Pedro Takahashi cleverly translates Shame’s frenetic live sensibility into a music video about modern culture for their latest single Water in the Well. Takahashi employs impressively planned camerawork to place the band in multiple locations at the same time. With any other band this technique may appear overtly clinical but with Shame’s feverish unpredictability it adds thematic layers to an already thumping tune. DN took a deep dive with Takahashi into the making of his video, talking everything from the painstaking planning of pre-production, the fun vibrancy of being onset and the unsung benefits of digital photography.
Did you approach the band with a concept or was it vice versa?
After an initial back and forth between myself and the band, I decided to make a video that explored the concept of being in multiple locations at once, as well as overstimulation in modern day life. Shame are one of my favourite bands and I’ve always found their music to be dynamic and urgent, and I wanted to create a video that reflected these qualities. On top of this, I’m currently very interested in creating work that has a sense of physicality to it, a kineticism. This project was perfect because I knew that this concept and the energy of the track would allow me to further explore camera movement and interesting techniques that I’ve had on my mind for a while.
The camerawork totally matches the band’s sensibility too. Was it difficult to develop?
Music videos are a great opportunity to explore new ideas and to take certain risks – it just means you have to plan adequately and do a little practice beforehand. Prior to the shoot, I did a bunch of camera tests to make sure I could actually pull off what I was promising. I’m one of those people who can’t walk onto a set unless I know exactly what I need to shoot and how to get it, meaning I usually end up making a whole test video whilst writing the treatment to get all my thoughts and ideas out. This project was no different. I basically made an animatic which was the budget version of the final video shot on a DLSR and mixed with some existing references. It included all the techniques that ended up in the final thing and meant that on set, it was largely a case of recreating what I’d already made, but on a bigger scale.
Given the complicated nature of what you were striving for, did you find that this was one of those occasions where digital cinematography had its benefits?
Early on, there were discussions between myself and the amazing cinematographer Luke C. Harper who shot the video about potentially shooting on 16mm film. However, we soon realised that this was going to be an extremely technical project and shooting digitally would make our lives a lot easier. It gave us some breathing room on set and meant we could easily do multiple takes and mirror the framing of shots in different locations perfectly, allowing us to execute the match cuts. We ended up shooting on an Arri Alexa mini with vintage prime lenses that had been rehoused to fit digital cameras. It was actually a nice combination, as the lenses took away a lot of the sharpness that comes with digital footage and created an overall warmer aesthetic.
Their natural charisma and energy meant that my job became more about capturing their presence on camera as opposed to getting them to ‘act’ in a certain way.
One of the most rewarding parts of making this video was achieving what the crew and I referred to as the ‘perspective shots’. Throughout the video, you see this technique used multiple times – it’s essentially where the camera moves 360 degrees around Charlie, but every time we shift the perspective, he is in a new location. I don’t think anyone, including myself, realised how much headwork and painstaking planning would go into achieving this effect seamlessly – shout out to Charlie who had to perform the song 12 times in 12 different locations just for this one section of the video, a true professional! I created a measuring tool which allowed us to move around Charlie at the exact increments we needed to create a seamless 360 degree move around him. Editing this sequence was even more tricky than I had foreseen, but in the end it was worth it, and also led to some pretty interesting patterns on the timeline.
Did that process work similarly when you had to match the band shots in the countryside versus the city?
A large section of the video consists of the band ‘jumping’ back and forth between ‘rural’ and ‘metropolitan’ environments. It meant that we had to shoot every performance shot twice and try and get everyone to do roughly the same thing in each location so that we could create fluid match cuts. As mentioned before, the decision to shoot digitally was partially a practical one. We were able to overlay screen grabs from previous shots at 50% opacity over a new shot in a different location so that we could match the framing perfectly.
Shame are a band known for their live energy, how was it directing them?
My job is way easier when the artist knows what they’re doing and Shame are one of the best in the biz. Their natural charisma and energy meant that my job became more about capturing their presence on camera as opposed to getting them to ‘act’ in a certain way. I like that the band are often just doing their own thing and being themselves within these shots, e.g. looking off into the distance, laughing, zoning out, etc. It gives character to shots that potentially could have been quite clinical and I think all their individual personalities come through in the final video. Honestly, for such a technical shoot which required so much meticulous planning and relied on people hitting their marks, it was the most fun I’ve ever had on set, despite it raining torrentially.
It’s how these images are cut together that really gives the video its character.
It feels like one of those shoots where you plan meticulously to give yourself the best shot when it comes to editing. Were there any other parts of the video that you had to carefully consider?
One other section of the video that was fun to put together were the collages that flash on the screen throughout the video. I was sent some photographs of the band writing some of their new album in the Scottish Highlands as well as some photographs of Charlie and Sean in London. I stitched these together with an assortment of different coloured gaffer tape in order to create a visual representation of the band being connected to multiple locations at once.
You mentioned earlier that the edit was fairly complicated. How so?
There’s really nothing fancy going on in this video: In reality what we ended up shooting was fairly standard, it’s how these images are cut together that really gives the video its character. It’s all just normal footage cut in an interesting way. No tricks, no fancy effects. I always edit my own projects and went into the cutting room knowing what I needed to do, but it still turned out to be one of the most complicated edits I’ve ever done. Match cutting the band between different locations and the sheer speed at which everything needed to move in order to create the overarching feeling of pandemonium was challenging, but rewarding when everything started to fall into place. I think I had a first cut ready after about a week and from then on it was a matter of fine-tuning.
What’s lined up for you next?
I’m working with another band to create visuals for their new album. It’s a really interesting project that will probably come out at the end of January or the start of February. Aside from that, I’ve also fallen into the cliche of having used my free time during lockdown to finish a bunch of short film scripts. There’s one in particular that I keep coming back to which I’ve started doing some prep for.
Water in the Well 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.