In an age where computer-generated imagery is as prevalent as it’s ever been it’s nice to see filmmakers that are still embracing the fun and tangibility of practical effects, and Italian Filmmaker Alice Fassi is one of those filmmakers. Fassi’s latest music video for Purple Disco Machine’s Honey Boy tells the story of a lonely boy looking to find love. The catch, however, is that he’s completely caked in honey. In order to bring her gooey protagonist to life Fassi fully embraces practical effects, capturing his awkward, sticky existence in all its tactile glory. These effects, combined with the upbeat rhythms of Purple Disco Machine’s track, make for a joyous combination and music video that’ll stick with you in more ways than one. DN caught up with Fassi to learn more about her surrealist influences, the process of creating the layers of prosthetics needed for the character of Honey Boy, and the decision she made to shoot the video on 16mm.

What were your initial creative steps when you first got asked about a video for Honey Boy?

When I got the brief for the Honey Boy music video by Purple Disco Machine, I first listened to the song to get into the groove and really paid attention to the lyrics to find my own interpretation. The song is written in the first person, so I asked myself, who could be singing this song? In the song, performed by the Swedish singer Benjamin Ingrosso, he talks about his epic glow-up after meeting his first crush. He describes his old self as an extremely kind guy, too shy and lacking confidence to speak to girls until one day he meets a special girl who sparks a profound transformation in him.

I wanted to abstract the concept, as surrealism is my key to interpreting reality in both my work and daily life.

I didn’t want to follow the song too literally. Who needs another typical love story music video? I wanted to abstract the concept, as surrealism is my key to interpreting reality in both my work and daily life. This led me to the idea of a boy who is maybe ‘too sweet’ to survive in this tough world. I took this metaphor and created the character of Honey Boy in my head.

It’s such a great concept. How did you look to flesh out that character?

Here’s Honey Boy, just your average guy with a daily routine and passions, but with one unique feature: he’s literally made of honey. This obviously explains his lack of confidence; wearing a honey suit doesn’t make social interactions, especially with girls, any easier. He’s sticky, slimy, and clumsy, getting stuck to everything he touches. But he still has feelings and wants to feel loved. The main inspiration for his character was Napoleon Dynamite, essentially the nerdy ‘loser’ of college, but behind his awkwardness, he hides the energy and personality of a superhero.

When did the narrative and other elements of the video come into play?

As I developed Honey Boy’s character, the full concept started to take shape. When Honey Boy meets Lily, a girl in a vinyl store, something changes in him. He begins to ‘peel away’ his sticky barriers and discovers something wild within himself. This transformation is internal and physical as well. From a shy, sticky boy, he loses his honey coat and emerges as a self-assured guy with golden, honey-like skin. I didn’t want him to abandon his honey essence but to embrace and sculpt it into a form that is truly ‘awesomely him’. Honey Boy is still honey-colored, just shinier than ever.

Could you take us through the process of creating the honey suit? What drew you to create it with practical SFX?

Creating our boy made of honey was crucial. The SFX artist Micka Arasco sculpted Honey Boy’s character entirely with different layers of prosthetics to keep him as much an organic effect as possible. I wanted to stay away from VFX to keep the visual story enchanting. I pictured Honey Boy as an undefined being; slimy, sticky, with not too distinct facial features except for his eyes and mouth. I was a fan of the character Pizza the Hutt from the movie Spaceballs, from the genius Mel Brooks, but couldn’t go too much in that direction, or Honey Boy would’ve been too disgusting, and no one would empathize with him.

I wanted to stay away from VFX to keep the visual story enchanting.

I wanted people to watch him and think about the Honey Boy inside of them. It had to be surreal but not veer into trashy horror. Finding references was tough because, as far as I know, nothing like this exists. I even tried using AI to sculpt Honey Boy’s features, but it just created a human covered in honey, which wasn’t the point. We also tested different slimes with Micka for the honey splashes for the transformation moment, throwing different materials on a transparent glass for hours, it was actually pretty fun!

Why did you opt to shoot on 16mm? To me, it gives the video a retro texture, like a video from the late 80s/early 90s. Also, how long were you shooting on it for?

For the cinematography, I chose the 80s as my main reference and shot the video on 16mm film to capture that retro feel. My DOP Maxime Berger had an Aaton XTR perfect for this project, and we studied the best references to make the golden texture pop also in terms of colour palette. We shot over two days, which was incredibly fast considering Honey Boy’s preparation took hours each day. We filmed in Paris, transforming an empty house into Honey Boy’s home, then a vinyl shop, and luckily it had a great exterior for the outdoor scenes. It was a huge work of set design but it was the only solution to produce this, since the budget is never extremely high in the music scene.

I wanted people to watch him and think about the Honey Boy inside of them. It had to be surreal but not veer into trashy horror.

It sounds like the video was very ideas-driven in the sense that it was about embracing what you could do and then figuring out how to execute it afterwards.

Even though it was hard work, I was thrilled to ‘get my hands dirty’ working on this project. I felt like I could truly express myself, and it was amazing to see that the artists really trusted my vision and that each person on the team put their 100% into it. It’s always a pleasure to work on projects like this. This is the direction I’m trying to take for my work at the moment. I’m currently writing a new short film with a similar vibe, where the surrealism will serve as a satire for a very contemporary habit. Let’s see what happens.

Given that the song has such a strong rhythmic groove, did that affect how you approached shooting the video? And, in turn, structuring the edit?

Absolutely. I must’ve listened to the song a thousand times before creating the shooting list. I wanted Honey Boy’s actions to sync with the beat. The same goes for editing, although we didn’t cut everything strictly to the rhythm, to avoid it becoming too formulaic and repetitive.

As a filmmaker, what do you like about music videos as a form of artistic expression?

I love how music videos are packed with potential. It’s a blend of different artistic visions, and when there’s a great connection with the artists and shared vision, it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s a constant source of inspiration and fun.

And to wrap up, what are you working on now?

I’m currently writing the script for my next short film, a comedy/satire on a pretty pervasive theme in today’s society. I’m aiming to shoot it this fall and am on the lookout for production support. Plus, I have a bunch of other scripts waiting in the wings, including a mini-series that’s totally absurd. It’s a bit heartbreaking to think of all these ideas just waiting for someone to bring them to life.

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