Music Video Production Interviews

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      The Music Video Production Process 

   Three young Australian music video directors - Natasha Pincus, Lucy Dyson and 

   Kris Moyes - take Rowena Robertson through the making of one of their videos. 

                                                ATASHA Pincus has            allowed the opportunity to work with
                                                 penned a range of           Paul Kelly on his video, and after that it
                                                screenplays for feature      just sort of took off from there.
                                                films and television,
                                                and directed several         How does making film clips compare
                                                short films, including       to making short films?
                             the 2007 Dendy Award-nominated Love's
                             Labour. She won the 2007 Inside Film            It's wildly different. You're driven by
                             Award for Best Music Video for Paul             different motivators in some way when
                             Kelly's 'God Told Me To'. Here she              you choose to take on the project. When
                             discusses her latest music video, for           you work on a short film, most of the
                             Pete Murray's 'Chance to Say Goodbye',          time, particularly at the beginning when
                             a narrative piece in which actor Peter          you don't know much about how the
                             Fenton plays a grieving man who throws          industry works, you're predominantly
                             his partner's belongings into the sea in        driven by creative motivators and self­
                             exchange for a final farewell.                  expression motivators and, potentially,
                                                                             career motivators, because you hope
                             RR: When did you first start making             that your work will be well received and
                             video clips?                                    have distribution to international festivals
                                                                             and things, but generally it's kind of an
                             NP: About eighteen months ago I was             almost indulgent exercise, I suppose. It's
                             really interested in music videos as a          often a writer-director medium, so unless
                             kind of practice medium for filmmaking . I      you've got a really strong producer who
                             didn't know how to break in, so I had the       reins you in, you can go a little bit too far
                             idea to actually make my own [music             with that.
                             video] on my own budget, as a sort of
                             test - a folio piece really - to show           Music video has some of those benefits
                             musicians and labels and everyone that          as well, because the urge is to be
                                I'd be up for it. But as luck would have     creative and innovative and as exciting
                                        it I didn't especially need to,      as possible, so at least your ambitions
                                                     because while I was     are in the right place, but at the end of
                                                       having that thought   the day you have firstly a client - and in
                                                                 I was       fact you almost have a three-headed
                                                                              client: you have an artist, a manager and
                                                                                            a record label, and they
                                                                                                    really all have
completely different agendas and
motivations of their own. So you're a
servant to several masters; you're a
servant to each of those people, and to
yourself, because you're obviously trying
to do your best work and make it better
than the last thing you did.

How were you approached to become
involved in this clip?

With this particular one I hadn't done a
video in a few months because I'd been
in a writing mode - I'd written a TV pilot
for a producer and a feature in the last
seven months, so I'd been on my own,
and I was looking to get out and playa
little again. Literally just when I had that
thought, this dropped into my inbox. I            ABOVE: ACTOR PETER FENTON AND DIRECTOR NATASHA PINCUS LEFT: FENTON
hadn't done anything as commercial as             IN PINCUS' FILM CLIP FOR PETE MURRAY'S 'CHANCE TO SAY GOODBYE'

this; I hadn't worked with Sony before ...
I was a bit dubious. But I liked the song
and they had already put in a brief that
                                                  In conjunction with that you also tend to
                                                  go through some analytical exercises,            'You almost
they wanted a short film/cinematic                like reading the lyrics and looking up
approach, so both of those things led me
to really investigate it ... I worked on a
                                                  source material on the themes in the
                                                  song, and imagining different ways of
                                                                                                  have a three­

pitch and then got it.                            visually expressing the literal interpreta­
                                                  tion and the metaphorical interpretation        headed client:
So they only gave you a basic outline             of the song.
of what they wanted and the concept
was mostly yours?                                 This song is very dynamic and changea­
                                                                                                  you have
                                                   ble, so it was important to make sure that
Yes, that's always the case. They literally
don't give you anything; all they give you
                                                  the narrative really brought out those
                                                  changes ... [that] you weren't just
                                                                                                  an artis, a
is the song.                                      changing the tone and the pace with
                                                  cutting; you were actually doing it in
Generally speaking, it's you and you alone        story. So that was already a constraint
and that's why it's really hard, because
you don't want to do it that way; the
                                                  that I had on myself when I was making
                                                  sure that I had ticked the right boxes with
                                                                                                  and a record
person - the artist - has come up with
this very personal song and you want to
                                                  the ideas I was coming up with. And then
                                                  I actually took a line from the song as an      label, and they
speak to them about what they see, what           inspiration, which was 'I'd give it all to be
colours, what ideas, what emotions
drove the making of the song, and that
                                                  able to say goodbye to your face' and I
                                                  was thinking about what [Pete Murray]
                                                                                                  really a I have
can inform your creative process. You are
often quarantined from them.
                                                  really meant by that, and what we would
                                                  all do, what we would give. And so I            completely
                                                  thought, 'What would be the most
How did you originally come up with
the concept?
                                                  cherished thing that this person would
                                                  give?' Dramatically, visually, in ways that
                                                  the audience could emotionally refer­
I tend to have a process that is roughly
the same, at the start at least, which is
                                                  ence. So I thought: your memories, your
                                                  objects, the things that the person leaves
                                                                                                  agendas and
        just listening to the song until it is
                     yours, till it's in your
                                                  behind that become so valuable to you
                                                  when you part ... so that then became an        motivations of
                         brain ... listening to   expression of that metaphorical release,
                         it so that you're not
                        actually hearing it
                                                  and giving, and donation and offering to
                                                  the gods, in return for one moment again
                                                                                                  the-r own.' ­
                      anymore; it's just in
yourself. And then you can just free flow.
                                                  with their loved one.
                                                                                                     atasha Pincus 


  'Everything I source is second--hand, from op shops to
  the tip to ephemera shops. I think that's important ...
  that we can reflect on paper media and culture and
  put it back out.' - Lucy Dyson
   How long did it take to shooUedit              We shot the whole thing in one day, and       because I knew it was one of those
   the clip?                                      we shot it in script order - I did that for   situations where if we didn't have it we
                                                  performance reasons. I was really             didn 't have it - the actors were flying
   This particular video we did really quickly,   passionate about making sure that             back the next day and with about an
   which was only allowed because we had          everyone was completely and utterly on        hour to go I had a minute of screen time
   an elongated pre-production period . The       deck about their shot lists, that they        still to shoot, and they told me that I had
   format we chose was 16mm, which I was          knew when we were doing lens changes          200 feet of film left, and I went, 'Okay,
   really passionate about using, because         and what we could be doing while we           I'm going to push it with film and light,'
   we wanted something very cinematic, and        were losing five minutes during lens          and I had to be really, really selective
  the only way to really get the feeling of the   change and all that sort of stuff, so that    about getting it, knowing I had it, moving
  nuances of all the emotions was to return       we maintained the pace. We started            on .
  to using film. And that choice completely       at eight o'clock in the morning and
  guided all the other processes - produc­        we finished at 9pm at last light and we       Actor Peter Fenton basically has to
  tion and post particularly. The great           were running the whole time.                  'carry' the clip. What are the challeng­
  benefit is that because you're limited in                                                     es of directing an actor in this kind of
  your film stock you're cutting down your        It must have been hard, because               situation?
  post-production time so much, which is a        obviously the sun does what it does
  wonderful disciplinary measure for a            and you had to make sure you got at it        Very tricky. And I'm grateful we had a
  filmmaker ... We did about five full days in    at the right time for the right scene.        long rehearsal period so we knew on the
  the [editing] suite.                                                                          day that we'd walked through every shot.
                                                  It was really hard, and it was a smoke        We'd talked about every shot, talked
  This was easily the hardest shoot I've          haze day so we lost half an hour, but that    about every emotion, and we didn't
  ever been on, which I knew [it would be].       obviously gave us a beautiful sunset too.     waste time doing that [on the day]. Even
  We literally physically trained for this ...    The whole day I was so stressed               though Angela [ElphickJ is only on screen
  myself, the art director and [cinematogra­                                                                       for a very short time, if
  pher] Warwick [Field], because we
  knew that the day was going to
   be unbelievably hard. The art
   director was in the water in a
   little boat, getting all the
   stuff that we threw over the
  edge. He was under the
  pier ... that's one of the
  reasons that we chose
  that pier, so we could
  retrieve everything. And
  then he's obviously
  physically responsible for
  loading the car, then
  unloading that car ... it was
  just horrendously hard. And
  packing up the apartment
  and resetting the apartment.
  It was just exhausting. So we
  trained; we had rehearsal days
  where we timed all the moves
  to different locations.

       about the recycling of things ... every­       researching of that I rediscovered Busby       And that was really exciting for me,
       thing I source is second-hand, from op         Berkeley's work, which I can't remember        because I got the opportunity to co­
       shops to the tip to ephemera shops. I          seeing as a child. And I felt it was the       ordinate twenty swimmers! That's what's
       think that's important .. . that we can        perfect match for 'The Wealthiest Queen'       awesome about animation: you don't
       reflect on paper media and culture and         - the synchronised swimming matches            have constraints; you can build a massive
       put it back out.                               the song and the idea of the gorgeous          swimming pool set and have everyone
                                                      showgirls [fits with the idea of] the          in time doing their parts. I did want to
       How were you approached to become              'wealthiest queen' .                           change some things -I didn't want it to
       involved in the Luluc clip?                                                                   be too directly obvious.
                                                      But I was careful - I didn't want the
       Luluc were familiar with my work for           showgirls to come across as anything           Just for some bits ... there were scenes
        Sarah Blasko and Dan Kelly, and I was         but beautiful performers. I didn't want a      that I'd taken from the original films that
       familiar with their music. I didn't actually   sexual tone to it. Which I think it doesn't    Steve [Hassett] and Zoe [Randell] from
        begin work on the music video until           have, and I tried to convey that idea          Luluc felt really passionate about trying
        several months after their album had          clearly to Luluc.                              to keep in, or getting me to animate as
        been released. I'd originally been given                                                     close as possible to the original. There's
        the song that the video is for, but there     I found a clip of [Busby Berkeley's            a scene from 'By a Waterfall' when the
        was a different song on the album I really    number] 'By a Waterfall' on YouTube            girl looks over her shoulder and smiles at
        liked and wanted to work out an idea for.     and can see the para"els. What were            the camera and puts her hands in the air
        I had an idea that was more kind of           the ins and outs of making the video?          and dives. For that scene I created all my
       narrative-based - a lot like a short film ­    There's some direct appropriation and          cut-out characters and got stills of Zoe's
       and we were nearly going to go with it,        animation of some of the formations            face ... I got Zoe to match the frames of
       and then at the last minute I pulled that      he used?                                       the girl from the original and then I
       one as I felt that perhaps the narrative                                                      actually mapped all of my animation
       I'd been drawn to and had made up              That's right. I actually edited together all   characters to everything in that scene. It
       imposed on their beautiful song ... So I       my favourite parts from the Busby              was directly referencing that.
       went back to 'The Wealthiest Queen' ...        Berkeley films and cut that to the music,
                                                      and Luluc were really taken by that and        So Luluc were very involved in the
      I feel there's a sadness in the song. The       wanted to look into the possibility of         whole process of making the video?
      clip I did for Gotye ['Thanks for Your          using that real footage, but we were
      Time'] had been inspired by the idea of         working on a rather modest budget. I           After I'd sent them the version that was
      the crazy, over-the-top stage musicals,         saw it as a great opportunity to recreate it   cut with the original footage, we did
      with oversize props and stuff, and in my        and to pay homage to it but in animation.      discuss keeping it as close to that as


I                                                                                    m
     'I got them to pu the masks on their heads and
     tilt their heads towards the camera and to wear
     white gloves and do weird pantomime stuff to
     the music.' - Kris Moyes
     possible. So the original footage was            What do you think are the strengths of
     what I storyboarded with. All of the girls I     animated music videos, compared to
     ended up animating - I was using the             live-action videos?
     gorgeous faces of a lot of old European
     movie stars, who all seemed fairly               I think the magic in animation for me is
     obscure in that when I went to do further        that you can create new places that don't
     research on a lot of their names on              really exist, but you build them, and you
     Google there wasn't much that came up.           make them exist, and no one questions
     And then all their costumes I made in            whether or not they exist; when you view
     Photoshop, using a lot of scans of               that world it's like read ing a book, I
     sequined applique pieces and so on, and          guess. And then being in control of what
     also taking photographs of leotards and          happens in it ... I think the magic of
     fitting them to their bodies, then using         animation is that anything can happen,
     the limbs and arms of all kinds of               and no one can say whether or not it's
     underwear models for their bodies .              possible.
     Certainly, if I could illustrate to that level
     II'd love to work like that.                                        RIS Moyes has been
                                                                         making videos for the
   I think there's a certain charm to the end                            likes of Wolfmother,
    result, that it has been made from all                               Franz Ferd inand , Cut
   these different things. A lot of the water                            Copy, Architecture in
    scenes in the Luluc clip I animated from                                elsinki and Beck since
   video footage of a lake with the sun play­         2005 . His 2006 video for 'Are You the         ABOVE: KRIS MOYES
    ing on the water, and then Ire-exported           One?' by the Presets (of which his             OPP. PAGE: STILLS FROM MOYES' FILM
    the frames from the low-resolution video          brother Kim is one half, and which he          CLIP FOR THE PRESETS' 'ARE YOU
   and individually upscaled the quality of           discusses in this interview) received the
    each frame in Photoshop. I was really             Australian Dance Music award for Best
      a py with those kinds of effects.               Music Video. He also directed the clip for
=::1~e's a lot of experimentation in what             the duo's hit 'My People', which earned        that's when I started to teach myself how
                                                      him an ARIA award for Best Music Video         to string a visual dialogue together in the
                                                      in 2008. 'Are You the One? ' is a 1980s­       form of a short film or experimental art
     How long did it take to make/edit                themed pastiche of band performance,           film. So by the time I left in 2000 I had
     the clip?                                        theatre, animation and rapid-fire visuals.     started teaching at the Australian Film
                                                                                                     Television and Radio School for a little
     It was drawn out over a month , but it was       RR: What's your background?                    bit, and I was getting increasingly aware
     created on a really small budget, so I was                                                      of how much I wanted to be making stuff
     fitting it in between other jobs. But in         KM: My background is fine art. I studied       in the world.
     terms of the animation, that took about          a Diploma of Fine Art at TAFE from 1997
     six weeks. I think with most of my music         to 1999, and majored in photography            Then I started trying to figure out ways of
     video animations the actual technical            and sculpture. I went on to continue my        approaching young, independent
     sitting down and animating is about a            study, doing a Bachelor of Fine Arts.          musicians in Sydney who probably didn't
     six-week process, but the amount of                                                             have a lot of money but were really keen
     [preliminary stuff] I do - making all of my      When I arrived at the College of Fine Arts     to do something, to have something to
     characters and sourcing things, getting          in 1999 I just used their facilities, pretty   share with their music. I'm a big fan of
     video footage and whatnot, that's really         much, and didn't really bother too much        music, so if I could find a way to get paid
     another month's work in itself.                  about the learning process. And I guess        a little bit to express myself visually in the
forum of music video ... The first music       Usually with small-budget videos they          I didn't know this at the time, but there's
videos I ever did cost about $800; they        [the record label] tend to leave you alone;    this Swiss theatre company called
didn't really make an impression on the        carte blanche is the payment. Generally,       Mummenschanz, who do weird stuff like
world. [One was for SPOO, the other for        the smaller the budget is, the more            play with your perceptions of what you're
the Cops.]                                     creative control you have.                     looking at. For example, they might put a
                                                                                              mask on top of their head and tilt their
It wasn't until maybe a year later that [the   So I had total creative control until I sent   head towards the audience so that you're
Presets' record label] Modular contacted       Kim and Julian [Hamilton, the other half       looking at a character that doesn't have
me ... They had five grand for me to           of the Presets] a draft edit ... They both     a neck. It wasn't until after I did the video
make a video for my brother's band. It         had their own opinions. It was interesting     that someone said to me, 'Oh, I can't
wasn't as easy as just [them saying to         - what Julian liked, Kim hated, and what       believe that you did a homage to
 Kim], 'Hey, your brother makes music           Kim liked , Julian hated ... It was just a    Mummenschanz.' Then I did some
 videos, do you reckon he'll do it for five    matter of me talking them around ;             research and thought, 'These guys are
 grand?'; it was more like, 'Pitch us an       explaining why I had decided to have           amazing.' They were really big in the
 idea and we'll put yours alongside five or    certain things in there, and also remind­      seventies and were doing a lot of stuff
ten other directors' and we'll see if it's     ing them that I wasn't really getting paid     with Sesame Street. I totally tapped into
good enough.' And I thought that was           enough and that I thought that they            that without even knowing, so I was
totally fair enough. There was my brother      should trust that my idea was good. And        really excited about that.
sending me press clippings of the other        then they finally did, which was great,
directors that I was up against. At the        and I realised that the changes they           Anyway, going back to the shoot day ...
time it was Associates in Science - this       wanted to make were only because they          once I warmed them up I got them to do
guy Adam Levite, who is a director in          were passionate about it, and they             things like that; like put on a mask. At
New York, and he was working on a Beck         wanted it to be better. They released the      [the same time they were getting press
music video ... I thought, 'There's            video and that was the video that kind of      photos done], so I got them to put the
nothing to it, I'm just going to write the     cracked the ice and brought opportuni­         masks on their heads and tilt their heads
best f*cking idea I can.'                      ties my way.                                   towards the camera and to wear white
                                                                                              gloves and do weird pantomime stuff to
How did you come up with the con­              How difficult (or easy) was it to direct       the music. I didn 't know this when we
cept for 'Are You the One?'                    the band for the performance parts of          were doing it, but they were actually
                                               the video?                                     getting really into that stuff. Then I gave
The question of the music video was 'are                                                      Julian these PVC pole arm extensions
you the one?', so it was a visual play on      Well, there are three parts to their           that were, covered entirely in black fabric
who 'the one' was. Was it a golden             performance. There is one that is the          and had fake hands on the ends. So it
child? Was it Juan, a Puerto Rican             standard one with them playing in a            looked like he had arms that extended
carjacker? Or was it a series of objects       black space - I think Julian's wearing a       to two metres, further than he could
that looked like the number one? What          red shirt; Kim's wearing an Adidas top         actually reach. That stuff really fascinated
exactly was it? So I ended up making           and a glove and some sunglasses - I just       me. Also, we painted eyes on their
essentially fifty different ideas for one      let them do a bit of dress-up and tried to     eyelids and got them to perform with
music video, which uses a kind of reel.        warm them up into a comfort zone, by           their eyes shut. When I was getting them
                                               doing a few different takes and costume        to actually carry out an action, that kind
How much input did the artist and              changes, until I could get them into what      of distracted them , or took their attention
record label have in the overall vision        I really wanted them to do, which was          away from the fact that they were being
of the clip?                                   kind of wacky theatre ...                      filmed . I found that I was getting

'I grew grass from seeds in the shape of a skull
in my apartment, much to my girlfriend at the
time's annoyance, because I had to have a little
green room area set up with a camera that was
constantly filming for a month.' - Kris Moyes

an interesting performance out of              No - they were original animations I           There are two things that come to mind.
them, because they didn't seem self­           made myself based on my memory. With
conscious.                                     the other footage, like the kids with the      There is the obvious one - the image
                                               skateboard, I shot it all myself too. That's   disintegration effect. I figured out a way
The clip has a really eighties feel with       my friend Rhys and his mate Curt and I         to capture that via a series of techniques
the old-school video game footage,             can't remember who the little kid is. We       that involved a PC and a Mac connected
and the performance sections are quite         went down to St Mary's Cathedral in            together.
reminiscent of eighties videos. Was            Sydney, and it was specifically to set up
that an important part of the aesthetic,       that shot. 'OK, you're standing in the         The other one was that I grew grass from
to convey a sense of that decade?              middle of this courtyard area and I want        seeds in the shape of a skull in my
                                               you to run in left and right of the camera      apartment, much to my girlfriend at the
We are all eighties kids, so the idea for me   and throw your skateboard at him.'             time's annoyance, because I had to have
was that I would put things in there that      Overall there's things that you can do to      a little green room area set up with a
kind of reminded Kim and Julian of our         give it that eighties nostalgic treatment.     camera that was constantly filming for a
shared experiences. For example, there's       An image is made of red, green and blue         month. When I actually got the footage I
a parody of a video game that Kim and I        colour channels; if you separate those         was like, 'God, I've shot way too much.'
used to play all the time, which was a         channels and just shift the red one to the     And I also didn't realise that when night
Nintendo NBA basketball game. I had that       right by one pixel and shift the blue one      turned into day I'd get a shift in colour
in there ... when we were kids we used to      to the left by one pixel, then you get this    across the soil that I was filming. Once
play that game so seriously that if one of     weird kind of nostalgic eighties VHS vibe.     I'd manipulated the footage I could only
us lost we'd end up crying, and so with                                                       really use about two seconds of it. So I'd
the video game in the clip, the ball goes      How long did it take to shoot/edit             grown a skull out of grass for a month
through the hoop and one of the charac­        the clip?                                      just to use two seconds. She wasn't very
ters gets down on his knees and starts                                                        impressed!
crying! You know, just little fun things       It took four weeks of real work, but there
based on some sort of event that hap­          was a two-week hiatus when the record          Rowena Robertson is   a freelance writer
pened. It has some sort of basis in our        label was struggling to come up with           and editor, and a sub-editor at Screen
memories .. . some kind of memory              money for me to actually finish it.            Education .
                                               Was it a difficult process? Were there
With that video game section, were             any particular 'tricks' or unusual
you using found footage then animat­           techniques that you had to use?
ing it yourself?