DIRECTOR VS PRODUCER 2015 – DAVID WILSON x SARAH PARK
WHAT. A. YEAR. Although budgets dwindle videos at every level continue to impress as shown in our end of year extravaganza. From the top with Colin Tilley’s Kendrick Lamar ‘Alright’ (big budget business) to Simon Cahn’s Fono ‘Real Joy’ (favours galore) and everything in between, 2015 has created a whole new set of classics. We go back to one of our formats and asked a director and a producer to talk us through their thoughts on our favourite videos for the year.
This year’s UKMVA director of the year David Wilson goes up against Pulse LA’s Sarah Park to give their honest viewpoints. From start to finish this is a giggle featuring videos from David Wilson (it’s not awkward promise!), Ninian Doff, MEGAFORCE, Colin Tilley, Ian Pons Jewell, Pablo Maestres, Simon Cahn, Peter Huang and Aoife McArdle. Enjoy and Happy New Year:
KENDRICK LAMAR ‘ALRIGHT’ DIRECTED BY COLIN TILLEY (LONDON ALLEY)
David Wilson: This video’s universally acknowledged as great. It’s essentially THE video of 2015. It’s totally gonna win a Grammy next month. So, when I re-watched this, I wanted to pin-point why it’s so acclaimed across the board.
I feel that out of all these videos Tilley has this talent to create footage that connects the viewer to a time, place, and conflict in a very real way via iconic imagery. I can walk away from this video getting more every time I watch it, whilst being totally along for the ride from the first watch… the cops holding up Kendrick’s car, and, of course, Kendrick flying are so strong that they’ve created the strongest visual imprint on the mind since MIA’s Bad Girls.
The story arc works great. The imagery around Kendrick’s monologues are as poetic as the rhymes. This promo represents something that only the music video form is capable of: it’s poetry rather than a novel. For me it’s a perfect balance of art, politics and cool.
Sarah Park: The track is amazing and the video does it poetic justice. I think it’s Colin Tilley’s best work yet and should be ranked amongst other great hiphop videos. It pays homage to old school hiphop music videos that we know and love, with classic imagery like the wall of analog stereos and block party-esque vibes, whilst bringing a new level of art and class. I remember the first time i watched this, the camera reveal of the cops carrying the car really burnt into my memory. It can be difficult to create an intriguing performance video but Colin does a great job visually matching Kendrick’s energy. Side note – Someone had told me that when they shot Kendrick performing on the lamppost in downtown LA, people swarmed around, and that was exactly what they were going for (not sure if this is entirely true or not but maybe we can ask Colin). Either way, I love that thought of displaying art out in the public like that. Without being overtly violent, the video showcases one simple yet powerful imagery after another, creating an effortlessly beautiful video.
ROYAL BLOOD ‘OUT OF THE BLACK’ DIRECTED BY DAVID WILSON (COLONEL BLIMP)
Sarah Park: It’s always exciting to see a new David Wilson original. And this video does not disappoint (well represented by the several UKMVA wins this year). Like in many of his work, David combines various mediums to create his art – here both live action and animation. David and Christy does a killer job using animation as a tool to create outrageous fight sequences to where they haven’t gone before, moving almost poetically between explosions to karate chops to the head. From it’s intro title sequence (“Wilson Statham”) to its smooth transitions, the video is witty and hilarious!
David Wilson: Well, this is weird to review my own promo, so all I can say is that I attacked this project with the mindset of ‘if this is the last music video I ever do, I’ve gotta go out all guns blazing’. That was genuinely my feeling. I wanted this to be IT (turns out it wasn’t long before I came back… but that Tame Impala track was beyond incredible).
With all my other music videos I’d directed or co-directed the animation, but with this one I knew the best approach would be to hand it completely over to Christy Karacas and him just go for it… it was a complete dream to be working with him on this as I’d been a mega-fan of his work for years. I’ve definitely found a way forward, working with an animation director made the whole process a lot more manageable.
Some people responded against the amount of extreme violence in this piece. However, my intention was to create only a promo of pure enjoyment. The track’s joyfully aggressive, and so I feel that the visuals should be also. There are a lot of pieces with social messages at the moment, and that’s so powerful and wonderful, and my 2014 was full of creating those kind of videos, so just liked taking the opportunity to create 4mins of pure escapism was a breath of fresh air for me.
My aim was to create a rollercoaster of laughter, and the fact that it’s made it to this list makes me happy that I feel the majority of people ‘got it’.
FUR VOICE ‘FANTASIA’ DIRECTED BY PABLO MAESTRES (LIMON ESTUDIOS)
David Wilson: Oh man… I’ve been here so many times… lying in bed, trying to come up with ideas! It’s hard and migraine inducing, and this video captures it wonderfully. This is a nice ‘Alice in Wonderland’ piece, and it’s well paced to keep me engaged the whole way through. Compared to Tilley’s Kendrick promo it’s clear to see that a deep routed concept that creates a motivation to the character would enhance the empathy you feel towards what’s happening. So, I feel the only thing I’m wondering is whether I’ve missed something by not understanding the lyrics of the track. It all seems a bit of a shame that it’s ‘all just a dream’, and would love to have been informed of a deeper layer.
Sarah Park: The director, Pablo Maestro, is always great at creating fun, light-hearted fantastical pieces of work. And no doubt, this is exactly that: twisting into a musical Alice in Wonderland. I like the pastel colors, the seamless transitions, simple VFX and picturesque art design. However, I can’t help but wish for a darker turn of a events… a harder fall into the rabbit hole if you will. Like Alice, it would’ve been interesting for the girl to be guided by her own intuitions which in turn would lead to more trippy scenes. But then again, with limited time and budget, it’s already an accomplishment to create such a visual treat.
FONO ‘REAL JOY’ DIRECTED BY SIMON CAHN (PULSE FILMS)
Sarah Park: I know this video had polarizing reactions from people. Some people hated it. I loved it! It’s the rawest of Simon’s work to this point, really touching on our primal sensibilities. The two girls make an incredible duo, both innocently pretty, making the violence ever more so disturbing. I’m pretty sure neither of them were stunt actors too. And with the help of some great camera work and savage choreography, the fight felt real – you could feel each hit, choke, broken tooth even. I think they shot on 16mm as well! Simon and the editor did a great job keeping up with the energy of the track. The video is unrelenting and chaotic, in the end it’s really about the feeling of release… that rush of adrenaline.
“I want real love, real passion” well, I guess you can’t have it without a little pain.
David Wilson: I liked this piece. In fact, I feel that it’s actually addressing an aspect of the human condition that is rarely talked about. ‘Real Joy’ says to me that nothing makes you feel more alive than pain, closeness to death, body contact/connection. There’s a mutual enjoyment of pain that’s portrayed out of the fetish scene… which is really fresh. I feel like this is an artistic expression of how great it feels when you’ve been playing sport on a winter’s day… it’s wet, cold, and you’re getting bloody and bruised, but there’s a certain warmth and love that spreads through the body afterwards… when you’re in the warm and the dry. It’s a bold choice for the song, and an avant-garde execution regarding the look and the placing with the subject matter.
I’m really glad the girls didn’t kill each other at the end. It deepened my understanding of there being a mutual love and enjoyment to hurting each other.
THE CHEMICAL BROTHERS ‘SOMETIMES I FEEL SO DESERTED’ DIRECTED BY NINIAN DOFF (PULSE FILMS)
David Wilson: Who isn’t a fan of the Chemical Brothers!? This video certainly fits in their canon of video work very well. When Gondry’s ‘Go’ promo was such a disappointment, it was exciting to see such a talented director from the new generation (Ninian) pick up the reigns.
This piece is so visually stunning, and it’s impossible to talk about this video and not mention that wonderfully long tracking shot. The VFX are incredible, and the imagery is strong. The image of Hannah John Kamen walking across the desert is firmly imprinted on my mind. However, I wouldn’t be doing a fair critique if i didn’t voice my disappointment in the narrative arc of the piece. This promo works SO well at introducing us to the characters and the world that Ninian’s created, that the missing 3rd act makes me feel cheated… not in a fun ‘cliff-hanger’ way, but angry because I’d invested in these characters as a viewer and wanted to see the pay off.
For me that’s what spoils this video. Watching this piece makes me feel frustrated, but only because I’d been so wonderfully built up to being elated, only to be robbed of it.
Sarah Park: It’s always a treat to have seen the treatment beforehand and see it come to fruition, which I’ve had the privilege in this case. Ninian’s ideas are always way out there and his work is always different from before… in a delightful way! His pitch for this was no less brilliant. And in many ways, the video is a banger: strong female talent, great VFX and makeup, and fantastic cinematography. This project was definitely a labor of love with a great team and it truly shows. However, even knowing the ending before the release, the ending felt very abrupt. It’s a huge tease, building up such tension yet to no release. Especially with the story/backstory not being quite clear, I feel like it owes some kind of conclusion. Or I think Chemical Bros should have Ninian continue the story with another video!
SONREAL ‘FOR THE TOWN’ DIRECTED BY PETER HUANG
Sarah Park: I love how this made it to the list! It was one of the first videos I’ve seen of Peter’s – a colleague had intro-ed us earlier in the year and Peter shared this before the release and I could not stop laughing out loud. Shortly after, we started working together, so least to say I’m a fan! It definitely comes out of left field and the comedy is pushed just far enough to make you feel just the right amount of uncomfortable. And even in SonReal’s initial intro rap performance… it’s fun and weird enough with it’s badass female dance crew, airborne statue, and one-shot camera work.
I love Peter’s social satire in all his work, which is also obvious in this video – from the jocks, to the ditsy pretty chicks, to the stoners. I didn’t notice this the first time, but SonReal is the pizza-faced, nerd in the last scene – they created this character for an previous video “Everywhere We Go,” which is also hilarious. It’s always great to see a piece in which you know both the director and artist had a great time making it.
David Wilson: WHOAH! Ok, so that took me by surprise! This was my first time watching this video, and by this point I’ve watched 4 fantastic pieces, so I was ready to hate… and the first minute gave me that, I was wondering why on earth it’d been selected, and then I was properly side-swiped by the concept of it being a video within a video.
Love the foosball players, loved the bikini babes, and loved the stoners. I wasn’t too into the wrestler or the nerds, but that’s not anything against this… it just wasn’t my taste completely… but I loved this video.
RIHANNA ‘BBHMM’ DIRECTED BY MEGAFORCE (ICONOCLAST)
David Wilson: Hearing that Megaforce had a much more cohesive narrative planned than what we see in the end result was breaks my heart. There was a lot of hearsay that went around the industry when this was released… how late Rihanna turned up to set, how she spontaneously changed her mind to wanting a performance video when Megaforce had written a narrative as a treatment, the amount of discussion over that fishing boat (apparently she wanted a yacht, but was convinced by the directors to go with a fishing boat… and I’m SO glad they did that).
Likewise, Megaforce’s video for Madonna’s ‘L.U.V. Madonna’ was apparently supposed to have a much better flow to it, but apparently Madge took the edit away from them in order to mince it up with footage of her performing against a brick wall.
That being said, 99% of the viewers watching these videos wouldn’t know of what could have been, and 80% of the viewers won’t even be aware of how pivotal a director is, thinking the creative visuals just fall out of the musician’s superhuman, creative brain.
Both these pieces are still good promos, but knowing this is Megaforce behind the wheel, there’s something about these rumours that rings true… that maybe one of the best videos of the year could possibly have been one of the best of the decade.
But, at the end of the day, if this gossip is true, RiRi wouldn’t be a global pop superstar if she couldn’t make the decisions she needs to make. She’s the client and one can only imagine the amount of creative decisions she’ll make on a daily basis. The result is still a cracker, and it’s testament to Megaforce’s talents if they were put in the position of creating a promo with heavy creative compromise (as the rumours suggest), the film still shines as one of the most original, striking and visually stunning of the year.
Sarah Park: I’m torn with this one. As entertaining as the video is, the lack of substance and a strongly threaded narrative makes this video seem like a missed opportunity. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the badassery and the masochistic humor, but even Mickey and Mallory Knox (“Natural Born Killers”) had room in their cold-blooded hearts for each other. It’s been rumored in the industry that there were lots of creative differences between Megaforce and Rihanna. More and more artists are shoving their hands in directing. And not to say that there aren’t great artist/directors (look at Yoann Lemoine) or co-directing collaborations, but when hiring a director, especially at the likes of Megaforce, I feel like there needs to be higher level of respect and trust given to directors. I wonder if there’s a director’s cut out there… Megaforce?
VINCE STAPLES ‘SENORITA’ DIRECTED BY IAN PONS JEWELL (THE SWORDFIGHT)
Sarah Park: It’s all about the ending! I’ll be honest – after the first minute of this video, the surreal vignettes weren’t enough to keep my attention. Even with Vince’s charismatic performance, the video seemed to derail from any purpose besides alluding to the LA ghetto. But WOW, the rug was completely swept under me with the last reveal. With a burning city of Watts in the background and a gangster behind a glass diorama, displayed in front of a smiling white family, this is an image that can be put into an art gallery in itself. Powerful. Hats off to you, Ian, always a treat.
David Wilson: I really enjoyed this talking head interview, especially the fantastic BTS footage. Seeing the physical setup of the final ‘zoo’ reveal is amazing. It gave me a further insight to narrative, which was great… there’s a part of me that just wishes this concept was even clearer in the actual video. Maybe it’s me being slow, but I love the concept of this being a Ghetto Truman Show/Human Zoo. It makes complete sense of the footage of the wonderfully out-of-place guard in the middle of the promo, and I just wish there were a few more reveals… the ‘inmates’ being fed for example. However, I’m definitely very guilty of creating cryptic visuals in my videos and there’s something really satisfying about how the interpretations of the videos come to life when reading the comments on YouTube (it often turns into little mysteries for the fans to solve, and that kind of narrative tends to go down very well).
U2 ‘EVERY BREAKING WAVE’ DIRECTED BY AOIFE MCARDLE (SOMESUCH)
David Wilson: This is epic. It’s like watching a feature film in 13mins. I was sent a few U2 tracks during their last campaign, but I could never wrap my head around them. There’s a part of me that just can’t connect to a song if it’s not a cracker (no matter how big the band are), and it pains me to turn down the pitching opportunity, but that’s what I do.
I remember watching this and being blown away by Aoife’s ability to connect to the track, and then doing what I felt was the impossible… making U2 cool again! You can tell this was a big push for everyone involved, and the ambition alone makes this film worthy of its standing in this end of year list. I just wish there was a way for everything in this promo to be communicated in a more digestible length, as I feel it might have made more of an impact this way… haha, but then I’m the worst… I think Arcade Fire’s pretty much the only band I haven’t shortened the song of when I get given tracks… it’s just a matter of taste. It’s a great film… I just couldn’t sing you the song for love nor money.
Sarah Park: I almost forgot this being one of the best music videos of the past year, only because I don’t view it as a video but a film! A Irish political twist on the classic Romeo and Juliet story, this is raw and heartfelt. The filmmaker, Aoife, did a beautiful job setting the world and the narrative with very few words. We watch films to feel passion, the extremities of our feelings and our being, to feel the pain, the love, the innocence and youth… and this short did exactly that. A candid tale. I’m excited to see a feature directed by Aoife.
TIGA ‘BUGATTI’ DIRECTED BY HELMI (DIVISION)
Sarah Park: Tiga, style, sexual innuendos, beats, and babes… what’s not to love?! The video is a perfect representation of the song, evolution through repetitions. My favorite is the night club scene, timed perfectly as the suave Tiga slowly mouths “Bugatti.”
David Wilson: Girl walks up to me says “What ya watching?”, and I say “Bugatti” for the 20th time ‘cus it’s so damn enjoyable. It’s everything you’d want in a Tiga video… it’s the right side of sexy, fun, retro and intelligent. It’s refreshing to see such a graphical piece with a tight musical edit, especially in a landscape of 15min ‘short film’ promos that saturate the market of ‘event’ videos at the moment. I have no doubt that every film on this list was a labour of love, but this piece is executed to such a high level that must be way beyond its (presumably) small budget, I’d like to give the art director and producer a special high-five on this achievement.