JUMEAUX Q&A SERIES PART 3 – LIBBY INTERVIEWS ANTONIO on the MAKING OF THE OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO for THIS WAY FOREVER
For this, our 3rd installment in our Q&A series on SONGS FOR FLAMEL, we’re changing things up a little. We thought it might be fun to have LIBBY interview ANTONIO about the making of the music video for THIS WAY FOREVER. Libby missed out on being directly involved in making the video because her schedule had her heading back to LA before it was shot. So here she gets to grill Antonio on how it all went down and what it was like to make JUMEAUX’s first music video. And without further ado, over to Libby!
SPOILER ALERT: WELL, ACTUALLY PROBABLY ONLY YELLOW ALERT IN TERMS OF SPOILERS ON THIS POST BECAUSE WE DON’T REALLY DISCUSS ANY PIVOTAL PLOT POINTS IN THE BOOK SERIES DIRECTLY HERE. THAT SAID, IF YOU’RE HERE LISTENING TO OUR MUSIC AND WATCHING OUR VIDEOS AND YOU HAVEN’T YET READ THE INCREDIBLE BOOKS THAT ARE THE INSPIRATION BEHIND IT ALL, SRSLY, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR!
Q: Tone, it should be noted that the video was pretty much your idea from start to finish. I am truly grateful for all the work you put into it and I think it turned out brilliantly. I have some questions about how it all came to be (some of which I know the simple answer to, but am interested in having a deeper knowledge of the process), so I’ve constructed some questions for me and for the fans of Flamel! Here goes….
AG: No problem Libs! I had a great time making the video and I got to work with an awesome team. It’s a pity you weren’t around to work with us on it, we had a ball. Anyway, hit me with your questions!
Q: Do you remember the discussions surrounding making a video for THIS WAY FOREVER? It seems so long ago, I don’t remember how it all began, but I do remember you suggesting it and thinking it all sounded rather impossible, can you recount the specifics of the idea and its birth?
AG: Well it wasn’t all that long ago that we talked about it, but sure I’ll refresh your memory! So, I think basically it went something along the lines of “hey Libs, wouldn’t it be cool to have a music video for one of our songs?”. And you were like, “yeah totally it would be cool”. Then there was a moment of silence as we both thought about the fact that neither of us knew the slightest thing about how to make a video. But with both of us being in the music and film industry, we know loads of people who do this stuff for a living. So the option was always there to call in a favour and work with a director that we knew. But making a music video is a big ask and we didn’t feel like burdening our talented professional friends with a no-budget freebie. Also, I had been wondering about shooting some video for a while, it’s something I’ve been wanting to experiment with. So I wondered about trying to make something myself.
Q: Well, I know you to be fastidious about aesthetics and especially when it comes to art, and let’s face it, you’ve dabbled in film and music in almost every other area. To know that you wanted to actually get behind the camera yourself is no surprise to me. I remember that conversation when you brought up the idea of making a video, and I remember the silence… To be honest, my silence was not because I didn’t have the slightest idea about how to make a music video, in fact it was because I do. I’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some amazing videos. When I worked for SEAL in fact, he did a duet with MYLENE FARMER and I worked on that music video with them, which was EPIC! Then RICHARD SERENA approached me after a show and offered to a video for my own song I LIVE IN HOPE. So from epic pop star mega video to indie let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done video, I know how much work goes into them and how many people it requires… so yeah, as you say, it seemed like MADNESS! But anyway, you are a bit mad, which is why I adore you and relate to you so well… so getting on with it, what finally compelled and/or inspired you to want to take it on? And what made you choose THIS WAY FOREVER of all of our songs?
AG: Well basically it was a couple of things. Firstly I was really pleased with how the song THIS WAY FOREVER had turned out, and something about that song made me feel that it deserved a video. Also, I had just come off the production of the music for this movie called COLOMBIANA (the one with Zoe Saldana that I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog). Working on the score of films is often a huge undertaking, months of work where you literally do nothing else. Weekends off? What is this “weekend” of which you speak? Don’t get me wrong, it’s exciting and passionate work, but the schedules and deadlines are hardcore so I was completely wiped out by the end of it. The last thing I wanted to do was even think about music for a little while. So when we wrapped on that film I took a short break, and I decided to treat myself to a decent DSLR camera. I’d been wanting to get a camera that was a step up from my iPhone for a while. I researched it and found one that also had a good reputation for shooting HD video, and at under 500 bucks on eBay, we’re really talking consumer-level gear here, nothing fancy! Anyway, I went on a bit of a research binge on the internet to learn about how to use it, and just to learn about the basics of shooting in general. I’ve been around directors, editors, color graders and other film creatives a lot when we’ve been in post-production on film projects, so I guess seeing them work and learning a bit about what they do gave me a taste for trying something out for myself. So that was pretty much what propelled me. I suppose a sane person might have actually taken time out to chill at a beach resort after a big project winds up. But in a way, taking time out to work on something creative other than music for a change turned out to be a great vacation for me. After it was all done, I felt re energized just like coming back from a holiday in the sun, bizarre as it may sound.
Q: Like I said…MAD! 😉 I should let readers in on what it means when you say that you did a bit of research. Tone does not rest until he understands the topic inside and out and that topic can be the DSLR camera in question, or the speed a cheetah can run versus a tiger. He’s a walking friggin’ Tonipedia! Anyway, I remember when we first started talking about the video, we talked about story ideas and what kind of video to make. You then went off and developed the storyboards and prepared the shoot. Can you tell us a bit about what the story of the music video is about?
AG: Yep, I remember in our early conversations, we talked a lot about what kind of direction to take the music video. A lot of it was obviously based on what we could realistically achieve with only basic equipment and pretty humble skills. But also, we discussed the idea of how much the story of the video should or could be directly related to the world of Flamel. The last thing I wanted to do was to try to make some kind of attempt at a literal depiction of JOSH and SOPHIE, or to shoot anything that was supposed to represent actual events in the books. I felt that this was not the right way to go. I mean, we all hope that one day (and one day soon!), the Flamel series is going to wind up on the big screen as a blockbuster movie franchise! So it felt like it would be a little presumptuous and inappropriate to try and create an el-cheapo vision of the Flamel world for our music video. Instead, we talked about focusing our ideas more on the meanings in the song itself. I mean, the themes in the song that we drew from the relationship between JOSH and SOPHIE, they are in a way universal themes. The conflicting ideas of change and staying the same forever, changing identities, being lost not knowing who you are, transformation… those kinds of things are what we looked at for inspiration for the video’s story. But we also wanted to include visual ideas that were inspired by the Flamel universe – images inspired by auras, magic and alchemy, so we looked for ways to incorporate these ideas into it too. It also seemed like a cool idea to use a girl and a guy as the characters in the video, to be able to explore the idea of connected twin souls, as a kind of meditation on the characters of JOSH and SOPHIE.
Q: And also, if I might add, because there are male and female voices. So, are the guy and girl in the video supposed to be JOSH and SOPHIE in some way?
AG: No, not really. Not in a literal sense anyway. When we brainstormed ideas and started coming up with the storyboards, we thought it made sense to have a guy and a girl character in the clip to work in parallel with the “guy/girl” voice in the song. It seemed to carry over the same conceptual sense of two twin souls connected to each other that we tried to express in the song. So I guess the guy and the girl are really just symbols – they could be anyone, anywhere. Just two young people, lost in their own world, unsure of who they are and wondering about whether they’re going “stay the same forever”, to quote from the song. In this way, I guess they symbolize some of what the characters of JOSH and SOPHIE are about and what they go through. But no they aren’t supposed to actually be them.
For the girl, we decided to put her in a world where she’s overwhelmed by a huge mess of clothes, trying to sort through it all. I guess her clothes in a way symbolize her identities, all the people she could be, wants to be or maybe the person she wants to escape, and it’s all too much. You could also read it as a girl feeling trapped in a sense of ennui, surrounded by all her “stuff” and wondering is this is all there is? Is she going to “be this way forever”?
With the guy, we created a setting for him with a similar message. He’s in his dressing room in the morning faced with an orderly procession of nearly identical shirts and ties, like he’s preparing to head out into the world. His neatly organised outfits suggest someone sure of himself, someone who knows who he is and has it together. But for some reason it’s like suddenly nothing fits anymore, so again it’s like a visual commentary on the “will I be this way forever” message in the lyrics.
Q: There are so many levels to the Will I Be This Way Forever theme, and now that I think about it there is also the overall Will They Be This Way Forever in the Flamel series as we all wait for the final chapter? Many questions indeed! But, what about what happens next in the video? Like the scenes with the closeups of the faces and the writing on the wall for example?
AG: Well again, I guess it’s all supposed to be allegorical or symbolic. I really liked the idea of seeing close ups of our two actors’ faces, like they’re looking at themselves in a mirror in the dark. As the song progresses, we see their faces changing, different looks, different possibilities of who they could be or what they could become. I like how it plays up against the lyrics in the chorus, where the question “will I be this way forever?” is being asked over and over, meanwhile we see our guy and girl transforming from one look to another, getting more and more radical as the song progresses. I like the symbolism of the two characters constantly changing their look, to me it kind of represents them fighting against the incessant message of being “this way forever” that is sung over and over in the choruses.
Another thing I liked about the faces in the dark sequences was that it gave us a way to play with imagery inspired by auras, alchemy and magic – a fundamental core of the SECRETS OF THE IMMORTAL NICHOLAS FLAMEL series. Lexi did some amazing make-up work, and I especially loved the gold and silver faces that she gave our actors for the last chorus. This was directly inspired by the gold and silver auras of JOSH and SOPHIE, and the other colorful looks are whimsical references to magic, alchemy and auras. It was really satisfying creatively to be able to play with creating these looks.
The girl writing on the wall, well that’s open for interpretation too. When we were storyboarding, we liked the idea of someone taking photos of themselves, measuring themselves, taking fingerprints and noting it all down. It’s like she’s trying to make a time capsule of who she is, right at that moment in time. Same idea with the photos on the wall and the big equation – it’s like a visualization of trying to figure out who you are, an equation we can spend our whole lives trying to solve! But really without being too over-analytical, it was mostly about creating some thought-provoking images to make you think about what the lyrics of the song mean to you. In that same vein, this is also what we were aiming for with our guy when he starts taking off his white t-shirts, only to find another one exactly the same underneath. It’s just a contemplation on trying to peel off our outer layers, and finding that we’re still the same underneath. I like how these visual motifs play out against the music and lyrics. Maybe it’s all a bit obscure and arty, but for me it felt like a poetic way to visualize the messages in the song.
Q: What was it like making a music video for the first time? Would you do it again?
AG: Yeah sure I’d do it again. I had a blast trying out something new, being behind the camera for the first time. I’m not about to quit my day job, but for sure I’d love to make more videos! It was definitely a huge learning process, but as a musician I found it really rewarding too. In working with music for film, I’m so used to watching a scene and creating the right music for that scene. So it was a really enriching experience to turn the tables, take a song that I had made and explore what kind of visuals the music inspired me to make. I still have a lot to learn and I’d do a lot of things differently next time, but I really enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. I like the idea of shooting another video for JUMEAUX somewhere else next time. We’ve talked about doing one in LA, which I think could be great. Or, continuing the theme of following real-world locations from the Flamel books, it might be cool to do some shooting in a place like Ojai, or in London, or even a shadow realm. If you can point me to the nearest leygate and explain how to open it, I’ll just grab my camera…
Q: How did you choose the actors and the crew for the video? Tell me a bit about them, since I didn’t get to meet any of them personally!
AG: Ha, this is an easy one! When you make a zero budget production, your choices are pretty much as follows: work with friends, friends of friends or nobody. Luckily, Paris is a town absolutely busting at the seams with talented people and I had the great fortune of tapping into a fantastic network of keen people, generous with their time and genuinely interested in collaborating together on making something cool. Couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew!
For the actors, it all started with CASPAR SCHJELBRED. I’ve known him for years, he’s originally from Denmark but has lived in Paris for a while now. I’ve seen him perform in improv theatre (he does a lot of that), but he’s also done a lot of other stuff including acting in a bunch of music videos lately. He starred in a video that was the runner-up in a music video competition by DAVID LYNCH, made by a fantastically talented director in Paris, Jethro Massey. He also acted in this music video for JULIAN PERRETTA, but you’ll have to guess which one he is because he’s one of the guys wearing a mask! He has a great look and is very good at working with minimal direction, which is a good thing because minimal direction was about all he was going to get from me! Anyway, I approached him with the idea that I wanted to try shooting a little something for a song I had co-written. Actually we had a beer in the sun at a bar in Montmartre and I played him the song, if that paints a cooler picture of how it went down. He liked the song and was into being involved, which was cool with me. I asked him if amongst his acting friends, he might know a girl who’d be keen to be involved as well. Without hesitation he suggested LINDA LÄMMLE, a gorgeous (inside and out) Swiss girl who was also living in Paris, but has since moved back to Zürich (booo!). So she came round to my apartment and we listened to the song, talked about the ideas and took some test shots. You can see some of that footage here. Since I was only just learning to use my camera and getting to grips with how to shoot things, I went out one afternoon with Caspar to do the same thing. We took some test shots and also scouted for some locations around Paris. You can see some of that stuff here.
Then as the storyboard developed more, I realized I was going to need a bad ass makeup artist and that’s when Linda hooked me up with LEXI DE ROCK. We met up for beers in the sun (in Montmartre again, oh the artiness of it all) and she was keen to come on board. I’d seen her book and loved the work she had done with making glimmering golden face makeup looks, which was totally the kind of thing I was looking for. So it was fantastic that she wanted to be involved and I love the work she did. Below are a couple of examples of her amazing work, but you can see a whole lot more by watching the music video or checking out our photo page.
I also wanted to work with someone of impeccable taste and style to develop the wardrobe, styling and do the set design and decoration. That’s where FAITH-ANNE GOSSELIN came into the picture. Faith is another young American transplant in Paris who has worked on a bunch of fashion styling gigs as well as music videos. We hooked up and went over the photos and test shots I’d gotten together in my storyboarding, to get her into the vibe. She brought a stack of cool ideas to the table (along with quite literally a stack of cool clothes and miscellaneous items to dress our sets), and did an awesome job creating the visual worlds that the we placed our characters in. Below are a few examples of Faith-Anne’s set design and wardrobe work, but you see it all in the music video and in the out-take and casting videos for CASPAR and LINDA. We also have a huge selection of photos from on-set and on-location, some of which didn’t make the cut in the video, so you can check out more of Faith Anne’s beautiful work here.
Last but not certainly not least, I worked really closely with my production assistant PÉRRINE KREQUEY (yes, there are still some actual french people in Paris). Production assistant doesn’t really do justice to the amount of work and input she put into the project. She was awesome, coming on location scouts with me, gracefully posing for test shots. We also had a great time playing with the pyrotechnics we used for the special effects face close up scenes. It actually took a fair bit of experimentation to get the settings right when shooting the face close ups lit by fireworks, so we burnt through quite a few roman candles. Luckily Pérrine, the star negotiatior, got us an excellent deal with the indian guy at the market where be bought our props and (legal) explosives! Then when it came to our actual two days of shooting, Pérrine stepped up as assistant director, helping frame shots and making sure we got as much coverage as we could. It’s no understatement to say that this video would never have been made without her help.
Q: Why did you choose the outdoor locations you used?
AG: The main thing I had in mind was that I really wanted to avoid shooting in all the usual cliché “Parisian” settings that everyone uses. Paris is such a photogenic city, you can step out of a métro station practically anywhere and your surroundings look like a movie set. So it can be very tempting to just head straight for the most stunning sights and let the city do all the work for you. I suppose I was more interested in finding settings that are less known and less obvious. In the official video, only a handful of the exterior locations we shot with CASPAR made the final cut, because in editing the video they were the exteriors that worked the best to tell the story. Those scenes were shot around the Canal de l’Ourcq in Paris, which is a cool area well-known to locals but maybe a bit off the beaten track for tourists. We shot it around mid-summertime, which is a great time of the year to shoot in Paris because you get this beautiful light with a very long sunset that fades gently from like 9pm until nearly 11pm.
In the out-takes videos you can see a lot more exterior locations. I would have loved to use more of them in the official video but hey the song is only so long and we couldn’t use everything! Maybe we’ll revisit that extra footage (there’s tons of it) to use for another song.
The other main exterior location was with LINDA at a little-known park in the outskirts of Paris called the “Parc de la Butte Rouge”. It’s not so well-known because it’s overshadowed by its much bigger and more famous neighbour, the “Parc des Buttes Chaumont”. I liked this location because again, it’s a place that’s rarely seen on film in Paris. And also, it has all of these interesting late art deco era structures that give it a unique look. We didn’t end up using this stuff in the official video because in the edit, our girl character seemed to carry more impact if she stayed enclosed in her apartment for the whole story. But I really like how that footage looks with the ambient remix version of THIS WAY FOREVER in Linda’s casting/out takes video. So maybe I’ll make a full length video using that footage when I get round to finishing the remix of the song. We’ll see, it could be nice!
Q: What sort of research did you do in preparation for the video (and don’t hold back, I’ve warned our readers on how deep you go when you are in “research mode”? What advice would you give to people interested in trying out making a video for themselves?
AG: Well to be honest, I knew next to nothing about photography or videography before making this video. But these days we’re so spoilt with easy access to information on the internet, not to mention really helpful people on user forums, it was actually an awesome learning experience! And as you’ve pointed out, yes I do have a tendency to go a little overboard when it comes to learning how stuff works… So to answer this question, I think it’s best if I do a separate post giving an in-depth look at the resources I used for learning, the equipment I used, the techniques I learned about etc. That way, anyone who’s interested in making videos themselves and wants to go a bit deeper into the details can do so, and the rest of you can just read on!
Q: OK, so moving on from the technical stuff now. What would you say is your favorite part of the video?
AG: I think my favourite part is the slow-motion montage when our girl is looking at her equation on the wall, and our boy is sitting outside at dusk taking off his white t-shirts only to find another one underneath. I really like how the pace and mood in this sequence really matches the music. If I wanted to get all arty, I think it is a kind of poetic moment around the whole “this way forever” theme. If I wanted to get all arty. Which I often do. I also really like the special effects face close ups with all the colorful makeup design, especially the gold and silver “aura” inspired stuff in the last chorus.
Q: I love that close up scene too, and I really love the T-Shirt scene with Casper. I really loved all the close-up scenes of the faces too, and I wanted to ask you about that. Can you describe what is going on and how you came up with those ideas for the visual effects?
AG: Sure thing. As I said earlier, the idea of the facial close ups came out of us looking for a visual way to play with images inspired by the auras, magic and alchemy from the Flamel books. But I also really liked the idea of setting up a kind of exchange – cutting from boy to girl to boy etc, as a way to visually suggest the idea of twins, or twin souls somehow connected together. If you look at how we lit those shots, the light source is always on one side of the boy’s face, and always on the other side of the girl’s face. We did that intentionally so when we edited it together, it would help to suggest that they were somehow next to one another in the darkness. Actually part of the inspiration for that idea came from the lyrics in the song like “I look right by my side, I find you” and “I’ll always be your shadow”.
When it came to the actual technical side of how we made the visual special fx, it’s kind of embarrassingly simple… but it was really fun to do. We just set it all up in my living room with garbage bags taped to the windows to create complete darkness, and a black sheet stuck to the wall behind the actors. Then we used some roman candles (the kind of fireworks they sell for putting on birthday cakes) for the lighting effects. To create the floating bubbles flying around in shot, we just used a ridiculous bubble blower gun shaped like a dolphin that Linda and I had bought from a guy at a street stall, for like 5 bucks. It all sounds so silly when you say it like that, so when I saw what we were getting through the viewfinder, it was a relief that it actually looked cool! None of it was created in post using fancy digital effects of any kind. It’s all what they call “in-camera” effects, meaning that everything you see is really literally exactly what we put in front of the camera. To make this work, it was crucial to get the lighting just right, to use the right lens for the job, and obviously having excellent make up design (yay Lexi!) was critical. So to prepare for that I did some testing, because I wanted to make sure to get just the right look for the faces, with perfect, inky blackness behind them. Below are some shots from the trial shoot we did, you’ll see that I used a slate card to mark down my settings so that if something looked good, I would know what settings to use to recreate it. This was really helpful, because it took some trial and error until we got something that looked like what I had in mind.
But the thing that impressed me the most was that our actors managed to not burst into fits of laughter given how ridiculous the whole setup was to get those shots. They were real pros, they managed to look beautiful and serene in every single take, despite the fact that there was someone waving fireworks perilously close to their faces and someone else squirting bubbles from a dolphin-shaped bubble toy… but then again it would have been hard to laugh because they could hardly move their faces at all anyway under all that makeup! After every single shot, we had to open the windows and blast the air outside with two fans because those fireworks can sure fill up a room with smoke in no time. All in all, it was a pretty messy affair but we got there!
Q: If there is one thing you could do differently if you could do it again, what would it be?
AG: Hard to say. I think there are parts in the video that work better than others. Maybe I would have gone even further with the colorful visuals because I think that was the stuff that worked the best, especially with the music. I dunno, I think because this was my first go at making a video, I suppose I’ve discovered a bit more about the kinds of things I’m more drawn to visually and the things I’m less good at. I suppose you always can look back on work you’ve done and think about what you could have done differently, but that’s the part of the deal. And it’s one of the best ways to learn too.
Q: Lastly, was that bloody Libby Lavella any help to you at all, or was she the quintessential diva that she usually is? God in heaven how on earth do you bear working with her?
AG: Oh Libs, harsh words! Yes, totally – Libby Lavella is an utter, irredeemable diva who deigned it beneath her to fly back from LA to carry camera equipment around and supervise a music video shoot, and for that she shall never be forgiven. As if! In all seriousness, you were a great help, especially when I sent you test shots and you tactfully told me what was, uh, less cool and what was working better. Of course it would have been great to have you around on set working on it with us. But how about this for a deal? Let’s try to swing it so I come to LA some time and we made a video in your neck of the woods. And how’s this for an idea? Let’s put out a casting call to fans of the Flamel books to see who wants to be in it? That could be great fun. I’m sure Michael Scott would love the idea of his fans participating in a music video for one of the songs. Food for thought anyway!
So there you have it! Hope you’ve enjoyed this very in-depth look into how we made our first music video! Stay tuned for the upcoming addendum in which we go into much deeper detail on the technical side of the production of the music video. If you’re a budding-yet-motivated amateur (like us), it has loads of great info and links to resources to help you learn how to make better videos, so you won’t want to miss it. Also coming soon: a Q&A session on the third JUMEAUX single – FIND THE WORDS.