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Take A Big Behind-the-Scenes Bite out of Adele’s ‘Oh My God’ Video

Behind the Work 584 Add to collection

Director Sam Brown explains the importance of chairs, nerdy production techniques and pure Adele energy to make the pop megastar’s latest promo both sublime and ridiculous

Take A Big Behind-the-Scenes Bite out of Adele’s ‘Oh My God’ Video

British megastar Adele has been a household name for well over a decade and with the release of ‘30’, her fourth studio album in November 2021, her stardom has been going through another peak in recent months. But as everyone who knows Adele understands, it’s her relatable humanity rather than her otherworldly stardom that truly defines her.

Rogue Films director Sam Brown manages to capture both of those aspects of Adele in her latest video, for ‘Oh My God’. 10 years since he directed the ‘Rolling In The Deep’ promo, the pair reunited and, as Adele tweeted, the experience was “nostalgic to say the least”. Shooting on the day that another single, ‘Easy On Me’ dropped, she adds “there were a million things going on all at once.”

But Adele knows professionalism when she sees it, taking the time to tweet that: “The attention to detail from the crew was borderline hilarious - thank you so much for your patience and pulling it all together it was a lot of fun 🙏🏻 Although right at the end a huge python was on set so I skidaddled my arse straight out of there!”

LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Sam to hear more about that attention to detail, and get a glimpse of what it’s like to work with such an icon.


LBB> What was the inspiration behind the video and how did that shape the film?


Sam> The song is about finding yourself in an emotional mess and craving a quick hit of joy to transcend it, even if it comes at a greater cost. It’s a wilfully self-destructive song. So the video is all about expressing those mucky contradictions. I guess I wanted to make my own kind of visual mess, but pulled off with enough elegance and confidence to make it watchable.

All the imagery in his film is deliberate and relates to something in the song or to Adele’s visual history. The chairs, for example, are a conscious motif. People are always banging on about how she’s always sitting down in her videos (like most internet conspiracies, this doesn’t quite stand up if you look into it) so the hundreds of chairs are a playful nod to that. I wanted to see how many chairs I could get in there, until it was sort of ridiculous. 

But a chair is also a beautiful thing, and a symbolic thing. So we’re playing with the form, trying to create different meanings and suggest different ideas with that one simple object.


LBB> There’s a very singular aesthetic. What informed that?


Sam> The aesthetic is inspired by the great studio photographers like Cecil Beaton, Peter Lindbergh and particularly Irving Penn. I’ve always loved Penn, and the way that he created sophisticated images from such simple elements: a chair or a ladder or a bit of old canvas. That’s like alchemy to me. His work is also incredibly modern to my eyes, so I was intrigued by the idea of contemporary choreography and styling seen through the beautiful, timeless economy of that vision. 


LBB> How did you even begin to work out a production process to achieve this? 


Sam> The production process was elaborate, and developed through scribbles and drawings, through paper models and CGI, and into living, breathing reality. For reasons of time and money, everything had to be planned on computers and then reconstructed meticulously in reality.


LBB> It's a very technique-driven production. What methods and pieces of kit were most crucial to making the visual idea a reality?


Sam> A film like this relies on a motion control unit, which is basically a giant repeatable head that allows you to shoot multiple layers and then combine them seamlessly in post.

If you plan carefully enough, the system also allows you to stitch short camera moves together to appear like impossibly long ones. That’s what we did here. The giveaway is that if you look closely you can see the backdrops repeating themselves over and over, though the joins were modelled so seamlessly by ETC, even I can’t tell where they are.

The mo-co system allows you to repeat anything, even people. So what appears to be 160 people is actually only 20 in total.


LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you overcome them?


Sam> The hardest thing was keeping track of all the isolated layers, while at the same time making sure it all flowed together as a single, compelling movement. It’s where meticulous planning meets a lot of guesswork and gut and feeling. 


LBB> What particular detail are you most satisfied with? I'm aware that sometimes the most difficult things look easy to people who weren't involved.


Sam> I’m glad if people think it looks easy, because that means what could’ve been a purely technical exercise isn’t coming across like that. When a technique overwhelms a story you’re in trouble, and my hope is always that people will watch without really thinking about how it was achieved. That’s for nerds like me.

If I had to pick one detail it would be the Lindy Hoppers and the Tango dancers going head-to-head in slow motion and real time. It was a very, very hard thing to plan and execute, and I find it inexplicably joyful.


LBB> Are there any moments from the shoot that will stick with you?


Sam> I love the bit where Adele bites the apple at the end. Originally we were going to return to a close-up of just the half-eaten apple on the chair (a mirror of the opening framing) but we ended up having her for a few more minutes right at the end of the shoot so we improvised it on the spot. I love how she takes a massive bite and chomps away so indecorously, like a builder on lunch break. I didn’t ask her to do this, but it’s pure Adele: the megawatt dress offset by the loud and greedy munching. It instantly takes a pin to the over-inflated balloon of our film, which is exactly what it needed.

The horse is sort of like that too. I’m well aware of how ridiculous and incongruous it is. But hopefully stuff like this reassures the viewer that we’re not quite taking ourselves as seriously as we appear to be.


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Genres: Music performance

Categories: Music video, Short Films and Music Videos

Rogue Films, Wed, 26 Jan 2022 15:19:03 GMT