it around, I also personally had to re-examine my losses and find a new way to process the events that actually took place in my life. Though most of it is scripted, it is probably the most intimate work I have ever made and shared with the public.. and it serves as an homage to my mother. I only wish my mom was here to listen to the record, because something tells me that she would have really liked this one.

Kimberly: Big Time is the story of light versus shadow told through a non-linear surrealist dreamspace that poses one central dilemma to the audience. “What lengths must one go through to let go of the past in order to step out of the darkness and accept one’s true self?”

It’s a story that targets deep rooted complexities such as how our unconscious deals with repressed sexual identity, the hardships of letting go of our past selves in order to step into self actualization, and the guilt we hold when dealing with loss.  For one reason or another, we all have parts of ourselves that we struggle to forgive as well as a part of ourselves we are afraid of exploring or that we think society won’t like—so we push those parts down into our unconscious psyches, into the shadows. “Big Time” is the story of drowning in those fears before releasing your light.

 

Skinny Pop 

Meanwhile, we’d long associated you with thought-provoking music videos such as your earlier ones for  Jeremy Ivey, Broken Bells, Cat Stevens and Samm Henshaw and then came a roll of slick, dynamic, ultra-colourful films – a ‘fashion filled’ musical for Moschino x Jeremy Scott;  a performance dance-film for Olivia Rodrigo, and then a zippy commercial/music video for popcorn. And it’s great. 

Tell us about the transition and how you have found working to a creative brief rather than directing and writing music videos.

Kimberly: I’m definitely drawn to videos with socially conscious messaging. It’s my first love and is the main reason I do any of this. But I believe as artists and as humans, we have to always challenge ourselves. After the world turned upside down, I thought, hey, why not step out of my comfort zone, try something brighter, full of energy? Dare I say dance? I wanted to make people smile, to get their butts off the couch and move. 

I’m a massive fan of musicals and intrigued by fashion, so when the Moschino projects arrived, alongside Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour Prom, I jumped at the opportunity to try something a little different, to grow. From those three  jobs, I landed my first commercial for SkinnyPop.

I think that the biggest challenge to writing a creative commercial brief, is finding a way to really make it your own, to put your stamp on the project. It was so nice to collaborate with like-minded creatives and to really work as a team, bringing all of our different skill sets to the table. The end product is a remarkable representation of our collective love for dance, colorful yet intentional production design, stunning cinematography, fashion, and of course popcorn. Who doesn’t love popcorn?!?

 

Moschino, Lightning Strikes

 You’re signed with Scheme Engine in the US and have recently signed to Rogue Films in London – for commercial work and music videos. What would be the ideal brief you’d jump at in the UK?

Honestly, any brand that is wanting to create a commercial that has a socially conscious message or one that allows me to explore magical realism is one for me. I also like working with cool people who love what they do. You got a cool brand, you’re not an asshole… rad, you’re for me.

What part of the creative process of filmmaking do you enjoy the most?

Having the ability to bring a voice to people who too often don’t have a platform to share their stories. I also wholeheartedly enjoy bringing together a team of people and allowing them to shine. Besides, what is a director without the 67 + people lifting them up?

 

Info:

@stuckwisch

Kimberly Stuckwisch

@roguefilms

Rogue Films

@pearl_derringer

Pearl Derringer

@angelolsenmusic

Angel Olsen 

@schemeengine

Scheme Engine

Credits

Pearl Derringer (feat. Margo Price), Little Baby

Directed By: Kimberly Stuckwisch

Written By: Pearl Derringer & Kimberly Stuckwisch

Produced By: Ian Blair

Cinematography By: Justin Hamilton

Production Designer: Pearl Derringer

Edit By: Ellis Bahl

Costume Design By: Phoenix Mellow

Visual Effects By: Ryan Ross

Choreography & Dance Performed By: Kylie Price

Drone Photography By: Ian Blair

Title Design By: Sean David Christensen

CG Artist: Gabriel White

Color By: Kaitlyn Battistelli

Special Thanks: Austin Meyers, Iris Ross, John Lange, Paul Hespel

An Invisibile Inc Production

 

Angel Olsen “Big Time” Film Trailer

(See on Amazon Music Twitch Channel and Amazon Music App)

KS: “
I am proud to say that over 80% of our cast and 50% of our crew identified as nonbinary and non-gender conforming.” 

 

Angel Olsen “Big Time” Music Video

Directed By: Kimberly Stuckwisch

Produced By: Ian Blair (ian_swank_nsour) & Briana Goldberg (@brigold)

Management: Christian Stavros (@ccstavros)

Label: Jagjaguwar (@jagjaguwar)

Cinematography By: Justin Hamilton (@justinphamilton)

Production Design By: Abel Ryan (@abel.infernal)

Choreography By: Monika Felice Smith (@monikafelicesmith)

Co-Choreographer: Hayden Frederick (@haydenjfrederick)

Edited By: Ellis Bahl (@ellisbahl)

Costume Design By: Silken Weinberg (@silkenweinberg) & Maya Marin (@studio.mayita)

Visual Effects By: Johnny Chew

Sound Mix By: Ben Tomastik (@close_bencounters)

Color By: Kaitlyn Battistelli (@kaitlynbattistelli)

Art Direction: Norrie Palmer (@norriepalmer)

1st AD: Alec Schiff (@alecschiff)

Steadicam: Jose Espinoza (@noswayjose)

1st AC: Tyler Osika (@t.osika)

Gaffer: Joel Gill (@joelanthonygill)

BB Electric: Edwin Wong

Key Grip: Remy Dixon (@remy_dixon)

BB Grip: Marlo Madlangbayan (@daddyofjesuschrist)

Hair & Makeup Artist: Leticia Llesmin (@leticiallesmin)

Sound Mixer: Matt Burgette

Assistant Editor: Johnny Chew

Post Production Services By: Good Boy Wally 

Title Design By: Miles Johnson

Production Coordinator: Evan Donoho (@evandonoho)

Production Assistants: Chad Carr (@boose.caboose), Clayton Berg, Matthew Fischer

CCO: Matthew Fischer

Starring: 

Angel Olsen

Florence Klein

Gregory Phillips

Don Yanan

Rey Marz (@rey.marz)

Nick Aragon (@ninjatwins)

Mary Grace McNally (@marygracemcnally)

Hayden Frederick

Emmy Bethel (@emmybethel)

Rodrigo Amarante (@_rodrigo_amarante)

Nona Invie (@nonainvia)

Korey Dane (@koreydane)

Amanda Danko (@ohamandadanko)

Canyon Carballosa (@canyon_grace)
Cacia LaCount (@cacialacount)
Gabe Flowers (@gabe.flowers)
Annie Grove (@anniengrove)
Tajzon James (@tajzon)
Robbie Blue (@itsrobbiesworld_)
Iz Verdea (@izverdea)

 

Angel Olsen, “All The Good Times”

Starring: Angel Olsen and Beau Thibodeaux

Directed By: Kimberly Stuckwisch 

Produced By: Ian Blair and Briana Goldberg 

Cinematography By: Justin Hamilton 

Production Design By: Abel Ryan 

Edited By: Ellis Bahl 

Costume Design By: Silken Weinberg and Maya Marin 

Color By: Kaitlyn Battistelli 

Art Direction By: Norrie Palmer 

Microscopic Photography By: Andrew Droz Palermo

Drone + Underwater Photography By: Ian Blair

1st Assistant Camera: Tyler Osika

Gaffer: Remy Dixon

Hair & Makeup Artist: Leticia Liesmin

Sound Mixer: Matt Burgette

Assistant Editor: Johnny Chew

Title Design By: Miles Johnson

Production Coordinator: Evan Donoho

Production Assistants: Chad Carr and Clayton Berg

Set Doggie: Mojave “Moe”

Management: Christian Stavros 

Label: Jagjaguwar 

An Invisible Inc Production

 

Skinnypop, Whole Bag Kinda Night M/V

Directed by Kimberly Stuckwisch 

 

Olivia Rodrigo, Sour Prom

Production Company: Up The Game in Association with Geffen Records & Invisible Inc

(@upthegamecreative) (@geffenrecords), @inv.isibleinc)

Directed By: Kimberly Stuckwisch (@stuckwisch) & Toby L (@mrtobyl)

Produced By: Ian Blair (@ian_swank_nsour_blizair), Valerie Bush (@valerieeee101), Josh Connolly (@joshconnollyx)

Executive Produced By: Josh Connolly, Toby L, Kristen Smith (@kristenrondell), Michelle An (@littlemeeshmeesh), Christiana Divona (@christianadivona) Marissa Ramirez(@rissaramirez)

Development Producer: Michael Lewin (@michaelclewin)

Cinematography By: Justin Hamilton (@justinphamilton)

Production Design By: John Richoux (@johnrichouxdesign)

Choreography By: Monika Felice Smith (@monikafelicesmith)

Edited By: Ellis Bahl (@ellisbahl)

Music Directed By: Aron Forbes (@aronforbes) & Derek Renfroe (@derekrenfroe)

Music Mixed By: Aron Forbes

Sound Design By: Ben Tomastik (@close_bencounters)

VFX Supervisor: Andres Jaramillo (@andresjara2)

VFX Artist: Robert Schober

Color By: Dylan Hageman (@dylanmhageman)