NICK RONEY + LUIS SOTO TALK BELLY - TEXT EMILY HARRISON
They say that the best things come in threes and here we have a prime example of an ideal collaboration - the team that is Luis Soto, Nick Roney and rapper Belly. The music videos for 'Who Am I' and 'Maison' were released simultaneously and showcase the difference (and similarity) between the theme of life and death.
With a small budget to hand, Soto and Roney worked their magic in creating something that looks like it could have been from a blockbuster movie set. From fake wombs, to ambulances and heaven, there is no room here for anything other than weird. These guys have you covered for all of your metaphorical needs.
Word Is Cheap: What was it like co-directing with each other?
Nick Roney + Luis Soto: At times we can be like oil and vinegar, at times we can be like Peanut Butter and Jelly. We're both opinionated people who can easily clash creatively and stylistically. So in order for our collaboration to work, we had to be honest and lay out every thought and idea we could come up with. Granted, one has to lead so at given times we let each other assume control for the better of the project, which was essential to develop a trust. It was hard work, but highly rewarding since we find the final outcome very much to the standards we were aiming.
WIC: What was it like directing two very different videos for the same artist?
NR + LS: Who Am I was relatively straight forward; the focus on a single shot that takes us through different rooms allowed us to play with the elements in frame a lot more, especially when presented with new challenges through the shoot. What's interesting though, was that the video was supposed to be more surreal with certain visuals, such as a flower blooming from him wound and diamond eyes when he's being dragged to the crematorium. In the end, we decided a more realistic approach would be all the more suitable given the intimate nature of the video.
Maison on the other hand was really unclear to us through out the entire process until moments before we turned it in. There's two completely different versions of the video! One of them ends with a dance sequence and in the other the doctor and nurse transform to have multiple eyes. We weren't really happy with either so kept pushing until we came up with what we have now.
WIC: Belly is well known for his music videos, what was it like working with him?
NR + LS: He ended up being really down to earth and funny. Turns out he's a big horror movie fan too.
WIC: The contrast between life and death is extremely apparent in both videos, how did you decide on the theme?
NR + LS: Belly's slogan for his newest mixtape is "Belly's Dead," pointing out his reinvention. We wanted to honor his theme and tell a story that reflected what he's been going through in his career. We were surprised by how open he was with his portrayal, especially in 'Who am I' as it takes a special sense of humility to allow yourself to be shown beaten and broken. He believes in his theme and is willing to go the extra mile for it.
WIC: Are the videos supposed to come as a pair or are they just released on the same day?
NR + LS: Belly envisioned a single video, but the songs themselves seemed to flow better on their own. To us it was the right decision, given the different tonality between them and also allowing them to stand as their own statements about death and birth.
WIC: Both videos are surreal yet real, how much was VFX and in-camera?
NR + LS: Who Am I is mostly practical besides the transitions, Maison has it's fair share of effects. However all the baby shots and the womb were practical and we can thank our amazing production designer Odette Mattha for that!- The transitions are seamless in 'Who Am I', was it hard to plan them?
It required timing and precision, having to break down the song and play each segment on its own. Lyrics were used as breaking points, same with beats, therefore we laid out the different scenes according to the timing of the music. It took a day rehearsal to get it together, but on set we encountered difficulties that we had to adjust to, somewhat giving us a liberty to create new imagery under a time constraint
WIC: Were you at all inspired by Bjork's womb performance for 'Maison'?
NR + LS: We love Bjork and are fans of her work, but haven't seen this video. We pulled from imagery that ranged from actual birth videos to a baby sequence from 'Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child'.- Were there any big hurdles to overcome when shooting?Tons. Murphy's law was feeling extremely devilish on us, having cameras break in the middle of the shoot during 'Who am I'; a hallway was built to roll Belly down on a gurney, but the gurney itself had a damaged wheel that kept veering him off the hallway. 'Maison' had an entire dance sequence cut out, one that we hope will one day see the light of day.
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