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Directors share stories from behind the videos

Jonze, Cunningham and Gondry talk music videos
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Wires must have gotten crossed at the North Pole this year because under the Christmas tree at our house, we ended up with three copies of the Palm Pictures DVD series “Directors Label: The Works of Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham and Michel Gondry.”

Not that anyone is complaining. Narrated by the three young wise men of modern-day motion imagery, the DVD compilations provide hilarious and heartbreaking tours through various production and postproduction nightmares that occurred during the making of some of the most iconic music videos that have aired in the past two decades.

In one of the darker moments, Cunningham provides a glimpse into a filmmakers’ postproduction hell when he painfully relives viewing the dailies for the Bjork video “All Is Full of Love,” a clinical yet simultaneously intimate ode to industrial robot romance.

“My strength is sculpting stuff up in post,” Cunningham says. “(The footage) was pretty ramshackle; in the Avid, it looked awful . . . so cheap and nasty. I had a panic attack looking at the rushes in telecine. Only when (London post house) Glassworks was doing the (head replacement) stuff --about six to seven shots in ... up until that point, I had no faith in computer graphics. Now I’m a convert.”

In the 75-minute short film “I’ve Been 12 Forever,” Gondry makes use of ink drawings, illustrated T-shirts, a hand-recorded phonograph, wall projections, velvet pin-hole skies, dioramas, flipbooks, historical reenactments, an interview with his mother and, among other mediums, old Super 8mm family films to investigate what it is exactly that inspires him.

“I think inspiration comes in many ways,” Gondry says. “You have your own way to solve problems -- that’s inspiration.”

It’s a pretty low-key estimation coming from one of the most inspiring and magical filmmakers working today. And as an almost tacit admission to the absurdity of talking earnestly on camera about personal inspiration, Gondry’s girlfriend streaks through the frame, pretty much on cue.

Bjork is a muse for these directorsIn his own DVD, Jonze says he first met Gondry at a Cibo Matto concert when, because of a mild language barrier and the high-frequency noise factor, the French director mistook Jonze for the band’s bus driver and blew him off. When Gondry finally realized that Jonze also was a music video director, the two met up at Du-Par’s restaurant on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles and ultimately decided to do the DVD directors series together.

One of the most telling aspects of the DVD series is hearing various musicians talk about the creative collaborations experienced during the making of their music videos. Bjork, whose videos are featured on each of the DVDs, is clearly a muse for all three directors, inspiring some of their best work.

Jonze also clearly finds inspiration in working with Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon. He also frequently cites Sofia Coppola, who, at one point -- thanks to some clever camerawork and an agile body double -- performs as a competitive high school gymnast in the Chemical Brothers video “Electrobank.”

Each director’s DVD also includes a 52-page booklet of original photographs, storyboards, drawings and interviews that are well worth a peek for anyone interested in a little insight into the filmmaking process.