A befuddling “how’d they do that?” visual puzzle, Caviar directors J.A.C.K (Julien Choquart & Camille Hirigoyen) present a trio of MØs locked in a choreographed dance battle, in their Edvard Munch inspired music video, When I Was Young. DN spoke to the Parisian duo about abandoning their initial motion control concept for a deeper, story driven representation of the stages of life.

MØ has said that the video was inspired by Edvard Munch’s The Dance of Life. What was your initial pitch and how did the concept develop from that image?

At the very beginning of the process, MØ sent us this Munch painting as reference, saying she loved it and wanted to build something out of it. We did some research about its meaning and everything started from there. This painting delivers a strong and quite severe message about life by representing a woman at three different stages of her life: Past, Present, Future. Youth, Maturity, Death. White, Red, Black.

We switched from a pure technical shoot to a film where emotion was the key.

Our original pitch was much simpler and very technical. We were planning to use a motion control rig in order to be able to deliver a long shot of three MØs performing together in the same street. Because we couldn’t afford the moco, we had to re-think the whole video.

We replaced the big machine with storytelling and emotions, we dug deeper into the choreography development: What does it say? How will Karen (MØ) react? Does it look credible? Is the message really being delivered? What are we exactly framing at that moment and why? Who are the three different MØs and how should that affect each of their performances? We switched from a pure technical shoot to a film where emotion was the key.

The location gives off strong ghost town vibes – did you always conceive the film playing out on that canvas?

When you work on a music video you always have to be ready to change everything until the last minute. The shoot was supposed to happen under a perfect blue and sunny sky in California. We were looking at some small remote towns, one-street towns, simple and iconic and we found the perfect place in LA. But then, again, it didn’t fit the budget… So we continued to look for some sunny places elsewhere.

We found great locations in Mexico City but…the earthquake happened… We then looked into Spain, Portugal, Lebanon… but no crush on any locations there… Then, one day, digging on the internet, we found this incredible place in Romania. We fell in love instantly, so did Karen, and the week after we were shooting the video there. We had to forget about the sun and blue sky but the stormy weather made the final touch…and that rain was so epic at night. It adds a lot to all the drama we wanted to get out of this video.

Clearly, I have to ask how you not only featured three different versions of MØ but also had them interact in such a physical manner?

We cast two female dancers to play Karen’s roles for the ‘multiples MØs’ shots. We always had to have in mind where the real MØ was and where were the body doubles. To achieve that, we needed to represent the choreography in space for ourselves perfectly. We imagined a ‘narrative’ choreography that included the camera.

We always had to have in mind where the real MØ was and where were the body doubles.

There’s some CGI shots but actually not much. We had so many things to shoot in one day, we didn’t have the time to be too technical. So, no motorised tracks, no mixers…as soon as we knew we wouldn’t get the moco – which is the ultimate tool, we wanted to put all our energy on focusing on the performance. That needed to be physical to do justice to the lyrics – it’s a very emotional song speaking about losing the good old times of youth… And then finally, we put in a huge amount of work in the edit to finish it all.

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