That feeling of freedom is hard to portray but my gosh does Andrew Donoho give us an insight into what it means for a close-knit group of friends on the road. Although completely subjective their freedom transcends your own beliefs allowing you to enjoy Coasts’ ‘A Rush of Blood’ in a relaxed manner. Or whatever. You know, it’s easy.
With a feature film on the way, we caught up with Andrew to find out a what he would do with Taylor Swift and Eminem if he had the chance, what freedom is and get the scoop on ‘Heavy Water’ his upcoming feature film.
Word Is Cheap: You have a real understanding of documenting, has this always be the case, were you destined to direct?
Andrew Donoho: Aw, thanks man. You write good questions and have cool hair. I’m not so sure I believe in destiny, but time will tell on that one. Directing is what I love most. I started in animation and photography when I was very young, then got interested in acting, visual effects, and editing. When I realized I could do all my favorite things as one Job, it became a no brainer. I can only hope people will keep giving me money to do fun and interesting things.
How does it compare going from working with an artist to a narrative without the artist present?
Every artist is different, and the people I’ve been lucky enough to work with have been very open to the way I see things. I guess one huge difference on AROB was that I never needed to worry about wrapping my head around a character or identity that existed prior to this video. A blessing and a curse with a lot of artists is that they already have a persona or an image to maintain, and you are forced to work around it. That isn’t always a bad thing because it can provide a foundation for the video, but it can certainly limit the scope of what you can do with the characters. A dream project of mine is to take a massive pop star with a well-known image, and shoot something that totally flips the expectations on its head. I want to show Taylor Swift as a murderous drug lord to a coke empire, or make Eminem a chipper, effeminate camp counselor that can speak to woodland creatures. You think he’d be into it?
The promo is based around the essence of freedom, what does freedom mean to you?
It means a lot of things, but for the video I wanted to focus on freedom to be yourself without judgment, and the freedom from social restrictions that keep us from exploring life and living to fullest. I’m always extremely drawn to how open and happy transient kids seem, and the type of freedom they have is like a dream. When I’m stressed out, I fantasize about running away, selling all my possessions, cancelling bank accounts, and giving the big middle finger to deadlines, bills, schedules, traffic, taxes, dishes and all the things that create tension in my life. These kids actually have the balls to do it! Beyond just responsibility, I hate how superficial, judgmental, and critical the everyday world can be. I wanted to portray a community that was open and honest, you know? A group people with no expectation or up-tight social stigmas.
What’s the story behind the interviews at the start of the promo?
Even though I said I’m not big on destiny, the timing on meeting those guys was bizarre. Brainstorming for this project, I had just finished a feature about a homeless cult, and some friends just released an inspiring mini-doc about a former train-hopper… my mind was buzzing with thoughts and stories about these hidden facets of society. Shortly after hearing the song, I was walking into a coffee shop to start writing a video concept until Taylor, the train hopper in the first shot of the intro, stopped me about helping him out with some food for their trip. We talked for a while before the thought of interviewing them and writing a story in their world even remotely crossed my mind. I filmed a very quick Q&A that I submitted to the label with my script. We all loved those guys so much that we thought it necessary to put them in the beginning as a nod to the video’s inspiration.
Did any of the cast know each other, you get the feeling they’re all friends in real life.
They all met for the first time on set. The same was true of the video for “God’s Whisper”. One of the most fun elements of music videos is the freedom to cut through scenes in a way you cannot with a dialogue and continuity driven film. With actors and non-actors that don’t know each other, haven’t rehearsed, and have only built a small semblance of their character, I will sometimes run a shot for 10 minutes hoping for just 3 seconds of genuine reactions. Structuring Improvisation, injecting some mid-scene surprises, and creating a comfortable and experimental environment for actors allows us to capture a lot of intimate and authentic performances to choose from.
You’ve directed your first feature, Heavy Water, tell us everything.
That’s a lot to tell, Luke. The mandatory log line is ” Home after 5 years in prison, River must choose between his broken family and a strange, ‘perfect’ drug from an old friend.” It’s got a homeless cult, professional wrestlers, drugs, a gun, basketball, lots of food, one girl, and at least two instances of a door being kicked down. My dad thinks it’s pretty cool.
Jokes aside, it’s currently a pretty big piece of my life. I injected a lot of the same sentiments about communities, society, and freedom into the film, but the movie goes in a fairly dark direction with all that. It started out as a no-budget experiment. I wrote a script, had a camera, had some friends, and thought, “Why does everyone always talk about making a feature then never actually going and doing it?” Well, now I know why. It went from a no budget experiment to three maxed out credit cards, a loan, all my savings, and a year of my life to get it done… but I loved every minute of it. Except for maybe sleeping just an hour a night, the debt, and the mountain of stress on my shoulders. But everything else was neat. The Atlanta film community was great to me, and I got to work with some of the most talented people possible. Once the ball got rolling, the film became much bigger than myself, and I’m lucky to have a team that could make it happen. We are submitting to festivals now, so if anyone knows somebody at Slamdance, tell them you saw a music video that was kind of cool with a guy that made a movie.