Left to fend for themselves, two sisters seemingly leading polar opposite lives are nonetheless bound together by the intangible bonds of love, intuition and family in Miguel Angulo’s narrative music video for Elio Toffana & Lou Fresco track Invisible. Below Miguel tells DN why he wanted to create a music video with a strong female relationship at its centre and the integral role set design and lighting played in making locations suitable for this story.
When the artists came to me with the song, the first thing I did was listen to it until I understood every word. After that, we had a talk because I wanted to know what they wanted to say with the song, what it meant to them. Invisible talks about the things that are not always visible (intuition, love, familial bonds) and with this idea in my mind I contacted Miguel Morán (a screenwriter who always works with me).
We wanted to create a narrative music video where the artists were not doing playbacks and where we had other main characters. Always with Invisible floating in our minds, we also wanted to change how women regularly appear in rap videos and instead make them the protagonists of the film. We thought up the idea of a relationship between two sisters whose parents are not taking care of them so much. Two girls who are trying to escape from their realities but in the end, there is something invisible that makes them understand they have to take care of each other.
It was eight months from those initial discussions to the release of the video. It was a long time but we wanted to make sure everything was done as professionally as we could. I usually work making commercials for TV so I involved all the people who I usually work with, although it wasn’t easy to manage calendars in order to get all of them together.
We also wanted to change how women regularly appear in rap videos and instead make them the protagonists of the film.
We worked extremely hard on the screenplay to tell the story within the confines of the 4 minute long song and also to find a way to shoot it in as few days as possible. I knew that we couldn’t shoot for more than 3 days so it was really important when scouting to find the perfect locations with the least amount of transport time between them, which proved to be one of the hardest aspects of preproduction.
Even though everything was going to be shot in Madrid, I wanted to find locations where it wouldn’t be clear where you were so that attention could stay focussed on the story. I spent a lot of time looking through photographs of locations in a database from Tesauro (the production company I work with making commercials) before settling on a shortlist of favourites. After that, I spend a few days alone finding some exterior locations and taking photos to show to Julio Hernández (Production Manager) and Octavio Arias (Cinematographer), which we then visited together.
Once we found the perfect locations I began thinking about how I wanted to shoot each of them. Since beginning the screenplay I knew I wanted to open the film with a car sequence shot to grab the audience’s attention and present our main character. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy and that it was going to be the most expensive sequence in the film. We needed to close off a road at night and it had to be shot from Saturday night to Sunday morning, which put an immovable obligation in our shooting plan. We really should have had a Camera-Car and a Techno-Crane with a stabilized head on top and a big crew to close off the roads. It took us so much time to figure out how we were going to do it and until we started rolling, that I wasn’t totally sure if it would work.
Another problem we had was the ice skating location. Our shoot was going to be in July and there was only one ice rink open in summer so this was another obligation in our plan. When we saw it we had to do far too much work to convert it into the rink I wanted. There was lots of advertising on the walls I couldn’t take off, too big to cover and I also couldn’t erase them in postproduction with the camera movements I wanted to do. So we decided to work with light and create a dramatic atmosphere of lights and shadows to help the story and also hide the adverts.
One of the scenes we shot in the ice rink was a sequence shot I wanted to use for the teasers. It was a Steadicam shot following the main character going from the locker room to the ice rink and with a real intensity on the acting. To shoot with the Steadicam over the ice we used a trolley with the operator sitting on it and a pro ice-skater pulling it so it moved as we wanted.
It was important once we’d decided to shoot the ice rink in a low light atmosphere to choose the correct color for the main character’s suit. I decided with Costume Designer Cristina Campayo that it would be red, to create a contrast with our light in the white/blue ice rink and because I wanted to put the focus on her all the time. I really liked I Tonya and I asked Cristina if we could use the design of one of her suits as inspiration – we chose the suit she wears in the final movie scene. Patricia Sánchez, who is one of the best ice skaters in Spain performed the ice skating scenes.
The house was our art project. We found a really cheap location but it was a mess and we had to put almost all the art department budget into it. It was really nice to see how you can create the spaces you want from something totally different at the beginning. For example, for the kitchen scenes, Art Director Cesar Payo recreated the tiles on a fake wall to make the kitchen smaller. In the main character’s room, we painted the walls a mustard color because we wanted a palette which would work with the red of the ice skating suit and the rest of the costume designs she was going to wear.
It was really nice to see how you can create the spaces you want from something totally different at the beginning.
Julio Hernández found a club where we could film for a really good price one morning and when we went to see it, it was perfect. There was a full lighting system installed where we could control the color and intensity of the lights, we could even put our own material on the big led screens. In the sequence where the actress had to bite a pill we used fake pills but with designs which imitate the real ones.
After seeing all the locations Octavio Arias and I spoke about the look of the movie. We were in agreement that we wanted a low light atmosphere but still had to decide what kind of camera and lenses we were going to use. Ultimately we chose the Alexa Mini and Hawk V-Series lenses. We were sure we’d be able to work faster with this combination whilst also getting a really cool cinematic look, all within the weight limit needed to shoulder operate and also work with Raul Manchado (Steadicam) and EPC (Grip Crew) without problems.
It was a real pleasure all the casting Ana Lambarri (Casting Director) did. Almudena Amor (older sister) who I’ve worked before and Paula Mirá (younger sister) were a fantastic match. They worked really well together – in some takes during the shoot their acting was so real that all the team were in shock because of the truth in their expressions.
After shooting I talked with Editor David López who I’ve worked before in advertising and we spent 3 days to get to an offline edit. Once we had the artists’ approval I started the final postproduction process. Pablo Morán (VFX) did a great job of trying to reduce the brand logos that were on the walls and cleaning up some takes, Victor Martínez/AM ESTUDIOS (Sound Effects) did an amazing job with the foley and Vico Martín & David Castañón (Color Grading) spent more than 4 days creating the fantastic look the film has.
I’m really proud of all the crew who were involved and really grateful to all of them for joining me in this madness.
Invisible is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.