Directing Sun Rises, the first music video of Smitten

We have been having a conversation with our in-house filmmaker Diego in relation to the directing of the first official music video for Smitten. Quite a mysterious take on the telling of story for this emerging Scottish band. 

Bridge IV Films. You knew the band beforehand, right?

Diego. My relationship with Smitten goes back to its very foundation. I have known Nicole Smit, the lead singer and writer, for many years now. Back in 2015 she decided to go ahead with this personal project in collaboration with the composer and lead guitarist Charlie Wild. Smitten has a very unique sound that blends genres such as blues, pop and even grunge. Currently the band has two EP out and at the same time they are working behind the scenes while also touring around Europe.

Monitoring the scene

BIVF. Can you elaborate on how you went from the idea to the actual shooting plan?

D. The aim to work together and shoot a music video was wandering around for some time. At some point the band approached me with a very clear idea of what the main character was going to experience in a self-contained story on a very particular location. They handed to me a concise script which described step by step the arc of the character. After going through it I started to depict how I could make an effective misse en scene. I knew that the script was gold and I wanted to make it look as good as it deserved.

On my last day in Poland after a sort holiday period it came to me. I understood the need to tell the story in a single shot and stick to practical effects. At that time I was very influenced by the work that Hiro Murai did with Ted Faker and Childish Gambino; And also the work of Michel Gondry with White Stripes. Particularly Murai´s representation of an infinite space and a time in loop fascinated me. I wanted to take that and use it in our film, I did not want to cut, it needed to happen in a single long shot.

What I did then was to sketch a floor plan with where the camera will be placed and which movements was going to do in the set. After that I sat down and wrote a three pages reinterpretation of the original script in relation to the concept I had developed for the misse en scene. The band loved it and we took it from there.

BIVF. Can you talk a little about the shooting day? Technical aspects, crew, challenges that you might’ve encountered...

D. The film has a claustrophobic quality that I wanted to stress as much as possible. As a consequence of that, even the outdoors scenes needed to be inserted somehow in the one long shot that the final film was going to be. What you see in the final version of the music video is a practical film projection of those scenes (previously shot, edited and graded) onto a silver screen that the production installed in the set. Whenever the main character exists the frame the screen was pulled down so the film projector could hit it and play the scenes.

BIVF. We have heard that there aren’t any digital effects other than the color correction. Can you explain why you favoured that over GFX and what it brings to the film? How the hell did you turn the milk black?!

D. Certainly, the most challenging special effect was inverting the colour of the milk on camera. Originally, the band already knew about the so called iodine clock reaction, and after some research we decided to try it on camera. Actually, the chemicals became available on the same day of the shooting. While rigging and even after the first takes the team was still trying to work out the right amount of each solution so it would happen at the exact moment in the lyrics when it was planned. After trial and error we got it right.

The finishing of the film was a very straight forward cut of the best takes of each scene, and an excellent colour grade. Through the grade we just enhanced the practical effects, but all of them took place in the set. Still nowadays the team and myself are very proud of it.

Practical effects on set

BIVF. And lastly, can you give us a hint on what you wanted to achieve? What’s the concept?

D. In this story, the main character is trapped in a very condensed unreal space time dimension that is hardly based on repetition, but he is not aware of it. What I wanted to convey was the notion that everything that takes place in the screen is happening in real time. The audience experiences what is happening as it happens; They go through confusion first, then entering into a state of distress and then ending in absolute wonder with the epilogue.

Certainly, the biggest achievement of the film is that it is wide open for interpretation. I have my own personal understanding of what is happening on the screen, but at the same time I wanted to make sure that other options were available. And that is great.