Perfectly posed, beautifully shot and intriguingly alluring, Fermín Cimadevilla’s Don’t for Chulius & The Filarmónicos track Do Not is a music video which could easily go toe to fabulous toe with any of the new season’s fashion films. Featuring a seductively captivating Kimberley Tell who occupies the role of muse perfectly for Cimadevilla’s uber-eroticized images, the film playfully places Tell in a variety of off-kilter positions within its carefully composed frames. DN caught up with Cimadevilla to find out more about the inspiration behind Don’t and why Tell’s ‘Cybill Shepherd charm’ made it impossible for him to maintain her anonymity.
Don’t occupies a place that sits somewhere between fashion film and music video. How did you pitch the idea to Chulius & The Filarmónicos. What were the stylistic influences behind the film?
Chulius & The Filarmonicos is the solo project of Julio Briceño, vocalist of and Grammy winner band Los Amigos Invisibles. The producer of Don’t is Arca, who is by chance the producer of Bjork’s upcoming album. Julio and I have been friends for many years. As a musician, this being a personal project, he wanted to work with collaborators that would contribute with a special view on his ideas. When Julio shared the album with me, we both knew it was time to do something together. Don’t was the perfect excuse.
During a long Skype conversation – I was shooting in Moscow at the time and he was at home in Miami resting from the latest Los Amigos Inivisibles tour – he explained what had inspired him to write the song and talked about the lyrics he had written almost automatically. We talked about our beloved and distant Caracas, about football and about girls. Together we reached the conclusion that Don’t had unintentionally become a love song, seen from a distance, with the indifference and disregard with which you look at a pretty girl that you don’t love any more. This was our starting point. When we settled on the concept I had complete freedom to create the music video.
I wanted to use the body as an instrument to suggest things, to make an object out of love.
I wanted to use the body as an instrument to suggest things, to make an object out of love, if this could actually happen. An absurdity that led me to think immediately of the visual approximation in the code of fashion films. To find references on Guy Bourdin was inevitable. His surrealism and erotic playfulness impregnate the whole piece, I was also influenced by Pierpaolo Ferraris’ hilarious surrealism, Mel Brooks’ theatrical humor and Jimi Tenor’s 369 Degree Grind’s sexual minimalism. Don’t is a melting pot of all this.
What was your working relationship with Julio during the making of Don’t? How actively involved was he throughout the production stages?
We did a lot of desktop work, a lot of research. From the very first treatment, and having a very clear look and feel, I worked on a rough cut edited with references that allowed me not to get lost in the infinity of ideas, and gave Julio – and myself – the peace of mind of knowing that what we would film could only work better than that reference edit. That edit was the perfect tool which was shared with the whole team. We knew beforehand that Julio would not be in the video or present during the process, so most decisions had been previously agreed with him. But I must insist that he gave total freedom, a big luxury!
The poses Kimberley Tell embodies in the film feel like they could have slipped from the pages of a fashion magazine. How did Kimberley come on board the project and how did the two of you work together to place her within the compositions?
Without the right actress to perform in a film like this one it would have been impossible to develop the ideas as I had planned it. It could not be a photography model, it had to be someone that could handle the job with ease. It couldn’t just be an actress, but she needed to ‘act’. She didn’t need to be a professional dancer, nor a gymnast, but she needed to have a cool dancing vibe and nice looks. We worked with the casting agency 5th Avenue in Barcelona. We saw many portfolios from Spanish and European models. The callback was decisive, that is when I knew that Kimberly had everything it took and the most important thing: good vibes!
It couldn’t just be an actress, but she needed to ‘act’. She didn’t need to be a professional dancer, nor a gymnast, but she needed to have a cool dancing vibe and nice looks.
Before the shooting, during technical recce, we studied the locations and marked the possible positions for Kimberly. I had previously done research in which I had created a sort of personalised position manual, taking references from contemporary dance, yoga and Tibetan meditation. With this guide we would test and select the positions that worked best – 3 or 4 for each shot – and number them so that when we were going to shoot we just needed to tell Kimberly the number of the positions. Because she had to hold postures for several minutes, it was fun – and a but sadistic, I have to admit – to watch how she would rigidly hold the position and start trembling uncontrollably. If you watch closely you can see the trembling effect on her.
The opening section where we don’t see Kimberley’s face really intrigued and drew me into the film. Was there a temptation to keep her anonymous throughout? How did you decide when best to ‘reveal’ her?
Yes, there was a big temptation to keep her anonymous. I liked the idea that a body could be many bodies, a fantastic sensation of multiplicity generated by anonymity, the objectification of the body one more time. Up until the last moment of editing I played around that idea. It was that Cybill Shepherd charm on her face that made me change my mind. In that sense the editing is quite fair to the lyrics and all the versions that Pablo Piriz edited were looking for a right balance between the anonymous and the evident.
I liked the idea that a body could be many bodies, a fantastic sensation of multiplicity generated by anonymity, the objectification of the body one more time.
Don’t has a beautifully clean, crisp look. What gear did you use to shoot the film? How much of a role did grading play vs what you captured in camera?
DoP Jose Luis Bernal has a lot to do with that. We shared many references and talked about what we wanted to do and which gear would be right to achieve it. We wanted to play with the composition of the spaces and Kimberly’s positions. We established a very curious dynamic in which we first composed the frame that we liked and then we decided how to position Kimbery’s body.
Technically we wanted to combine soft image textures with a very rough light treatment. We worked with an Arri Alexa and Lomo round front opticals. We already generated grain so that Nick Sanders from The Mill would have enough intentional imperfections to take the film to a very special chromatic world with a lot of personality.
Did the segmented nature of Don’t allow you a lot of freedom during the edit? How did you arrive at the final structure?
For the final edit we had to go back to that very first rough cut edited with references. We structured the material in three large segments: anonymous positions, lip-sync actions and ‘booty dance’. We edited a first cut without using the actual song and once we had a solid structure we inserted lip-sync and adjusted to the beat.
Are there any projects in the works we should be looking out for from you in 2015?
For the time being I keep myself busy in the advertising world. I would love to get involved in new creative challenges that keep bringing the fun while I keep learning. I have many ideas I am working on, I hope to be able to work on them very soon.