Sufjan’s ROUND-UP debuts this week at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The piece is a composition by Sufjan set to film by Alex Craig and Aaron Craig, of We Are Films. We spoke to the Craig Brothers about the whole process, which involved fireworks, hula hoops, and crop circles. Get tickets to ROUND-UP here.
Crop circles?!? WTF.
Yes, crop circles! I assume you’re talking about this photo of Sufjan pushing a push mower. First of all, what a champ. Second of all, yes, we were filming the hoopers on a ranch upstate and the grass on the ranch was just a tad too long. So we picked up a push mower and did our best to clear a spot for filming. We all literally got our hands dirty for this shoot.
Middle of last year we saw a charge on the AKR UPS account for “COSTUMES.” It was not the strangest UPS charge we’ve seen, but certainly abnormal . Since you’re behind crop circles, can you also explain this other strange anomaly? We’re guessing it’s for the Hoopers. They’re behind everything.
Yep! While the film is mainly focussed on the Pendleton rodeo happenings, there are portions of the film that include hoopers. These are the same three girls from the BQE film. The costumes were extremely intricate for this. They were all designed by Caroline McAlister of Via Verano who is a long time collaborator of Sufjan and Asthmatic Kitty.
The costumes were extremely intricate for this. They were all designed by Caroline McAlister of Via Verano who is a long time collaborator of Sufjan and Asthmatic Kitty. She worked with an amazing team as well: Farah Bashiz (the tailor), Brynn Watkins (the stylist), Karen Lembke (the milliner), Christine Talevski (the wardrobe fit specialist), and Amanda Grogan (the sewer).
I think the most impressive and unique things that were designed for this are the chaps. They are honestly incredible looking in person. I’ve never seen so much detail and madness in western chaps. We had to make sure that we paid extreme attention to detail in the costumes because we were filming extremely close and rarely used any wide lenses. So we had to make sure it looked perfect up close.
Talk about the Hoopers a bit more, because we loved them from the BQE.
The hoopers are amazing. I had no idea that there was such thing as hooping clubs in New York! They literally meet up on a regular basis and practice hooping together, create new moves, and meet other hoopers. It’s a really fascinating underground group. While filming, we tried to mimic the camera movements that we performed at the rodeo with the hoopers to draw a sort of connection between both the scenes.
What’s your equipment stack? Do we sound like filming pros when we use the phrase “equipment stack?” Don’t answer that one.
We filmed on two kinds of cameras, the Red Epic and the Red Dragon at 300 frames per second. The cameras were absolutely perfect for this kind of filming environment. It was small enough for us to be able to carry to very tight spaces with the cowboys and also was able to maintain during the extreme heat and other conditions.
You grew up in Texas, you live in Brooklyn. How was filming in Oregon as compared to the city of New York and the oil fields of Texas?
Pendleton, Oregon was actually very similar to Texas. Pendleton is not anything like the lush greenery of Portland. It’s just like your classic cowboy town. But it’s 100% different than New York. It really feels like you’re stepping back in time when you attend the Pendleton rodeo. Everyone is dressed in classic rodeo attire. Even we were required to wear plaid, jeans, and a cowboy hat.
You guys do music videos, some documentaries, and ads for brands like Squarespace. What exactly is ROUND-UP, and where does it fit in that rubric? What made doing ROUND-UP surprising? Different? Difficult (or easy)?
Yeah, we do a ton of commercial work… Squarespace, Microsoft, Coach, etc… but we also film tons of music videos and documentaries as you say. The thing that made this so different than anything else was that it was all so organic. Usually for commercial shoots or any other music video shoot, everything is planned to a T. For the Round Up, we literally went to Pendleton thinking we were going to make a 5 minute video to toss up on Vimeo when we were done. Once we started filming and when we started reviewing the footage we realized we had something much much bigger in our hands. This kind of thing would have never happened with a commercial or a regular music video. This turned into something much greater than we could have imagined.
What’s next for the Craig Brothers?
Currently, we are in pre production for 2 feature films. One filming this year and one scheduled for filming in 2016. At the same time, we’re continuing to make more short form videos all along the way and simply having lots of fun while doing it. We are very thankful that we get to do what we do each day.
Congrats Alex and Aaron! We can’t wait to see ROUND-UP later this week.