What if a nightmare could follow you into the real world?

It's not often you get sent a track that immediately lends itself to a barrage of visual ideas that all seem to instantly stick to beats in the music. The sound was primal, raw and visceral. Every image that came to mind was a poetic, beautiful take on a nightmare world coming to life. WOLVVES wanted their first video and Flaunt Magazine wanted to premiere it. I was in.

Elizabeth Valleau, the lead singer, had put together a great pull of images and sent them to me along with an initial concept. I saw the images and was amazed at how many of the images I had also pulled in the past for previous treatments. I started thinking of all of these strange nightmarish vignettes shot in a beautiful, lucid way and actually agreed to the video before realizing there was an initial concept attached and read that after the fact. It wasn't bad, it just was a very different direction to the simplicity I felt we could go after. The track has so many roller-coaster ups and downs that I wanted to leave the music to take front stage and allow the visuals to be the provocative catalyst. A couple of weeks later I was on a flight to NYC to shoot the video.

Here's my treatment for the video...

For me, each of the vignettes were like individual sounds from the music, astral projecting themselves into physical forms that manifest and are born into our existence. It's as if everything you see in this video happens every night after you go to sleep. The controlling idea behind the imagery was simple-- What if a nightmare could follow you into real life? 

WOLVVES said "White on White", the track's title, meant fresh, hip-hop, clean. So whilst the imagery was dark and nightmarish, I wanted to approach everything with a pristine aesthetic to contrast the conventions of horror with the crisp visuals. I had been sent a great indy feature that was shot by Adam Newport-Berra, a very skillful young, up and coming director of photography. His work on the feature completely drew me in, he was able to capture some really nice internal moments from the actors and I wanted to do the same with these strange characters I wanted to bring to life. We also consulted with Ben Cope, a truly talented fashion photographer friend of mine, about the look and feel I was after. I showed them a whole onslaught of references that WOLVVES and I had pulled together and that I had spent time finding ways to make it all mesh.

We approached the video with a fashion photography influenced style and Stacey Thiel, our line producer, drove us around NYC in the dead of night, searching for existing locations that felt a part of the surreal, symmetrical world we needed. Ryan Heifermen of Good Company helped keep the whole plan of action from turning into a major fiasco, we had so much of the video relying on favours and location steals that we didn't know which way the shoot was going to go at any given moment and it was all about knowing we had to play jazz and roll with the punches... and the rain that would show up here and there.

One of the moments on this video shoot I won't forget is when we were at the Irish Hunger Memorial shooting the dancer in the tunnel. I wanted to fill it with a ton of smoke for the Briese light to create a glow and silhouette the dancer, but it was super windy as we were right by the water and so we had to flag off the tunnel at either end in attempt to contain the smoke. The locations police officer was a big New Yorker cop with a short braided ponytail who looked like he'd walked off the set of the Sopranos. He was a cool guy but at one point between takes his tone changed and he was getting ready to shut us down. My 1st AD Owen O'Leary was chatting to him and I could see the officer was pissed so I walked over to see what was going on. It was one of those things you just don't think about until you see it-- a 50ft ball of smoke had escaped our tunnel and was rising 300ft into the air at the base of the World Trade Center. Not good. The officer started to reprimand me "I've been nice to you, but I don't need to get a few hundred calls of people worrying about seeing smoke down here etc. etc." (I took out a few words from that quote, feel free to put them back in.) I knew I needed a few more shots so Adam shot a few pieces whilst I handled damage control with our officer. I pulled the friendly director card and called over Zephyr, our young actor and used his sweet, innocent, little face to win the heart of the enraged cop and talked the officer into letting Zephyr wear his police hat for a photo. The officer went back to being friendly right away while the literal and figurative smoke cleared.


Zuk, the editor and I played with the images and found their respective places in the video, the idea wasn't narrative, it was simply all about the feel of the waves and movements in the music. We worked the edit until it found a form that moved and flowed with the sections to best accentuate the hits and pauses in the sound.

It was a huge challenge to squeeze everything in to the two night shoot, but as usual last minute magic happened, we got it in the can and the result is a piece I'm really proud of.

Now I'm going to find a therapist, show them this video and see what they make of it all...


Click here to watch the video.

Daniel GomesComment