UO Exclusive Video: Cloud Nothings "No Future / No Past"
We talk to director Ryan Manning and cinematographer Caleb Crossen—and try to talk to Cloud Nothings' singer Dylan Baldi and also get occasional input from drummer Jayson Gercyz—about dragging a middle-aged guy through the mud in the video for "No Future / No Past."
So Ryan, you're standing in a field in Ohio right now?
Ryan: No. I'm in the middle of the woods looking at ancient carvings. On the side of this cliff, there's a big 3-D head. It is nuts! Jayson's been here before. Jayson's the drummer. He's the expert.
So, how do you guys all know each other?
Ryan: Jayson is pretty much my best friend and he's the drummer in Cloud Nothings. Jayson and I have been making videos since high school. We were in a science class together and we basically got kicked out and barred from doing normal work. And we had to make a video for each chapter of the science book. And Caleb was friends with some friends from Medina.
Caleb: I had skated with kids who you were friends with, and then we were both film students, so that was how we knew each other.
How many videos have you guys worked on together before this?
Ryan: I made four Cloud Nothings videos, but one of them didn't become the official video. But this is the first one I have ever done with Caleb.
Are they all different, or is there a common thread that you try to make sure all of them have?
Ryan: Not consciously. But I have a distinct style, because I have strong feelings about the things I do.
What would the distinct style be?
Ryan: I just like to make the viewers feel uncomfortable, for the most part. And get people to not forget the things I do.
How do you make people feel uncomfortable?
Ryan: I'm one of the most non-conformist people in the world and I just really like making people feel uncomfortable and doing things people have never done. It's innately in me to just hate whatever is popular.
Jayson just said it is a character flaw.
So Jayson, why do you think this style is good to accompany your music?
Jayson: Eek, I don't know.
Dylan, do you have any thoughts on that?
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Ryan: Dylan? Did we lose Dylan?
I guess. So then, Jayson, what do you like about working with Ryan?
Jayson: Well, I like the character flaw.
Jayson: He does things that make you cringe, and you're like 'Why did you put that in there?' But then it kind of pays off when you see the finished product, and a couple of years later, when you watch something, you're like, 'That is still kind of odd.' And I guess that is good.
Caleb, what did you like about Ryan's work?
Caleb: I knew that Ryan wasn't working with a lot of equipment, but he was getting some incredible images. Just some really, really creative stuff. The whole idea of him trying to make you uncomfortable is strong because if you can evoke an emotion that is so strong visually that it makes that viewer feel it too, then I think you've done something there. So when I got the call that he wanted to collaborate, I was like, 'Cool, what do you want to do?'
So Ryan was like "Ok, I'm going to come up with 20 ideas, you come up with 20 ideas, and tomorrow we'll talk about them.' So we talked the next day and he was like, "Ok, this is my idea," and he threw it out, and I don't think we went through any other ideas that he had or that I had. It just felt right after listening to the song.
How did you cast the main character?
Ryan: Mike Gassaway, the main character, is like the best person who could have ever done it. He is one of the best people on the planet.
Caleb: We got so lucky, he's so good!
Ryan: I posted an ad on Craigslist, and thought we were just going to get some weirdo with a fetish and we would have to force them to do stuff and it would be just an awkward experience. So I put an ad saying I wanted an older actor, male or female, who looked between 40 and 65. And they had to be able to really act. Because the shot for the most part of the video is on their face and they are looking directly in the lens, looking the audience in the eyes, so they have to be able to emote. If they're not thinking any thoughts, then the audience isn't getting any information.
Then Mike answered the ad, and I thought he was from Cleveland, then I found out he was from Texas. And I was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, we have a decent budget but we don't have a crazy budget, I don't know if I'm going to be able to pay you the way you want.'
But then he said, 'Let me put it this way, I saw Cloud Nothings play in SXSW this year, and they killed it.' He said he loved them, he really wanted to be a part of this project, he loved this character, he would kill this role, and he would work for the minimum amount of money legally for the Actor's Guild, which is $100 a day, as long as we paid for his plane ticket and hotel.
And he turned out to be a really good actor, his attitude was incredible. We could tell in his eyes that he was getting worn down, but he was just like, 'Let's go baby!'
Caleb: We wore him down. There were times in the day where it was a battle. It was just hell trying to get through some of the stuff that we wanted him to do.
So, did you actually drag him around?
Caleb: Do you want to give this away, Ryan?
Ryan: At times, we did drag him. But for the most part, we had this apparatus that Caleb's friend Keith built.
Caleb: I have a friend in Cleveland who works on a lot of production and he does well with rigging and I asked him how we could drag a guy around by his feet, but make it as smooth as possible, if he was floating about four inches above the ground.
We went through a bunch of ideas, but we ended up using a regular doorway dolly, but running a plank on it, so that he could lay down on it but you wouldn't see it. Then we stabilized the camera so it wouldn't have any bounce, even if we were going over super-rocky terrain.
And I wanted the lighting to be consistent, so I rigged the lighting to the apparatus.
Did you have a name for it, or was it just called the apparatus?
Ryan: Oh yeah. I had to build this other thing that would make him fly at the end, so we started calling that 'the Hoverplank.' Then the plank that was attached to the dolly had a pad on it, not just a piece of wood. So we said that was 'The Hoverplank Select.'
Caleb: The Comfort Model!
Ryan: But it was not the comfort model! Because Mike was saying that his spine was bruised.
Caleb: We felt terrible!
Ryan: If it were me, and I didn't have Caleb and I didn't have a budget at all, I would have just dragged him through the mud. My friend Ian, who worked on the other Cloud Nothings videos with me, when he saw all of this equipment and all these people, he said to one of Caleb's friends, 'Man, this is crazy!' And the person responded, 'Yeah, I know, it's a crazy idea, right?' And Ian was like, 'No, all this stuff! We're not used to using all this stuff!'
- interview by Kate Williams