Passion Pit's "Constant Conversations" video is one that's hard to ignore. Premiered by Pitchfork.com, just a couple weeks after a deeply personal Cover Story on the band's leader Michael Angelakos, the video was given additional resonance, which was only amplified by a top-notch cast headed by film icon Peter Bogdanovich.
Here's the story of how the video came together...
Dori Oskowitz, director:
"This project had a very positive spirit around it from the inception; People seemed to rally around it. Saul contacted me and told me about some ideas Michael Angelakos (Passion Pit frontman) was throwing around. Saul saw this piece as very much tonally similar to a previous treatment I had written but never got made, which right there was super encouraging that commissioners remember ideas even if they passed on them."
Saul Levitz, commissioner, Columbia Records:
"When Michael first pitched me the idea for the video, it felt very dark and contemplative and I immediately knew we needed a filmmaker who was a great collaborator, yet was confident enough to make this their own. Enter Dori, who is one of the most thoughtful directors I've worked with and always takes things to a sexy and effortlessly cool place. I knew he would connect with Michael and also take the personal elements of the song and weave them into a larger narrative without feeling too constrictive."
"Saul mentioned how close the lyrics were to Michael and that he had referenced Ingmar Bergman's Cries And Whispers, which is film I love. We talked a bit about how we hide under a veneer that we put on for the world to see and what kind of environment would be best to reveal what's under the facade. An afternoon cocktail party at an old-money estate seemed liked the right world.
I immediately thought of Slim Aarons photographs and started imagining what kind of darker things happen beneath these glamorous hi-society portraits. Aarons work also inspired a vintage country club, summer soirée vibe, and the styling and vibe of '60s – '80s upper crust casual was too good not to incorporate.
While this was happening, my friend and collaborator Ross Levine was producing his first feature out of the Prettybird office — The Canyons, written by Bret Easton Ellis and directed by Paul Shrader. Fortunately, Ross was working with his pal and seasoned film producer Braxton Pope. When this video awarded, The Canyons miraculously pushed a few weeks so Ross and Braxton agreed to co-produce the video with Braxton heading up casting."
Braxton Pope, co-producer:
"Interestingly, I thought of Peter Bogdanovich because of something I read about a John Ford rule for filmmakers: Be Cranky, But Have A Sense Of Humor. Ford was a cantankerous guy, as is Schrader, so filming The Canyons had me thinking of an anecdote about Bogdanovitch and Ford.
"Once Peter stepped on set everything became a little more elevated. We went from making a music video to creating something more. This is the guy behind some of the seminal films of American culture and he somehow saw some value in hanging out with a bunch of music video kids all day."
"Bogdanovich felt like the patriarch and gave the video a gravity that I think also was instrumental in attracting others. These things take on a certain momentum, and when you begin with a great band that is full of musical ideas and marry it to a director of vision, then you can get talent. In addition to Bogdanovich and Analeigh Tipton and Roger G. Smith and Taryn Manning, it’s interesting to note that Emmy Rossum would have appeared if but for a scheduling conflict, as well as Marisa Tomei. "
"Passion Pit has a lot of fans in the talent world so there was an appeal from the beginning. I created a character breakdown of five lead roles and gave them all a back-story. It seemed strange at first, but actually ended up being the most important piece of prep for set. Pitchfork reached out to some agency contacts to help fill roles. The label reached out to some well known fans of the band. Braxton reached for his cell phone, which might be the most Hollywood thing I've ever written, but his years of experience and networking was instrumental."
Braxton: "The money in these things always seems to be grim, so you have to rely heavily on personal connections, but also the idea that this is a true art form, unencumbered by commerce, selling ads, people buying tickets in a theater. In a way, videos often belong to the same genus as art pieces shown in museums or galleries. they express visual ideas that are not bounded by the narrative form. This freedom, combined with a band that creates great music, is enticing to performers of a certain stripe."