Director Phil Harder on The Script "Six Degrees Of Separation"

Sometime soon I'll need to circle back on director Phil Harder, because he's one of my favorites.

You're hopefully familiar with his trickier videos like placing a band within a world of record covers on "Brimful Of Asha", using a flip-book to create an in-camera animated effect, putting a chalk board to good use, or going on a very long tracking shot with a rock star singing about another rock star. (And, if you're a big fan of that late '80s/early '90s indie rock scene, you'll realize there's a better than decent shot he directed your favorite videos since he's worked with everyone from Afghan Whigs to Versus and on and on.)

His video for The Script "Six Degrees Of Separation" is a simpler idea, yet one that captures the band and the song with a surprising amount of spontaneity for a a 35mm shoot.

Script Six Degrees Of Separation

Phil Harder, director:

"For The Script video I returned to 35mm. In the 1990s and 2000s I shot strictly film until budgets tightened and digital production became the norm. 35mm was a great way to elevate The Script's performance and match the height of their live show. A few nights before the shoot I saw them perform to a sold out Radio City Music Hall. The performance was massive and everyone was singing along. My goal was to achieve that kind of experience, but unlike a live show a music video has an opportunity to be intimate. 

Script Six Degrees Of SeparationOn the shoot day we began with a small set on black for each band member's intimate closeups. This small set also gave the film crew time to light the large performance set, which was a decrepit, unused theater in downtown L.A called The Tower. (I think a few rats and some strong urine odors went unnoticed in the music video, although the band got to experience that in the basement dressing rooms.)  We lit the theater with cinematic lighting and six moving beams from The Script's live show. We brought in the band's lighting technician to program the moving light beams. Many of the low angle shots were designed with the architecture of the theater in mind, which I felt would add a dramatic effect. We rolled most of the performance at 48fps for a slow motion performance. DP, Shawn Kim, known for his use of anamorphic lenses, set up a wall of lights behind the band to electrify the setting. The six moving beams match the song title and created exotic horizontal lens flares due to the anamorphic shape of the lens.

35mm has an incredible range so a lot of directorial decisions were made in telecine where we colorized all the raw footage before editing. This is the gratifying part of directing with film. 35mm has incredible latitude for a wide range of visual options. For example, the band against a wall of lights can be darkened into dramatic silhouettes, or that same shot can be brightened to create a blast of overexposed light and detail. Colorist Marshall Plante at Ntropic set up a contrasty look in telecine. I wanted to exploit the strong architectural shapes, yet bring the band member's faces out with a softer light. Our editor, Adam "Zuk" Zukerman had all the raw footage in full colorized potential, which is a great way for an editor to make decisions, especially when this video hinged on cinematography.

Script Six Degrees Of SeparationThe opening shot of the video was a happy accident. The shot lasts almost 30 seconds, the entire first verse. Early in the shoot we were setting up a close detail.  I looked at the monitor and saw an interesting rim lit outline on singer Danny O'Donoghue as he sat waiting for the next shot. I told Danny to hold his position and roll camera.  As Danny began singing, Shawn and his gaffer  were still working out a fill light and  positioning a reflector board to create a subtle fill. I think Shawn was thinking I would use the take once the light settled. Colorist Marshall Plante reduced the exposure down to an extreme outline for that opening lyric, then he brought up the light little by little. As the light comes up our eye discovers subtle details within Danny's face. I think this take was Danny's most  honest closeup performance and sets the stage for the video: A guy sitting alone, singing his heart out about the one that got away."

The Script
"Six Degrees Of Separation" (Epic)

Phillip Harder, director | Courtney Davies, Agnieszka Vosloo, producer | Vision Ent, production co  | Las Bandas Be Brave, rep (UK) | Shawn Kim, DP (performance) | David Myrick, DP (narrative) | Zuk, editor |  Geoff McLean, exec. producer | Ross Anderson, commissioner

note: Laure Scott reps Phil Harder for music videos in the US