Last week we released “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” a new music video from Sufjan Stevens‘ Christmas boxset Silver & Gold. Directors and producers Aaron and Alex Craig – aka We Are Films - filmed the video in Brooklyn just last week. In the video, the camera follows a young girl as she runs down a dark corridor past several unusual Christmas scenes. You can see the video below.
The Craig Brothers are no strangers to AKR; they’ve also filmed a video for The Welcome Wagon, and helped on production for My Brightest Diamond, so we didn’t think they’d mind if we asked them a few questions about the filming of this video. They also provided a behind-the-scenes look at filming, which is below the text.
Asthmatic Kitty Records: How did you find the location for the video? It’s perfect!
We Are Films: It’s funny, actually our art director and wardrobe designer both separately recommended we check out this location. So when multiple people told us it was perfect, we knew it was where we were supposed to be. It’s actually an old school house in Bushwick, Brooklyn that’s been turned into artist living spaces. Thankfully everyone that lives there is a fan of Sufjan, because we completely ransacked the place for 3 days.
Sufjan and AK had some suggestions for the video, but you guys took them and ran with them. How did come up with the various scenes?
Sufjan told us he wanted weird things happening in each room and gave us some suggestions. After listening to his ideas, we knew it was going to be a really trippy project. So after more discussions with the AK team we took everyone’s ideas and then looked at it as “how can we make each scene the most visually stimulating”? This meant looking at each scene and figuring out 2 main things. (1) How can we make this look beautiful in slow motion? (2) How can we make it so that the viewer always sees a new detail everytime he/she watches the video? Additionally, we needed to do this while still sticking to the central meaning of the video. This required elaborate art direction and a huge team of about 35 people.
The sets are very detailed; how long did it take to get them set-up? Are there any “easter eggs” you’d like to share with us?
The set was extremely detailed. It took a total of 3 days to build and decorate it. From the beginning we knew that for this shoot set design and wardrobe were going to be absolutely key for the success of the video. So we called in two of the best we know. Our art director Meghan Smith went above in beyond, literally drawing out blueprints of the entire set and detailing where each prop was going to be placed. Everything from where chandaliers were going to be hung to where a candle should be set. Our wardobe designer Christine Talevski is in our opinion the best in NYC. We definitely think that you have to think outside the box to get anything good and Christine and Meghan are just always on the same wavelength with us. For example, when we tell Christine, “there needs to be a lumberjack with antlers coming out of his head”, without even flinching she asks “how big do the antlers need to be” and she makes it happen. Couldn’t have done this without them.
As far as “easter eggs” go, there are many. We tried to tie in some themes from a couple of Sufjan’s older songs into some of the rooms. We also have a unicorn tapestry in the background of one of the scenes that I haven’t heard anyone point out. I’m pretty proud of it. Also one of the ladies in the funeral room is eating a plate of jello. But you should just watch the video more closely to pick up on these little details.
Talk to us about filming. What kind of camera did you use, what are the limitations of the equipment and its strengths?
We filmed on the RED Epic at 120 frames per second. So every 5 seconds in the music video is actually only 1 second in real time. That means that we had to film the entire video in 43 seconds. All 6 rooms. And we had to coordinate when each thing was happening. i.e., when the snow was to fall, when the wood was to be chopped, etc. In reality the lumberjack (Clint) only had about a 1 second time frame to cut the wood because we had to fly through his room so quickly. We Also had to light each room so that we couldn’t see the lights or stands at all. That’s hard enough to do when you are filming in a single room. The shots looked smooth because we filmed with a steadicam which stabilizes movement even when running. It was also fun because we were able to wirelessly live stream the video from the Epic onto our iPads or iPhones as the camera was flying through the set. So it didn’t matter if you were backstage in the dressing room, you could see everything happening in real time on your iPhone.
What’s next for We Are Films?
We have 2 main passions: music videos and feature films. Those are ultimately what we want to focus our efforts on. We have a few music videos on the horizon, including one for the beloved Sufjan collaborator Son Lux. And we’ve even got a rap music video coming up. Our New Years’s resolution for 2013 is definitely to start filming our feature. I’m confident it will happen. On top of music videos and prepping for our feature we do lots of commercial work, including everything from work for The Food Network to commercials on television. But sometimes you just never know what is going to come next. We kind of just prepare ourselves for anything.
Thanks to We Are Films for their hard work, and for taking the time to answer these questions. See below for the video itself, and for a much-quicker behind-the-scenes look.