Matheus Siqueira’s first foray into the world of music videos, Jeremias, sees the director channel Gabriel Iglesias’ prophetic lyrics into the story of an astronaut lost on a devastated world, desperately trying to find someone to heed his warnings of impending doom. Matheus explains how he stepped up to the logistical and production challenges precipitated by a lack of budget and shoot time, to deliver a music video where a repurposed Russian spacesuit would become the perfect emotional vehicle in which to convey the track’s feeling of alienation.
About the Concept
Back in 2010 I had this idea for a short movie about an astronaut that lands in the middle of the drug ghetto in São Paulo called Crackôlandia. This was particularly symbolic for that time because the government of the city was trying to cleanse the downtown area and the short was looking to create a dialog about the alienation of the population towards a very serious problem in the city. I saw this particular outfit in a photo essay that looked very organic and not this cleansed, neutralized white, boring outfits that we expect from NASA or blockbuster movies. With a little bit of a search I found a Russian military collector that had it to sell and immediately bought it. Unfortunately when it finally arrived it was very small, and the actor that I planned on using could never fit into it. Due to the small outfit and other jobs at the time I had to cancel the shooting and ended up never going back to shoot it.
5 years later when Gabriel Iglesias sent me his new album to think about which tracks could be made into a music video, one of the tracks talked about this messenger that’s trying to alert his people about an imminent catastrophe but isn’t heard at all. It clicked for me that I could use the concept of alienation and the Russian pilot outfit to create another layer of meaning for the music. Luckily the musician fit perfectly into the outfit!
This production was very low budget so the concept had to fit within the financial constraints and couldn’t rely on heavy VFX. I went back to the some older sci-fi movies like Stalker and Solaris to see how Tarkowsky developed his stories and the ambiance, and from there together with Eloá Vasconcelos ironed out the details of how the narrative of the film would go.
Our biggest problems were to find the right locations and figure a way to shoot in the limited timeframe we had. Although I live in Barcelona the musician is from Brazil and came to Spain to mix his new album in Madrid and had to go back almost right after the mixing ended so we had only 5 days to shoot everything. Luckily the north of Catalunya (Girona) is a very rich and diversified province, with mountains, forests and beaches all within a 2-3 hour drive. In order to find new locations that aren’t very commonly used in films I went to Google Maps, put on the terrain view and went looking for anything that looked remote and dystopic. A couple of days doing this and I narrowed down all the locations and hoped that in person it looked as interesting as through the satellite view. Some locations were really a huge surprise, like the Walter Benjamin memorial where we recorded the scene where he first goes out into the world and the Barraca d’en Dali, Salvador Dali hidden atelier in the middle of the woods.
When the visor was closed the musician only had a limited supply of oxygen before running out.
With only 5 days to shoot around 15 locations I preferred to use a faster and lighter setup so we could get in and out the locations without having to spend too much time setting-up the cameras and lights. We went with a Sony FS7, and the full set of Zeiss Standard Primes lenses. For the sunny days it was essential that we used a set of 3 soft graduated ND filters so that the highlights of the sky was preserved while exposing for the astronaut.
We used a skeleton crew: Felipe Abreu was the DP, Eloá Vasconcelos was the Art Director and we had Augusto Henriques as a Production Assistant. Since putting the outfit on and removing it was a very long process, Gabriel Iglesias got into it each morning with the help of the art director and had to spend the day inside it walking around the cities, eating in restaurants, etc.
To our surprise, the locations scouted through Google maps were even more incredible than we expected! Also, the rainy, foggy weather of autumn in Catalunya gave the whole movie a mood that couldn’t have been reached otherwise with our limited budget. During these 5 days we drove almost 2000 km just within the province in Girona to film all the locations that we needed.
Production wise the biggest challenge was with the outfit. It was made to be connected to an oxygen supply so it was hermetically sealed and when the visor was closed the musician only had a limited supply of oxygen before running out. For most scenes this was not a problem, but in the end scenes where he had to run for a couple of minutes there were times where he almost fainted.
I kept editing the movie for 2 months until I was finally satisfied with the results and the emotional overall feeling. Since we shot under rain, fog, direct sunlight and dusk over 5 days with very different climates I was really worried about the color correction. Luckily I met Parker Jarvie, colorist at Company 3 Chicago. One of the references for the color was Prometheus (one of the films that Company 3 did the color correction for) but I wanted the world to feel cold while preserving the warm tones on the astronaut. He needed to be approachable and contrast against the harsh world. Parker perfectly understood what needed to be done and after a couple of revisions the film finally had the look that it needed. Academia de Filmes, the production house that I work for as a commercial director in São Paulo, did the VFX like syncing the images projected on the helmet, the writings in the rocks, the fireworks and the last scene where the candle is lit.
Although I work mainly directing commercials, narrative shorts and web series this was my first time directing a music video and I loved it! So right now I’m looking into continuing directing more music videos. There is a new video clip for Gabriel Iglesias that we shot a couple of months ago that should be coming out soon and a couple of projects already lined up to shoot in the first quarter of 2017. Apart from directing, I’m in the middle of my Phd research in film and new media aesthetics at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona) and hope to finish it by 2018. It´s quite hard to balance both a professional and academical career but so far it has worked out great.