In Depth

Band Aid 30 "Do They Know It's Christmas?" (Andy Morahan, dir.)

Remaking something like "Do They Know It's Christmas" is undoubtedly daunting in the modern age. Do music starts circa 2014 have the same influence as they did in 1984? Can a charitable effort like this get attention when we're 30 years and seemingly 30 million telethons, concerts and collaborations later?

Unfortunately, the need is still there to raise awareness and money for what's happening in Africa today — this time the primary cause is Ebola, as opposed to hunger — but fortunately mastermind Sir Bob Geldof is still active and still able to galvanize people for a worthy cause.

And while the video is a simple affair in terms of the visuals, it was a complicated process due to tricky logistics and a superquick turnaround: The entire video was shot in tandem with the November 15 recording sessions, with a premiere deadline only 36 hours after the start of the session — leaving less than 15 hours to get to final edit. 

Andy Morahan, director: "This was a once in a lifetime opportunity to work with so many incredible artists. The level of talent in that studio was truly awe-inspiring. What Bob (Geldof) is doing is important and changes people‚s lives. Ebola is killing thousands of people in multiple countries and has the potential to affect the whole world on a truly catastrophic scale. The incredible passion with which Bob approaches the Band Aid project is humbling and I am truly flattered to have been asked to be a part of it.

Sheridan Thomas, executive producer: "The whole process, from recording and mixing the track to shooting editing and finishing the film, had to be completed within 36 hours, presenting us with a number of pretty unique technical challenges. The workflow within each and across all departments had to be absolutely seamless to make it happen. There was literally no room for error. I‚m so proud of the Great Guns team and so thankful to many of our regular collaborators, like our two DOPs Tony Miller and Angus Hudson, for pulling off what initially seemed like an impossible feat without a single hitch."

LOUD VISIONARIES PROFILE: Director Ryan Reichenfeld

Our syndication of The 405's music video series Loud Visionaries continues, focusing on the new wave of music video directors and creatives.

LOUD VISIONARIES: Ryan Reichenfeld

Ryan Reichenfeld is name you should get used to hearing. The man's ambition might exceed his grasp, but by God, he has one hell of a grasp on what he's doing. After Justin Timberlake, Adidas and RAC came calling, a lot of people started tuning into his way of thinking. When The 405's own Elsa Bishop sat down with Ryan, she learned that music videos are only one part of the master plan...

read more for the interview

LOUD VISIONARIES PROFILE: Director Young Replicant

All week we'll be reprinting The 405's music video series Loud Visionaries Week, focusing on the new wave of music video directors and creatives.


Creating the kind of music videos to make the darker fans of Fantasia proud, The 405 caught up with LA based director Alex Takacs, known best by his moniker Young Replicant. Thoughtful and subtle, with a flair for the supernatural streaks in everyday life, Alex's work with The xx, Lorde, M83, and Bonobo instills a deeply atmospheric and haunting visual feast to accompany the sounds of each artist.

405: Can you break down your influences growing up?

Young Replicant: I credit my a particular shelf of my family's library for having made a strong early impression. There was a huge back catalogue of Cinefex magazines from the eighties to the early 2000s. Each issue had detailed breakdowns of the most effects heavy movies at the time so it spanned from animatronics and trick photography to the birth of serious CGI. I'm not as big on special effects in my work these days but the write-ups gave me perspective on how complex visual ideas and problems were solved. Next to the Cinefexes was the original uncensored Ghost in a Shell, some random volumes of Akira, a massive copy of H.R. Giger's Nercronomicon, a hardbound book on alchemy, and '90s cyberpunk comics. I spent a lot of time with those.

Another big part of my childhood was this amazing video store on La Brea called Rocket Video. It was my first taste of Ray Harryhousen, the original Godzilla movies, Terry Gilliam. My first David Lynch experience was when they played Dune on the jumbo TV. I remember looking up from the kids section to see the Bene Geserit crying tears of blood because they don't have enough body moisture. By the time I was old enough to really appreciate Rocket Video it had moved across the street to a smaller location and then eventually went out of business. They replaced it with a dog hotel.

405: Formal education vs. School of Hard Knocks?

YR: I'm technically a film school reject turned advocate of a non-film school education, so there's some bias when I say hard knocks. But I'd be surprised if there are many directors working in music videos who would argue otherwise. My experience has always been that school is what you make of it —  a 100k undergrad program with an extensive alumni network is not going to make someone a filmmaker if it's not in them already. I think it's just as important for filmmakers to be dipping into art theory, design, history, and psychology.

405: How did you engineer your first big break?

YR: In 2008 M83 had a music video competition on youtube where people made their own videos and posted them — an early experiment in crowdsourcing that I doubt would be as well received nowadays. It was my first year of college and it was a exciting excuse to make something. I rounded up some friends and we made the video that ended up winning. It didn't lead to big things straight away, but it broke the ice. I actually know a few other great directors who got started with that competition.

405: How does each idea take shape for you now - whats the osmosis process / do you have any consistent forms of inspiration?

YR: I have a loose ritual that I follow but since each project is different, the research process tends to take on a life of it's own after a while. I write by hand, type, play the song over lots of different visuals. I try to avoid digging too deeply into an artist's online persona because it can generate a long list of don'ts, conditions and things to avoid. For me, it's important to find ways to bypass self censorship and cynicism.

Verbalizing is also a really big part of my process — I feel like there's something that happens to your train of thought when you're speaking versus when you're mulling things over in silence. While the monkey part of your brain is preoccupied with stringing together crude mouth sounds, the rest of your mind is doing all kinds of unconscious work. It's like when you catch yourself in the middle of a sentence and your not sure what you're gonna say next but it just spills out anyway. There's a voice emanating from an inner blind spot and its bound to have some good ideas.

405Bonobo's 'First Fires' is such an enduring piece, and it really complements the Lorde video by being an interesting counterpoint. What is it you're working on now?

YR: Thanks. I've got a couple narrative projects developing, a new music video and short documentary about house music in Los Angeles.

405: Kan Wakan's 'Like I Need You' featured fantastic hints of a narrative beneath the performance elements.

YR: The band and I were close to working together a couple times so it was fun to finally get the chance. We shot the video over two nights around the docks in San Pedro. I wanted play with genre a bit and build an underworld that hadn't necessarily been seen before.

Written and Interview conducted by ELSA BISHOP. First published in longer form on The 405 and appearing here with permission.

Loud Visionaries Profile: Director Dave Ma

All week we'll be reprinting The 405's music video series Loud Visionaries Week. Yesterday was all about Hiro Murai, but today they shine the light on Edward John Drake .The 405 presents their Loud Visionaries series focusing on the new wave of music video directors and creatives.

LOUD VISIONARIES: Dave Ma, director:

Dave Ma has found his feet, and they're currently buried deep in the world of enigmatic visuals and subtle camera work. The man is aware of what makes us tick, aware of who is, and is certainly aware of how he can translate all that into beautiful filmmaking. Bastille loves him, Flight Facilities came back for seconds... things are looking good for citizen-of-the-world Dave 'probably watching porn' Ma.

read on for the interview...

Loud Visionaries Profile: Director Edward John Drake

All week we'll be reprinting The 405's music video series Loud Visionaries Week. Yesterday was all about Hiro Murai, but today they shine the light on Edward John Drake .The 405 presents their Loud Visionaries series focusing on the new wave of music video directors and creatives.

LOUD VISIONARIES: Edward John Drake, director

Born to be a James Bond villain — though fortunately for us he's taken to crafting music videos & commercials with powerful emotional hooks at play — Edward John Drake jumped on a short call between shots on a new music video he's directing. With genre-defining artists like Klangkarussell, the Stanton Warriors and Kat Krazy paying generously for his time, he's become the go-to guy in electronic music for brave characters and thought provoking themes. Former assistant to Mark Romanek, office drone on True Detective — and now creating worlds of his own — Edward John Drake is a name you could get used to hearing more often.

read more for the interview...

Loud Visionaries: Director Hiro Murai and Creating "Gold"

We're psyched to team-up with The 405 to present their Loud Visionaries series focusing on the new wave of music video directors and creatives. First up is Hiro Murai and his latest music video "Gold" for Chet Faker...

LOUD VISIONARIES: Hiro Murai, director

Creating the kind of music videos to make David Lynch proud, The 405 caught up with LA based director Hiro Murai.  Enigmatic & loaded with ennui, his work with Childish Gambino, St Vincent, Cults, and now Chet Faker, each exude a confidence - leaving a lot of people excited and anxious to see what’s coming next.

405: You've got a great origin story - born in Tokyo, raised in LA - can you break it down for us and what your influences were growing up?

Murai: I lived in Tokyo until I was 9 or so. Growing up, I remember watching a lot of Hayao Miyazaki movies and not-age-appropriate American movies dubbed in Japanese. I liked drawing, so I was consuming a lot of cartoons and manga too.

When I moved to LA, I remember everything felt very alien. It didn’t help that I didn’t speak the language, but aesthetically and culturally everything was completely different. I have a really vivid image of a poster for a Hulk Hogan movie (I think it was Mr. Nanny?) where he’s flexing his muscles wearing a pink tutu. The early nineties was a very confusing time to be introduced to American culture.

I think I actually started watching more Japanese films once I moved to LA. I got really into Takeshi Kitano gangster movies in high school. They were paced so weirdly, and you couldn’t really tell if it was supposed to be serious or funny. It’s the same thing I love about David Lynch movies, the ambiguity of the tone kind of sucks you in.

405: Formal education vs School of Hard Knocks?

Murai: I did both. I grew up making movies on my dad’s camcorder like a lot of filmmakers in my generation. You learn to be really scrappy that way, which is pretty invaluable - especially working in music videos.

I also went to film school, but I had a hard time adjusting to that environment at first. It felt really strange being in a structured, industry driven environment when all I’d done up until that point was make things by myself for myself. I did meet a lot of great friends and collaborators there though.

405: How did you engineer your first big break?

Murai: I didn’t engineer it so much as fall into it. When I got out of college I was doing a lot of random freelance work. I was DPing music videos, but I was also doing some VFX work and storyboarding.

Eventually I started getting some low budget directing gigs and it kind of built from there. One of my first jobs was a $2,000 video for a Bloc Party remix song. I remember I pulled every film school favor ever to get it done. I don’t even think the band knew we made a video for that song. I’m still pretty proud of that video though.

405: How does each idea take shape for you now, what’s the osmosis process, do you have any consistent forms of inspiration (ie listen to the track a few hundred times)?

Murai: It depends on the project, but I do listen to the track a lot. I put it on in the background while I’m doing other things so it sort of seeps into my subconscious.

I’ll usually get really attached to one sound or riff, and start thinking of images that would maximize that feeling. The rest usually builds from that seed I think.

405: Chet Faker has a really eclectic choice in directors - was it one specific video that got you on his radar, or was "Gold" a long time in the making?

Murai: I don’t remember the exact details, but I think I heard one of Nick’s songs somewhere and asked around to see if he was making any videos. I thought his sound would be fun to put visuals to because it was so atmospheric and textural. I guess he liked what I pitched him, so we talked on the phone a few times about it.

I think people are surprised to hear that there is almost no post-work involved in this video. All of the skating and camera moves were done practically by driving down the same stretch of road 30 times. Post consisted of picking a few takes and stitching them together at transition points. I think there’re total of 4 shots combined together for the final video.

The shoot itself was a lot of driving back and forth in the middle of nowhere, while making sure there weren’t any rocks that the girls could trip on. Our choreographer Ryan Heffington (who is incredible by the way) was on the back of the car yelling the count over a megaphone each take. It was a surreal scene. It was really in the middle of nowhere, so I think we scared a lot of people who happen to drive by us.

405: Feature efforts in the near future are being talked about from the UK to LA. What’re we in for next?

Murai: Oh wow, that’s a lot of pressure to live up to. I don’t have any specific projects lined up, but I’m looking around. I definitely am itching to do something narrative.

Written and Interview conducted by ELSA BISHOP. First published in longer form on The 405 and appearing here with permission.

OK Go and the Real Writing on the Wall for Music Video

“We don’t view [music videos] as promotional materials for the ‘real’ thing, the song. To us the song is the real thing when you’re listening to the song and the music video is the real thing when you’re watching the music video.” - Damien Kulash, OK Go [source]

I moderated a panel the other week at the New Music Seminar where a big part of the discussion was about how in an era where people are consuming music via devices with screens attached — computers, mobile devices, TVs — there needs to be a visual for every song. And ideally that visual should be a video, and it should be compelling. It should either reinforce the meaning and appeal of the song, and it should inspire you to stay tuned, rewatch and share it with others. That's a lot to accomplish, especially if you're deaing with the typical budget and timeline of a music video production.

OK Go have certain luxuries and attributes that should make other bands envious — none more so than a relentless commitment to creativity — but it's still awe-inspiring that "The Writing's On The Wall" checks off every need from my usual video wishlist. It's the kind of video that you can appreciate without knowing anything on the "how'd they do that" tip, but becomes all the more impressive the more you see the moving parts behind it all (some of which are provided in this Making Of)...

The writing is indeed on the wall. You need a video for every song. Nielsen may proudly boast that radio is still the primary means by which people "discover" music, but even they also note that the #1 source for teens is YouTube. And just watch those numbers continue to flip over the next few years... If your potential fans are initially experiencing your music through a visual platform, then shouldn't the visual be prioritized?

Exploring Pulp Cinema with Director Michele Civetta and The Randians

If director Michele Civetta's 2006 longform "Friendly Fire" piece for Sean Lennon is essentially a feature film of a music video, but this trio of clips for indie rockers The Randians is like episodic TV series that hits all the right Pulp Fiction buttons with debaucherous glee.

We recently connected with Michele to talk about the videos, the inspirations and the guest stars (including Boardwalk Empire actress Paz De La Huerta)...

Talking Katy Perry "Roar" with co-directors Grady Hall and Mark Kudsi

If you're going to trudge into the jungle and challenge some of the most iconic film motifs ever, there's probably not a better choice than the Motion Theory creative team, which has previously tackled the high seas, candyland and way more over the course of many music videos.

Directors Grady Hall and Mark Kudsi — two independent directors at Motion Theory who collaborated on this project — took Katy Perry's "Roar" as a call to empowerment, leading the pop star on a journey from damsel in distress to queen of the jungle.

We recently chatted with the directors about everything from how.PETA recently hijacked a press cycle by questioning the treatment of the many animals in the video, and the general usage of animals in film production — claims which were rebutted by Katy in a statement and further countered in our interview — plus film inspirations, art directing nature and the truth about Junglescope.

Exploring Boards Of Canada "Reach For The Dead" on a Bolex with DP David Myrick

Boards Of Canada "Reach For The Dead" is a video defined by its cinematography of ghost towns and deserted landscapes.

Cinematographer David Myrick joins us to here walk us through that world and how they used a vintage Bolex film camera to bring a unique vibe to the project.

DP David Myrick on Bringing Back the Bolex... 

"This year a few projects came up with the idea to create a vibe and energy that felt vintage but had a modern approach to composition.

Solving the Placebo "Too Many Friends" Video with Director Saman Kesh

Placebo "Too Many Friends" is one of those great videos that can be easily summed-up in a couple bullet-points to a newbie — it's narrated by author Bret Easton Ellis and ends with a quiz — but also stands up to repeated viewings and close studies. The video is a mystery, but also a critique about how we've been lulled into submission by our digital devices and the well-chose pharmaceutical.

We recently chatted with director Saman Kesh via email about how the video came together, the irony of it all, and what it means — including how the video is slyly, if a bit coincidentally connected to The Dark Knight Rises.