Dreamin': Behind The Scenes (pt. 1)

I first heard an early cut of Dreamin' about a year ago and was instantly taken by it. Haunting. Beautiful. Strange. You know it's a personal song, even though it's been recorded to sound distant -- like the voice of someone trying to keep their feelings in sight but out of reach. The track was already cinematic; I wanted to be the person to make a video for it. 

I called my friend Scott -- Pillar Point -- who was preparing his album (which has just come out and deserves your attention). We agreed we should make a new mix of the song just for the video that would beef up the intro, and build into a major crescendo.

We've had one hell of a winter here in New York, and I rather than fight the frost and grime, I wanted to build it into the project. For a few days, I was probably the only one in the city who was delighted by the miserable weather, and constant threat of snow.

Ever since making Girl Walk, I've been dying to make another film with Dai (who plays The Gentleman). When I approached him with the song and a treatment, he signed on immediately. The words I gave him to think about for the movement: yearning, urgency, stealthiness, joy. The story, as I imagined it, was about this character's need to connect with nature, and distance himself from the intensity and congestion of city. I asked him to experiment with momentum and moving low to the earth. 

We filmed a rehearsal in my apartment for a long afternoon; we'd play music while Dai danced and I took notes. Then I'd stop the music and mimic the moves I loved and wanted him to develop. I love this part of the process: figuring out how to articulate what you can't put in words. I wind up mimicking different dance styles and showing micro-versions of particular moves to explain myself, which is fun and rather tragic. 

Two minutes of rehearsal

The song has this gauzy emotional groove that I wanted help translating into film. I got my friend Søren on board early to talk about leading the cinematography. Søren has experience with just about every camera I can imagine, and I wanted to be able to focus on directing the project and managing a medium-sized team in the snow rather than getting consumed by the camera operation. 

We wanted to shoot a lot of slow-motion, and have a ton of lattitude in post, and decided it was a project for a RED Epic and an amazing new camera stabilizer called the MōVI. We spent a lot of time talking about camera movement, transitions, and how to develop the story across two entirely different locations. I rarely have the luxury to spend so much time in the concept phase, and it's a huge treat.

Joe -- a super-experienced DP and climber -- came on board to experiment with rigging the setup and flying the MōVI, and made it his mission to figure out how to simulate a crane shot using an array of ropes and pulleys to push the final scene at a frozen waterfall we'd found. More on that in the next post.