UO VIDEO SERIES:
For the first music video in our UO Video Series for 2014, experimental noise-pop band Liars team up with wunderkind director Luis Cerveró on the song "Mess on a Mission" off Liars' new album Mess. Here, Cerveró and Liars’ lead singer Angus Andrew share their behind-the-scenes stories from the UO video shoot, as we celebrate three years of the UO Video Series.
A Moment with
Director Luis Cerveró
Hi Luis! Give us a brief description of your video for Liars...
I'd like to leave it open for everyone to read it their way. But basically, what happens is that reality gets increasingly diluted to the beats of the track.
I saw your treatment for the video. Did the final cut differ from your original idea?
No, not at all. I'm really happy because we managed to stick to the original plan, which doesn't happen that often. I'd even say it got better, as I only thought of including some lip synch when I was flying to L.A.
How did you come up with the green screen idea?
These kinds of questions are philosophical. I've never understood how ideas pop up in your head. I remember when it came to me, but I couldn't explain how on earth I came up with it. It just appeared. I really think the track was yelling this idea at me.
Have you worked with green screen before?
I've used it many, many times. And I totally hate it! In fact, the video is in some sense a strong statement against green screen filmmaking.
Walk us through the day of the shoot...
Oh man, the shoot was tight. I'm used to shooting in Barcelona, where crews basically commit to finish the project no matter how many hours it takes to do so. This was shot in L.A., and over there they are so strict with schedules, so basically it was a 12-hour shoot, with the first three hours devoted to set-up and programming the motion-control camera, and the following two hours to shoot the band from four different angles. Then we had about five or six hours after that to shoot all the other different scenes. That is tight.
What was it like working with Liars?
It was amazing. They were SO into it since minute one. Julian was there all the time helping with the prep, and together with Aaron and Angus they stayed all day to help with anything from props to wardrobe, along with providing us with dozens of friends and relatives to be used as actors. It was closer to a family gathering than an actual shoot. Lovely people, the Liars.
Did the band have a hard time with the green screen and props?
Nah, they were actually really skilled. They had to climb a seven-foot tall staircase backwards without looking back and they nailed it pretty much every single take!
Any funny moments on set?
We didn't use any actors, just friends and relatives that showed up to collaborate on the video. Julian's mum and dad are standing there in one of the scenes. That made the shoot way more fun and lovely. People were enjoying the experience and laughing a lot at seeing each other in all the different costumes. Another lovely moment for me was the many different takes we shot with the stylist, Mary Pearson Andrew, running like a fierce monster inside the African tribal costume she had made. And I think the most fun moment for all the people that came, is when they had to fight the anti-riot police. Oh man, they were so into it. They actually destroyed all the police props we had rented.
When Liars frontman Angus Andrew arrived on set at a studio in Burbank one morning in late January, he had never met director Luis Cerveró. Nor did he have any idea what was in store. Here, he provides a first-person account of the mysterious making of the video for "Mess on a Mission."
We received a pile of proposals for the "Mess on a Mission" video. Luis' treatment immediately stood out: Mostly because I couldn't really understand what on earth he was proposing. All I could tell was that somehow he was really fascinated by the idea that nowadays, in filmmaking, you can no longer tell what's real and what isn't.
Fair enough. One of the repeating lyrics from the song is "Facts are facts and fiction's fiction." I could see how blurring the lines between what's real and what's fake makes sense for the song, but still, no real clue what the video would actually look like.
The big day rolls round. Call time for the band is 8 a.m. at a studio in Burbank. I'd yet to meet Luis face-to-face. I walk into this hangar-like building and there are about 40 people at one end milling around the biggest green screen I’ve ever seen. At this point its really too late to start prying Luis with inane questions I should already know the answers to, like, What exactly are we filming today? I'm whisked off to wardrobe where I'm told my outfit needs to look like its been roughed-up and worn out. Hmm, my first clue? Then a group of blue-painted tribes people pass down the hallway. Alrighty then! I give up. I hear my name being called, and as I'm ushered toward the very green end of the building I pass by a group of people in suits, masks and high heels. Maybe it's the early call time or the fancy coffee at catering, but I feel like I've just fallen down the rabbit hole and things are only getting stranger.
I stand in front of this monstrous robot camera that looks better built for assembling cars than shooting music videos and Luis says "OK, you have nine seconds to walk backwards up those stairs. Are you ready?" Clearly I wasn't ready because it takes me about 39 attempts to get the timing right enough for Luis to then proclaim "OK, you're done!"
Cool. "How long’s my break?" I ask the stage manager.
"No, you're done."
"Done, done?" I ask.
"Yeah, done done".
Whaa? It’s like 11am and I’m sure I was told this shoot was going into the night. Was I cut from scenes? Was my
backward walking up the stairs that bad? Nothing, its seems, will come easy for me today.
As casually as possible I wander over to the producers.
"Ha, did you see? I had to walk up the stairs backwards a bunch of times."
"Yeah great job," they say.
"But now Luis says I'm done."
"Yeah you're done."
"For the whole shoot?"
Hmm... how to get to the bottom of all this without appearing the absolute fool? I pull a producer friend aside and in my most hushed and embarrassed whisper ask: "So, is Luis, like, going to reverse the video so it looks like I'm walking down the stairs normally?" And, "Why aren't I in the rest of the video?"
Laughter. Then wide-eyed concern.
"Didn't you read the treatment?" she says.
"I did! I did!" I exclaim, "I just never actually understood it is all."
"Well then," the producer grins, "maybe it's best you just wait and see..."
And so I go home. And I wait. Until I see.
Inside the UO Video Series
A few years ago, we explored an innovative idea to team emerging artists with talented directors to make cinematic music videos that quickly became our UO Video Series. Since then, we have supported a wonderfully curated collection of musicians including Tame Impala (whose video for "Mind Mischief" went on to be included on Pitchfork’s Top Music Videos of 2013 list), Washed Out and Charli XCX, joining forces with directors like David Wilson, Daniel Kragh-Jacobsen and Ryan Andrews, to produce experimental and artful videos.
Allowing for creativity and collaboration to run wild and free, there was the teenage love triangle in Washed Out’s video for "All I Know," a pile of pit bull puppies in liars’s "All You’re Waiting For" and the eerie karaoke bar in Autre Ne Veut’s "Play by Play". For the inaugural video of 2014, Liars, a band that has consistently (and quietly) put out unconventional albums since their 2001 debut They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top, enlisted acclaimed director Luis Cerveró of Barcelona-based CANADA collective, for one of our most exciting videos to date (hint: green screen and family members are involved).
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