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Your Shot: Four Tet's Nostalgic Nod to the Big Night Out

Behind the Work 793 Add to collection

Pulse Films director Joanna Nordahl on her beautiful, innovative take on the classic concert video for ‘Teenage Birdsong’

Your Shot: Four Tet's Nostalgic Nod to the Big Night Out
When Joanna Nordahl began discovering electronic music and club culture as a teenager, the sounds of Four Tet played a pivotal role in her exploration. Unsurprisingly, she was pumped when the opportunity to direct the British artist's first music video in 14 years came along. Produced by Pulse Films, the promo for 'Teenage Birdsong' is an intriguing, innovative take on a generic concert video. The core of the film is shot during two Four Tet shows at London's Alexandra Palace where he collaborated with immersive artists Squidsoup on a mind-boggling 40,000-light installation. Weaved into shots of the gigs is a super sweet story of two girls (played by Josiane Pozi and Constance Balaam) and their whole experience of the gig. From the giddy ritual of getting ready, drinks on the train, to the excitement of the tunes, Joanna has absolutely nailed the tricky task of authentically capturing a big night out on camera. 

LBB's Addison Capper chatted with her to find out how she pulled it off. 




LBB> How did this job first come about? Did you have a relationship with Kieran prior to Teenage Birdsong? 

Joanna> When I was a teen Four Tet’s music played a huge role in introducing me to electronic music and the club scene, and I still try to go to his gigs as often as I can. So to be honest I’ve pretty much dreamt about collaborating ever since. When I moved to London a few years ago we started getting to know each other through mutual friends, and always chatted at his gigs but never about work stuff. I was beyond thrilled when he got in touch with me about the project. He said he likes what I do and that he wanted to create something together. 


LBB> It's an interesting task! At its core, the promo is a gig video. But there's so much more to it than that. What kind of brief did Four Tet initially approach you with and what were your thoughts when you first saw it? 

Joanna> Thank you! Yes haha, it was a bit tricky. When Kieran approached me he said that he was going to do these massive and important shows at Alexandra Palace that he wanted to remember forever, and wanted his fans to remember forever. Originally it was just going to be a documentation, but he suggested we do a music video instead as he was about to release Teenage Birdsong as a single. When speaking about the track we discussed our earliest experiences with raving, the nostalgia around that and joy and excitement of seeing your favourite artist or DJ perform. It got me thinking about this very pure love for music and dancing that has a risk of fading away the older we get. 

Then we spoke a lot about the mission from that point of view; like is there a way to not just show what his gig looked like, but rather what it felt like to experience it. Kieran was very clear about the fact that us filming there could not in any way hinder the club-goer’s experience, which of course is a challenge, and that’s how I started thinking about the idea of having actual fans shooting the video on their phones and little cam corders. 


LBB> What inspired the vlogger narrative around the gig? 

Joanna> At first the video was going to be shot by several different fans, more like a collage à la that awesome Beastie Boys project where they handed out 50 cameras to strangers at a concert. But after exploring that path I realised that I wanted to do something more personal, and for the viewers to have a relationship with the characters. By getting to know a couple of fans you’d care more about their journey and their experience, and hopefully get more emotionally involved. That’s when I started thinking about cast, and remembered these two girls that I had met a year earlier.


LBB> The two girls are excellent - how did you find them? What was the casting process like? Are they friends in real life? 

Joanna> They truly are. I actually met Josi and Connie in another video that I shot about these teen skaters - it was called 'Sway' for Swedish artist Tove Styrke and came out in 2018. The girls, who are best friends IRL, were part of this crew that I got to know (after chasing the skaters down the street) and I just loved their vibe and how they were treating each other with such love and respect. I invited them to be extras in a club scene on that shoot and they showed up basically an hour late wearing these incredible outfits and had been partying all morning for 'authenticity', which I thought was hilarious. They were way too rowdy to be part of the scene, so the producer had to send them home. To me they were absolute legends and immediately started thinking about ways to film with them one day. 

After that I got in touch with them and we started hanging out, and I of course learned that there’s so much more to them than just being party girls. They are genuinely brilliant, super intelligent young women, and both are artists in their own right. I remember thinking, wow, I wish I was as ballsy as them when I was 19. I mean they are at time insecure about life, like the rest of us, but they don’t apologise for who they are and that really inspired me. I look up to them just as they look up to me. I reached out to them about this video and they were stoked because they love Four Tet, and was hoping to go to the gig anyway. 

Joanna, Josi and Connie


LBB> One thing that struck me is that it feels like it's all about the 'big night out'... the ritual of getting ready, drinks on the tube, the journey, excitement, etc... but I think that's often such a hard thing to authentically portray on camera! How did you pull that off?

Joanna> Thank you, I’m happy you think it worked. Josi and Connie and I spoke a lot about it, like how can we capture their realness in the best way? As most people their age, they are extremely used to the selfie camera concept, and they both use that kind of format in their own art as well, so with that in mind and also the idea that a lot of the gig would be shot on unprofessional cameras, we decided that was the way to go. The wonderful DOP, Ryan Marie Helfant, and I also spoke a lot about it. Originally a bigger chunk of the intro was to be shot on 16mm, but after doing some tests with Josi and Connie on DV it felt clear that their footage was great enough to carry the video. 


LBB> For the scene before the music begins, how much of their dialogue is scripted? Or is a lot ad libbed? Why? 

Joanna> I’ve worked with 'non-actors' a lot in the past, especially young people, and through that I’ve developed a technique (probably a pretty common one, which works for me) where I have prepared in my mind what I want to get from the scene, and then I give them little tools and hope that they get there on their own. These girls were super easy to direct as they are amazing at improvising, so a lot of the times they’d just speak from their heart and then I’d send them in a different direction if I felt like they were going too far down a path that we weren’t going to be able to use. 


LBB> A lot of the video is shot in the midst of the crowds at the gig / in the bar - how did you capture them shots? You touched on this before, but how did you ensure you got what you needed without hindering on the show itself? What kind of challenges did that bring up?

Joanna> We knew that we wanted as much footage as possible, and that these gigs were only happening twice and then never again, ao we decided to get as much coverage as possible. To get that nostalgic rave tone it felt completely right to mix formats. All of the DV/hi-8 footage was shot either by the two girls or by our videographer Bailey Marklew, who was actually one of the skaters in that video I mentioned earlier, and also a great photographer. Ryan and I got the Super 16mm shots, while we also had two operators with stationary Alexas on the sides for safety. In the editing process Emma Backman, my editor, and I reached out to more fans via social media and asked if we could use clips they had posted. Everyone was happy to participate so in the end we had a lot of good stuff to choose from. I knew that the show would look spectacular after seeing the Four Tet / Squidsoup collaboration last year at the Sydney Opera House, and I also knew that the fans love to film everything on their phones and post it on instagram.


LBB> The lights! I can imagine they're a joy to work with as a director. What can you tell us about that? 

Joanna> It’s such an amazing concept. The whole gig feels like nothing I’ve experienced before, it’s like an art installation / rave / concert / immersive experience at the same time. Kieran and the Squidsoup guys have been collaborating for a long time and this was their biggest event together so far. Basically there are 40,000 lights, and three people live controlling them while Kieran is DJing. They are following the music live, and creating a visual representation of the sounds - it’s really incredible, I just felt so lucky that we could be there and capture it. Everyone was extremely collaborative and lovely to us, which really helped the production.  


LBB> What were the biggest challenges during production and how did you overcome them? 

Joanna> I think the live aspect was the biggest challenge. Due to the very tight load in/load out schedule at Alexandra Palace we didn’t get any chance to rehearse what was going to happen at all before Kieran was actually playing. As a director that was definitely a bit scary to say the least so Islay Leefe Griffiths, my lovely producer, did her very best to prepare the crew for possible scenarios as much as possible. They all did an amazing job, it was really an all hands on deck experience and a constant change of plans on the walkie talkies. 

Kieran’s set was partially improvised as well as being different over the two nights, so there were definitely some moments when I was like, 'ohh crap, we should have been in that corner for this bit instead of over here' while it was happening. Like a sense of FOMO because it couldn’t all be in our hands. We also tried to walk around with the 16mm camera in the back end of the room on the first night and quickly realised it was impossible because there were 8000 people there buying beers, so the next night we went for sticks instead which worked much better. It was a very unusual shoot overall in that aspect, guerrilla style and constant decision making combined with this massive event that had been planned for at least a year.   


LBB> And how about most memorable moments? 

Joanna> Wow there are many. I mean the whole experience of being at the gig was fantastic. But also just working with the girls and getting to know them felt like a privilege. I really loved a moment at the end of our last day when we were supposed to shoot the 'Josi and Connie sneak backstage' scene on Super 16mm with a security guard in the shot, but nobody wanted to be filmed and we didn’t have an actor to play the guard. Josi and Connie were just like, 'whatever! We’ll just sneak past for real with our little camera!' I remember watching them run away and thinking, wow my job is so ridiculous and truly amazing sometimes. They came back and hi-fived Ryan and me and then we had a quick tequila shot to celebrate the footage before running back out. 


LBB> Any parting thoughts? 

Joanna> I think the best thing about this project was that it was amazing to work with an artist who gave me their complete trust. Kieran was so confident that the concept would work from day one, and he really let me just do my thing which is a rare blessing and such an incredible luxury. Whenever I had a question we would just sort it out immediately and figure it out together. Those are the type of projects that I always feel have the best results, and I am forever grateful that he gave me and my team the chance to be part of this. Dream come true in many ways.


Credits

MUSIC BY FOUR TET
LIGHTS BY SQUIDSOUP
DIRECTED BY JOANNA NORDAHL         
DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: RYAN MARIE HELFANT
PRODUCER:  ISLAY LEEFE-GRIFFITHS
PRODUCTION COMPANY: PULSE FILMS
CAST: JOSIANE M.H. POZI & CONSTANCE BALAAM


PRODUCTION
EXEC. PRODUCER:  MAURIZIO VON TRAPP                    
PRODUCTION MANAGER:  MILLIE WELLS        
1ST AD:  ISLAY LEEFE-GRIFFITHS     
CASTING: JOANNA NORDAHL
STYLING CONSULTANT: IMOGEN SNELL
WING DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION: EMMA LEWIS
PRODUCTION ASSISTANT: ELLIE SANDERS WRIGHT
RUNNERS:  JEDD WISE , CONOR O’HAGAN, ASHLEIGH LIMM


POST PRODUCTION
EDITOR: EMMA BACKMAN, METAL EDIT
POST HOUSE: TINT
SOUND DESIGN: CALLE BUDDE ROOS
COLORIST: OSKAR LARSSON
GRAPHIC DESIGN: WILLIAM JAMES THURMAN
EDITING ASSIST: OMAR ALLOUJI
 

CAMERA TEAM
FOCUS PULLER:  ANTHONY MCHUGH             
LOADER: STEPHEN DUNN
VIDEOGRAPHER:   BAILEY MARKLEW
GAFFER: JOHN BURKE
STEADICAM:  JAMES CHESTERTON              
DIT:  ELLIOT CHYI           
DRONE OP:  BARNEY CLARK, ARMIN DRUZANOVIK
DRONE: SAM MOORE
2ND UNIT CAMERAS:
1ST AC:  JACK WELLS          
1ST AC:  RICH LUXTON        
2ND AC:  ARCHIE THOMA

FILM LAB: CINELAB LONDON
FILM LAB COMMERCIALS PRODUCER: AARTI MAHTANI


SPECIAL THANK YOU:
ALEXANDRA PALACE , MATT BARKER,  DAN PEARSON, MICHAEL PARKER, EAT YOUR OWN EARS, ELIISA GHARGENTINO, MACEO FROST, TARIK SALEH,  JAMIE SMITH, HANNAH TW, RYAN MARIE HELFANT, NATHALIE COHEN, XO MGMT, TIMMERFILMS, ANTHONY ROW, SOLAR MANAGEMENT, THE FOUR TET FANS
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Genres: Dialogue, Music performance, Musical, People, Documentary, In-camera effects, Comedy

Categories: Music video, Short Films and Music Videos

Pulse Films, Thu, 04 Jul 2019 15:55:56 GMT