Moving from the playful black and white dance we so enjoyed in Love is a Lonely Dancer to a neon tinged limbo in which beauty and grotesqueness are transposed, Alan Masferrer reminds us that he’s a director never to be pinned down to a single aesthetic. We invited Alan to explain how he combined a contortionist and an octopus with a more instinctive approach to production for Klyne’s Lend Me Another Name music video.
The clean coloured backgrounds accentuate the beautiful and simultaneously repellent images which unfold in the video. How did you and DoP Marc Miró approach building Lend Me Another Name’s distinctly tailored visual style?
It’s usual for me to work with abstractions, and in this case it wasn’t an exception. Although it’s a linear story, it’s told in an abstract way, and so it has to look the same as well. I was very interested in creating an atmosphere with two colours merging with each other, not the usual duo-tone look but something much more surrounding. To get it we stablished a scheme of lights that enabled us to get many different configurations, using a lighting controller to turn on and off every light manually and independently. Due to that we could create a unique mood for each take even without changing most of the lights. Marc Miro was amazing, doing it in a very subtle and beautiful way.
Although a late addition to the concept, Dasha Sovik’s contortion is key. How did you first become aware of her work and then choreograph her onset performance?
We were sooooo lucky to find Dasha with so little time. I did some simple research on Google and I noticed her immediately. She used to be a contortionist for the Cirque du Soleil but at the same time she seemed to have very good acting skills, so I got in touch personally. Fortunately she loved the project and we found an affordable flight to bring her to Barcelona (she was in Macedonia when we contacted her). I designed choreography for every part of the song myself but I also proposed that she build a free choreography inspired by song and the octopus concept. When she arrived we put all of it together, but basically she’s able to do anything and it was very fast to arrive to what I had in mind. The shoot was extremely hard for her due to some issues we couldn’t prevent, like the water being much colder than was optimum and a very slippery floor (inside the pool we manufactured especially for the occasion)… but she was super incredible and she got to do everything we planned. It was a real pleasure to work with such a brilliant artist.
How do you approach working with a live octopus? Is it possible to actually wrangle a ‘performance’ from such a creature?
The concern about that was similar to working with Dasha. Both of them are so amazing by themselves (of course in a very different way), that it would have been easy to let them take over the video, so I specified very clearly what I wanted from them from the beginning and kept my mind pretty locked in this regard. Anyway, when you work with an animal you have to be very open during the shoot to get as much as possible from it. Not to say with an animal like that is impossible to train, but we spent 2 funny hours following their movements (we had 2 of them) and watching how they rolled over and over to my keen AD’s fingers, but in the end we were very lucky and we got to capture everything I planned. The set of lights and the abstract background helped to keep the look in line with the rest of the footage.
Could you explain what the on set 360º camera brought to the post production process?
We used a small and cheap 360 camera, the Ricoh Theta I believe it’s called. It’s a consumer item but you can hack it through a very cool app that a guy from ILM made to take high dynamic range images. These images are later used in 3D software to replicate the lighting conditions on set. The process is really straight forward, it takes about a minute for the camera to take 8 pictures at different exposures that are later combined in Photoshop to produce one single HDR image. It’s so fast and stealthy that it doesn’t affect the normal flow of the shoot.
I let myself take some creative licenses with the story and worked in a more instinctive way.
Of all the aspects of the video, it’s perhaps that CGI which feels the most visceral. What initial references did you share with Nico Zarza this time round to fuel his digital experiments?
The main premise was to do something different from anything else, so we decided not to use references. We just shared a few ones about colors and shapes, but there weren’t more than 4 or 5 stills, and we forgot them very quickly. My intention was to do something very organic but very different from any existing footage of neurons and stuff like that. I asked Nico to go further, more surreal and creative. Then I explained to him the concept behind every take he had to design, but to be honest, it was a very open starting point and we had no idea of what would come out of all that. Nico was so enthusiastic with the project that he started to experiment with some software that he had never used before. I had never imagined he would create such amazing work. It became like Christmas for me, as he didn’t stop surprising me with more and more stunning images. He’s a real artist and he deserves a very important credit for the final result of the video.
The counterbalance of elements feel much more freeform than in your previous work?
I felt that I used to be too tied to the concept of the videos and I wanted to try to do something more free and surprising, so I let myself take some creative licenses with the story and worked in a more instinctive way. But, however strange this may sound, in the end the story became pretty linear and every shot has a reason for being there.
Lend Me Another Name oscillates between the beautiful and the grotesque, what feelings do you want viewers to walk away with?
The song wasn’t the usual single with commercial choruses. The band didn’t want to be involved in any dance style or reference, so I had the perfect starting point to take an unusual approach: something deep and poetical conjuring a disgusting feeling by mixing the octopus with the girl. Some parts look even more beauty than I planned, but yes, that was exactly our intention, and I say “our” because Jane Third (the commissioner) not only supported us but also pushed a lot in this line. And I have to say thanks to her because it’s very unusual to work with a “client” with such a brave and strong point of view. It was very gratifying. Finally I’d like to say thanks to my family, all the crew and Grayskull for making it all possible, it wouldn’t exist without their priceless support and generosity.
It seems there’s always a new project imminent from you. What should we be keeping our eyes open for?
Beside continuing to do music videos, I also started directing commercials last year. It’s been a very intense (and grateful) season, and I decided to take a break this summer to come back with fresh energy in September. But whatever it be that comes next, I hope to continue developing my own personal style.