PABLO MAESTRES TALKS WILD BEASTS - TEXT LUKE TIERNEY
Oh dear yes. More Pablo Maestres is like Christmas, your birthday, and a 2nd referendum all rolled into one. If you missed his Fur Voice videos, well, get to know ASAP, but first check his latest for Wild Beasts. Pablo can only think big and 'Big Cat' is no different, 12 locations over 2 long long days, the team and band truly went in. And then on to a photo shoot to create a world we definitely don't want to live in. The visuals go deep so we caught up with Pablo asking what it's like to work with children and animals, what 'Big Cat' means to him and what the biggest storm he's ever witnessed did to his shoot, spoiler, no one died... It's about to go down:
WORD IS CHEAP: Can you talk us through the narrative? PABLO MAESTRES: The lyrics of the song talk about a greater power, a greater control system (the “big cat”) that rules upon us, and it’s “on top of the food chain”. This sentence -extracted from the lyrics- inspired me to create an atmosphere of a controlled world, so I worked on building that type of mood rather than building a narrative. I didn’t want to tell “a story” but I wanted show a world where things work differently, where there is control and corruption all over. I also wanted to show a population that had been absorbed by power: almost like a world created by Orwell. The CCTV cameras represent the absolute control, that surveillance, and the posters persuade us with all the colors that are not present in the rest of the video. The smiles of the politicians in the media, the world of publicity and the porn magazines are three of the most influential things in our modern societies, so I wanted those to be the representation of power. The animals also play that element of domination. They are present in all that surrounds this superior world. They are always shown as tame beasts even though they are just another tool of the Big Cat. On this basis I just wanted to describe some parts of this reality and simply join the band on a road trip with no need of action, so the spectator becomes an observer as he enters this manipulative force.
Along with my producer, Laia Barot, we were looking for locations for days. We were after forests, prairies, bars, roads, etc. So we drove long hours to put together the location map!
WIC: What was it like working with kids and animals? PM: I have always liked working with children and I’ve always been a big fan of child characters in movies because they represent a type of innocence that is really hard to achieve in an adult actor. In this case, it was very easy, because even though we filmed at night, the ten-year-old actress –called Nora- nailed it the first time. On the other hand, working with animals is always a completely different experience every time because their behavior is completely unpredictable. We shot the wolf scene right after a huge storm. It had been so violent that the animal was still really scared, so we had to shoot it with no one in front of him, so he wouldn’t panic and run. It was especially challenging to make him growl, but it’s always hard to make them do exactly what you have in mind.
WIC: How did you achieve the posters and adverts? PM: In general, the world I created has a bleak and abandoned mood. Therefore the posters are a really important highlight because they represent the opposite, what they want us to believe. Their colors are very bright and nice unlike the rest of the palette. The characters in the adverts sing the chorus as if it was a persuasive slogan. The sentence itself is a synthesis of this predator world: “Big Cat top of the food chain”. The posters are attractive, excessive, with big fake smiles, like the publicity of the mid-twenty century (and still some of it nowadays). They all display names of predatory animals, so in the end it’s like a plot from all the predators to attract the victims of the Big Cat. We filmed them by parts. First we filmed the static characters singing the chorus and then we inserted the animals and the design. Finally we inserted the moving parts we filmed. It was one of the most fun parts to shoot.
WIC: Was the production as big as it looked? PM: Yes, it was a very big production: it was crazy! Along with my producer, Laia Barot, we were looking for locations for days. We were after forests, prairies, bars, roads, etc. So we drove long hours to put together the location map! Moreover, we needed a huge team to manage each location change and all the illumination it takes to film at night. We also needed to handle the cars, control the roads, the wolf…that all takes a big responsive and competent team that actually worked a ridiculous amount of hours.
We shot with vintage anamorphic lenses that we thought would be the one key to the look even though they are present in many videos nowadays. The dark light, the palette and the smoke presence were also a very good match to the lenses
WIC: How did you achieve such a cinematic look and feel? PM: Our intention was to achieve a cinematic look from the beginning. All of our references parted from there. It was a video to show off photography. My DOP, Marc Miró, -with whom I usually work- did an excellent job despite the thousands of obstacles we found during the shooting. We shot with vintage anamorphic lenses that we thought would be the one key to the look even though they are present in many videos nowadays. The dark light, the palette and the smoke presence were also a very good match to the lenses. The look was the pillar we based all of our decisions on, from choosing the locations to choosing the cars, the aesthetic had to follow a unique line that had a voice, like a character. There were scenes, like the one in the forest, that were already breathtaking in location. It was amazing being in that illuminated forest at night.
WIC: Any happy accidents or biggest obstacles to overcome? PM: Way too many obstacles! The list was so long! The shooting was full of accidents, when we thought nothing could go worse, something went horribly wrong again. Even though it was an ambitious shooting, everything was very well organized. We thought everything was under control but once the disasters started, they couldn’t stop happening. One of the most impressive things was the storm: it looks like it was done is post-production but it was real! That was a happy accident, at least visually. The intense storm scared the wolf, so we had to readapt the scene because any noise made him panic. The car that the band travels in also broke down (but old cars come with that risk). I can’t even start to mention all the problems, there were so many that I could write a book.
WIC: Was the storm real? PM: Absolutely. What’s more: It was the biggest storm I have ever seen in my life. It was like a hurricane! It was a heavy hailstorm that destroyed everything. We saw there was some chance of rain in the weather report and thought that some random rain would help the video mood. But no one was ready for what happened. When we arrived in location, outside the restaurant, the wind was getting serious. It started like an electrical storm that we can see in the video. We were all really excited to able to film the lightning because it was truly beautiful and impressive. But right after the lightning, heavy wind and a massive hailstorm started. We ran inside the bar and the wind was so heavy that it tore apart the iron front door! So you can imagine what happened to the light gear outside. It was the entire end scene where the gaffers had been working for many hours. All the gear got destroyed and dragged away by the wind. Not an easy shoot but has been worth it to fight for it.