If you thought the world of vacuum sales was a dull one, absent of thrills and mighty sex appeal then you were sorely mistaken as Berlin director Johannes Schröder deftly demonstrates in Naughty North’s North Star in which housewives swoon as a flamboyant salesman puts his powerful tool through its erotic paces. Schröder tells DN how he combined a Hoover salesman with desire for his “Miami meets an East German village” music video.
I got introduced to the Naughty North while doing advertising work. Soon after that I visited them in the studio and listened to their stuff. At this point it was clear they were going to release North Star as a single, so they gave me more or less the briefing, “Do whatever you want to. But please, shoot a video that is not typical, not a cliché, not young hipsters in sunrises.”
When I listened to the song the key phrase was obviously ‘North Star’ so I thought it would be nice to do something about an orientation point, a role model, an outstanding remarkable thing… And as the music was that huge 90s stylized bombastic dance sound, I loved the idea of having a contrast in the video between bombastic/remarkable and boring/traditional. A guy performing with that bombastic attitude, presenting the ‘North Star’ but in a completely boring surrounding to some people who just happen to be hanging around. I love to combine old myths/stories with new influences so I used this sales man going from village to village presenting some fancy stuff, bringing progress and showing the future.
An important mood for the whole performance was Tom Cruise’s Frank T.J. Mackey character from Magnolia – what we needed was that self esteem paired with an almost diabolic attitude. Casting wise I initially began looking for a masculine hero type like Tom Selleck, a cool guy from the big city but when Christian Ahlers came up and danced with all his energy I was completely blown away. He added joy and an almost childish excitement to the diabolic tone. His interpretation of the character couldn’t dance but loved to dance and that was a pretty human thing I immediately fell in love with. The whole dance itself was developed by me, cause that ‘hobby dance-feeling’ had to continue throughout his whole performance. If it slipped too far into a ‘dance company style’ then the humanity and humour would have been lost.
We shot the video in a rifle club in the middle of Berlin. It was quite surprising to find that somewhere like that still exists hidden between fancy bars and all the cheap hostels. The whole look of North Star was planned as ‘80s influenced timeless” so the audience has this feeling of the past, but you can’t quite determine the actual time period. Aesthetically I had an early chat with my DoP Clemens Baumeister and we were both in love with all the cheap disco tricks such as having a lot of magenta and fog paired with a soft vintage anamorphic look. As we had almost no money we were quite sure the anamorphic approach would be impossible, but thanks to our Producer Birke Birkner and the guys from Vantage we were able to shoot on an Alexa with the old Hawk lenses. Beautiful! The shoot itself was quite tough timing wise. We shot 99% of the whole video in 8 hours, as we couldn’t shoot longer in our rifle club. But as we had a wonderful crew we were able to get almost everything we wanted to shoot.