Filmed in a continuous shot which roves around a 360 degree set, Armand De Saint-Salvy taps into the theme of guilty pleasures for Nathan Cavaleri’s 29 Gold Stars. A music video which breaks with the typically real-time conceit of single shot projects, DN asked Armand to explain how extensive rehearsal, rapid costume/set/lighting changes and symbology enabled him to pull off this ambitious one-shot tale of deceit and vengeance which unfolds over the course of several weeks.
Where did the inspiration for 29 Gold Stars’ love triangle revenge story come from?
The brief was to create something cool and fun exploring the song’s themes of guilty pleasures. I decided to make a female revenge tale centred around a love triangle. The song’s lilting rhythm inspired the flowing one-shot execution. And I wanted it to be smart, littered with clues so that you’d want to watch it more than once.
How did you pull off the complexity of this temporally fluid one-shot music video.
Generally, a one-shot video covers a story that unfolds in real time. Our story happens over a number of weeks, and it starts at the end, then goes back to the beginning. To create the illusion of passing time we made changes to the set, lighting, and character’s wardrobe whilst filming. Scene transitions were all done in camera, there are no trick edits. This required a very complex choreography of our actors, camera, and crew working around them.
I wanted it to be smart, littered with clues so that you’d want to watch it more than once.
Our video had a set duration of 2’45’’. I shotlisted 28 shots which I would normally extend, trim and move around in the edit. But we didn’t have an edit. I had to figure the exact length of each shot prior to shooting, whilst making sure the combined total of all shots didn’t exceed our duration.
How many run throughs did it take to nail the intricate choreography of performance and production?
We had a ten hour shoot and it took us 52 takes but we got it in the end. We rehearsed extensively to ensure we were prepared as the actors had to nail their performances simultaneously, like theatre. If one stuffed up (or even if the camera or art department stuffed up), we had to redo the entire take. It required extreme focus as they had as little as 15 seconds off camera to do costume changes, race to their next position and drop into a new emotional beat for the next scene.
Has the experience of adhering to the strictures of this project provided any insights which you’ll take forward into future films?
The importance of symbology. The most economical and effective form of communication on film are visual symbols. For instance, when the wife sees the lip selfie photos in her husband’s text messages, the audience instantly understands he’s having an affair. My first idea was to have a series of written messages… but asking the audience to read those words would take more screen time. The images of the lips summed it up perfectly. I know it seems obvious because film is a visual medium, but looking for a single image that can represent the whole, often works better than trying to represent the whole with lots of images. This applies in particular to short form storytelling.
What are you working on next?
I’m excited to do more narrative/concept music videos whilst continuing to direct commercials. I’ve just finished directing a TVC in France and am looking at some opportunities in the US. I also have a feature in development. Things are pretty exciting at the moment.
29 Gold Stars 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.