This music video for Brooklyn noise rockers A Place To Bury Strangers uses a broad variety of visual styles — including stop-motion with paper puppets, ink on paper, watercolor, and paint-on-glass animation — in a noir-influenced, handcrafted animated tribute to French and Japanese New Wave auteurs of the late ’60s.
Director: Dave Merson Hess
Producer: Jimmy Fusil
Production Company: Night Heron
Exec. Producers: APTBS/Dead Oceans/Secretly Group
Management: Steven Matrick
Animation & Rotoscoping: Dave Merson Hess (Lead), Christina Wagner, Tomas Feijo
Additional Editing: Janine Waranowicz
Special Thanks: Jennifer Levonian
Cutout Fest 2016
Special Mention: Fest Anča 2016
Linoleum Festival of Contemporary Animation & Media Art 2016
Stereogum / Music Feeds / Rolling Stone Mexico / FILTER Mexico / Animation Magazine / Film New Europe / Exclaim! / Under The Radar / Vandala / Rumore / Indie Hoy / dod / Visions / Indie Hearts / Testspiel / Sound and Vision / Sopitas / Revista Metronomo / Monkey Buzz / Mood of the Day
On August 28, Stereogum and Music Feeds premiered the video I directed for A Place To Bury Strangers. Here are a some stills, BTS images, and a few thoughts about the project’s conception and production:
I loved the mood of “Now It’s Over”, and the way the lyrics and arrangement captured the feeling of a breakup as a complete destruction of a particular, insular reality, a way of living being ripped apart at the seams, on both vague and sudden terms. Film noir felt like a perfect match for it. The inevitability of failure built in to the genre fit the song’s lyrics, murky, reverbed vocals, and jagged guitar sounds.
I wanted to make this an animated tribute to my favorite French and Japanese auteurs of the late ’60s, who embraced noir’s edgy themes and mysterious, expressionist cinematography, while pushing further into formally experimental and introspective psychological territory.
For character design, points of reference included Alain Delon as Jef Costello, the stoic hitman in French New Wave master Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai, and Joe Shishido as Hanada, a damaged assassin in Seijun Suzuki’s controversial 1967 yakuza, Branded to Kill.
The car in “Now It’s Over” — rendered in marker by Tomas Feijo — is modeled after Jef Costello’s iconic Citröen DS-19.
All of the art is analog: markers and pigment pens on paper, paper cut-out puppets, and watercolor on vellum and glass. Even the special effects animation is hand-drawn and painted.
To get pure black without having to throttle our footage with color correction, we drew almost everything in negative (with black Copics, watercolor and tempera on white paper, or black and blue paint on clear glass), then inverted the colors in Premiere. So all of the bright whites you see were drawn in black, and the paper puppets were actually white paper, with black stippling. I had to keep a color wheel nearby to know the correct opposites to use for the few shots with color (e.g. the yellow cones emitted from headlights were painted in blue). It made me really slow down in a way that made the whole process very meditative.
Woody Omens, the advanced cinematography professor at USC, always used to say “light from the bottom!”. Rather than blasting your scene with a key light and then using flags and bounces and fills to correct for it, use as little light as possible, adding until you have enough. In this case — only drawing the whites and highlights — it felt like following his advice.