A couple of weeks ago I decided to get in touch with Cloud Control’s management. I’d been listening to their album Bliss Release constantly and had a bunch of ideas for videos. Amazingly the timing was perfect as they were calling for pitches for the band’s next single, Death Cloud, so I sent them my reel and they kindly invited me to pitch on the video.
That weekend I went to Reading and saw the band play live, I had to deliver the treatment on the bank holiday Monday so I wanted to make sure I understood what they were about. Live they were incredible: amazing, soaring, intricate harmonies and psychedelic guitar lines mixed in with a folky sort of sound.
I found out from the label that they were down for a more narrative focused video and I’d had an idea for Death Cloud, so the moment I got back from Reading I set to work on writing.
Two days later I had word from the label that the band were up for it and that was great news. We had about 3.5K to play with and the idea was pretty ambitious for that money. I’d concentrated on the tone of the track, it reminded me of dusty 70′s tour vans and denim. Layered on top of that was the idea of the Death Cloud itself and the more supernatural elements, which I wanted to treat in quite an ambiguous way. Plus the label and the band were totally behind us the whole way which was so refreshing and allowed us to do our thing.
Aside from the location which was, essentially, a barren desert, there was a prosthetic creature to be designed and built. Add to that the fact that we had around 2 weeks total to deliver the video and we knew that we had to pull favours and call on people to get involved for free and just for the opportunity to make something (hopefully) interesting. Luckily the people that worked on this were absolutely brilliant, so giving and generous with their time and really passionate about the project, I’m very grateful to everyone for working so hard on it.
Usual suspects Ollie, Johnny, James and Chris were joined by Rami our focus puller and our cast Sam Palladio and Alex Arnold who plays Rich in Skins (I’d run into Alex at Reading and written the part for him). Aside from this we had a crew of people working on our creature, who we nicknamed Jimmy, down at Lifecast.
I’d asked a friend of mine who works for John Schoonraad, prosthetics designer on X-Men, Rambo and many others, if they might be interested in making an old school creature ala Jim Henson or Stan Winston. Fortunately they liked the idea and agreed to help us out. Here is the initial concept of Jimmy as drawn by concept artist Jake Eaton:
There were several things I wanted to concentrate on with the creature, namely emotion in the eyes and expression, skin texture and an unconventional physicality (lack of reproductive organs or mouth).
Again Lifecast did an incredible job with a very limited budget as you can see here:
Eventually the latex was added:
Before finally being sprayed and set so it looked like this on camera:
So after Jimmy was finished, the six of us, me , Ollie (DOP), Chris (Producer), Rami (FP), Alex and Sam flew out to Spain for 2 days and were met by Tate, our fixer and general location manager who was absolutely invaluable. He showed us some great locations in Almeria which is where many of Leone’s westerns were shot as well as The Last Crusade. He also agreed to cameo in the video, which was great, look out for his shirtless appearance in the finished cut.
So after two days in the desert, shooting on two DSLRs (5D & 7D), with a tiny crew we had the video in the can. We flew back to the UK and began cutting immediately, over at Speade with the ever brilliant Johnny Rayner.
After a few days in the offline it was time to finish off last minute VFX and the grade, where again it was brilliant to work with individuals and companies that really went the extra mile for us. The idea with the grade was to push the tones and colours into more washed out and pale versions of what we shot. As well as upping the contrast and colour correcting various shots that were shot out of sequence. I wanted to go for a similar feel to the end of Se7en, quite yellow and dusty. This all added to the 70′s Rock idea I wanted to achieve visually.
The wizard behind the grade was Framestore Colourist Edwin Metternich who happily worked with me through the night to get it done in time and did a fantastic job.
After we’d finished the grade, the film was done and I went home and slept for a day.
I’d just like to thank everyone involved again for their enthusiasm, talent and boundless energy in the sapping heat of the shoot and the unrelenting pressure of the deadline. I’d also like to thank Anna Kennedy, Ben Burdock, Luke Rafferty, Andrew McLintock, Feral Equipment, Panalux, Simon Paul, Speade, The Mill, Framestore, 2AM and Lifecast.
To see the video and a full list of credits go here.
To download the single for free go here.