Director: Mike Piscitelli

Original Feature: Promo News

How she’s blossomed. Having called the rise of BANKS back in April 2013 we almost feel like a proud parent. As must many. BANKS has once again upped her game with silent subtle style. This time Mike Piscitelli took a gamble and the BANKS made good; focusing solely on the artist has paid dividends. Outfits twist yet stick as mirrors welcome us to the world of BANKS. A reflective delight.

So we caught up with Mike Piscitelli to find out how he got the best out of BANKS, how he kept the camera hidden from shot in a room of mirrors, and why styling was important to the project.

Luke Tierney: BANKS has been on everyones lips as well as headphones for the past year, have you been a fan of BANKS for a while? How did this project come about? 

Mike Piscitelli: I had heard of Banks but I was not familiar with her music or her at all. i-D had sent me the track to see if I would be interested in writing on it and I was instantly into her music. Then I googled her and learned what a cool and thoughtful visual approach she had taken with her photos and videos and I got to writing…

The concept centers completely around BANKS, did you know she would be up to the task beforehand?

With all videos I think you have to take a leap of faith that on the day of the shoot the stars will align and the artist will be in a good mood and rested. To be honest I really had no idea if she would be up to the task since we didn’t speak till day of… luckily, she brought more than enough to her performance to keep the clip engaging all the way through.

To what extent were shots preplanned?

There was a small shot list planned but there really wasn’t a way to know exactly how it would look shooting through one-sided mirrors until we had the set built. Since this was a pretty modest budget we didn’t have a ton of time to prep this job and the set was only built the day before the shoot. Luckily I had an amazing producer, (Logan Adermatt) DP, (Michael Stine) and art director (Bryn Bowen) that were able to run a few tests with me the night before to make sure the idea would actually work the way we had planned.

The infinity room is beautiful, where did you shoot the promo?

We built the set and shot the video at Evidence Film Studios in Los Angeles.

Was it tough to keep the camera hidden in a room made of mirrors?

The entire video was shot from the outside of the set using one-sided mirrors. In the treatment I wrote “There will be a true honesty and subtly that exists throughout her performance since she won’t be able to see when the camera is actually shooting her but she will be able to see herself.” I was into the idea of an artist getting to see her performance in real time and how they might interact with themselves. It turned out to be a bit more challenging for BANKS in the beginning not knowing where the camera was, but as the day went on and she was able to see the footage she became much more comfortable being so isolated, and her performances became more intense.

Styling subtly adds another dimension to the performance, especially through colour, how important was styling for you? 

Since this was a video that came through i-D, the fashion was a key element. As soon as my treatment was approved I started talking with Alastair McKimm, i-D’s fashion editor, about where he wanted to take BANKS’s fashion. It was his idea to put her in three identical outfits but in three different colours, and I think it made the final product so much better. Maya Krispin (stylist) pulled the final outfit and somehow managed to find it in three colours.




Director: Ben Dickinson

Original Feature in: Promo News

Ben Dickinson’s video for Vic Mensa’s Down On My Luck takes on that familiar Groundhog Day keeping it completely refreshing with a very entertaining new spin.

This time, it takes place in a club. We’ve all been there, those great nights you never want to end – and the terrible ones you wish never happened. It is this familiarity that makes the promo so accessible and enjoyable. It’s a social critique on a good night out, or a bad night turned good.

So we asked Ben Dickinson where the idea came from, how Vic handled the concept and to hear about Ben’s exciting upcoming feature, Creative Control

wic: The track fits the visuals perfectly, how did you come up with the idea for the promo?

BD: The idea came to me quickly, maybe after listening to the song twice. It’s a great song, very complex, and I was inspired by the innovative structure, the repeating phrase “down on my luck” seemed to function as a RESET button, and Vic develops the idea further and further each time he begins anew. It’s like a stream of consciousness that keeps getting interrupted, and every time it gets interrupted it changes. It reminded me of the painful process of learning from experience.

How many takes did you go through to take your concept from an idea into reality?

I think for some of those longer shots we were doing 15 or 16 takes. Honestly Vic nailed it every single time, but there was a lot of other moving pieces. If we’d had unlimited time I would have gone Kubrick and done 50 takes. But you don’t get that kind of time in music videos. Fortunately the looseness serves the video well.

How did Vic and everyone else for that matter handle the, what I imagine was an, incredibly monotonous process? 

I don’t remember it being monotonous, although maybe Vic remembers it differently! Honestly there were so many things to remember in each set up for Vic, for the steadicam operator (big ups to Dave Ellis), for the extras, that it was pretty engrossing. It was like playing a video game, and getting a little better each time. It was exciting.

The manipulation of speed is key. Was this achieved in-camera or in post?

We shot the entire video at 60 fps while Vic rapped at 24 fps, knowing that we would speed most of it up to 300% but dip back down to slo mo for key details. Easy trick.

The dance routine provides a nice shift in focus. Was that the plan?

It was inspired by the song! There’s a breakdown there and Vic says “get down!”, so you know, you wanna see some folks get down. The dancers are the DANCE CARTEL, recent frequent collaborators of mine.

What else have you been up to recently? Plans for the future?

I’m finishing my second feature. Its called Creative Control and it takes place in the near future when Augmented Reality is becoming ubiquitous. Check it out!



Director: Sophie Muller

Original Feature in Promo News;

Sophie Muller is the most successful female music video director of all time. Simple as. She is constantly creating, working with many of the world’s top pop stars time and time again.

Sophie’s weapon of choice is personability. Gwen Stefani probably said it best: ‘She has the gift of being able to bring out the artist’s personality, emotion and style’. She is a true conduit – talent that encourages talent.

Sophie’s been doing it a long time, starting her career in the mid 80s. And in 2014, she appears to be busier than ever, with projects for Katy B, Robin Thicke, John Mayer and Katy Perry released since the start of the year.

PROMONEWS‘s Luke Tierney recently spoke to Sophie about her two latest projects with Birdy and Katy B, get some of her thoughts on current state of the industry, and some words of advice to the latest generation of music video makers.

word is cheap: You have a knack for doing more than one music video for an artist. They keep coming back to work with you. Why is that?

Sophie: Well I guess because people love working with me! [laughing] Oh I don’t know. I think I find it strange that someone wants to work with me again, and I really like it. I’m not the sort of person to go: ‘oh I’ve worked with them, I don’t want to work with them again’. I’m like: ‘Oh great’. Because in some ways the more you work with someone the more you can do good work. You know what they can do and what they can’t do. You can learn what they want to do. And you know what they’ve already done, so you can push them further, and it becomes a comfortable thing rather than a stressful horrible, frightening thing. It’s your face, your music, so you obviously have to be happy with it.

You recently did a video with Katy B for Still. It’s really beautiful…

It’s very simple. The video we did before for Crying For No Reason – what I really liked was the colour of her hair. Orange against black. When we first heard this track I said ‘I see this with her on a kind of icy lake wearing white, and the only colour in the whole landscape is her orange hair’. But of course that couldn’t work because we couldn’t find the frozen lakes. So it was reduced down to this idea, so we had to find a white location in order to do a similar feel.

You co-directed Crying For No Reason with Ross McDowell (of Ben & Ross). How did that happen?

I’ve been working with Ross for three years now pretty much consistently. He worked with me on the Sade tour as head of post-production, and every video I do now he contributes in some way from a technical point of view. He was in LA with me, working on a Robin Thicke video, and I was talking to Katy B’s people and coming up with with this idea of a really simple performance… They said ‘we really like the Disclosure video’ so I said ‘that’s so weird that’s my friend Ross’s video, he’s right here!’ And I say ‘Ross do you want to co-direct the Katy B video with me?’ and he says, ‘yeah alright’.

But you only co-direct videos very occasionally…

He’s been on lots of shoots with me and we spend a lot of time together so it wasn’t like: ‘who is this strange person that I’m co-directing with’. It was more that I did I guess the things I think I’m good at and he did the sort of things he’s good at.

I always really envy directing teams. I think: ‘God, amazing to have someone to share the burden or the horror with when it goes wrong and when it goes right.’ At the same time, I also really don’t understand how they work. It’s such a weird thing to have someone share a job like that, which is your vision. But you know it did work with Ross in that way as it was a shared vision.

You’ve also recently done another video for Birdy – very different to the Katy B project. You’ve cast Birdy as a ghost in the Words As Weapons. Was that for you a reflection of the artist?

From very early on I’ve thought she should be a ghost – for a few reasons. I’ve always said that Birdy has this really otherworldly quality, like she doesn’t feel like someone of this world. I think this is the sixth video we’ve made together, and I’m always pushing her, telling her: ‘Don’t be real, don’t be normal, everyone does that. Don’t try to be like everyone else. That’s what’s special about you’.

It was really fun to do. We were totally unprepared – we just made the story up in the morning. We found a derelict house in Peckham which was a perfect location. I wanted the people to be art students – they’re cold all the time, which is why they’ve got the coats on. They’re not very comfortable, and then there’s that sound like she’s banging her boots on the ceiling. The DoP Robbie Ryan who I’ve worked with loads, I knew he’d get that one. So I thought let’s do that initial position, and ghost effects, that kind of thing. It was very much messing around.

So off the cuff then.

Totally off the cuff. I only cast the actors the day before. What really shocked me is that when people see it now they think it actually is scary. Especially as I had such a laugh doing it. It’s weird that those things actually work. When you get someone pulling a scary face and people go ‘aaahhhh!’

Within the industry naturally there are changes and trends. So what are your thoughts on the currant climate?

There’s a lot of videos now that get made that aren’t artist-based, and I’ve never made a video without an artist in it. I really love it and appreciate it but I just don’t feel part of that, because for me I love working with artists. When [commissioners] say: ‘oh the artist doesn’t have to be in it’, then I’m just not that interested. People send me the track and instead of me having an ‘oh my god we can do this’ idea, they never happens for me. All my ideas come from talking to an artist, and they never come from the music: what do you want to do, how do you want to be. How do you see yourself being in this, how do you want people to feel about you, feel about the song, what do you want the video to do for you. It’s a really good tool for people to use it to change their opinion about you.

So the industry seemingly hasn’t really changed for me, because the thing where [the viewer] wants to connect to the artist hasn’t changed. The song exists, it’s a piece of music. I hate videos actually, you know, like the fact that they interpret music. Sometimes if I watch a video it ruins the song for me.

What about the opposite? Does it ever make you like the song more?

Oh yes it has done absolutely, it completely has. That’s what you look for, but most videos don’t do that for me. I just find them really boring. But I’ve always loved seeing people be emotional, so when you get that thing with the artist so it works for the song, it does something else. You go through the video and feel closer to the person who’s performing in it. I’m always trying to achieve that.

All the ideas-based directors, like CANADA’s videos for example – they’re amazing but they’re not about the artist. They’re about the filmmaking, and about the song maybe. The fact that I still want to make videos about artists means that things haven’t really changed that much.

Maybe that’s why you have such a great relationship with artists and they want to work again with you.

You’re working with the artists rather than treating them like a big piece of meat. Where you say stand in front of the camera and say ‘OK now bring on the exploding horse’ or something. But I wish I had a list of ideas and go, ‘oh, number 12, haven’t done that one yet…’ I really struggle with ideas.

That anticipates my next question. I was going to ask if there’s anything you hadn’t done yet?

I like the idea of making a good video without an artist in it, but when it comes to it, I just never seem to want to do it. So obviously I don’t want to do that. I still don’t feel like I’ve done everything. There was a time when I’d say ‘I haven’t used a crane yet so I’ll try that one’.

The fact that technology is changing so much is quite exciting. I don’t need a single other person – I could shoot it, I can light it, I can edit it, I can output it, I can grade it, all myself.

Do you think that’s good?

I’m not saying that’s a good thing, but that’s what has changed radically. When I started you couldn’t make a video and not grade it, that’s unthinkable, but on the Birdy one, I graded it myself, because I could. It’s easy. I’m a big fan of digital I’m not one of those people who says I wish I could shoot on film. I have no desire to do that.

My last question, is, do you have any advice for anyone that wants to be like you?

Be like me? The only thing is you have to remain enthusiastic. I still love what I do. You can’t be like ‘urgh I don’t want to go to the shoot today.’ I like it so much that the idea of actually being paid for it is an added benefit. I’d say the only thing that’s changed really radically for me is that when I first started I was absolutely terrified the whole time, on so many levels – the shoot was absolutely terrifying because you think ‘oh my god, how many things can go wrong .’ Now I have none of that, so that’s why I properly enjoy it.

I think the thing is to try to keep your ego in check, and try to make it about the artist. That’s the one that will get them to come back. If you want to make a lot of videos and you want to keep working, you have to think in those terms and not make it like ‘I’m the director and everything’s about me’.

I’m very happy that I’m able to work. I’m very happy that I ever got a job because I never thought that I would. It’s a big shock to me that I ever got any work.




Director: Philip Andelman

Originally featured in: Promo News

After her starring role in the massive video for DJ Fresh’s Earthquake, here comes Dominique Young Unique’s debut video in her own right. And Philip Andelman’s video for Throw It Down fulfills the highest expectations.

The visuals personify Dominique from the clothes down to her moves, and with her lightning delivery, varied frame-speed manipulation – often within the same shot – is the key to this video’s success. That’s part of the promo’s strong vein of FX-fired humour. And then there’s something genuinely new: man-twerking.

We had a little chat with Phil to find out just how he created such great synchronisation between the artist and her first big solo promo…

word is cheap: Your work within music video is always distinctive and once again here. How did you become involved in the project?

PA: At the top of the year my agent sent me three tracks to write on.  Two were insufferably ho-hum ballads and just as I was about to hit delete on the email, Dom’s track came on and within thirty seconds I was frantically writing back “I MUST DO THIS VIDEO NO MATTER WHAT!!!!!!!!”  It was such a breath of fresh air, of unbridled energy, it was incredible.  Songs like this come about so rarely, I was so grateful to have the chance to simply pitch on this.

Dominique Young Unique has been bubbling within the industry for years but this is her first proper solo music video, did you know how you wanted to portray her?

I must confess I knew little of her before I got sent the track but without even a picture of her in my head, I saw her as this generation’s Lil’ Kim.  Confident, tough-as-nails, yet at the same time really beautiful.  I wanted to make sure all of that came across.

Street-style plays a key role within the styling, how did this come about?

Since this was her first solo video, the label really wanted to make sure the styling was right.  For her, there were multiple fittings in the UK before she came over.  Everyone else, from the dancers to the skaters was styled by the incredibly-talented Beth Birkett whose husband owns Union out in LA and generously donated time and clothes for the project!

Is the dancing choreographed or did you let loose the dancers?

Nope. There was no budget for a choreographer!  I just got on the phone with a couple choreographers I work with and asked them to recommend some dancers for me.  The twerkers had actually never twerked before but they were good-humored about it and had a blast.  They came up with their choreography for the night-time scene on the spot.  As for the other two dancers, they came out from Chicago just for the day.  They’re part of a great dance scene out there called juking.  When I saw videos of them my mind was blown.

Why did you cast a male dancer to be twerking and was that a difficult sell to the label?

I have to give credit where due: it was Dom who insisted that she be the only girl in the video, that everyone else be guys.  The label was really supportive and I think it makes the video all the more fun.  That said, it turns out it’s really hard to find male twerkers.  What’s up with that?!

When you utilise post-production it is always to devastating effect, such as the unforgetable Duck Sauce – It’s You. Can you talk us through this promo’s concept?

I think I had the idea for this concept before the song finished playing the first time. It’s weird how thoroughly random the time it takes to come up with concepts can be.  It has nothing to do with how good the song is, how much you like it, how long it is, it’s just purely random.  But the second I heard how fast Dom could spit out verses, and how the choruses were like semi-automatics, I knew the video should play around with time.

There’s things in here that are incredibly subtle and others that are really obvious. The most subtle I think is that all the close-ups of her singing verses have her body going in slow-motion at 60fps while the playback and her lips are moving at 13fps. It’s only really obvious when the takes are longer which I’d originally hoped for, but the problem was that the song is so fast-paced that longer takes killed the momentum.  So we ultimately had to sacrifice gags for the sake of respecting what the song required.  All the wide shots in the first couple verses also feature Dom at 24fps while the backgrounds are alternately sped up and slowed down.

A bit more obvious is all the stuff we did where we sped up dancers’ legs while keeping their upper bodies slow.  Again, everything was dictated by the song itself.  I felt that the ends of the choruses had this very goofy little keyboard sound, and wanted the video to almost feel like a Tex Avery cartoon.  We had a great team at Royal Post who did all the effects, but sadly we only had a little over a week to do everything.  Had we had more time, I think it could have been fun to experiment and add more shots that pushed things a bit further but there was no margin for error on this one delivery-wise.  Each shot we did was carefully boarded out in advance to minimize the amount of work done in post and I wish we’d had a bit more latitude in this respect though I’m still really happy with what we did pull off!

You also work in film and on commercials, is there a part of working in music videos you particularly enjoy?

Music videos are such a blast.  I did another one the day after this one that was like a return to film school, racing around the desert with a camera, a mini-van, and a set of anamorphic lenses, getting kicked out of locations without permits and scrambling to find others.  The day before the Dominique video I’d just completed a really straight-forward three day clothing commercial. It was such a breath of fresh air after the commercials to have two days of experimentation, smaller crews, anything-goes attitude, and giddy enthusiasm.  There’s something nice about the orderliness about commercials, but there’s something much more thrilling about music videos.  It’s cool to win a marathon race I guess, but let’s face it, we all know who holds the record for the 100m dash not the New York Marathon.  Sprinting is always more fun.



Directors: Phoebe Arnstein + Stephen Ledger-Lomas

Original Feature in: Promo News

Art is at the essence of this promo for Jamie Isaac’s She Dried directed by Phoebe Arnstein and Stephen Ledger-Lomas, which offers up more questions than answers. In keeping with the track’s haunting vocals a mysterious performance is played out intercut with still-life compositions that somehow bring clarity to the scene and song itself, and in understanding the nuances in the interactions between Jamie Isaac and the older lady in black.

Directing for the first time as a team, Phoebe and Stephen – two photographers at heart – brought lighting and composition to the fore, with art the subject. As we have come to expect from Phoebe.

word is cheap: How did the project come about?

PA & SL-L: When we first heard the track after being asked to pitch for the video treatment, we both started to formulate very strong visuals to accompany the song. Jamie already seemed to have developed an appealing visual aesthetic that we wanted to adhere to.

Is there a definitive meaning to the relationship or storyline?

We knew it was brave to couple Jamie with a much older woman and we wanted to make sure that there was no definitive relationship created between them. However, the song is about loss, and we wanted to create a sense of mourning within the imagery. If we had to define our intentionally ambiguous story, it would be experiencing loss and grieving for something that is no longer there.

Was it your aim to add depth to the ambiguous relationship with still life imagery?

We used the still life’s to signify construction and deconstruction. At the climax of the song, objects begin to fall, break and shatter, which mimics the loss that Jamie sings about in the song. This also adds to the relationship between Jamie and the woman, as they are closely juxtaposed.

Is it hard to work in a partnership on something so creative?

It was quite tricky when we were developing the initial concept, as there are always so many ideas being flung backwards and forwards at all times of the day, however we quickly learnt a practical dialogue, which saw us through the whole process.

Looking at Black Acre there seems to be a theme emerging. Is this how you visualise sound?

Black Acre and She Dried have both lent themselves to conceptual themes, Black Acre especially. I think making visuals to accompany music is the only time you can have the freedom to stitch together images that don’t necessarily have to make narrative sense. A good track can open the void to all sorts of disturbing and strange imagery. Our next video might like to see more narrative structure, but it entirely depends on the piece.

What do you think about music videos current role in culture?

With commissioning budgets being so small and expectations being so high, it’s really exciting to be making videos as your creative license is very liberal. It’s a fun but volatile platform for directors and cinematographers to be creating on.



Producer: Jerome Potter

Original Feature in: Promo News

Music video is, in our minds, currently the best platform for young creatives. ‘Deleted’ is an example of this with 67 artists coming together to create one piece including directors Video Marsh and Yoann Lemoine AKA Woodkid.

With no one defined director, Jerome Potter AKA Jerome LOL only credits himself as the Producer. Taking note from when the internet was just a toddler the graphics are raw, the desktop is 95 and the guy’s not even using tabs!

On those rare occasions an artist directs his own promo we always take notice, so we took this opportunity to find out more about Jerome LOL, his affinity for crowd-sourcing, and how the final edit came together.

word is cheap: You could be described as an artist, producer, dj or director, how would you describe yourself?

Jerome Potter: I would describe myself as a musician. The visual work I have done is an extension of the music; the process of working visually is similar to working musically. When you’re editing a video, it’s a very musical process.

Could you explain the concept of the video for us?

The video is meant to redefine the frame for the viewer. As opposed to just watching a full-frame video on YouTube, the video begins with a desktop and a mouse that opens up the video for you. I wanted the editing to be done through pop up windows as opposed to cuts on the actual screen in order to mimic the “one-shot” process of using your computer. Everyday when you are on your computer it is one long shot. There are no cuts: you rearrange windows, you minimize them, you use different programs, but it is one long “shot.”.

As your previous project shows, LOL Boys – Changes, crowd-sourcing isn’t new to you, what is it that attracts you to using it?

There are a few things that attract me to working this way. First, I think it is great to give others the opportunity to create. It’s also really interesting to see the large variety of what people choose to create. I like the idea that I simply become the curator of the project, deciding what goes where and how everything is presented. Music videos, or any moving picture, that are shot on a set is a collaboration of so many different people: the director, the DP, the grips, the PAs, etc. Working digitally like this, however, the collaborators all become creators.

How did you choose which artists to work with on this occasion?

I sent it to a large number of people whose email I had saved in my Gmail contacts. In the prompt, I encouraged forwarding the prompt to people who would potentially be interested. I ended up receiving clips from a large variety of people all with different styles.

There’s a decidedly 90s vibe, what you call web 1.0, did you set a brief to those contributing?

With the “Changes” video I encouraged people to use a camera to record themselves “performing” the song, whether it was singing, playing air trumpet, dancing, etc. With “Deleted,” I really wanted to leave all the direction up to the contributors. This a quote from the initial email I sent out “The clip can be an animation, an iPhone video, a screen recording, ANYTHING.  It can be edited, it can be one shot, it can be multi-media… The subject of the clip can be ANYTHING.” So, if you sense any 90s vibe to the music video, that would be purely because that is what people decided to contribute to the project.



Director: Edouard Salier

Original Interview in: Promo News

I know what you’re thinking, ‘we’ve done this already’, well yeah and with a cheeky little write-up too but now with an interview…

word is cheap: This is unlike any previous Metronomy project, how did the project come about?

Edouard Salier: Metronomy had decided they wanted to do a video in space and so that’s where it all began. It was a very classic production process. I worked in collaboration with Joseph Mount from Metronomy, our production companies Somesuch and Co, Iconoclast and with Lee Groombridge my producer, as well as the rest of the team  we assembled. We went from storyboards, to working with the production designer on creating sets and backdrops. Everything was done in the old-school fashion. What we wanted to achieve was a really classic film style so we worked in that classic production process in hopes of having the end product reflect the means by which it was made.

You often utilise CGI to great effect, what did you like about working with projections and in-camera FX? How keen are you to keep working in this style or are you looking forward to getting back to 3D animation? 

Every time I do a project I try to find new techniques to work with. The projection and in-camera FX really lent themselves to this video and the way Metronomy wanted to work. They didn’t want another CG, 3D, computer animation video. I’m always open to different ways of shooting and will continue to do animation, 3D, and in-camera among other techniques where they work best.

You mention the cats were a nightmare to work with, has this put you off working with animals again?

It was a nightmare but working with animals always is. We always end up getting what we want which is fun so it hasn’t put me off.

What do the cosmos mean to you personally, are you a believer in their messages? 

I am pretty fascinated with our earthly condition, on this little blue ball in an infinite cosmos. Clearly, it speaks to me.

Much like star signs each person could interpret this promo differently, is there a definitive storyline in your head?

There is a definite story in my head that I will never share. What’s important to me is that each person comes up with their own interpretation. I am not a narrative dictator. I like that each person forms their own story by projecting themselves onto the film. When they say, “Oh I get it, it means this,” I will never tell them they didn’t understand. When you leave it to each person to find meaning, their interpretation becomes as legitimate and personal as your own and I think this leads to the best kind of discussions about film.